Several right-wing media figures reacted with outrage on Twitter after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have permitted businesses and individuals to refuse to serve gay couples and individuals.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes effusively praised hate group spokesman Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (AFA) as "one of the most intelligent talk show hosts in the country." Fischer is notorious for making rabidly homophobic statements, including the claim that gay men caused the Holocaust.
During a February 24 appearance on American Family Radio's Focal Point with Bryan Fischer, Starnes and Fischer discussed a halted Federal Communications Commission (FCC) study that would have examined how well newsrooms are meeting the public's "critical information needs" on key public policy issues. Right-wing media hyped the study as an invasive survey that could lead to the federal government dictating news coverage.
While the FCC has backed off the study following public comment, Fischer said it "sounded" like the FCC is "reloading" and will proceed with the study anyway. In his discussion of the study, Fischer accused the Obama administration of trying to censor anti-gay views. Starnes agreed, suggesting that the Bible could soon be censored or outlawed. The Fox commentator praised Fischer's analysis of the FCC study as emblematic of why Fischer is "one of the most intelligent talk show hosts in the country":
Right-wing media figures, led by Fox News, have launched a campaign against the Girl Scouts accusing the group of indoctrinating young girls into liberal politics. The accusation has been propped up by misleading claims, ludicrous oversimplifications, and frequently repeated myths about the organization, which focuses on empowering girls.
Fox News has spent the last several months championing anti-gay business owners who refuse to serve gay customers - depicting efforts to prevent discrimination as threats to religious liberty. Now, with several states debating bills that would legalize homophobic discrimination in business and employment, Fox News is now defending the extreme, anti-gay segregation policies it helped to create.
The push to legalize anti-gay discrimination first came to public attention on February 12, when the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing individuals and businesses to refuse any services "related to, or related to the celebration of" any union - effectively allowing blanket protection for the denial of services to gay couples. After a storm of negative publicity, the State Senate has shelved the bill.
Similar bills have recently died in Idaho, South Dakota, and Tennessee, but the Arizona legislature has sent its own license to discriminate measure to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's desk.
The wave of anti-gay segregation measures is the culmination of a concerted right-wing strategy, bolstered by Fox News, to cast anti-gay discrimination as an integral part of religious freedom.
Long before the public outcry over Kansas' license to discriminate bill, Fox threw its weight behind businesses whose owners refuse, ostensibly on religious grounds, to serve gay and lesbian couples - precisely the form of discrimination that conservative state legislators have sought to legalize.
As part of Fox's continued conflation of homophobia and Christianity, the network has repeatedly defended discrimination by anti-gay business owners as an essential part of religious liberty.
On December 10, Fox & Friends hosted Colorado baker Jack Phillips and his extremist Alliance Defending Freedom-affiliated attorney to discuss a court ruling that Phillips had violated the state's anti-discrimination law by refusing to serve a same-sex couple. The segment featured a graphic proclaiming "The Death Of Free Enterprise," while co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Phillips why he thought he shouldn't have to discard his "personal religious beliefs just to make a buck."
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers and Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes continued their feud over Kansas' anti-gay segregation bill, with Powers calling Starnes out for "lying" in his criticism of her opposition to the measure.
The feud between Starnes and Powers began on February 19 with a USA Today column in which Powers challenged supporters of a Kansas bill which would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gay and lesbian couples on religious grounds. "Christians backing this bill," Powers charged, "are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws." Powers' Fox colleagues Starnes and Erick Erickson swiftly criticized the column and defended the Kansas bill as an effort to protect religious liberty.
Starnes reignited the feud with a February 20 tweet alleging that Powers - an evangelical Christian who quoted religious opponents of the Kansas bill in her column -- showed an ignorance of Christianity:
Powers pushed back, accusing Starnes of lying:
Starnes continued to take umbrage at the comparison between Jim Crow laws and "license to discriminate" legislation, charging Powers with "smearing people" who supported the legislation and accusing his critics of "playing the race card":
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers condemned a legislative push in Kansas to legalize religiously-motivated anti-gay business and employment discrimination, contradicting Fox News' pattern of defending anti-gay discrimination and sparking criticism from Powers' Fox News colleagues.
In a column for USA Today published on February 19, Powers blasted a Kansas bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples based on the owner's religious views. Since its passage by the state House of Representatives on February 12, the bill has been shelved by the Kansas Senate. Powers took issue with supporters of "homosexual Jim Crow laws" using Christianity to justify anti-gay bigotry - a common practice at Fox News (emphasis added):
Whether Christians have the legal right to discriminate should be a moot point because Christianity doesn't prohibit serving a gay couple getting married. Jesus calls his followers to be servants to all. Nor does the Bible call service to another an affirmation.
Christians backing this bill are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws.
Christians serve unrepentant murderers through prison ministry. So why can't they provide a service for a same-sex marriage?
Some claim it's because marriage is so sacred. But double standards abound. Christian bakers don't interrogate wedding clients to make sure their behavior comports with the Bible. If they did, they'd be out of business. [Evangelical pastor Andy] Stanley said, "Jesus taught that if a person is divorced and gets remarried, it's adultery. So if (Christians) don't have a problem doing business with people getting remarried, why refuse to do business with gays and lesbians."
Maybe they should just ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?" I think he'd bake the cake.
Powers' Fox colleague Erick Erickson made clear that he wasn't a fan of her column, tweeting a link to a blog post that criticized her position and called the right to refuse service essential to "the common good." Erickson called the post "your must read of the day":
Right-wing media outlets and personalities attacked a Coca-Cola ad aired during the Super Bowl that featured members of different cultures singing "America the Beautiful" in several languages.
On January 28, President Obama gave his fifth State of the Union speech during which he addressed the urgent need to act on climate change. Conservative media pundits latched on to the cold winter weather in the area during his speech to laugh off global warming, despite the clear long-term warming trend.
Right-wing media figures condemned the weddings of 33 same-sex and opposite-sex couples at the 56th annual Grammy Awards, describing the ceremony as an attack on Christianity.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes equated New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo with arch-segregationist Bull Connor, distorting recent remarks by Cuomo to falsely suggest that the Democratic governor wants to "politically segregate the state."
Speaking with a reporter on January 17, Cuomo decried right-wing politicians who have opposed his policies in support of LGBT equality, abortion rights, and gun safety. Characterizing the Republican Party as riven by a schism between moderates and conservatives, Cuomo said that dynamic was playing out in New York:
The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act -- it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that's who they are and they're the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that's not who New Yorkers are.
While Cuomo explicitly referred to "Republican Party candidates" and said in the same interview that it's "fine" for people to disagree with him, right-wing commentators instantly mischaracterized the governor's comments to claim that he wished to rid the state of all conservatives. Starnes, in a January 20 FoxNews.com column titled "Governor Andrew 'Bull Connor' Cuomo," reacted with characteristic hyperbole and misinformation:
Get out of New York!
That's the message Empire State Governor Andrew Cuomo is sending to pro-life, pro-gun, pro-traditional marriage conservatives.
Take that in for just a moment. New York's Democratic governor believes people who are pro-life are extremists. Extremists.
Donald Trump? Not welcome. Cardinal Dolan -- you're outta here, pal. Cuomo just can't have those kind of people living on the streets of New York City.
When did Governor Cuomo become Bull Connor -- trying to politically segregate the state?
What's he going to do next, unleash the dogs and turn the hoses on conservative boys and girls?
Even yours truly, could be forced find a new place to live. I live among the intolerant liberal people of Brooklyn. I'm also a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association and an evangelical Christian.
It's only a matter of time before the governor's foot soldiers knock on my door and give this gun-toting, Bible-clinging, son-of-a-Baptist the heave ho.
Starnes' column is merely the latest example of his willingness to make baseless claims of anti-Christian persecution in order to justify his own bigoted views. As Fox's in-house mouthpiece for anti-gay hate groups, Starnes views every gain for LGBT equality as an assault on religious liberty. He has claimed that "Christians are trading places with homosexuals" since the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He has defended anti-LGBT business discrimination, writing that non-discrimination protections are efforts to replace "God's law" with "man's law." When the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Starnes tweeted, "Supreme Court overrules God" and predicted that it "[w]on't be long before they outlaw the Bible as hate speech."
Starnes' anti-Cuomo diatribe might be typical of his previous work, but equating the governor with Connor, the Birmingham Commissioner of Public Safety who sanctioned brutal attacks against civil rights activists and presided over "the most segregated city in America," marks a deplorable low for a reporter whose history of race-baiting exposes his own ugly bigotry.
Right-wing media responded to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) admission that his administration caused a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge as political payback with praise for the embattled governor and used Christie's response to pivot to criticisms of President Obama including invoking the phony Benghazi scandal.
Fox News employees are rushing to defend Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson after A&E placed him on indefinite hiatus for making anti-gay remarks in which he called homosexuality a sin, illogical, and akin to bestiality.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes defended homophobic remarks made by a star of the A&E reality show Duck Dynasty, blasting "intolerant, anti-Christian," and "Anti-Straight" "haters" for deigning to criticize the comments.
In an interview with GQ, Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson called homosexuality a sin, comparing it to bestiality and equating gay people with "drunks" and "terrorists." "It seems like, to me, a vagina - as a man - would be more desirable than a man's anus," Robertson told the magazine. The LGBT advocacy group GLAAD condemned Robertson's remarks as "vile." Starnes expressed outrage at criticism of Robertson's remarks, writing on Twitter:
Starnes is one of Fox News' most rabid purveyors of homophobia. He has urged fans to donate to anti-gay hate groups, endorsed anti-LGBT business discrimination, promoted the conspiracy theory that President Obama is secretly gay, and blamed "heterophobic bigots" for the withdrawal of an anti-gay pastor from Obama's inaugural ceremony. While Starnes is keen to malign supporters of LGBT equality as "intolerant" "bigots," his history of hateful commentary exposes his virulent bigotry.
Fox News' Todd Starnes accused a Georgia elementary school of "confiscating" Christmas cards in an effort to stifle religious expression, prompting outrage from residents and threats of corrective legislation from Georgia lawmakers. But according to the school district, Starnes' allegations are completely false.
In a story posted on his Fox News Radio show titled "Georgia School Confiscates Christmas Cards," Starnes cited the husband of one teacher at the school who claimed many teachers were "disgruntled by the school's decision to confiscate the Christmas cards." Starnes asserted that the Bulloch County Board of Education "cracked down" on the Christmas card display, as well as many other acts of "religious expression in their schools" :
Teachers have been ordered to remove any religious icons or items from their classrooms - ranging from Bibles to Christian music.
Teachers have also been instructed to avoid student-led prayers at all costs. Should they be in a room where students are praying, teachers have been ordered to turn their backs on their students.
Hundreds of outraged residents have joined a Facebook page to protest the crackdown - and many are vowing to attend a school board meeting on Thursday to let school officials have a piece of their mind.
The Board of Education released a statement late Tuesday denying the moving of the Christmas cards had anything to do with the "current open and ongoing discussions that the school system is having with local citizens about religious liberties and expression."
"We don't want this misinformation to derail the positive work we are committed to with our community leaders," Supt. Charles Wilson said in a prepared statement. "I'm appalled by this attack on our school system, and on Brooklet Elementary."
After Starnes' article, right wing media outlets picked up his story adding to outrage in the community. Town Hall reprinted Starnes' article and The Blaze reported that according to Fox News, "administrators reportedly asked teachers to move a group of hallway Christmas cards out of the view of students." Starnes' report even led one Georgia state senator, Judson Hill (R), to denounce the Bulloch County Board of Education and threaten to "explore possible legislation, if needed, to protect religious freedom of GA taxpayers":
Conservative media figures are touting a far-right coalition's sensationalist claim that the U.S. military is rife with anti-Christian hostility, ignoring the lack of evidence to substantiate the charge and allowing anti-LGBT hate groups to drive coverage of the issue.
Restore Military Religious Freedom (RMRF) - a coalition of right-wing organizations including Liberty Counsel, the Heritage Foundation, and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)-designated hate groups the Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA) - is leading the charge with this bogus claim. In early November, RMRF released a video featuring interviews with current service members making sweeping statements about the alleged anti-Christian bias permeating the armed forces. The video listed a few examples of apparent attacks on religious liberty in the military, but those examples don't withstand scrutiny.
Hinting at the real motives behind the RMRF's effort, the video includes a soldier complaining about the new wave of "tolerance" sweeping the military - a not-so-thinly-veiled reference to the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy. For years, the organizations behind RMRF have crusaded against open service by gay and lesbian soldiers, often using vitriolic language. Depicting the armed forces as anti-Christian has been central to the right's attack on the post-DADT military.
Anti-LGBT hate groups decided long ago that their ultimate solution must be the end of open service, but it was a solution in search of a problem. In its Christian persecution narrative, social conservatives have managed to manufacture that problem, despite that it consists of made-up anti-LGBT horror stories. Right-wing media are happy to take the hate groups' bait.
On the November 11 edition of Fox & Friends, FRC President Tony Perkins sat down with co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Brian Kilmeade to promote RMRF's campaign. While he didn't cite a single example of anti-Christian retaliation by the military, Perkins asserted that "all evidence would suggest" that the Obama administration is "on a search-and-destroy mission as it pertains to religious liberty." Hasselbeck didn't ask Perkins to back up his claim, but she did make sure viewers knew about RMRF's website: