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  • Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups attack Christine Blasey Ford after she reported that Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her

    American Family Association: “Unless the biblical standard of two or three witnesses is met, an accusation should not be considered credible”

    Blog ››› ››› BRIANNA JANUARY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, and American Family Association have attacked Christine Blasey Ford and worked to discredit her after she reported that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her in high school.

    Soon after President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on July 9, extreme anti-LGBTQ groups united behind his nomination, offering praise for Kavanaugh’s candidacy and saying he would be “strong” on their issues. Many of those same groups have doubled down on their support by attacking Christine Blasey Ford and questioning her motivations after she reported that Kavanaugh groped her and attempted to remove her clothing and rape her in high school.

    Tony Perkins, president of the highly influential Family Research Council (FRC) who was reportedly “involved in discussions with the White House” on Kavanaugh’s nomination, attacked Ford’s credibility on the September 21 edition of Fox News Channel’s Special Report with Bret Baier. During his appearance, Perkins called Ford’s story “very, very suspect,” questioned why she hadn’t come forward sooner, and asked whether or not drinking alcohol may have affected her story. Perkins also questioned whether Ford and potential witnesses “really remember the facts” and whether her attempted rapist was even Kavanaugh at all, in line with a recent conspiracy theory created by conservative media figure Ed Whelan.

    Speaking at FRC’s anti-LGBTQ Values Voter Summit, Perkins urged Republican lawmakers in attendance to “move much more aggressively” to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and former FRC President Gary Bauer, declared the “political process” surrounding Kavanaugh’s nomination to be “political waterboarding” and a “travesty.” According to The Associated Press, Bauer mockingly re-enacted what a conversation with Ford and law enforcement may have sounded like and was reportedly met with laughter.

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel has also attacked Ford, including by writing a six point list of so-called “disturbing facts that undermine her story.” Several of those points suggest she came forward for political reasons. The post attempted to discredit Ford by highlighting her political affiliations and those of her lawyer, Debra Katz, claiming the two “have a history of Democratic activism” and anti-Trump advocacy. Liberty Counsel also launched a “fax barrage” directly linking its supporters to the offices of elected officials to send messages of support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The “fax barrage” served as a fundraiser for Liberty Counsel and claimed that Ford’s story does “not align with the moral integrity” of Kavanaugh. Additionally, Liberty Counsel sent an email blast to supporters in which its Chairman Mat Staver called Ford’s story “a shameful, desperate attempt to destroy a person in order to stop his nomination to the Supreme Court” and characterized her as “someone who has an ever-changing story with plenty of political motivation.”

    In a separate email to supporters on September 22, Staver continued attacks against Ford, saying she was “being used to create an excuse to delay the hearing” and listing statements from various supporters of Kavanaugh in an attempt to undermine her credibility. On September 24, Mat Staver’s wife Anita Staver, who serves as president of Liberty Counsel, suggested that Ford was a liar in a tweet: “I believe survivors but not liars!”

    Additionally, former Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Barber, who still co-hosts one of its radio programs, attacked Ford on Twitter, where he likened her to a “suicide bomber” and compared her story’s effect on the Kavanaugh confirmation to a “political witch burning.” Barber also said Ford “would be fully exposed & further discredited,” and that “true victims” will be “distrusted because political vultures cried wolf one too many times.” In a separate post, he claimed, “We have entered the age of #MeToo McCarthyism. Pure evil.”

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ group American Family Association (AFA) has also launched attacks against Ford. Bryan Fischer, host of AFA’s American Family Radio show Focal Point, attempted to use Ford’s political affiliations and her lawyer’s legal career to discredit her story in a September 17 blog post. Fischer claimed that Katz “has made a career out of dismissing sexual assault allegations against liberal politicians.” In the same blog post, Fischer wrote, “The Bible is very clear that no serious allegation should ever be accepted against someone on the basis of one lone allegation.” In a September 18 email to supporters, AFA President Tim Wildmon reiterated that claim and wrote that “unless the biblical standard of two or three witnesses is met, an accusation should not be considered credible.” AFA initially did not support Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court but quickly reversed course after hearing the “passionate defense of Judge Kavanaugh by many we consider to be friends in the pro-life movement."

    Ford is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, September 27, about Kavanaugh’s attempted rape.

  • Hate groups hide years of extremism behind baseless "fake news" accusations

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    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. 

  • Top Media Outlets Have Failed To Accurately Label Designated Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups

    Six Years of Various Media Matters Studies Show Ongoing Problem With Reporting On Hate Groups

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD & RACHEL PERCELAY

    For more than half a decade, Media Matters has monitored broadcast, cable, print, and local media coverage of anti-LGBTQ hate groups, designated as such by Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Reporters frequently fail to disclose this designation and provide no context about anti-LGBTQ hate groups and their extremism, instead simply labeling them as “Christian” or “conservative” organizations. Those same outlets, however, often refer to SPLC as an expert in tracking hate and extremism, and often use SPLC’s “hate group” designation when reporting on other extremist ideologies, like white nationalist groups.

    SPLC has long been regarded as an expert in monitoring domestic hate and extremism. Since 1990, SPLC has been releasing an “annual census” of U.S. hate groups. SPLC defines hate groups as organizations that “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” But inaccurate or incomplete media coverage has allowed anti-LGBTQ hate groups to peddle the myth that they’re labeled as hate groups only for their conservative or religious beliefs about sexuality and marriage. Yet SPLC has clearly stated multiple times that it designates organizations as “hate groups” when they knowingly spread “demonizing lies,” engage in “baseless, incendiary name-calling,” or actively work to criminalize LGBTQ people -- not because of biblical or conservative beliefs.

    Media Matters' research shows that while major publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post often rely on SPLC’s “hate group” designation to provide meaningful context about white nationalist groups, those same outlets often label designated anti-LGBTQ hate groups only as “Christian” or “conservative.” Similarly, cable news networks have frequently invited anti-LGBTQ hate group representatives to comment on LGBTQ equality without providing context about their respective group’s extremism. Since being designated as a hate group in February 2017, the mammoth anti-LGBTQ legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom has been featured prominently in the media with no reference to its extremism or efforts to criminalize LGBTQ people.

    While some reporters -- like CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation -- have provided audiences with meaningful context by accurately identifying anti-LGBTQ hate group leaders as such during interviews, over half a decade of research by Media Matters shows that journalists more often than not fail to identify anti-LGBTQ hate groups as such. Failing to properly contextualize extremism often allows hate group representative to peddle debunked anti-LGBTQ lies, which has led outlets like NPR to acknowledge that “we have to do a better job” in identifying extremists.

    Below are some of Media Matters’ largest studies documenting how journalists report on hate groups.

    NY Times and Wash. Post Failed To Properly Identify Or Contextualize SPLC’s Major Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups

    A July 2016 Media Matters analysis revealed that between June 1, 2014, and June 30, 2016, The New York Times mentioned four anti-LGBTQ hate groups -- the Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association, and Westboro Baptist Church --a total of 60 times and never clearly defined any of them as a current hate group. The paper most frequently labeled these hate groups as “conservative” (18 times or 30 percent of the total) or gave them no descriptor at all (14 times or 23 percent of the total). In Times coverage, anti-LGBTQ hate groups were most likely to be called “conservative” or given no designation at all.

    One New York Times article in our analysis used the hate group designation for anti-LGBTQ group the World Congress of Families, but it also included a quote from the group denouncing the label. The article also included criticism of SPLC’s authority and questioned its methodology. Finally, in a passing mention of the Family Research Council, the article falsely reported that SPLC designates hate groups based “on their stances on gay issues,” rather than on their propagation of known falsehoods about LGBTQ people. No other article in our analysis attempted to question the authority of SPLC’s classification or gave a platform to a hate group to defend itself. In fact, when reporting on white nationalist groups in the same period, the Times cited SPLC as an expert on tracking hate groups and frequently used the organization’s hate group designation. Note: Not all percentages add up to 100 due to rounding. 

    The Washington Post mentioned anti-LGBTQ hate groups 74 times during the study period. But it labeled them as hate groups only six times and failed to provide any context about their ideology 27 times. When it did label such groups, the paper was most likely (eight times) to call them “conservative” or contextualize them by mentioning their legal work such as with Liberty Counsel -- which represented the Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court released its marriage equality ruling.

    In 2015, Major News Outlets Failed To Identify The Hate Group Representing Kim Davis

    A September 2015 Media Matters report found that major news outlets almost entirely failed to identify Liberty Counsel -- the group defending Rowan County clerk Kim Davis -- as an anti-LGBTQ "hate group," often referring to the group only as a "Christian" or "conservative" legal organization. The Washington Post was the only paper to identify Liberty Counsel as a hate group. An analysis of coverage from August 8 through September 11, 2015, revealed the following:

    • The Associated Press called Liberty Counsel a “Christian law firm” in four different articles.
    • Reuters characterized Liberty Counsel as a “religious” or “legal” “advocacy” group in five different articles.
    • The Washington Post identified Liberty Counsel as a “hate group” in one article -- but in three other articles, it described the group only as “Christian.”
    • The New York Times twice referred to Liberty Counsel as a “conservative” group -- once mentioning that Liberty “has been on the front lines of the same-sex marriage fight for roughly two decades,” and once calling it a nonprofit that works in “religious exemptions cases.”

    In October 2015, The Associated Press did note that Liberty Counsel has been labeled an anti-gay hate group. In response, Liberty Counsel President Mat Staver delivered a letter to the AP's assistant general counsel, Brian Barrett, that accused the AP of putting Davis and Liberty Counsel at risk of "death threats" and demanded that the article be permanently deleted.

    One Hate Group Leader's Appearances Plummeted On CNN And MSNBC In 2013, But Held Steady On Fox News

    A July 2014 Media Matters study found that Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins appeared significantly less frequently on CNN and MSNBC in the wake of petitions calling on the networks to stop hosting him. Perkins, whose organization has been labeled an anti-LGBTQ hate group, continued to appear frequently on Fox News. Media Matters examined coverage between August 1, 2012, and July 28, 2014. Graph includes data from a prior 2012 study on Perkin’s appearances.

    Cable News Networks Relied On Hate Group Leader For 2012 Primary Election Coverage

    A November 2012 Media Matters analysis of cable news networks’ coverage of the 2012 GOP primary between May 5, 2011, and August 28, 2012, found that the media outlets regularly called upon Perkins to provide commentary on behalf of social conservatives. Perkins made 56 appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC over the course of the primary, but never once was identified as the leader of an anti-LGBTQ hate group.

    More Hate Group Coverage From Media Matters:

    March 2017: Reporting On Trans Rights Supreme Court Case, Major Outlets Failed To Call Alliance Defending Freedom A Hate Group

    February 2017: Major Publications Fail To Identify Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups In Transgender Policy Coverage

    December 2016: 19 Times Breitbart Cited A Discredited Hate Group To Spread Harmful Lies About Pediatric Medical Care

    September 2016: Trump Just Finished Speaking At A Hate Group Conference; Why Didn’t Top Papers Take Heed?

    August 2016: FL Newspapers Largely Give Rubio A Pass On Scheduled Appearance With Anti-LGBT Extremists

    April 2016: Major News Outlets Largely Fail To Identify The Hate Group Boycotting Target

    December 2015: This Hate Group Leader Has Hosted Most Of The Republican Presidential Candidates On His Radio Show

    August 2014: Megyn Kelly's Cozy Relationship With An Anti-Gay Hate Group Leader

    December 2013: Only 10 Percent Of Louisiana Newspaper Articles About This Hate Group Leader Exposed His Extremism

    April 2012: Meet Todd Starnes, Fox's Mouthpiece For Anti-Gay Hate Groups

    December 2011: Cable News Networks Regularly Promote Anti-Gay Family Research Council On Air

    Graphics by Sarah Wasko.

  • Right-Wing Media Amplify Hate Group's Attack On Gay Government Official

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Right-wing media outlets are parroting the attacks of an anti-LGBTQ hate group on Connecticut’s openly gay comptroller, Kevin Lembo. Lembo recently sent the American Family Association (AFA) a letter asking the group to submit written documentation certifying it complies with the nondiscrimination regulations governing the Connecticut State Employee Campaign for Charitable Giving (CSEC), which allows Connecticut State employees to contribute to qualifying non-profit charities through payroll deductions. Lembo’s office has since been “flooded” with emails and phone calls from AFA supporters.

  • Fox News Contributor To Headline Hate Group Conference On “The Politically Incorrect Truth About Sexuality”

    SPLC Senior Fellow: “Coven Of Haters” Will Advocate For Harmful And Discredited Ex-Gay Therapy

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress is headlining the “Stand4Truth” conference scheduled for October 28 and 29 in Houston, TX, which is advertised as telling the “politically incorrect truth about sexuality and gender” and is sponsored by at least three anti-LGBT hate groups. Jeffress -- who is also a member of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “Evangelical Executive Advisory Board” -- will be joined by fringe anti-LGBT extremists and hate group leaders, and proponents of discredited "ex-gay" reparative therapy. 

  • After Media Spends Months Pretending Trump Is LGBT Friendly, He Hires Head Of Bigoted Website To Run His Campaign

    New Campaign Chief's Website Breitbart News Regularly Uses Anti-LGBT Slurs, Pedals Anti-Gay Conspiracy Theories, And Features Articles By Anti-LGBT Hate Group Leaders

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY & ERIN FITZGERALD

    The Trump presidential campaign’s newest hires, Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon and conservative pollster Kellyanne Conway, further prove Trump’s opposition to LGBT equality even as media whitewash Trump’s record on LGBT issues. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News regularly used anti-LGBT slurs, peddled anti-gay conspiracy theories, and featured articles by anti-LGBT hate group leaders.

  • Why Doesn’t NY Times Label Anti-LGBT Extremists As “Hate Groups”?

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Over the past two years, The New York Times has relied on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) expertise in tracking extremist organizations to label white supremacist, anti-government, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim organization as “hate groups.” But in the same period, the Times only once clearly labeled an anti-LGBT organization as a current “hate group” -- and when it did, it questioned SPLC’s designation and quoted an organization representative explaining why the group shouldn’t be labeled a “hate group.”

    The SPLC describes itself as “the premier U.S. non-profit organization monitoring the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists.” The SPLC defines a hate group as a group that has “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

    A Media Matters analysis found that over the past two years (June 1, 2014, through June 30, 2016), The New York Times mentioned “hate groups” a total of 35 times, mentioning SPLC’s expertise in tracking “hate groups” in 71 percent of the mentions spanning white nationalist, anti-government, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim organizations. For example, in a June 19, 2015, article reporting on controversy surrounding the Confederate flag, the Times included commentary from the president of the League of the South and noted that the SPLC has listed the organization as a hate group:

    Supporters of the Confederate battle flag display signaled Friday that their position had not changed. In a commentary on Friday, Michael Hill, the president of the League of the South, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed as a hate group, said that the Confederate battle flag should remain at the State House but that the American flag should be removed.

    In a February 17, 2016, article “Law Center Finds Surge in Extremist Groups in U.S. Last Year,” the Times reported on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual report on the number of hate groups in the U.S., mentioning that the center tracks hate groups of differing ideologies, including those based on “sexual” characteristics.

    But in the past two years, the only instance in which the Times referenced SPLC’s “hate group” label when reporting on an anti-LGBT organization was in an article that questioned the validity of the designation. The article, “Bush Praises World Congress of Families, a Hate Group to Some,” noted that George W. Bush wrote a letter in support of the “conservative group” the World Congress of Families (WCF) that is “classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.” The Times went on to report:

    But the liberal-leaning [Southern Poverty Law C]enter has been criticized for including groups that fall within the conservative mainstream, like the Family Research Council, based on their stances on gay issues.

    The World Congress of Families has strongly disputed the hate-group designation and the implication that it supports violence against the L.G.B.T. community.

    “Nothing could be further from the truth, as W.C.F. strongly opposes violence and would never advocate violence or hatred toward any group of people, regardless of differences,” the group wrote in 2014.

    In the 34 other instances that the Times reported on hate groups, it never questioned the validity of the “hate group” designation, nor did it allow a hate group to explain why it shouldn’t be labeled as such. Additionally, in the WCF piece the Times falsely wrote that the SPLC designates anti-LGBT organizations as hate groups based on “their stances on gay issues.”

    When it first began tracking anti-LGBT hate groups in 2010, the SPLC specifically explained that it lists organizations as hate groups “based on their propagation of known falsehoods” -- things like “asserting that gays and lesbians are more disposed to molesting children than heterosexuals – which the overwhelming weight of credible scientific research has determined is patently untrue.” The SPLC has published extensive research on the extremism of WCF, documenting the organization’s role in exporting homophobia internationally, including passing and lauding laws criminalizing gay people, like Uganda’s infamous “kill the gays” bill.

    In terms of providing context, the Times most frequently identified anti-LGBT extremists as “conservative” (30 percent of the time or 18 out of 60 mentions). The Washington Post, on the other hand -- which was also considered in Media Matters’ study -- often didn't provide any context when reporting on major anti-LGBT groups (37 percent of the time or 27 out of 74 mentions). The Post, however, did sometimes use the “hate group” label for anti-LGBT groups; in fact, out of all the paper’s “hate group” references, anti-LGBT groups were the second most common type of organization to earn the label (19 percent).

    Media outlets have a long history of failing to identify anti-LGBT extremists as hate groups, instead calling them merely “Christian” or “conservative” organizations. The few recent times when mainstream media like The Associated Press and CBS News’ Bob Schieffer have properly identified hate group leaders, anti-gay conservatives were outraged. But outrage is no reason an outlet that frequently relies on the SPLC’s expertise in tracking extremism should fail to provide meaningful context when reporting on anti-LGBT extremists.

  • New Evangelical Advisory Board Disproves Trump’s Claim Of Being An LGBT Ally

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Nearly a week after declaring himself a “real friend” to the LGBT community, GOP presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump participated in a “conversation” with hundreds of conservative Christians organized in part by two anti-LGBT hate groups. Then his campaign announced an “Evangelical Executive Advisory Board,” a 26-member group featuring several well-known anti-LGBT extremists who have a well-documented history of opposing LGBT equality and making inflammatory comments, such as calling LGBT families “discombobulated, Frankenstein structures” and blaming the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on marriage equality.

  • USA Today Gives Anti-LGBT Hate Group A Platform To Attack Target's Inclusive Bathroom Policy

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    USA Today featured an op-ed by the president of anti-LGBT hate group American Family Association (AFA), who attacked Target's LGBT nondiscrimination policy for restrooms by peddling the widely debunked "bathroom predator" myth. USA Today failed to identify AFA as a recognized hate group to its readers.

    On May 2, USA Today published an op-ed by AFA President Tim Wildmon, titled "Why you should boycott Target," which was written in response to the editorial board’s opposition to laws that “perpetuate the myth that transgender people are predators.” AFA is the group responsible for launching a boycott against Target over the store's policy of allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. In the column, Wildmon criticized Target's nondiscrimination policy, peddling the widely debunked myth that there is “potential danger” when men are able to access the women’s room:

    For the entirety of its history until recently, Target had bathrooms and fitting rooms designated for men and for women.

    Why? Why the distinction by Target and every other retailer in every civilized country?

    The answers are twofold and quite simple. First, the vast majority of people are uncomfortable using the bathroom while a stranger of the opposite sex is present. Second, most people understand the potential danger inherent in allowing men access to women and children in a private setting — where harassment, voyeurism or even abuse can occur.

    Wildmon also questioned the motives of transgender people, saying that they only want to "make a point" by using a restroom that aligns with their gender identity:

    Of course, there is a simple solution to this controversy for Target. Gender-specific facilities (men’s bathrooms/fitting rooms, women’s bathrooms/fitting rooms) would be maintained, and a single-occupancy, unisex option would be provided for the transgendered community. As someone has recently noted, a transgendered man, for example, who walks past a unisex restroom in order to enter the woman’s bathroom is not primarily interested in relieving himself. He wants to make a point.

    Like many other media outlets reporting on the Target boycott, USA Today failed to identify AFA as a hate group to its readers, even while giving the group a national platform. The AFA has been designated an anti-LGBT “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to its history of anti-gay extremism, including blaming gay men for the Holocaust, supporting criminalization of gay sex, and asserting that being gay is a “poor and dangerous choice."