Former American Family Association spokesperson and current American Family Radio host Bryan Fischer used reports of sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts of America to falsely claim that there is a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia. Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups and figures such as Fischer have repeatedly used this myth to attack LGBTQ people and fight pro-equality policies.
On August 6, a group of lawyers filed a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America, saying they had “identified 350 previously unknown scoutmasters and volunteers” who reportedly sexually abused boys in the organization. Fischer discussed the story on his AFR radio show, Focal Point, calling it a “homosexual pedophile scandal” and claiming that “people don’t want to accept” the “profound connection … between homosexuality and pedophilia.” These comments add to a long list of extreme anti-LGBTQ statements from Fischer, who has said gay men are condemned to hell and claimed that gays were responsible for the formation of the Nazi Party.
Fischer’s false claims on his radio show are part of a larger pattern of conservative attempts to malign the LGBTQ community by equating LGBTQ identity to sexual abuse and pedophilia. When discussing reports of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic churches in 2018, Fischer said that there is a “inescapable link” and “unmistakable connection between homosexuality and pedophilia,” and claimed the “homosexual/pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church is very real.” Fischer also baselessly claimed that child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church is linked “with the growing numbers of homosexual priests who filtered into the priesthood in the 1960s.”
Other anti-LGBTQ figures have repeated this myth on AFR, including Matt Barber, a guest host on the outlet’s program Sandy Rios in the Morning. Barber once discussed allegations of sexual abuse of children in Hollywood and said that the “sexual revolution” and “LGBT extremist agenda” have brought “a push for the acceptance of adult-child sex," which he also called "widespread and rampant.”
The smear has been around for a while, employed by various anti-LGBTQ groups and individuals. In their book, Alliance Defending Freedom founder Alan Sears and former ADF employee Craig Osten claimed pedophilia and “homosexual behavior” were “often intrinsically linked” and falsely asserted that “there is a definite link as well between child molestation and later homosexual behavior.” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins has repeatedly called pedophilia a “homosexual problem” and claimed that data shows “a correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia.” And Michelle Cretella, executive director of the deceptively named anti-LGBTQ group American College of Pediatricians, reportedly called the 2018 New York City Pride parade a “celebration of pedophilia.”
Anti-LGBTQ groups and individuals conflate sexuality with predatory behavior not only to demonize the LGBTQ community but also to fearmonger against pro-equality policies, like the Equality Act and trans-inclusive bathroom policies. Fischer has called the Equality Act -- a bill that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to existing civil rights nondiscrimination protections -- the “Pedophile Protection Act” and claimed that bestiality, incest, and necrophilia would soon become protected categories as well. Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel, has said that the bill “will open the door to pedophilia,” protect pedophiles, and legalize the late financier Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged criminal behavior trafficking minors. And AFR host Meeke Addison falsely claimed that “the left is pushing to accept pedophilia” while discussing trans-inclusive bathroom policies.
The extreme groups pushing these harmful smears against LGBTQ people have been repeatedly elevated by Fox News. Fox continues to give a platform to ADF, and Perkins has been on both Fox Nation and Fox News’ TV programs. Fischer himself recently appeared as a guest on Fox News Radio’s The Todd Starnes Show.
They’ve also developed a more powerful role within the government under the Trump-Pence administration. Last year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appointed FRC’s Perkins to serve as commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Perkins also reportedly played a significant role in crafting the administration’s ban on transgender military service members. Earlier this year, the specific smear equating LGBTQ identities with bestiality and pedophilia was repeated by Republican Wyoming state Sen. Lynn Hutchings.