Transgender service member explains to CNN that there's literally no problem to solve: "We've already been serving ... we've caused no disruption"
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Conservative media outlets and personalities, along with anti-LGBTQ hate groups, applauded President Donald Trump’s Twitter announcement that he will be banning transgender people from serving in the U.S. armed forces because the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
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President Donald Trump announced via Twitter on July 26 that the United States will not “accept or allow” transgender people to serve in the military. Media outlets have praised Trump in the past for being “pro-gay rights” and “LGBT-friendly.”
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American College of Pediatricians is a small and deceptively named anti-LGBTQ hate group meant to be confused with American Academy of Pediatrics
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson hosted Dr. Michelle Cretella, president of the anti-LGBTQ hate group American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), on his show to attack transgender children, their parents, and their doctors. During the appearance, Cretella spread anti-transgender junk science and said transgender children are “engag[ing] in magical thinking” and that treating them is “child abuse.”
ACPeds is a small, deceptively named hate group, with only a few hundred members, meant to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) -- a 60,000-member group comprising “leaders in the professional field.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), ACPeds hides “under the veneer of its professional-sounding name and claims” in order to “defame and discredit LGBT people, often by distorting legitimate research.” ACPeds began when a “small group of anti-LGBT physicians and other healthcare professionals broke away” from AAP after it began supporting the right of same-sex couples to adopt and foster-parent children. ACPeds has been relentless in its claim that it’s dangerous for children to identify as LGBTQ; its blog has suggested that “P for pedophile” should be a part of the LGBT acronym, and the ACPeds president sent a letter to more than 14,000 school district superintendents advocating for conversion therapy and outlining the so-called “health risks” of “claim[ing] a ‘gay’ identity.” Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice that has been “rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades.”
On the July 25 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Cretella spread a series of anti-transgender myths and junk science, including the claim that “transgender ideology is not” “rooted in reality.” Major medical organizations, including the AAP, the American Psychological Association, and the American Medical Association, have affirmed transgender identities. Cretella also made misleading and false claims about hormone treatment for transgender kids, calling it “child abuse” and falsely claiming that “as many as 95 percent” of transgender children will “embrace” their “biological sex” if they are forced to reject their transgender identity. ThinkProgress’ Zack Ford noted that this claim is a debunked myth based on faulty research that “conflated kids who just exhibited gender nonconforming behaviors with those who actually insisted they were a different gender.”
Cretella went on to spread the myth that puberty-blocking treatment for transgender youth is dangerous and akin to “sterilizing children.” But, as Ford wrote, there is no risk of sterilization stemming from taking puberty-suppressing treatments. This treatment delays the onset of puberty, giving transgender people the option of “the lifelong advantage of a body that matches their gender identities without the irreversible body changes of a low voice or beard growth or breasts.” Rob Garofalo, director of the Lurie Children’s Hospital’s Gender and Sex Development Program in Chicago, described the treatment as giving families “the opportunity to hit a pause button, to prevent natal puberty … until we know that that’s either the right or the wrong direction for their particular child” and puberty blockers as “generally a very safe medication.” In 2013, the Endocrine Society, the largest global organization of professionals who research and treat “conditions and diseases related to the human body’s complex system of glands and hormones,” declared that “medical intervention in transgender adolescents appears to be safe and effective.”
According to Ford, it is “technically true that if a young person goes directly from taking puberty-suppressants to cross-sex hormones, they could risk never being able to produce children of their own, but infertility is not guaranteed.” Ford added that ACPeds fails to note that “the only way trans kids could develop fertility is to go through the puberty that they’re specifically trying to avoid” when it pushes this myth. A 2014 study showed that treatment delaying puberty for transgender adolescents “seems to boost psychological well-being for those who ultimately pursue sex reassignment” and gives them the “opportunity to develop into well-functioning young adults.” Though suppressing puberty is a “fully reversible medical intervention,” one study of adolescents being treated with puberty blockers found that all of its participants went on to begin gender reassignment.
Carlson’s segment gave a small anti-LGBTQ hate group masquerading as a legitimate medical association a platform to spread dangerous junk science. And it wasn’t the first time Carlson has legitimized ACPeds’ extremism. On the July 14 edition of his show, Carlson used ACPeds’ hate group designation to attempt to discredit the hate group label, saying that the group was “hardly the Klan.” By failing to differentiate ACPeds from AAP, Carlson manipulated his viewers into believing that these fringe beliefs are part of mainstream medical thought.
From the July 24 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:
TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): Michelle Cretella is the president of the American College of Pediatricians. She just wrote a piece in which she says, we're quoting now, "Transgender ideology has infiltrated my field and produced large scale child abuse." Cretella says doctors are encouraging parents to have their kids change genders when there is no evidence these changes are safe or even helpful. Dr. Cretella joins us now. Doctor, thanks a lot for weighing in on this. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is this is a field -- I'm not sure what it is -- of social science or medicine that is changing so fast that it's hard to sort of know where we are exactly. And you're in the practice of providing medicine to kids, so I wanted to get your perspective on it. What are you seeing?
MICHELLE CRETELLA: Thank you very much, Tucker. I'm glad to be here. I think it's important to say that everyone on both sides of this issue is concerned about finding loving and helpful solutions for all children.
CARLSON: Yes. I think that's right.
CRETELLA: It -- honestly. We at the American College of Pediatricians, and also I have many colleagues on the left, also insist that those solutions be rooted in reality, and transgender ideology is not. Sex is hard-wired from before birth, and it cannot change. And that's why we had actually called this child abuse, because by feeding children and families these lies, children are having their normal psychological development interrupted. They're even -- they're being put on the puberty blockers, which essentially castrates them chemically, followed by surgical mutilation later on. This is -- this is child abuse. It's not health care.
CARLSON: So, as you know, you will be, if you haven't already, be accused of committing child abuse yourself and of being cruel and unloving and not caring for these kids, of imposing a medieval theology on modern children. How do you respond?
CRETELLA: Right, but as you said at the beginning, this is about science. We -- what is going on now with the puberty blockers, followed by cross-sex hormones, followed by surgeries, has absolutely no track record whatsoever. The loving solution for children who are -- children who are ages 3 to 10, they engage in magical thinking. They don't know the difference so easily between fantasy and reality. We need to nurture them through adolescence, through natural puberty. Our job as parents and physicians is to help children embrace their healthy bodies. And when this is done, once they get past puberty into late adolescence, as many as 95 percent will come to embrace their bodies and identify with their biological sex.
CARLSON: So what happens -- I mean, since this is not just something we're debating as college students, but there are physicians involved who are prescribing drugs -- what do we know about the effects of heavy-duty hormones, synthetic hormones given to little kids, like long-term?
CRETELLA: Right. Well, we don't have long-term studies, which is a major problem. Which is why physicians should not be telling parents that this is settled science and that it is safe. We do know that when puberty blockers are used appropriately in other settings, that we have observed in adults -- for example, they can be used to treat prostate cancer and some gynecologic issues in women -- that there's evidence that you can impact memory and cognitive ability in a negative way. And as far as the cross-sex hormones, if you have a young child on puberty blockers who goes directly to cross-sex or sex change hormones, they become sterile. You are sterilizing children. They can't possibly -- little children cannot possibly understand the risks of having a medication and then never being able to have children in the future.
CARLSON: So what's the young -- I didn't know that, and there's a lot I don't know about this. Again, this is all happening so fast I don't think most people really know what's going on. But what's the youngest age at which kids are getting these kind of drugs?
CRETELLA: The guidelines suggest that puberty blockers be given at ages 11 to 12, but I've had reports from colleagues across the country, and you can also find them in various news reports, that children as young as 9 have been put on these puberty blockers. And what it does, it arrests normal development. Puberty is not a disease. You're stopping them. It's not just a matter of sex characteristics. You're arresting brain development.
CARLSON: No, it's not. There's a lot there.
Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a member of President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission, has pushed fake news and false claims originating from fringe media and seems to rely at least partially on disreputable sources for news.
On May 11, the Trump administration announced that it was forming a “bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Integrity,” and listed Blackwell as one of its members. Blackwell, a conservative columnist, a senior fellow at the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council, and a board member of the National Rifle Association, has previously claimed that climate change concerns could lead to forced abortions, suggested gay marriage was the reason for a 2014 California mass shooting, and suggested that then-Attorney General Eric Holder was “clear[ing] the path for shariah law.” He has also lent credence to Trump’s false assertion that there is widespread voter fraud in the United States, saying the system creates “real potential for fraud” and that there may have been fraud in the last election.
Since he was announced as a member of Trump’s commission, Blackwell has pushed multiple false allegations leveled by fringe media. On July 17, he posted on Facebook a link to a story suggesting a connection between the Clintons and a deceased former Haitian government official. The fake news, which was first published by a fake news purveyor and was widely hyped by the fringe and pro-Trump media, has been debunked. A week later, Blackwell posted on Facebook an article from fringe pro-Trump website The Gateway Pundit, which is regularly wrong in its claims, stating that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered Robert Mueller, now special counsel on the Russia probe, to give uranium to Russia in 2009. The claim, pushed by Gateway Pundit and fake news purveyors, suggests nefarious action even though the uranium had been seized from the nation of Georgia and held in U.S. custody and was being transported to Russia for forensic analysis with authorization from the Georgian government.
Additionally, Blackwell has repeatedly posted articles from the fringe blog Conservative Tribune, an outlet that fact-checkers have repeatedly criticized for pushing false and misleading claims. The website has also promoted far-right troll Jack Posobiec’s dubious claim that former FBI Director James Comey violated the Espionage Act by releasing the memos he wrote about his meetings with Trump before the president fired him.
Far-right hate groups across extremist ideologies have united to attack and discredit their hate group designation by Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in an attempt to regain legitimacy and rehab their images. Many hate groups have attempted to delegitimize the SPLC’s hate group label over the years, but their efforts have dramatically ramped up in 2017 in reaction to a series of escalating events including SPLC designating anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and anti-immigrant group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) hate groups and media outlets accurately labeling these organizations as such in their reporting.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the nation, and, according to Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), it “specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage, and generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally.” ADF operates on $48 million-plus annual budget and has what it refers to as a “powerful global network” of over 3,100 ADF-trained “allied attorneys.” SPLC designated ADF a hate group because ADF’s leaders and its affiliated lawyers have “regularly demonized LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’” ADF’s influence is widespread. It has played a role in dozens of Supreme Court cases, including regarding abortion, religion, tuition tax credits, and LGBTQ issues; it has special advisory status at the United Nations; it has at least 55 affiliated lawyers serving in influential government positions at the state and federal levels; and it has infiltrated local school boards across the country.
ADF formally supported the criminalization of sodomy in the U.S. in 2003 when it filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas defending state sodomy laws which called “same-sex sodomy … a distinct public health problem.” ADF has also worked to criminalize gay sex abroad, including in Jamaica, Belize, and India, and is leading the national campaign for “bathroom bills” targeting transgender youth. One ADF attorney peddled the myth that Matthew Shepard’s violent murder in 1998 was not an anti-gay hate crime. SPLC designated ADF a hate group on February 15, but it wasn’t till early June that ADF started challenging the designation, attacking Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mother, for penning an op-ed about groups like ADF that “bullying LGBTQ children.” Since then, ADF and its allies have successfully pressured the nonprofit database GuideStar to reverse its decision of putting the SPLC hate group label on 46 nonprofit groups on its website. In a series of media appearances, ADF has also relentlessly attacked ABC and NBC for accurately labeling it a hate group in news reports regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ speech at an ADF event.
The Family Research Council (FRC) is another anti-LGBTQ hate group that wields significant influence in the current administration; its senior fellow, Ken Blackwell, was officially appointed to President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which critics have called a voter suppression effort. FRC President Tony Perkins embraced and endorsed Trump as a candidate during the presidential election cycle (and met with him at the White House earlier this month). And at least four people, including Blackwell, who are affiliated with FRC were a part of Trump’s transition team. FRC has a budget of tens of millions of dollars and promotes the idea “that people can and should try to change their sexual orientation” or “just not act on it.” According to SPLC’s extremist file, FRC “often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science” in order to “denigrate LGBT people.” FRC’s official position is that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large” and “is by definition unnatural.” Former FRC Vice President Rob Schwarzwalder accused gay youth of joining the Boy Scouts of America “for predatory purposes,” and various FRC representatives and publications have repeatedly compared homosexuality to pedophilia. Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at FRC, asserted that LGBTQ youth suicide rates would drop if the teenagers were “discourage[d] from self-identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual” and urged others “not to create a positive social environment for the affirmation of homosexuality.” In a 2010 appearance on MSNBC, Sprigg also said that the United States should “outlaw gay behavior.” In 2011, the FRC called for its supporters to pray for countries that had laws criminalizing sodomy and were being pressured by the U.S. to remove them, and it suggested that homosexuality “has had a devastating impact upon Africans,” citing the AIDS crisis as an example.
FRC has fought against its hate group designation since SPLC gave it the label in 2010. In that same year, the group launched a “Start Debating, Stop Hating” campaign in response to the label, which it called “slanderous.” FRC also took out a full-page ad in Politico as part of the campaign. After a gunman shot a security guard at FRC headquarters in 2012, Perkins blamed SPLC’s “reckless rhetoric” for the shooting and asserted that the shooter was “given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations” such as the SPLC. More recently, FRC joined other hate groups in sending a letter to GuideStar’s president demanding that he remove the hate group labels from its database and praised GuideStar when it decided to do so. FRC also led the “#SPLCexposed” hashtag campaign on Twitter, which attempted to delegitimize the hate group label and drew a number of hate groups to the campaign.
Liberty Counsel is an anti-LGBTQ hate group founded by Mat Staver, former dean of Liberty University School of Law, that “shares a close affiliation with Liberty University,” according to SPLC. Staver has called LGBTQ History Month a "sexual assault on our children," repeatedly warned that the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage would trigger a revolution and civil war, and claimed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people will result in the "death of some individuals."
Liberty Counsel also famously represented Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis in litigation after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same and opposite-sex couples in 2015; Talking Points Memo reported that Staver “compared Davis’ plight to that of Jews in Nazi Germany” during a radio interview. Staver has also compared LGBTQ people to pedophiles, once saying that allowing gay youth and adults in the Boy Scouts will cause “all kinds of sexual molestation” and create a “playground for pedophiles to go and have all these boys as objects of their lust.” Liberty Counsel has called gay sex “harmful sexual behavior” and pushed the myth that LGBTQ people “can change.” Former Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Barber said that LGBTQ people “know intuitively that what they are doing is immoral, unnatural, and self-destructive,” adding that they have “tied their whole identity up in this sexual perversion.” Barber has also called “disease, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide … consequences” of being gay.
Staver signed the letter that asked GuideStar to remove hate group designations and accused SPLC of using the label as part of its “aggressive political agenda.” On June 28, Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against GuideStar, saying it and SPLC “are intent on destroying pro-family organizations,” and accused GuideStar’s CEO of “using GuideStar as a weapon to defame, harm, and promote his liberal agenda.” Liberty Counsel’s blog post on the subject also linked to the personal Twitter account of the CEO and his wife. GuideStar’s decision to remove hate group labels was reportedly in part because of “harassment and threats directed at our staff and leadership.”
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is a lobbying hate group founded by white nationalist John Tanton. Tanton is currently editor and publisher of the quarterly journal The Social Contract, which, according to SPLC, has “claimed that multiculturalists are trying to replace ‘successful Euro-American culture’ with ‘dysfunctional Third World cultures.’" During his time at FAIR, Tanton wrote a series of memos that warned of a “Latin onslaught” and “depicted Hispanics as hyperactive breeders,” which caused many high-level conservatives to flee his orbit. FAIR has ties to a number of other extremists, including white supremacists Peter Brimelow and Jared Taylor and Holocaust denier Kevin MacDonald.
Tanton currently sits on FAIR’s board but has retired from the limelight. He was replaced by current President Dan Stein, who frequently appears in right-wing and mainstream media to promote anti-immigrant policies and smear immigrants. In one such interview, Stein claimed that “many [immigrants] hate America, hate everything that the United States stands for.” Stein has defended Tanton and, according to SPLC, “celebrated a new ‘disdain’ in the media and among intellectuals for ‘the political agenda of those who openly attack the contributions of Western Civilization.’"
In 2009, FAIR published a report titled “A Guide to Understanding the Tactics of the Southern Poverty Law Center in the Immigration Debate,” which smeared SPLC as a discredited entity and claimed that journalists have an unfavorable view of the organization. Since then, FAIR has attacked SPLC on Twitter. Dale Wilcox, president and general counsel of FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Legal Institute (IRLI), signed the letter calling on GuideStar to remove its hate group labels. Wilcox also wrote an op-ed in Breitbart titled “Why the Mainstream Media Must Stop Citing ‘Anti-Hate’-Crusader Southern Poverty Law Center,” and his group has attacked GuideStar on Twitter for including the SPLC’s hate group labels.
Tanton also founded FAIR’s sister organization, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). SPLC labeled CIS a hate group in 2017 for peddling work by discredited white nationalists and eugenicists. CIS works as the research arm of what SPLC has dubbed “the nativist lobby,” the anti-immigrant lobbying effort spearheaded by groups Tanton founded, including FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA. CIS frequently publishes skewed research meant to denigrate immigrants and promote anti-immigration policies, claiming, for example, that immigrants are taking jobs away from native-born Americans and disproportionately using welfare benefits.
CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian has actively disputed the hate group label by defending white nationalists and eugenicist pseudoscience. In an op-ed in The Washington Post in March, Krikorian complained that the SPLC “made a hate figure of John Tanton” and downplayed a CIS contributor’s assertion that Hispanic immigrants may never “reach IQ parity with whites” as merely “contentious.” He also called the “hate group” label “an attempt to delegitimize and suppress views regarding immigration held by a large share of the American public.” Krikorian and other CIS employees have repeatedly sought to smear SPLC, and Krikorian has used his platform to attack GuideStar for using SPLC’s hate group labels.
ACT for America has transformed into “the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America,” according to SPLC, which labels it a hate group. The group’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, has been fearmongering that Muslim immigrants and refugees from the Middle East have transformed Europe into “Eurabia” and has declared that a practicing Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States.” ACT often organizes conferences that convene anti-Muslim leaders and groups, including Frank Gaffney, head of hate group the Center for Security Policy. In 2008, ACT launched a campaign called Stop Shariah Now to fearmonger about Sharia “creeping” into western culture and, according to SPLC, “worked closely” with Gaffney “to push anti-Shariah legislation at the state level.”
Gabriel has attacked SPLC as biased against conservatives, and she was also one of the hate group leaders who signed the letter blasting GuideStar for using SPLC’s hate group labels. She has also penned her own letter to GuideStar defending her group and other hate groups.
February 15: SPLC included ADF and CIS in its list of active hate groups in 2016. ADF did not immediately respond.
March 17: The Washington Post published an op-ed by CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian, who condemned the SPLC list and wrote that the “blacklist” was “an attempt to delegitimize and suppress views regarding immigration held by a large share of the American public.”
April 18: After more than two months, ADF issued a statement in which it responded to the SPLC designation by not responding to it: “ADF doesn't have time to respond to organizations who do nothing more than call names, create division and incite violence across the country in order to raise money."
May 15: Judy Shepard, the mother of 22-year-old Matthew Shepard, who was killed in anti-gay homicide, wrote an op-ed in Time magazine about “multimillion-dollar ‘hate groups’” such as ADF “bullying LGBTQ children” in an attempt to ban transgender people from using the restrooms that align with their gender identity.
May 17: The Federalist published an attack on SPLC’s hate group designation, comparing it to the “burn book” from the movie Mean Girls. The post accused SPLC of using the hate group label “to manipulate the lives of others, smear reputations, control personal relationships, and reap the spoils,” as well as calling it an attempt to “control all speech.” Numerous hate group representatives, including Krikorian, and accounts tweeted out the story. In fact, retweeting this story became one of ADF’s first official attacks on SPLC’s designation.
June 7: Time magazine updated Shepard’s op-ed with a response from ADF defending its work and bringing up her son’s death:
True hate is animosity toward others, and it often takes the form of violence. Sadly, Ms. Shepard knows what that is. She lost her son to senseless violence. We at ADF condemn all such manifestations of true hate. They have no place in our society. We remain steadfast in affirming basic human rights and dignity through debate, dialogue, and principled advocacy.
June 9: ADF published a full response to Shepard’s op-ed on its blog, which more forcibly attacked Shepard and accused her of “name-calling and slander” and spreading a “lie.” The post also spread myths about transgender people and said that allowing them to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity “compromises the privacy and dignity of young students who do not want to share overnight facilities, locker rooms, showers, and restrooms with the opposite sex.”
June 21: Hate groups united to pen a letter to GuideStar asking the nonprofit to remove the hate group labels, writing that the designation is “a political weapon targeting people it deems to be its political enemies” and calling SPLC’s list of hate groups “ad hoc, partisan, and agenda-driven.” Co-signers of the letter included representatives from IRLI, FRC, Liberty Counsel, ACT for America, ADF, and numerous others.
June 21: On the day the hate groups sent the letter to GuideStar, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by The Weekly Standard’s Jeryl Bier attacking GuideStar and accusing the SPLC of “besmirching mainstream groups like the FRC.” Bier has appeared on FRC President Tony Perkins’ radio show. In the op-ed, Bier asserted that “SPLC’s work arguably contributes to the climate of hate it abhors” and lamented that journalists are citing SPLC’s designation.
June 26: A Washington Post report on GuideStar’s reversal quoted a number of hate groups sharing talking points about the designation, including that it was linked to the shooting at FRC and “the recent shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.” The report highlighted the hate groups’ letter accusing the designation of being “partisan” and wrote that Christians “said they’d been targeted as hateful for opposing same-sex marriage.”
June 27: Vice published a profile about ADF “stealthily seizing power in the nation's public school systems,” its “unmistakable effort to make schools hostile to queer students,” and its hate group designation. ADF refused to speak to Vice for the article.
June 28: Politico magazine published a lengthy article questioning whether SPLC’s hate group designation is “overstepping its bounds.” The article specifically lent credibility to hate groups CIS, which the report noted has “been invited to testify before Congress more than 100 times,” and FRC, which it called “one of the country’s largest and most established Christian conservative advocacy groups.” The right-wing Media Research Center highlighted the piece on its website the same day it was published.
June 28: Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against GuideStar, saying it and SPLC “are intent on destroying pro-family organizations” and accused GuideStar’s CEO of “using GuideStar as a weapon to defame, harm, and promote his liberal agenda.” Liberty Counsel’s blog post on the subject also linked to the personal Twitter account of the CEO and his wife.
July 11: Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a closed-door speech to ADF at its “Summit on Religious Liberty” in California.
July 13: ADF demanded a retraction and apology from ABC for its report, calling it “defamatory” and “journalistic malpractice.”
July 13: Sessions’ speech, which the Department of Justice refused to release, was leaked to anti-LGBTQ website The Federalist. In the speech, Sessions compared the so-called battle for “religious freedom” to Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.
July 14: ADF began an aggressive media strategy, with its representatives appearing on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, The Story with Martha MacCallum, and Tucker Carlson Tonight to attack the SPLC and attempt to discredit ABC and NBC. ADF’s representatives either repeated the “journalistic malpractice” line during the interview or called the outlets’ reporting “unethical” or “fake news.” Meanwhile, right-wing media also rushed to ADF’s defense.
July 16: FRC also launched a counteroffensive against the hate group designation aiming to “expose” the SPLC as “a left wing smear group who has become exactly what they set out to fight, spreading hate and putting targets on people's backs.” FRC urged supporters to use the hashtag #SPLCexposed. Hate groups such as white nationalist website VDARE, ACT for America, CIS, and FAIR, or their representatives, all joined FRC on Twitter using the hashtag.
July 19: The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Edwin Meese, who has worked with FRC and other groups, calling ADF “a respected civil-rights law firm.” In the op-ed, Meese also repeated ADF’s “journalistic malpractice” charge against ABC and NBC for giving “credence to the SPLC’s recklessly defamatory hate list” in their reporting. Meese wrote that their reporting “is a prime reason” for Americans’ distrust of the media and called on reporters to “stop spreading malignant propaganda.”
July 19: Forbes published an op-ed by Brian Miller of the Center for Individual Rights attacking ABC and NBC’s use of the “hate group” label and arguing that the use of the label was an attempt to “shut down conversation.” Miller concluded that “the very security that is necessary for diverse people to contribute to our social fabric” is at stake “in our climate of heated rhetoric.”
A news site run by anti-LGBTQ hate group American Family Association defended the Alliance Defending Freedom, also a hate group, from being labeled by ABC News and called the outlet “fake news.”
One News Now (ONN) ran a July 17 article titled “'Fake news' fraternity welcomes a new member” that reported on Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF) response to an ABC report that labels the organization as a hate group. The outlet -- like NBC -- was using the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) “hate group” designation in its coverage of the controversy surrounding Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent speech at an ADF event. Both reports drew a right-wing media outcry. SPLC designated ADF a hate group in February for “regularly demoniz[ing] LGBT people” and supporting “the criminalization of homosexuality in several countries.”
In her interview with ONN about SPLC’s designation and recent news reports using the “hate group” designation, ADF director of communications Kerri Kupec described SPLC’s claim that ADF supports “recriminalization of homosexuality abroad” as “fake news.” She said: “I have no idea where that came from.” Despite trying to hide behind accusations of “fake news,” ADF has a longstanding history of supporting the criminalization of LGBTQ people and a body of work that is well-documented in the media. That work has included filing amicus briefs in the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, one of which argued that “sodomy is criminally punishable conduct and not a constitutionally protected activity.” ADF’s international efforts are far-reaching and include previously supporting anti-sodomy laws in Jamaica and India, as well as offering legal assistance to a group working to keep criminalization laws on the books in Belize.
ONN is an affiliate of American Family News Networks (AFN), a media conglomerate run by the hate group American Family Association (AFA). AFA operates a large network of media outlets, action arms, and engagement campaigns aimed at individuals who “are alarmed by the increasing ungodliness and depravity assaulting our nation, tired of cursing the darkness, and ready to light a bonfire.” AFN describes itself as a “Christian news service - with more than 1,200 broadcast, print, and online affiliates in 45 states and 11 foreign countries - that exists to present the day's stories from a biblical perspective.” The SPLC designated AFA a hate group in 2010 for spreading “demonizing propaganda” and “known falsehoods” about LGBTQ people.
Update: The language of this post has been updated for clarity.
VDARE.com, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has described as a “white nationalist” and “anti-immigration hate website,” has joined other hate groups in an official smear campaign against SPLC launched by anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council (FRC).
FRC and other organizations that SPLC has labeled hate groups launched a campaign on July 17 accusing SPLC of “fueling hate, killing free speech and even encouraging terrorist-style attacks on those it doesn’t agree with,” as the Washington Examiner described it. The campaign included a “planned Monday tweetstorm” and the suggestion that its supporters use the hashtag “#SPLCexposed.”
FRC and other hate groups have repeatedly pushed the myth that SPLC labels as “hate groups” those organizations that it “simply disagree[s] with.” In fact, SPLC has more extensive criteria for the distinction. It designates anti-LGBTQ hate groups as such when they knowingly spread “demonizing lies about the LGBT community,” engage in “baseless, incendiary name-calling,” or actively work to criminalize LGBTQ people. Regarding anti-immigrant groups, SPLC wrote that though “many groups criticize high levels of immigration and some … typically confront or harass individual immigrants and their supporters, anti-immigrant hate groups generally go further by pushing racist propaganda.” It continued that most anti-immigrant hate groups “subscribe to one of two conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact,” including that Mexico is trying to “‘reconquer’ the American Southwest” and that “Mexico, Canada and the United States are secretly planning to merge into a European Union-like entity.” SPLC also clearly defines its anti-Muslim hate group label, noting that these groups “hold conspiratorial views regarding the inherent danger to America by its Muslim-American community” and view Muslims as “intent on undermining and eventually replacing American democracy and Western civilization with Islamic despotism.”
White nationalist hate website VDARE joined FRC’s campaign on July 18, tweeting the #SPLCexposed hashtag alongside an accompanying article from the site that called SPLC the “Southern Poverty Lie … Center” and touted the #SPLCexposed Twitter campaign. The article also attempted to cast doubt on the reasoning behind SPLC’s designation of anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
According to SPLC, VDARE, founded in 1999 by English immigrant Peter Brimelow, is an “anti-immigration hate website” with a “white nationalist ideology” that frequently publishes articles advocating for a white America and filled with anti-Semitic tropes. One article asserted that “America was defined — almost explicitly, sometimes very explicitly — as a white nation, for white people.” Another claimed that Jewish people’s “objective has been control of economic resources and political power.” Yet another article lamented that “whites are doing something no other people have ever done in human history” by welcoming “replacement by aliens” and sacrificing “our interests to those of favored minorities.”
SPLC noted that the website also posts stories by prominent anti-Semite Kevin MacDonald and that even Brimelow acknowledges that VDARE “hosts ‘white nationalists’” but argues that they merely “aim to defend the interests of American whites”:
While acknowledging that his site hosts "white nationalists" like Taylor, Brimelow argues that they are merely people who "aim to defend the interests of American whites. They are not white supremacists. They do not advocate violence. They are rational and civil. They brush their teeth. But they unashamedly work for their people." Brimelow goes on to say that as dark-skinned immigration from the Third World continues, "this type of interest-group ‘white nationalism’ will inexorably increase." What Brimelow doesn’t mention is that VDARE.com also posts stories by one of the most important anti-Semites in America, Kevin MacDonald, a professor of psychology at the California State University, Long Beach. MacDonald believes Jews are genetically driven to undermine the power of whites by pushing such things as Third World immigration.
In addition to VDARE, FRC’s campaign was joined by a horde of other SPLC-identified hate groups or their representatives, such as the anti-Muslim ACT for America, the executive director of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and anti-immigrant groups ProEnglish and Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
These groups have historically attempted to distance themselves from white nationalist organizations, often using the issue as a wedge to argue that they should not be given the same “hate group” designation as groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. FRC has frequently fought against its designation, including the resulting association “with neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.” Mark Krikorian, the executive director of CIS, lamented that SPLC “conflates groups that really do preach hatred, such as the Ku Klux Klan and Nation of Islam, with ones that simply do not share SPLC’s political preferences” in a Washington Post op-ed. By bolstering FRC’s anti-SPLC campaign, VDARE shows that the line between white nationalist and other hate groups is not as clear as the FRC and others would like you to believe.
Following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ controversial speaking engagement at an event hosted by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), right-wing media figures lashed out at ABC and NBC News for accurately reporting that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated ADF as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
On July 11, Sessions spoke at an event hosted by ADF, the nation’s largest anti-LGBTQ hate group. Many progressive and LGBTQ advocacy organizations objected to Sessions’ decision to attend the event, in part because of ADF’s long-standing history of anti-LGBTQ extremism. Sessions’ office initially refused to release the transcript of his speech, but it was leaked to the conservative and extreme anti-LGBTQ website The Federalist.
In their reporting on Sessions’ speech, both ABC News and NBC News accurately noted that the SPLC has designated ADF as an “anti-LGBT hate group.” ABC reported that SPLC described ADF as a group that “specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage and generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally,” also adding that ADF objected to its hate group designation as a “lie.” The report also quoted SPLC’s deputy legal director for its LGBT Rights Project, who said ADF had “rightfully earned” the hate group label.
In multiple reports, NBC News described ADF as “conservative Christian law firm that was designated a ‘hate group’ in 2016 by the Southern Poverty Law Center” and highlighted its role in promoting bathroom bans “aimed at keeping transgender people out of restrooms and other private facilities that correspond to their gender identity and presentation.” NBC noted ADF’s years-long attempts at criminalizing homosexuality and Sessions’ concerning record on LGBTQ issues. The network also included a response from an ADF attorney who attempted to delegitimize SPLC by calling it “increasingly irrelevant” and “extreme.”
Following these reports, right wing media figures quickly attacked NBC and ABC News. ADF responded as well, issuing a statement demanding a retraction from ABC and claiming that the network had “committed journalistic malpractice,” saying it “cut and paste false charges ... by a radically left-wing, violence-inciting organization.”
In a July 13 National Review article, senior writer and former ADF senior counsel David French called SPLC a “dangerous joke” that spreads “vicious hate.” French claimed that ADF was labeled a hate group “merely because [its members] advocate for orthodox Christian principles and the liberty to live those principles.” He also suggested that there are only two forms of extremism that SPLC should track -- “racist terrorists and white supremacists” -- and concluded that “media outlets who use the SPLC to assess Christian speech expose only their own bias and incompetence.”
Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, declared that ABC News reporters “smeared Christians who believe the Bill of Rights secures religious liberty as a ‘hate group’” and argued that ADF “is not a hate group at all, but a civil liberties organization that battles for religious liberty.” Hemingway went on to warn the media against using SPLC’s designations in the future, threatening that they would be turning “journalism into anti-religious propaganda on behalf of a partisan group” and could potentially “be perceived as enemies of average Americans.”
Katrina Trinko, managing editor of The Daily Signal, wrote that SPLC’s designations put “conservatives’ safety at risk” of persecution and violence by the left, and that “once again, the mainstream media is demonstrating it doesn’t care about the impact of extremist rhetoric on conservatives.” Right-wing outlet The Daily Caller published a post about ADF’s demand that ABC News retract its story, writing that SPLC “frequently smears conservatives as ‘extremists.’” It also published tweets from conservatives who “blasted the media coverage of ADF as an obvious example of media bias.”
During the July 14 edition of his show, Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson called SPLC a “totally discredited but extremely rich left-wing organization” that attempts to “shut down legitimate debate by labeling ideas it disagrees with as ‘hate speech.’” Carlson asserted that NBC News and SPLC “think they’re in charge” of deciding “which ideas are legitimate and which ideas are so dangerous we must suppress them.” Carlson also hosted ADF Vice President Kristen Waggoner, who asserted that ABC and NBC had committed “journalistic malpractice,” and she and Carlson both said SPLC is a “scam.”
In addition to the numerous right-wing media attacks, a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #SPLCexposed was launched by numerous other SPLC-identified hate groups and right-wing figures, including anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council, anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform, and anti-Muslim extremist Brigitte Gabriel.
This reaction is nothing new. Hate groups and far-right commentators have been predictably outraged in the past when mainstream media like The Associated Press and CBS News’ Bob Schieffer properly identified hate group representatives. Just last month, ADF similarly lashed out at Time magazine and columnist Judy Shepard over a piece outlining the extent of ADF’s anti-LGBTQ extremism and its body of work targeting trans students with bathroom bans in schools. In 2014, an ADF attorney asserted that the murder of Shepard’s son Matthew was a hoax to advance the “homosexual agenda.”
However, as Media Matters for America has noted, it is a myth that the SPLC bases its hate group designations on conservative or religious beliefs about sexuality and marriage. As SPLC stated in 2010, when it first began listing anti-LGBTQ hate groups, “viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.” Organizations are labeled anti-LGBTQ hate groups when they knowingly spread “demonizing lies about the LGBT community,” engage in “baseless, incendiary name-calling,” or actively work to criminalize the lives of LGBTQ people.
SPLC added ADF to its list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups in February 2017 because ADF’s leaders and affiliated lawyers have “regularly demonized LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians’” and have also “supported the criminalization of homosexuality in several countries.”
As a majority of Americans have grown to support LGBTQ equality, hate groups now cloak anti-LGBTQ extremism under the false pretense of protecting religious freedom or privacy, or protecting women and children from sexual assault. ADF, for instance, has recently made the rounds in the media for representing clients in “religious freedom” and “free speech” cases. But it is also the group behind many of the anti-LGBTQ bills proposed in state legislatures and bathroom bans proposed in school districts, which have been introduced in unprecedented numbers over the last two years.
In the past, ADF has openly advocated to “recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.” And in 2012, ADF published a list of suggested and discouraged terminology in its media guide, instructing readers to use the phrase “homosexual agenda” instead of “lesbian and gay civil rights movement,” refer to transgender people as “sexually confused,”and use the term “special privileges” when discussing anti-discrimination laws. In an amicus brief for Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court decision that declared anti-sodomy laws across the country unconstitutional, ADF argued that “the history of this country reflects a deep conviction that sodomy is criminally punishable conduct and not a constitutionally protected activity” and that “state legislatures have always possessed a broad authority to outlaw private, consensual sex.”
ADF’s actions speak for themselves. Despite the group’s efforts to maintain its highly cultivated facade of respectability in the media, its history of anti-LGBTQ extremism cannot be undone or erased. When journalists employ SPLC’s hate group designation and contextualize ADF’s current work, they provide accurate, much-needed information to the public.