When Fox News Defended Bryan Fischer's Anti-Gay Extremism

The anti-gay hate group American Family Association (AFA) announced that Bryan Fischer -- the organization's most prominent face -- had been fired as the organization's director of issues analysis due to his years of inflammatory rhetoric. Fox News has a history of whitewashing Fischer's anti-LGBT extremism.

On January 28, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported that AFA had fired Fischer as the group's long-time director of issues analysis. In 2010, AFA was labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, thanks largely to Fischer's extreme rhetoric about the LGBT community.

The announcement came in advance of a controversial AFA-sponsored trip to Israel that nearly 100 RNC members are scheduled to take this weekend. Fischer has made a number of disparaging comments about “counterfeit religions” and has repeatedly blamed gay men for the Holocaust:

Fischer's termination is likely little more than a publicity stunt before AFA's Israel trip. As some have noted, Fischer will retain his American Family Radio show and continue to be paid by AFA to make inflammatory comments to a national audience.

But AFA's decision to try to distance itself from Fischer underscores how toxic Fischer's extremism was for AFA's brand.

That toxicity has never been enough to stop Fox News from coming to Fischer's defense. In fact, the network has repeatedly whitewashed Fischer's extremism to depict AFA as a mainstream Christian organization.

In October 2013, Fox News radio host Todd Starnes published a report about a military training session about domestic hate groups that, based on SPLC's designation, included AFA. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy referred to AFA as a "well-established, traditional Christian ministry," asserting that it was being targeted because it opposed gay marriage. Starnes echoed that sentiment in his multiple reports about the training. Megyn Kelly was similarly slated to host a segment about the controversy, though the segment never aired. Fischer even thanked Fox News for its "very friendly" coverage of his organization during the controversy.

Starnes himself has called Fischer "one of the most intelligent talk show hosts in the country" and even urged his supporters to donate money to groups like AFA.

Fox's friendly treatment of an extremist like Fischer is part of the network's larger habit of conflating anti-gay bigotry with mainstream Christianity. Given how welcoming Fox News was during the height of Fischer's hatemongering, Fischer's symbolic demotion probably won't change much about the network's willingness to mainstream hate.