Megyn Kelly was supposed to be a harbinger of Fox News' "gay rights revolution," but she's used her primetime spot to enable some of the country's most extreme anti-LGBT activists.
At the height of the controversy over Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson's homophobic remarks in a December 2013 interview with GQ magazine, Kelly invited GLAAD consultant Jeremy Hooper to appear on The Kelly File and weigh in on the firestorm.
She also invited Tony Perkins, president of the notorious anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council (FRC), to appear immediately afterward.
During his segment, Hooper urged Kelly to hold Perkins accountable for his extensive history of bigoted rhetoric. "What specifically? Because I'll ask him," Kelly promised. Hooper pointed to Perkins' endorsement of a Ugandan bill that would have imposed the death penalty for homosexuality, his claim that gay people face "eternal damnation," and his comparisons of gay people with terrorists.
In the segment that followed, however, Kelly didn't ask Perkins to explain his virulent anti-gay rhetoric. Instead, she introduced him as the leader of "a group whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and culture from a Christian worldview":
Kelly's failure to hold Perkins accountable is a case study in her broader habit of mainstreaming anti-gay hate.
In the seven months since The Kelly File launched in October of 2013, Fox's 9 p.m. hour has been a friendly forum for some of the country's most odious anti-gay extremists, including Perkins, the far-right legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and, most recently, the Benham brothers, the home renovators whose rabidly anti-gay activism led HGTV to cancel their planned reality show.
Since Kelly's promotion to Fox's prime-time lineup, she has hosted Perkins six times. (Filling in for Kelly on the December 27 edition of the program, Shannon Bream hosted Perkins an additional time.) Perkins has used his appearances to condemn Gov. Jan Brewer's (R-AZ) veto of her state's license-to-discriminate bill, champion anti-LGBT discrimination, opine on openly gay NFL draftee Michael Sam, and lambaste HGTV for cancelling the Benham brothers' planned show.
Kelly's willingness to grant Perkins a platform isn't a recent development. As a daytime host on Fox's America Live, she provided Perkins the opportunity to peddle anti-gay talking points with impunity - and often parroted the same talking points herself, asking Perkins why gay rights activists are so intolerant and defending him and other "openly religious" leaders against charges of bigotry.
Meanwhile, Kelly has invited ADF to defend anti-gay business discrimination on her program. While other cable news anchors have exposed ADF's anti-gay extremism - including its international work to criminalize homosexuality - Kelly gave the group the same treatment she afforded Perkins, failing to hold ADF to account for its disturbing work.
The Benham brothers could also count on Kelly to downplay their history of strident anti-gay and Islamophobic activism, including condemning homosexuality as "demonic" and "destructive." On the May 19 edition of her show, she called the backlash to their activism "incredible," asking them to enlighten viewers on their "more traditional views":
Right-wing media equated sensitivity training to "re-education camp" after an NFL player was disciplined for homophobic tweets.
On May 10, University of Missouri football player Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, becoming the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL. ESPN aired footage of Sam sharing a celebratory kiss with his boyfriend. Following the kiss, Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones reacted by tweeting "omg" and "horrible." The Dolphins fined Jones and barred him from team activities until he undergoes sensitivity training.
The conservative media took the opportunity to liken the sensitivity training requirement to being forced into a re-education camp. Fox personalities and guests alike proclaimed that Jones was being sent to a re-education camp, a claim The Washington Times echoed, calling the sensitivity training "modern-day equivalent of a re-education camp." Predictably, Rush Limbaugh joined conservatives decrying Jones "going to re-education camp" as "just creepy."
Real re-education camps are known for their vast human rights violations and still exist in countries like North Korea and China. A report on North Korea's camps in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the inhumane conditions at the camps:
North Koreans can end up in re-education camps for such crimes as listening to foreign radio broadcasts, secretly practicing a religion, or crossing the border to China in search of food. Inmates are subjected to forced labor and are required to memorize political tracts. They receive little food, no medical care and sometimes serve multiyear terms wearing the clothes in which they arrived at camp. I interviewed a woman who had been wearing high heels when she was arrested and had to bind her feet in rags when those wore out. Many prisoners die of abuse or malnutrition.
The New York Times described the conditions in China's "Re-education Through Labor" camps:
Conditions in re-education camps are dire: Physical abuse by guards and the criminal elements they entrust to enforce "order" is common, as are long hours of arduous work with no rest day; institutionalized corruption; deficient health care; and what the Justice Ministry refers to as "abnormal deaths."
Sensitivity training is nothing new in the NFL. In August 2013, Philadelphia Eagles receiver Riley Cooper attended sensitivity training after he used a racial slur. A typical training session lasts between two and four hours.
It should be obvious that comparing sensitivity training for a player's bigoted, anti-gay comments to brutal re-education camps in oppressive regimes are ridiculous, but right-wing media continue to embrace hyperbole in their opposition to gay rights.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly invited anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (FRC) to comment on HGTV's decision to cancel a program that would have starred a rabid anti-gay extremist, pushing the FRC's own talking points to baselessly frame HGTV's decision as an attack on Christians.
On May 6, Right Wing Watch reported that David Benham, who along with his brother Jason was slated to star in a fixer-upper reality show called Flip It Forward, had an extensive record of anti-choice, anti-gay, and anti-Muslim activism. David Benham explained to far-right radio host Janet Mefferd in 2012 that he and his brother had participated in a protest of the Democratic National Convention to take a stand against "homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation," abortion, divorce, and "demonic ideologies" circulating in the education system. Benham has also compared the anti-gay marriage fight to the struggle against Nazi Germany and highlighted Leviticus' prescription of death for gay sex.Benham's views on Muslims are no kinder; he has declared that "Islam takes life and enslaves it" and protested in front of mosques while shouting "Jesus Hates Muslims."
Faced with a public outcry, HGTV announced on May 7 that it had "decided not to move forward" with Flip It Forward.
During the May 8 edition of The Kelly File, Kelly asked Perkins to weigh in on the controversy. Kelly suggested that while HGTV would have been condemned for cancelling a show featuring gay stars, the Benhams were being punished because, unlike gay people, Christians' rights aren't as "protected and recognized in this country":
Fox News criticized the Supreme Court's decision not to hear a case involving a New Mexico photographer who was sued after refusing to serve a same-sex couple, inviting a hate group leader to condemn non-discrimination laws and asserting that prohibiting businesses from refusing service to gay people is a form of "involuntary servitude."
On April 7, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Elane Photography, a New Mexico studio that was sued under the state's non-discrimination statute after its owner refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. Though it's unclear what motivated the Supreme Court's decision, opponents of LGBT equality condemned the Supreme Court for allegedly refusing to protect religious liberty.
One of the Supreme Court's critics was Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC), who appeared on The Kelly File with Megyn Kelly to condemn New Mexico's non-discrimination law:
Fox News dedicated its first segment on Gov. Brewer's veto of Arizona's anti-gay bill to an interview with one of America's most notorious anti-gay hate group leaders.
On February 26, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced that she had vetoed Senate Bill 1062, which would have allowed businesses and individuals to engage in legal discrimination by denying services to gay people on religious grounds. Brewer said that the bill "does not address a specific or pressing concern," and that it "is broadly worded, and could result in unintended and negative consequences."
Fox's Megyn Kelly opened the February 26 edition of her show with a segment on Brewer's veto that featured Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council. Kelly gave Perkins a platform to lambast the veto as an example of "how fundamental freedoms are trampled," while citing a New Mexico couple who were prosecuted for refusing service to a same-sex couple as proof that the law differs from discrimination against mixed-race couples in that it "address[es] some very significant problems":
After assuring a GLAAD official that she would challenge an anti-gay hate group leader on his history of extreme rhetoric, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly welcomed Family Research Council president Tony Perkins to defend a Duck Dynasty star, never mentioning his nor FRC's anti-gay extremism and hate group designation.
Phil Robertson of A&E's popular Duck Dynasty show, made national headlines this week after calling homosexuality illogical and comparing it to bestiality during an interview with GQ magazine. Citing his remarks, on December 18 A&E announced it would be placing Robertson on indefinite hiatus.
During the following evening's edition of The Kelly File, Kelly invited on GLAAD's Jeremy Hooper followed by Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins to discuss Robertson's anti-gay comments.
Hooper challenged Kelly to hold Perkins accountable for his anti-gay record and vile rhetoric, to which Kelly promised, "What specifically? Because I'll ask him."
But Kelly never asked Perkins to explain his extreme stances against the gay community, nor did she acknowledge that the FRC is a designated hate group. Instead she merely identified FRC as "a group whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and culture from a Christian world view"--a description that continues Fox's trend of referring to anti-gay extremism as Christianity. Perkins went on to defend Robertson as upholding "biblical morality" and attack homosexuality as "sexual immorality."
Conservative media outlets have repeatedly asserted that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) - federal legislation that would ban employment discrimination against LGBT workers - discriminates against Christian businesses, but a new report from PolitiFact has rated that claim "False."
On December 16, PolitiFact evaluated a fundraising email from the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) which claimed that ENDA would unfairly punish Christian businesses. PolitiFact rated TVC's claim "false," noting that ENDA includes religious exemptions that are actually more generous than those contained in other federal non-discrimination laws.
PolitiFact also noted that non-religious businesses operated by religious individuals have to comply with the law regardless of the business owner's faith (emphasis added):
Under Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964], and therefore under ENDA, religious organizations, which need not be church-run, would be exempt. Additionally, all businesses with fewer than 15 employees are exempt, whether they're religious or not.
Nelson Tebbe, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who specializes in religious liberty, said ENDA's religious exemption exceeds Title VII's.
"It's broader because the religious exemption in Title VII only allows religious organizations to discriminate [against LGBT individuals] on the basis of religion," he said. But it doesn't allow religious groups to discriminate based on factors like an employee's gender or race.
So by permitting religious organizations to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, ENDA allows them more flexibility than Title VII.
The bill's religious exemption indicates that churches, church-run initiatives and other religious businesses need not comply by employing people of all sexualities and gender identities. And there's no special negative treatment for Christians.
Businesses of any religion could qualify for the exemption. Individuals of any faith who oppose sexuality would have to abide by the law, so no religion is singled out.
We rate this claim False.
The myth that ENDA would discriminate against Christian businesses has been widely debunked, but that hasn't stopped the lie from gaining prominence among right-wing media outlets.
CNN allowed hate group leader Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), to baselessly accuse marriage equality of creating a slippery slope to polygamy after asking him whether the growing acceptance of homosexuality was to blame for the decriminalization of polygamous relationships in Utah.
On December 13, in the case Brown v. Buhman, U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups struck down a portion of Utah's anti-polygamy statute which aimed at prohibiting polygamous cohabitation, stating that the measure violated constitutionally protected rights of free exercise of religion and due process. Waddoups also cited the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state laws criminalizing gay sex. According to Waddoups, Lawrence pointed to "deeper liberty interests at issue in the home and personal relationships."
During the December 16 edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, guest host Jake Tapper invited Perkins and anti-polygamy activist Laurie Allen to ask if Waddoups' decision was a result of the slippery slope created by the decriminalization of gay sex in Lawrence v. Texas. During the segment, Tapper read a Tweet from former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum claiming his predictions about gay marriage leading to polygamy were true and asked "do you think it's fair to make that link" between gay marriage and polygamy?:
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:
The Washington Times marked the U.S. Senate's historic vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) by publishing a column from an anti-LGBT hate group leader who baselessly asserted that the legislation permits "reverse discrimination" and doesn't truly exempt religious employers.
On November 8 - one day after the Senate voted 64 to 32 to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity - the Times granted Tony Perkins, president of the hate group Family Research Council, a platform to smear ENDA as "a major threat to liberty." Perkins attacked the bill's religious exemption as inadequate and claimed that the legislation promotes "reverse discrimination" against social conservatives:
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act contains a very narrow "religious exemption," but previous experience with similar laws and similar "exemptions" at the state and local level give little confidence that they will fully protect conscience when the law is applied. Sometimes, the enforcers will seek to limit the exemption to actual clergy but insist that church employees who do not proclaim the faith are not exempt. Some will exempt all employees of actual churches, but leave nonprofits and parachurch ministries unprotected. Sometimes, religious nonprofits are protected, but not if a significant part of their work is "secular" in nature (such as feeding the poor or educating children). In any case, any exemption is unlikely to apply to any profit-making entity -- even a religious publishing house or radio station.
Unfortunately, the mere language of a legislative "exemption" is inadequate to predict how liberal activists on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or in the courts will interpret it.
Even more alarming than the lack of a strong religious exemption, however, is the prospect that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would lead to a form of reverse discrimination, whereby anyone who expresses or promotes a view of family or morality that can be interpreted to be a disapproval of homosexual conduct or disagreement with elements of the homosexual political agenda (such as the redefinition of marriage) will be subject to retaliation and discrimination.
Despite Perkins' eagerness to frame ENDA as an unprecedented assault on religious freedom, Section 6 of ENDA explicitly exempts religious organizations, affirming that the same religious organizations exempt under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are also exempt under ENDA. Since Senate debate began on the bill, the right of religious organizations to discriminate against LGBT individuals has only been reaffirmed. On November 6, the Senate adopted by voice vote an amendment from ENDA supporter Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) prohibiting retaliation against religious organizations.
Moreover, businesses required to comply with ENDA's non-discrimination requirements won't see any loss of religious liberty. There's a stark difference between personal religious views against homosexuality and discriminatory public business practices against LGBT people. Just as civil rights protections for racial minorities don't punish private racist thoughts, ENDA won't deploy the thought police to go after religious conservatives.
Obsessed with an uncontroversial 2007 academic article she wrote on reproductive rights, National Review Online continues to smear judicial nominee Cornelia Pillard, whose approval vote before the Senate Judiciary Committee is today.
Nominated to the second-most important court in the nation, Pillard should be voted out of committee on her way to a Senate confirmation vote based on her stellar qualifications for the U.S. Court of Appeals. Because of right-wing media attacks started by National Review Online and repeated almost verbatim by GOP Senators on the committee, the vote is expected to be straight down party lines.
In anticipation of the vote, last night the editorial board of the NRO regurgitated the same smears.
Pivoting off of a sliver of her academic work while misrepresenting it, right-wing media have attacked Pillard for her mainstream support of family planning, comprehensive sex education, and overall adherence to established sex equality law.
Right-wing media have been so desperate to pretend her legal writings are "extreme" that not only have they dismissed the inconvenient fact that half of the Supreme Court agreed with her perspectives on reproductive rights and abortion, but her invocation of the relevance of "sex stereotypes" that NRO and others like Tony Perkins condemn was endorsed by arch-conservative former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
But the attacks are not really about Pillard.
Rather, they are a reflection of how much the right-wing apparently loathes the decades-long development of sex equality under Fourteenth Amendment law. Make no mistake- most of these Pillard smears have nothing to do with fidelity to precedent. Right-wing media like NRO apparently desire nominees who don't support civil rights precedent.
Cornelia "Nina" Pillard is President Obama's pick for one of three vacant seats on the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit. She is a well-respected professor at Georgetown Law School; co-director of its Supreme Court Institute; a former lawyer at the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the Justice Department; and a successful Supreme Court litigator.
She is also a "feminist."
A "feminist" insofar as she has spent part of her career advocating for women's equality (including a successful brief challenging the men-only admissions policy at the Virginia Military Institute, and a successful challenge to gender-biased family leave policies). Pillard's "radical feminism" appears largely to take the form of seeking equality for women, which would certainly be a disqualifying feature of her advocacy work. If it were 1854.
Fresh off of unsuccessful scare-mongering about the dangers of marriage equality, right-wing media are turning the clock back even further and attacking a highly qualified judicial nominee to the important D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals because of her academic writings on established sex equality law.
Started by Ed Whelan of the National Review Online and continued by anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins, a whisper campaign against veteran litigator and law professor Cornelia T.L. Pillard, President Obama's pick for the D.C. Circuit, has been spreading through right-wing media.
Whereas Whelan at least attempted to engage the legal arguments of a 2007 law review article in which Pillard explored how decades-old sex equality law is relevant to reproductive rights, other right-wing media are making even wilder and more inaccurate claims to smear the nominee as extreme when she is in fact solidly in the mainstream.
Perkins of the notorious Family Research Council, for example, made numerous errors in his attack on Pillard that, along with Whelan's rhetoric, is circulating on anti-choice websites and right-wing blogs.
Falsely ascribing a quote of conservative former Chief Justice William Rehnquist to Pillard in which he wrote for the Supreme Court that family leave policies not equally provided to both sexes are a "self-fulfilling cycle of discrimination," Perkins inaccurately described it as Pillard's condemnation of "celebrating motherhood." Where Pillard has observed that the anti-choice personhood movement could be exposed as unconstitutional by increasing awareness of the equal protection ramifications for pregnant women, Perkins fabricated the charge that Pillard "criticizes" the ultrasound. Resorting to spreading the ridiculous myth that Pillard would "declare" abstinence-only education "unconstitutional," Perkins managed to debunk such a silly charge in his very next sentence by quoting her accurate observation that a sex education class that stereotypes and disadvantages women could theoretically be "vulnerable to an equal protection challenge" under established precedent.
Finally, Perkins selectively quoted Pillard to characterize as "militant feminism" her argument that for women to have equal rights in the workplace, they need to be valued for more than their ability to bear children. From the actual full quote in Pillard's 2007 article:
A society in which women lack control to plan when they have children is one in which women must remain second-class citizens. We already know, and the Court recognized in Hibbs, that many employers assume that to be a mother is to be a primary caregiver with correspondingly less job commitment than a man, who is presumed to be an unencumbered "ideal worker." If impaired access to contraceptives hinders women's ability to exercise choice about when and whether to have children, it also reinforces broader patterns of discrimination against women as a class of presumptive breeders rather than reliable breadwinners and citizens.
More than 32,000 people have signed a petition asking CNN to stop hosting anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins to speak on behalf of America's Christians following Perkins' appearance on the network to discuss the Supreme Court's recent marriage equality decisions.
Just minutes after the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on June 26, CNN invited Perkins - president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC) - to peddle lies about the decision's impact on religious liberty. No other Christians were interviewed during the segment, despite the fact that a majority of Christians oppose DOMA:
With the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee poised to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) on July 10, anti-LGBT activists are ramping up their misinformation campaign against the legislation, which would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's historic decision to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), anti-gay activists have run out of excuses to explain their ongoing legal defeats in their fight against marriage equality.
Anti-gay activists have a long history of dreaming up wild excuses to explain away embarrassing losses in court:
This rationalization may have bought anti-gay groups time as their cases worked their way up the judicial ladder, but it won't do much to soften the blow of the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States.
The lead attorney defending DOMA in the Windsor case was Paul Clement, one of the country's most well-known and successful constitutional lawyers. Clement had been dubbed the "LeBron James of law," and his decision to take up DOMA's defense was celebrated by anti-gay groups across the country.
Focus on the Family celebrated Clement's announcement, calling it "really great news":
Ladies and gentlemen, it just doesn't get any better on a Monday than to hear that the House of Representatives has selected Paul Clement as its outside counsel to take on the defense of DOMA after the President and the Department of Justice's rather spectacular failure to do so.
I'm breathing just a little bit easier today. This is really great news. [emphasis added]
Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), was similarly overjoyed:
Paul Clement is one of the ablest litigators in the country, whose seven years acting as solicitor general is the longest period of continuous service since the 19th century. The solicitor general's job is arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Clement has argued more than 50 such cases.
As a friend of mine, himself an able litigator, put it: "He's the best. Boehner could not have made a better choice."
And so, thanks to Boehner, Obama's plan to sabotage DOMA's defense has backfired.
For the first time since Obama became president, we will have a legal eagle in the courtroom defending DOMA who actually wants to win the case. [emphasis added]
And Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, stated that Clement's defense would put the Supreme Court "in the best position" to uphold DOMA:
In the American system, everyone is entitled to have a good lawyer to make the best constitutional arguments. This puts the court in the best position to reach the right result. In the case of DOMA, having very good aggressive lawyers on both sides is what will put the courts in the best position correctly to hold that DOMA is perfectly constitutional. [emphasis added]