Ben Carson to attend gala celebrating Accuracy in Media, which has been a cesspool of anti-LGBTQ hate

An image of Ben Carson

Citation Ceci Freed / Media Matters | Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons

Ben Carson, the Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary, is set to attend an event celebrating the 50-year history of right-wing group Accuracy in Media. AIM has spent years pushing conspiracy theories and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, such as encouraging the media to urge people to “quit gay sex” just like they tell people to quit smoking, writing that “homosexuality is not normal,” and falsely claiming that “homosexuals can change” their sexual orientation through harmful conversion therapy. 

AIM is holding its 50th Anniversary Gala in Washington, D.C., on November 13 with Carson, Fox Nation hosts Diamond & Silk, Daily Caller co-founder and publisher Neil Patel, and HUD regional administrator Lynne Patton

Last month, Carson pushed the debunked, anti-trans “bathroom predator” myth when he reportedly “expressed concern about ‘big, hairy men’ trying to infiltrate women’s homeless shelters during an internal meeting, according to three people present who interpreted the remarks as an attack on transgender women.” Carson, who has a history of anti-LGBTQ comments and actions, defended his remarks amid criticism. 

By attending the gala, Carson will help celebrate the history of an organization that has been a cesspool of toxic and dangerous hate against LGBTQ people. AIM’s website, for instance, carries such headlines as “How homosexuals skew the news”; “Homosexuality is not normal”; “Homosexuality and pedophilia”; and “Republicans cower before big gay media.” 

In 2001, the organization wrote that in recent decades, gay people’s “influence on the media has increased immensely. They are aggressively trying to spread their dangerous and often self-destructive life-style.” The report then portrayed gay people as pedophiles -- a long-used smear and myth -- and said that the “media, instead of informing the public about the behavior of homosexuals, are helping them realize their goals.” 

In 2005, when “news organizations ... embarked on a quit smoking campaign” after the death of anchor Peter Jennings from lung cancer, AIM urged news organizations to start a “quit gay sex” campaign, stating: “Why don’t our media launch a campaign advising people to quit engaging in the dangerous and addictive homosexual lifestyle? Life-threatening sexually transmitted diseases among homosexuals are on the increase.” 

AIM has also repeatedly defended legislation in Uganda that called for the death penalty for the “offense of homosexuality,” writing in 2010: “The purpose of the Ugandan bill, quite clearly, is to keep homosexuality in the closet, where it used to be in this country. The country's literal survival may depend on passage of this legislation, after it undergoes hearings and some revisions.” 

In 2016, AIM published a “special report” by anti-LGBTQ bigot Peter LaBarbera that claimed “to expose and refute some of the longstanding statistical lies and propagandistic myths of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) activist movement.” A press release for the report stated: “Instead of the media promoting this ‘alternative lifestyle,’ Americans desperately need the press to educate society about its inherent risks.” Among other lies, the AIM report falsely claimed that “homosexuals can change” their sexual orientation. The organization also provided links to harmful conversion therapy organizations. Conservation therapy, which is also sometimes referred to as reparative therapy, is torture; as the American Psychiatric Association states, “There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of ‘reparative therapy’ as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation.” 

The organization has also pushed numerous conspiracy theories over the years, including about President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, the death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster during the Clinton administration, and the 2012 Benghazi attack. AIM created a so-called Benghazi commission which eventually led to embarrassment for the organization after one of its purported experts, “former CIA officer” Wayne Simmons, was arrested and sent to prison for pretending to be a CIA agent. 

In 2018, the organization hired Carrie Sheffield as its national editor. She had previously founded the website Bold. According to a CNN piece at the time, “Sheffield wants Bold to appeal to women, millennials, African-Americans, Latinos and members of the LGBT community -- groups that Republicans and conservatives have struggled to reach in recent years. … She was raised Mormon, but resigned from the church in part over its opposition to same-sex marriage.” 

Sheffield was previously a “Never Trumper” but now supports the president. Earlier this year, she even appeared in a video for Trump’s reelection campaign and was introduced by Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law, as a representative for the nonprofit organization. During the video, Sheffield criticized the media for purportedly creating fake news about Trump and praised the president; while Sheffield spoke, a ticker at the bottom of the video urged viewers to subscribe to campaign alerts. Lara Trump said at the conclusion of the video: “Thanks for everything you’re doing. It’s so important to keep a check on the media, and I know the president especially appreciates everything that you do everyday.” The organization subsequently promoted the interview on its Facebook page.