In reporting on President Donald Trump's "religious liberty" executive order last week, some outlets highlighted important anti-LGBTQ details while others failed to acknowledge activists' extremism. The Washington Post fact-checked a Trump speech, exposing that it included a lie peddled by the hate group Family Research Council. Local papers The Orange County Register and Portland Business Journal exposed anti-LGBTQ hate groups Alliance Defending Freedom and Traditional Values Coalition in their coverage. National outlets -- including CNN, CBS, and USA Today -- spoke with anti-LGBTQ hate groups about the order but failed to identify the groups’ extremism, merely describing them as “conservative,” “evangelical,” and “faith” groups. Separately, NPR continued its streak of hosting hate group leaders without context.
Reporting That Held Hate Groups Accountable
The Washington Post Fact-Checked A Hate Group Lie That Made Its Way Into A Trump Speech. The Washington Post fact-checked a false claim Trump made during a May 4 speech prior to signing a “religious liberty” executive order. Trump “appeared to mischaracterize a 2011 controversy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center,” saying that patients were “forbidden from giving or receiving religious items at a military hospital where our brave service members were being treated.” In fact, Trump was referring to a never-enforced September 2011 policy that said no religious items were to be given away or used during patient visits. The policy -- which was intended to prevent proselytizing -- was overturned in December of that year. Though at least one conservative lawmaker acknowledged in 2011 that the Defense Department “appear[ed] to have acted in good faith” by retracting the policy, The Washington Post pointed out that the Family Research Council (FRC) -- an anti-LGBTQ hate group -- has “continued to mischaracterize the 2011 incident,” writing in one 2014 essay that Bibles “have been banned at Walter Reed military hospital.” While it called out FRC’s mischaracterizations, the Post failed to note that FRC is a designated hate group, instead just labeling the group “conservative.” [The Washington Post, 5/4/17; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17]
The Orange County Register Contextualizes Local Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group Leader “Thrilled” By Trump’s Religious Liberty Order. In a May 4 report on Trump’s “religious liberty” order, The Orange County Register included a quote from local resident Louis Sheldon, leader of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Traditional Values Coalition (TVC). The Register gave context for Sheldon’s remarks by noting that TVC “has been labeled an ‘anti-LGBT hate group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center.” From The Orange County Register:
Trump’s move has thrilled those on the religious right, including Anaheim resident Louis P. Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, which has been labeled an “anti-LGBT hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“This executive order is a significant step in the direction of what is to come,” Sheldon said. “The next step is prayer and religious expression in our schools. You can’t have the whole steak filet mignon at once. You’ve got to chew off a little bit at a time.” [The Orange County Register, 5/4/17]
Portland Business Journal Contextualized ADF’s Anti-LGBTQ Extremism. In a May 1 article about Wells Fargo executive Jeff Grubb’s retirement, the Portland Business Journal noted that Grubb is also a trustee at M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, and that it has been criticized for donating to anti-LGBTQ groups. The article explained that Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- a Murdock grant recipient of $375,000 -- “has been criticized by groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center for ‘generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities.’” From the Portland Business Journal:
The Murdock Trust's mission is to "enrich life in communities across Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington." It was established from the estate of Tektronix Inc. founder Melvin J. "Jack" Murdock and has more than $1 billion in assets. It has given nearly $850 million to regional organizations in science, technology, health care and the arts. It also supports faith-based organizations.
Yet it was Grubb who last year became the target of protest groups angry over the Murdock Trust's decision to fund organizations they described as anti-LGBT, anti-labor and anti-reproductive rights. The trust's recent grants include $375,000 to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been criticized by groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center for "generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities." [Portland Business Journal, 5/1/17]
Reporting That Failed To Contextualize Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups
Major National Outlets Failed To Identify Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups Commenting On Trump’s Religious Liberty Executive Order. Mainstream media outlets -- including The Washington Post, USA Today, The Associated Press, CNN, CBS Evening News and CNN’s New Day Sunday -- spoke with anti-LGBTQ hate groups about Trump’s “religious liberty” executive order. These outlets merely described the hate groups as “conservative,” “evangelical,” and “faith” groups, if anything, failing to note their long-standing extremism or designation as hate groups. The hate groups featured -- including ADF, FRC, and Liberty Counsel -- expressed disappointment in the order and “strongly encourage[d]” the Trump administration to write an order that would “provide relief” for those seeking to codify broad-based discrimination against LGBTQ people. [The Washington Post, 5/4/17; USA Today, 5/4/17; NPR, 5/4/17; The Associated Press via ABC News, 5/4/17; CNN.com, 5/4/17; CBS, 5/4/17; CNN, 5/7/17; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17]
NPR Continues To Uncritically Host Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups Without Describing Them As Such. NPR’s Morning Edition hosted an attorney from the anti-LGBTQ hate group ADF on May 4 to discuss Trump’s “religious liberty” executive order. NPR failed, yet again, to note ADF’s anti-LGBTQ extremism and hate group status. NPR has repeatedly hosted anti-LGBTQ extremists without providing much-needed context for its listeners. After hosting a hate group leader in 2015, NPR’s Diane Rehm even acknowledged that the network needs to “do a better job of being more careful about identification.” [Media Matters, 5/4/17, 12/17/15; 5/13/16, 4/12/16]
AP Failed To Identify Liberty Counsel As A Hate Group. The Associated Press failed to identify Liberty Counsel -- the anti-LGBTQ hate group that has defended infamous Kentucky's Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis since 2015 -- as anything other than a “law firm specializing in religious-liberty issues” in an article reporting that a suit against Davis by a same-sex couple can now proceed. The coverage stands in contrast to a 2015 article from the AP which identified Liberty Counsel as a hate group. In the wake of the 2015 article, Liberty Counsel president Mat Staver delivered a letter to AP assistant general counsel Brian Barrett demanding that the article be permanently deleted. [The Associated Press, 5/2/17; Media Matters, 10/5/15,10/21/15]
Last Week In Hate Groups is a snapshot of media coverage of active anti-LGBTQ hate groups assembled by the Media Matters team. This is not an exhaustive list of every media appearance or mention of hate groups over the previous week.