MSNBC hosted a spokeswoman from a notorious anti-gay hate group twice in one day to discuss controversial “religious freedom” legislation, failing to identify her as an extremist who has opposed the decriminalization of gay sex.
On April 1, American Family Association (AFA) spokeswoman Sandy Rios appeared twice on MSNBC during segments discussing a number of controversial "religious freedom" laws being debated in state legislatures. The AFA has been labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its history of anti-gay extremism, including blaming gay men for the Holocaust and supporting the criminalization of homosexuality.
Rios herself is an anti-gay extremist who has denied that homophobia motivated Matthew Shepard's murder, opposed a Supreme Court decision decriminalizing gay sex, believes people can choose to "stop being gay," and has stated that being gay is "broken hearts, it's disease."
Rios appeared on NewsNation with Tamron Hall to defend Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), where she falsely claimed that RFRAs weren't intended to allow for anti-LGBT discrimination:
Her appearance drew criticism from some viewers who chided MSNBC for failing to disclose Rios' anti-gay extremism and push back against her “religious freedom” horror stories.
Rios also appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews, where she again defended RFRAs and denied that the laws would be used to refuse service to gay customers.
Matthews didn't disclose Rios' history of anti-gay work, instead asking her if she opposed same-sex marriage or gay rights (Rios denied opposing gay rights). Rios lamented alleged misinformation about RFRAs and blamed the media's unwillingness to let conservatives defend the laws:
RIOS: Gay advocates are winning because people are not hearing the other side. They don't know about Barronelle Stutzman losing her home. They don't know about the baking couple that's lost their business.
MATTHEWS: Keep talking. Please come back. Please come back.
RIOS: Yeah, I'd love to do that.
Neither Hall nor Matthews identified Rios as a member of a known anti-gay hate group, and neither provided their audience with necessary context by documenting Rios' history of extreme anti-gay comments.
In 2012, Matthews was criticized for frequently welcoming Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), on his show. When confronted by activists about his relationship with Perkins, Matthews admitted that there was a "good argument" for not hosting Perkins onHardball. Since then, Perkins' appearances on MSNBC have diminished dramatically.
Given Rios' role in an organization with a similar history of extreme comments about the LGBT community, will MSNBC continue hoping its doors to another anti-gay hate group?