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”:
KELLY: If HGTV had a couple of hosts who are about to launch a TV show and it came out that they were gay and then they pulled the plug on them because they're gay, the backlash would be enormous in this country, and that's because gay rights are more and more protected and recognized in this country. Christian beliefs and Christian rights, not so much.
That kind of rhetoric wouldn't be out of place at the FRC, branded a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its pattern of spreading malicious smears about LGBT people. In his own blog post on the controversy, Perkins wrote that the Benham brothers, former baseball players, “were used to a level playing field. In Hollywood, they're finding out that for Christians, there's no such thing.” Of course, it was the vehemence of Benham's bigoted comments, not his Christian faith, that led HGTV to cancel the show.
From a legal standpoint, Kelly and Perkins' argument is transparently ridiculous. Religion is a federally protected class -- as former attorney Kelly certainly knows -- but sexual orientation and gender identity lack federal protection. Not only do gay couples lack the right to marry in 33 states, but they can be fired because of who they are in 29 states. Transgender workers can be fired based on their gender identity in 33 states. LGBT people are also disproportionately targeted for hate crimes.
To her credit, Kelly noted the extreme tone of Benham's anti-gay rhetoric, even as she completely ignored his attacks on the Muslim community. As she noted, invoking the Levitican prescription of death for gays would strike many people as “extremely alienating.” But after Perkins dodged that point by baselessly attacking Right Wing Watch as “about as reliable as the Obamacare website,” Kelly ended the interview without pushing back.
Despite his long history of anti-LGBT bigotry, Perkins has been a frequent guest on Kelly's show in recent months. Perkins has smeared gay men as people who prey on children to “recruit” them into the gay “lifestyle,” condemned the LGBT movement as “evil,” and applauded a 2009 bill that would imposed the death penalty for homosexuality in Uganda. Kelly, who has carefully cultivated the image of a hard-hitting news reporter beholden to no faction, has nevertheless failed to call out Perkins' extremism; rather, she has continued to provide him a platform to spew misinformation and smears. That this ostensibly non-ideological anchor has helped legitimize Perkins is precisely why she's arguably the most dangerous person on Fox News.