Tony Perkins

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  • Here Are The Big Players In The Inevitable Smear Campaign Against Judge Merrick Garland

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    As President Obama reportedly prepares to announce Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, media should be prepared to hear from several right-wing groups dedicated to opposing the nominee, no matter who it is. These advocacy groups and right-wing media outlets have a history of pushing misleading information and alarmist rhetoric to launch smear campaigns against Obama's highly qualified Supreme Court nominees, using tactics including, but not limited to, spreading offensive rumors about a nominee's personal life, deploying bogus legal arguments or conspiracy theories, and launching wild distortions of every aspect of a nominee's legal career.

  • Trump Isn't The Only GOP Candidate Backed By Bigots


    While media cover ongoing controversy surrounding GOP front-runner Donald Trump's refusal to clearly disavow the Ku Klux Klan, the bigoted history of some of Republican hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz's prominent endorsers is receiving less scrutiny. Cruz is endorsed by both Tony Perkins, who has past ties to former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, and Gun Owners of America (GOA), an extremist group that gave money to a white supremacist organization. He is also often touted by conservative radio host Michael Berry, who has compared black teens to "jungle animals" among other racially charged comments.

  • The Nation Explains Why It's So Appalling That Troy Newman Was Made "National Co-Chair" Of Cruz's Anti-Choice Coalition

    Newman Joins Hate Group Leader Tony Perkins To Lead Cruz's "Pro-Life" Agenda

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On January 27, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz announced the formation of his new anti-choice coalition: "Pro-Life For Cruz." As part of the announcement, Cruz named anti-choice extremist Troy Newman as a "national co-chair" of the group, despite Newman's problematic history of harassing abortion providers and endorsing violent rhetoric about them.

    Reporting for The Nation on January 28, George Zornick detailed why Cruz's "doubling down on his connection with Newman" was as problematic as Newman's own appalling history of anti-choice activism. According to Zornick, Cruz praised Newman for having "led the charge for the pro-life cause" and being a "true inspiration." Yet Newman has a well-established history of harassing abortion providers and spouting violence-endorsing rhetoric against them.

    As the president of the anti-choice organization Operation Rescue, Newman argued that "the murder of abortion doctors is legally permissible" and he openly harassed clinic employees. In his radical book Their Blood Cries Out, Newman suggested that 9/11, AIDS, and even California's historic drought were all punishments from God for allowing legal abortion. Newman's views are so extreme that, as The New York Times reported in 2015, Australia cancelled Newman's visa over "concerns that he might encourage violence against abortion providers or women seeking the procedures."

    Most recently, Newman served as a board member of The Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the organization responsible for propagating a smear campaign so fraudulent that the organization earned the title of Media Matters' Misinformer of the Year for 2015. Last week, the president of CMP, David Daleiden, and one of his co-conspirators were indicted by a grand jury in Harris County, Texas for their involvement in this attack on Planned Parenthood. Troy Newman is no longer on the board of CMP -- as The New York Times reported, he "resigned from the center's board when Mr. Daleiden was indicted."

    As The Nation's Zornick noted, Cruz also praised Tony Perkins, the leader of known hate group Family Research Council for agreeing to lead the "Pro-Life For Cruz" coalition. From The Nation:

    With the Iowa caucuses only days away, Senator Ted Cruz has announced the formation of a "Pro-Lifers for Cruz" coalition that aims to "champion every child, born and unborn."

    Among the national co-chairs of that coalition is Troy Newman, one of the more malevolent figures in the anti-choice movement. He is the president of the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, and a board member at the Center for Medical Progress, which just saw two employees indicted in Houston for deceptions conducted while creating the now-infamous "baby parts" videos that targeted Planned Parenthood.

    Newman has often suggested that the murder of abortion doctors is legally permissible, and his group has been connected to several notorious anti-choice acts of violence over the past 20 years.

    It would be virtually impossible not to be aware of this fact--it defines Newman's career--yet Cruz said in a statement Wednesday that "Every single national co-chair in this coalition has led the charge for the pro-life cause and is a true inspiration." Newman formally endorsed Cruz back in November, which created a small stir-up in the press, and Cruz is now doubling down on his connection with Newman.


    Pro-choice advocates quickly noticed Cruz's bear hug of Newman. "Given that this announcement came out after [David Daleiden's] indictment, I'm pretty shocked that he included him," said Sasha Bruce, NARAL's vice president of campaigns and strategies. "It's not enough that he made his endorsement at a presidential level of somebody who advocates violence, he has now been indicted."

  • What The Media Isn't Saying About Ted Cruz's Newest Endorsement

    Tony Perkins Is A Hate Group Leader With Ties To White Supremacists

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Major news outlets reporting on Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) newest endorser are leaving out that endorser's background as an extreme anti-gay hate group leader with ties to white supremacist groups.

    Tony Perkins is the evangelical right wing activist credited with consolidating evangelical support behind Cruz in a December meeting of religious conservatives.  Perkins has now formally announced his endorsement of the Texas senator, calling him "a constitutional conservative who will fight for faith, family and freedom" during a January 26 interview on Fox News' The Kelly File.

    Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council (FRC), which is designated as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center based on the group's propagation of falsehoods about LGBT people, as well as Perkins' own history of inflammatory comments. Perkins has called pedophilia a "homosexual problem," equated being gay with drug use and adultery, accused gay people of trying to "recruit" children, and compared gay rights advocates to terrorists.

    In addition to his anti-gay extremism, the Southern Poverty Law Center has detailed Perkins' ties to white supremacist groups:   

    In 1996, while managing the U.S. Senate campaign of Woody Jenkins against Mary Landrieu, Perkins paid $82,500 to use the mailing list of former Ku Klux Klan leader and state Rep. David Duke. The campaign was fined $3,000 for filing false disclosure forms in a bid to hide the payment to Duke. Perkins has stated he did not know about the mailing list's connection to Duke.

    Perkins served as a state representative for eight years, starting in 1998. On May 17, 2001, he gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist group that has described black people as a "retrograde species of humanity." Perkins who addressed the group while standing in front of a Confederate flag, claimed not to know the group's ideology at the time, even though it had been widely publicized in Louisiana and the nation.

    But while reporting on Perkins' endorsement, media outlets failed to provide any information about Perkins' anti-LGBT extremism and white supremacist ties. Time, The Associated Press, and NPR all described Perkins as president of FRC without reporting the group's hate group designation. CNN and Reuters both characterized Perkins as an influential Christian leader. Politico did note that Perkins has "been vocal as an activist against LGBT causes," but didn't further detail Perkins' anti-gay extremism.

    Perkins has previously used GOP primary coverage to rise to prominence in national media outlets who failed to hold him accountable for his views while allowing him to position himself as a spokesperson for social conservative and evangelical voters.

  • What Reporters Should Know About Ted Cruz's Evangelical Hype Man

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Journalists covering the 2016 GOP primary have an opportunity to expose the extreme hate group leader who just became the face of Ted Cruz's evangelical supporters. 

    In a secret December 2015 meeting of top national social conservative activists, Ted Cruz won the support of a group influential evangelical Christians leaders, reported as a "major boost" for Cruz's presidential campaign. The man credited with consolidating support behind Cruz at the meeting is Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC).

    As the driving force behind Cruz's consolidation of evangelical support, it's likely Perkins will become a go-to commentator for media outlets covering the GOP primary. During the 2012 primary -- during which Perkins backed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum -- CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all welcomed Perkins as a near-constant source of campaign commentary.

    Perkins' cable news appearances for the 2016 primary cycle have already started, with a January 5 appearance on CNN's OutFront to discuss Ted Cruz's faith and Donald Trump's questioning of Cruz's citizenship:

    Given the likelihood than Perkins will once again become a sought-after guest in GOP primary and election coverage, here's what news outlets should know about Cruz's extreme evangelical hype man:

    1. Perkins Is the President Of A Hate Group

    In 2010, FRC was listed as an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center thanks to its propagation of known falsehoods about LGBT people as well as Perkins' history of making inflammatory comments about the LGBT community. Perkins has equated being gay with drug use and adultery, accused gay people of trying to "recruit" children, and compared gay advocates to terrorists.

    FRC's "hate group" label is almost never mentioned by news networks that choose to treat the group like a seriously policy organization on national television. During the 2012 GOP primary, when Perkins was a regular fixture on cable news, he was never identified as a "hate group" leader. Since then, media figures that have identified Perkins as a hate group leader have faced criticism from FRC and its allies.

    2. Perkins Has A History Of Peddling Misinformation

    In addition to spreading falsehoods about LGBT people, FRC has a history of making apocalyptic warnings about government policies that advance LGBT equality.

    Some examples of FRC's shoddy policy analysis include claiming that striking down same-sex marriage bans would lead to a full-scale revolution, that the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy would bring back the draft and risk millions of lives, and that hate crime laws respond to a "phony 'crisis.'"

    Perkins also regularly spreads known lies about LGBT people. He's repeated the widely debunked myth that pedophilia is "a homosexual problem," promoted the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called "reparative therapy," and falsely claimed that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than those raised by opposite-sex couples.

    3. Perkins Doesn't Represent Christian Voters

    Mainstream media outlets regularly invite Perkins to speak on behalf of Christians and religious voters, but Perkins' brand of anti-LGBT extremism represents a far right fringe of American Christianity. In fact, a majority a US Christians now believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society.

    Christian audiences have previously protested networks that give Perkins a platform. In 2012, the progressive Christian group Faithful America launched petitions asking CNN and MSNBC to stop allowing Perkins to "speak on behalf of American's Christians," generating tens of thousands of signatures.

    As the face of Ted Cruz's support from religious conservatives, Perkins is poised to become another regular fixture in cable news' 2016 coverage. If that happens, it'll be those networks' responsibility to properly identify the anti-gay extremist they're putting on air. 


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  • How Anti-Gay Talking Points Are Being Recycled For The Transgender Community

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    For over a decade, gay rights opponents peddled a set of myths and fearmongering tactics to try to sway voters against marriage equality and basic rights for gay people. Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, anti-LGBT organizations have started recycling the same bogus scare tactics to target the new bogeyman of the LGBT rights movement -- the transgender community.

    The Slippery Slope

    The "slippery slope" argument has been one of the most popular arguments used by opponents of LGBT equality, aimed at making even basic protections for LGBT people appear dangerous.

    In debates over sexual orientation non-discrimination laws, opponents warned that prohibiting discrimination against gay people would begin a slippery slope towards protecting pedophilia and bestiality.

    Similarly, in the debate over marriage equality, anti-gay activists predicted that allowing same-sex couples to marry would cause a slippery slope to legalized polygamybestialityincest, and pedophilia

    That idea persisted even after gay couples had been legally wedding in Massachusetts for over a decade without opening "a Pandora's box." Immediately following the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision in June 2015, anti-gay advocates continued to argue that marriage equality would undermine the legal limits on who could get married.

    Now that the debate over marriage equality has died down, the "transgender slippery slope" argument is emerging in debates over protections for trans people. Opponents suggest that allowing transgender people to define their gender identity would open the floodgates, with people claiming to be a cat, a flower, or a Cocker SpanielFox News and other conservative media outlets have deemed non-discrimination protections for transgender people a "slippery slope." As one prominent anti-LGBT group declared, accommodating transgender people is "not a slippery slope, but a trap door to sexual nihilism."

    Religious Freedom

    Opponents of legal protections for gay people have also warned that these protections threaten religious liberty -- specifically the religious liberty of Christians who oppose homosexuality. One of the most commonly cited myths in the fight against marriage equality was the idea that legalizing same-sex marriage would cause churches or pastors to be forced to marry gay couples, despite clear religious exemptions in marriage equality legislation. Anti-LGBT groups like the National Organization for MarriageAlliance Defending Freedom , and Family Research Council (FRC) hyped claims that pastors and churches were in danger of being forced to perform same-sex marriages.

    Despite the obvious constitutional protections for churches and ministers, both conservative and mainstream media outlets parroted religious liberty talking points, even years after states began legalizing same-sex marriage without issue.

    Baseless concerns about religious liberty are now playing a major part in debates about accommodations for transgender people. In March, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed that a broad "religious freedom" law was needed to protect churches from being forced to build gender neutral bathrooms. In the same vein, the anti-LGBT legal organization leading the fight against accommodating transgender students claimed that these protections somehow violate the "religious liberty" of other students. And in November, an anti-gay hate-group successfully canceled a school reading of the trans-supportive picture book "I Am Jazz," with the claim that reading the book would "undermin[e] the religious free exercise" of teachers and students.

    Threat To Kids

    Opponents of gay equality used to be wildly effective at invoking concerns about the safety of children to argue against basic protections for gay people.

    For decades, the myth that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia than straight men has been a central right-wing talking point. Anti-LGBT organizations frequently employed the talking point to argue against marriage equality, allowing gay parents to adopt children, and even accepting gay Boy Scout troop leaders.

    Though the pedophilia talking point has fallen out of favor with mainstream anti-gay groups, fearmongering about children's well-being remains a central focus of anti-gay politics. Opponents of gay equality regularly cite pseudoscience to falsely argue that the children of gay parents fare less well than the children of straight parents. Others warn that prohibiting anti-gay discrimination would cause gay people to have "inappropriate" jobs like school teachers.

    Child-focused fearmongering has been incredibly effective in anti-LGBT politics. In a 2012 report, Political Research Associates noted that the "harm to kids" theme had a "clear, negative impact on how voters felt about same-sex marriage." Even people who generally support LGBT equality become anxious when opponents warn about potential harm to children.

    Which helps explain why anti-LGBT groups are using nearly identical talking points in attacks on transgender equality. In cities and states across the country, opponents of non-discrimination protections for transgender people have adopted the myth that these protections would be exploited by sexual predators looking to enter women's bathrooms and commit sexual assault -- especially against young girls. Government expertsadvocates for sexual assault victims, and law enforcement officials have debunked that talking point, but it continues to dominate debates about transgender equality.

    In November, opponents of transgender equality in Houston, Texas successfully demonstrated how horror stories about children's safety can impact public and media discussions about trans non-discrimination. The city's broad non-discrimination law was repealed following a public misinformation campaign that relied heavily on an ad picturing a man following a young girl into a public bathroom stall:

    The transgender community continues to face astronomical rates of harassment and discrimination at work, in school, in public places, and even from law enforcement. While public attitudes about same-sex marriage and acceptance of homosexuality shifted considerably over the past decade, acceptance of transgender people has lagged behind. Given that only 16 percent of Americans personally know someone who is transgender, it's still common for anti-LGBT groups to spread myths about the transgender community with impunity.

    But these myths aren't new -- and journalists should recognize that the talking points being used to attack transgender equality are the same bogus, recycled attacks that anti-LGBT groups have been peddling against gay people for years.  

  • How The Media Is Helping A Hate Group Leader Gain Political Power

    SPLC, Faithful America Explain Why The Media's Warm Treatment Of Tony Perkins Is So Dangerous


    Tony Perkins is the head of one of the most extreme anti-gay hate groups in the country, yet media outlets continue to give him a platform that enables him to play a major role in mainstream conservative politics.

    In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) labeled Perkins' group, the Family Research Council (FRC), an anti-gay hate group, due in part to Perkins' history of making inflammatory comments about the LGBT community. Perkins has called pedophilia "a homosexual problem," accused gay people of recruiting children, and compared gay advocates to terrorists.

    Despite FRC's extremism, mainstream media outlets have treated Perkins as a credible and legitimate conservative commentator, regularly inviting him to speak on behalf of Christians without identifying him as a hate monger.  

    The media's forgiving treatment of Perkins has allowed him to establish himself as a powerful force in Republican politics, using his national platform to pressure politicians who don't act in lockstep with FRC's extremism. Perkins' influence is especially evident at FRC's annual Values Voter Summit, a conservative political conference that has become a must-attend event for rising GOP politicians. This week, Republican presidential candidates will attend FRC's Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. to vie for social conservatives' support. And they'll likely do so without worrying that major media outlets will scrutinize them for cozying up to a known hate group.

    Failing to hold Perkins and FRC accountable for their anti-LGBT extremism isn't just bad journalism -- it proactively lends credibility to an organization that works tirelessly to attack and dehumanize LGBT people. As SPLC's Heidi Beirich explained, "If people were better informed about what FRC has said in the past... they'd be much less likely to be snowed by anything that comes out of Perkins' mouth or comes out of FRC." 

    It's long past time for media outlets to stop giving Perkins a pass and start giving their audiences the full story behind who's leading the fight against LGBT equality.

    Video created by Leanne Naramore.