Newspapers are turning to hate group Conservative Republicans of Texas over the state's proposed bathroom ban

Newspapers are turning to hate group Conservative Republicans of Texas over the state's proposed bathroom ban

Conservative Republicans of Texas is an anti-LGBTQ hate group whose leaders have said that a “key part of the homosexual agenda” is “overturning the laws prohibiting pedophilia”

››› ››› REBECCA DAMANTE & BRENNAN SUEN

National and local newspapers have repeatedly quoted and highlighted anti-LGBTQ hate group Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRT) when reporting on proposed legislation in Texas that would prevent transgender people from using the restroom that aligns with their gender identity. CRT’s leaders have compared LGBTQ people to “Nazis,” claimed that a “key part of the homosexual agenda” is “overturning the laws prohibiting pedophilia,” and said that the “word transgender is a euphemism … for the word pervert.”


Sarah Wasko / Media Matters 

Conservative Republicans of Texas is an anti-LGBTQ hate group working to pass Texas’ anti-transgender bathroom ban

Conservative Republicans of Texas is an anti-LGBTQ hate group. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRT) an anti-LGBTQ hate group. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2016]

CRT is pressuring Texas lawmakers to support an anti-transgender “bathroom bill.” CRT is actively pressuring the Texas state legislature to approve legislation during its 30-day special session that would prevent transgender people from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity in public facilities, The Associated Press reported on July 16. According to the report, CRT's “political action committee says it’s ready to pounce on those who don’t support the strict proposal.” The AP added that the group’s PAC “donated nearly $2 million between the 2010 and 2016 election cycles to 100-plus Texas legislative candidates and other conservative causes, and plans to spend lavishly to target moderate Republicans up for election in 2018.” [The Associated Press, 7/16/17]

CRT’s leaders have compared LGBTQ people to “Nazis” and pedophiles and have called them “filthy”

CEO and founder Steven Hotze

CRT President Steven Hotze said that “‘Satanic cults’ were driving the ‘homosexual movement,’” compared LGBTQ people to “Nazis,” and said Houston residents should "drive them out of our city.” At an August 2015 event, CRT President Steven Hotze brandished a sword while promising to “fight the homosexuals.” Hotze compared LGBTQ people to “communist[s]” and “Nazis,” and called them “homofascists” during the event, saying that because “homosexuals can’t reproduce,” they would “recruit” public school students to support them. Hotze also argued that Houston residents should “drive them out of our city” and “send them back to San Francisco.” From the August 14 edition of The Texas Observer:

But it was Hotze who stole the show. He began his time on stage by showing his audience a video that warned of the audacious plans of the gay rights movement. “Just like there was a communist manifesto, there’s a homosexual manifesto,” Hotze said. “The hackles will stand up on the back of your neck when you see what they have planned.”

[...]

Then things took a turn for the weirder. “Our strongest weapon in the fight,” he said, pulling out a sword from its sheath and brandishing it for the audience, “is the word of God. The word of God is like any two-edged sword.”

He pointed the sword at the audience. “For thousands of years, men fought with swords,” he said. “Can you imagine that piercing right through the enemy like this? That’s what the word of God does. I’ve decided, I’m not going to fight the homosexuals with sweet words. I’m going to fight them with God’s word.”

[...]

“What you just saw in the homosexual manifesto underscores the evil nature of this battle. It’s a spiritual battle, OK? It’s against the world forces of darkness and the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. You have to put on the full armor of God,” he admonished the audience, swinging his sword again. The psychic and supernatural battle between God and the devil was playing out every day in the world of flesh and blood. “The battle takes place in time and space,” he said, “but it’s also going on in the heavenly places.” He told the audience that “Satanic cults” were driving the “homosexual movement.”

[...]

“Homofascists,” Hotze said, were enabled and appeased by those who treated their behavior as normal or acceptable. The indoctrination started in public schools, by design. “Remember: Homosexuals can’t reproduce. They have to recruit.”

Swift action was needed. “Drive them out of our city. I don’t want them in our city. Send them back to San Francisco.” No half-measures could be contemplated when dealing with the truly wicked. “Has anybody ever heard of the Nazis? Were they wicked? OK. What did we send our boys over to do in World War II? What did our preachers pray that would happen in World War II?”

They weren’t praying that the Germans would straighten up and fly right. “They prayed, ‘give our boys victory in battle,’” Hotze said. “Sometimes you have to do that when people are totally opposed to God like that, and wickedness rises up.” [The Texas Observer, 8/14/15]

Hotze claimed that a “key point of the homosexual agenda” is “overturning the laws prohibiting pedophilia.” During a September 2014 “Marriage Battle Plan” conference call, Hotze demonized and spread a series of myths about LGBTQ people, comparing them to “cancer” and saying that they have “evil thoughts.” Hotze claimed that “overturning the laws prohibiting pedophilia” was a “key point of the homosexual agenda.” He also pushed the myth that LGBTQ people have life spans “20 to 30 years shorter than the life span of the average person” because they live what he alleged was an “unhealthy lifestyle.” Hotze continued, “We don’t hate you. We just don’t want it taught to our kids. It’s wrong. It’s not healthy. It’s not good. It’s not normal.” From the September 10, 2014, conference call:

STEVE HOTZE: If they allow same-sex marriage in Texas, folks, they’ll be passing out stuff to your children to teach them how to be homosexuals. That’s what will happen.

[…]

We love everybody. We tell them it’s wrong. We tell them their love is wrong, but we can’t let them destroy our family if they refuse to turn from that. We can’t let them destroy our kids. We can’t -- if you’ve got cancer, it’s got to be removed. You can’t have it in the schools. It’s like a cancer, these thoughts, these evil thoughts that are taught to the kids. It’ll spread. Remember the old adage, “One bad apple will spoil the whole bunch”? Well that’s what happens when you allow this to occur. It destroys the moral fabric of our country.

[...]

By the way, a question was asked about the health problems with homosexuals. You know, homosexuals have a life span that is 20 to 30 years shorter than the life span of the average person. They have numerous sexually transmitted diseases, among which is HIV. That’s a terrible -- which is predominantly in the homosexual population because of the type of acts they have. They get -- have an increased incidence of cancer, increased incidence of suicide. It’s an unhealthy lifestyle. It’s not healthy. It needs to be stopped. We want to encourage anybody, if you’re involved in that, we would encourage you to turn to Christ, confess your sins, and turn to Christ and ask him to free you from that so that you could stand clean and you could get out of that lifestyle. We want to encourage you to do that. We’re not mad at you. We don’t hate you. We just don’t want it taught to our kids. It’s wrong. It’s not healthy. It’s not good. It’s not normal. And this is what’s odd. I wrote about, they really believe -- I’m talking about the radical homosexuals in the movement, in the political movement. They believe homosexuality is normal and heterosexuality is abnormal. That’s how perverted it is. Well, also, there’s another key point of the homosexual agenda, and it’s overturning the laws prohibiting pedophilia. If you don’t think that’s the case, they deny it, but in every homosexual pride parade, there is a group called NAMBLA: North American Man-Boy Love Association. And they want to break down the laws that make it -- they want to decriminalize sex between a man and a boy. If you could believe it, that’s how sick and perverted and deviant their minds are. [Marriage Battle Plan Conference Call, 9/10/14; Media Matters, 9/18/14]

Hotze prayed that lawmakers who “support, promote and practice sodomy and other perverted, sexually deviant lifestyles” would “receive just retribution from God for their evil actions.” On May 16, Hotze published a prayer on CRT’s website asking that pro-LGBTQ lawmakers and their staff “receive just retribution from God for their evil actions” and “be consumed, collapse, rot and be blown away as dust from their current positions.” Hotze continued, “May people scorn them and nations abhor them.” From the May 16 post:

Pray this imprecatory prayer for the wicked state legislators.

In the Name of Jesus, I prophesy and declare: may all the individuals serving in the state legislature, and their staff, who support, promote and practice sodomy and other perverted, sexually deviant lifestyles, who support the killing of unborn babies, and who hate God’s Law and God’s Word, receive just retribution from God for their evil actions. May they receive what their unfaithful ways deserve. May they be consumed, collapse, rot and be blown away as dust from their current positions because of their wicked works, thoughts and deeds. May people scorn them and nations abhor them. May their punishment lead them to repentance and faith in Christ. May God’s will be done in their lives. [CRTXNews.com, 5/16/17]

Hotze said LGBTQ equality gives gay people “a free hand to come and have relations with a minor, molest a child.” An April 2014 Mother Jones article reported on Hotze’s history of anti-LGBTQ extremism, including his assertion that LGBTQ equality “would give gay people ‘a free hand to come and have relations with a minor, molest a child.’” He has also accused LGBTQ people of “recruit[ing] children or young people in their formative years” and advocated for a Houston mayoral candidate who had said, according to the article, that “the best way to fight AIDS was to ‘shoot the queers.’” Mother Jones also reported that Hotze once “told a local newspaper reporter that he cased out restaurants before making reservations to make sure they didn’t have any gay employees.” From the April 9 article:

For decades, [Hotze has] trafficked in hysteria over equal status for gay citizens, which he has said would give gay people “a free hand to come and have relations with a minor, molest a child.”

Hotze was an activist before he was an alternative-medicine guru. In the early ’80s, he emerged on the Texas political landscape as a voice against homosexuality. “Once you allow them acceptability, then you allow them to proliferate,” he told the Third Coast magazine in 1982. “And they proliferate by one means, and one means only, and that’s recruiting. And they recruit the weak. They recruit children or young people in their formative years.”

Three years later, after overturning an anti-discrimination ordinance in Houston, Hotze organized a group of eight candidates he considered allies in the fight against homosexuality. He called them “the Straight Slate.” His preferred mayoral candidate said that the best way to fight AIDS was to “shoot the queers.” Hotze told a local newspaper reporter that he cased out restaurants before making reservations to make sure they didn’t have any gay employees and became such a divisive figure in local politics that for a brief period the Harris County Republican Party cleaved in two. [Mother Jones, 4/9/14]

Hotze lamented the lack of a “militant, warrior mentality” in the Christian church and claimed there is a “Muslim problem.” At a 2016 rally, Hotze lamented the lack of a “militant, warrior mentality” in the Christian church and argued that in the past, Caitlyn Jenner would have been put in jail for being transgender. Hotze described the LGBTQ rights movement as “wicked, evil, satanic” and referred to Islam as “the Muslim problem,” asserting, “They want you to do what they want you to do or they’ll cut your head off.” From The New Civil Rights Movement:

“I think what we’re missing in the Christian church today is a militant, warrior mentality," Hotze told the crowd. "I know Jesus said not to take up arms, but I take the Old Testament literally. ... They want to force us to celebrate homosexuality and other perverted acts — that’s all they think about. What has our society come to when Bruce Jenner puts on a dress and goes on the ESPN and gets an award for courage?”

The Houston Press reports that Hotze then deepened his voice for an impression of Jenner: “Uh, I’m Caitlyn Jenner, uh, yeah."

"Thirty years ago, they would have locked Jenner up," Hotze said. "These people are crazy as a bedbug. This is a wicked, evil, satanic movement. They want to recruit, brainwash our children, right when the hormones start kicking in. I know, I’m a doctor. We’ve got sick, sexually perverted presidents. Then we’ve got the Muslim problem, which is one thing I like about Dan, uh, Dan, uh, Dan, uh, Donald Trump. If you know about that religion, then you know they want you to do what they want you to do or they’ll cut your head off! We need people to stand up against this absurd, ungodly tomfoolery. We’re putting on a full-court press. We’re challenging 35 seats to say enough is enough. We’re going to do everything we can to take them down.” [The New Civil Rights Movement, 1/26/16]

Houston Press reported that Hotze writes “bizarre, unsubstantiated claims wrapped in pseudo-scientific jargon,” including claiming that birth control makes women “less attractive to men.” A 2005 Houston Press article detailed Hotze’s dubious medical writings, calling his literature “chock-full of bizarre, unsubstantiated claims wrapped in pseudo-scientific jargon.” The report noted that Hotze, who is a doctor by profession, regularly tells his patients “that if they don’t get better, it’s because they have a negative attitude” and has asserted that birth control makes women “less attractive to men.” From the Houston Press:

Hotze admits that insurance companies generally do not recognize his treatments as "medically necessary." Most patients pay entirely out of pocket. And patients are told up front that if they don't get better, it's because they have a negative attitude. "When individuals do not believe they can get better, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy," Hotze's literature states. Of course, the opposite also can be true. In medicine, it's called the placebo effect.

His literature is chock-full of bizarre, unsubstantiated claims wrapped in pseudo-scientific jargon. For example, birth control pills prevent "the production of women's biologically identical female hormones and pheromones, making them less attractive to men." This, despite the fact that no one has ever identified a human pheromone, and subjective claims of physical beauty are largely irrelevant to the field of medicine.

His weird claims don't apply to just women, as is evident in the statement that "When men lose their testicles to disease or injury, they have difficulty reading a map, performing math problems and making decisions." [Houston Press, 7/21/05]

Hotze called LGBTQ people “termites” that “get into the wood of the house and they eat away at the very moral fabric of the foundation of our country.” In a November 2016 speech in Houston, Hotze compared LGBTQ people to “termites” that “get into the wood of the house and they eat away at the very moral fabric of the foundation of our country.” According to Right Wing Watch, Hotze alleged that the LGBTQ rights movement is “all part of a long-term communist plot to take down America,” and, like the “marxist movement,” aims to “destroy the moral fabric and create moral anarchy in our country so that our people no longer live righteous lives but they’re living lives that are ungodly.” [Right Wing Watch, 11/1/16]

Hotze has a long history of fighting gay rights including running a 1985 campaign against council members who were in favor of LGBTQ protections. In October 2015, Houston Chronicle reported on Hotze’s “long record of fighting gay rights.” According to the Chronicle, in 1985, Hotze organized a campaign called “Straight Slate” that encouraged potential candidates to run against incumbent politicians who had supported job protections for gay city employees. From the October 25, 2015, report:

That Hotze has been relatively muted on the issue of sexual orientation in recent months is in stark contrast to his approach when City Council passed the law 11-6 last year. While opponents were gathering thousands of signatures in an effort to force a repeal referendum, Hotze emailed conservative Steven Baer and cast the law as part of a "tide of homosexual perversion sweeping over the country," according to emails obtained by the Chronicle.

Hotze, through Woodfill, declined to be interviewed for this story.

"Let's collaborate and join forces. Houston, Texas is ground zero on this issue," he wrote. "We will repeal the pro-homosexual ordinance here and breath fire into the hearts of our brethren across Texas and the nation."

That email is more consistent with Hotze's long record of fighting gay rights. In 1985, Hotze ran a so-called "Straight Slate," organizing challengers to run against incumbent council members who supported job protections for gays employed by the city.

[...]

This year, Hotze and fellow conservatives were accused of trying to reprise the "Straight Slate," this time targeting council members who supported the equal rights ordinance. Woodfill denied there was such a coordinated effort, but acknowledged he and others had "encouraged people to run who oppose the bathroom ordinance." [Houston Chronicle, 10/25/15]

CRT President Jared Woodfill

CRT President Jared Woodfill: Trans-inclusive bathrooms would “allow troubled men” and “sexual predators” to “threaten our mothers, wives and daughters.” In 2015, current CRT President Jared Woodfill acted as a spokesperson for Campaign for Houston, which was organized in opposition to the proposed Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). HERO was a failed ballot initiative that would have, according to CNS News, extended “discrimination protections to the LGBT community.” As the campaign’s spokesperson, Woodfill pushed the debunked “bathroom predator” myth, asserting that the ordinance would “allow troubled men, or men who want to start trouble, to use women’s public bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities.” Woodfill asserted that the protections put women and girls in danger and could be used “as a legal shield” for “registered and convicted sexual predators … to threaten our mothers, wives and daughters.” From CNS News:

“Parker’s Bathroom Ordinance would force businesses and public establishments to allow troubled men, or men who want to start trouble, to use women’s public bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities. This endangers women and girls and places them in harm’s way,” Campaign for Houston spokesman Jared Woodfill said in a press release.

“There are 8345 registered and convicted sexual predators in Harris County. This just scratches the surface of this dangerous problem. These men could use this ordinance as a legal shield to threaten our mothers, wives and daughters,” Woodfill added. [CNS News, 8/26/15]

Woodfill’s Campaign for USA website claimed that “the term transgender is a euphemism … for the term pervert.” In June 2016, CRT launched its Campaign for USA, with Woodfill serving as president, to oppose retailer giant Target’s transgender-inclusive bathroom policy. According to ThinkProgress, the Campaign for USA website -- which is now defunct -- claimed that "the term transgender is a euphemism, a weaker alternative, for the term pervert” and called transgender people “sexual deviants.” From ThinkProgress:

“The whole concept of ‘transgender’ of course is absurd and irrational,” the site insists. “Those who practice this behavior or enable it have adopted perverted thinking.”

In case the Campaign’s perspective is not clear, the site continues to drive home the point:

"The term transgender is a euphemism, a weaker alternative, for the term pervert, in order to make the behavior seem more acceptable. Men who dress up like women and want to use women’s bathrooms, showers and locker rooms are sexual deviants and perverts. The LGBT homosexual political movement wants to force society, under the penalty of law, to accept, affirm as normal, and celebrate the perverted homosexual lifestyle and the deviant behavior of men who claim to be women. The goal of the LGBT is to destroy all Biblical moral absolutes and create sexual anarchy in society. The LGBT political movement wants it mandated that this wicked lifestyle be taught to children in school, starting in Kindergarten, and that children be encouraged to experiment with homosexual and transvestite behavior. The goal is to break down the children’s consciences, so that they can more easily be recruited into the homosexual lifestyle." [ThinkProgress, 6/10/16]

Campaign for Houston released an ad pushing the debunked anti-trans “bathroom predator myth,” calling trans-inclusive bathrooms “filthy,” “disgusting,” and “unsafe.” In August 2015, ThinkProgress’ Zach Ford described CRT’s Campaign for Houston and its “incendiary radio ad attacking transgender women,” which he said “relies entirely on the myth that transgender protections will make bathrooms unsafe places.” In fact, a Media Matters analysis found that the “bathroom predator” myth has been repeatedly debunked by experts and government officials in at least 16 states and the District of Columbia, and by school administrators in 23 school districts and four universities. Ford added that the “not subtle” radio ad asserted that HERO would “allow men to freely go into women’s bathrooms, locker rooms and showers. That is filthy, that is disgusting, and that is unsafe.” Ford also noted that the campaign’s website called transgender women “gender-confused men.” From ThinkProgress:

Thanks to the Texas Supreme Court, Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which creates LGBT nondiscrimination protections for the city, will be subject to a ballot referendum this November. Opponents of HERO launched their “Campaign for Houston” this week with an incendiary radio ad attacking transgender women.

The new campaign, like the resistance to HERO when the city council first considered it two years ago, relies entirely on the myth that transgender protections will make bathrooms unsafe places. The ad is not subtle: “This ordinance will allow men to freely go into women’s bathrooms, locker rooms and showers. That is filthy, that is disgusting, and that is unsafe.”

The ad links to CampaignForHouston.com, a bare-bones website that reiterates that women will be “forced to share restrooms in public facilities with gender-confused men, who — under this ordinance — can all themselves ‘women’ on a whim and use women’s restrooms whenever they wish. This ‘bathroom ordinance’ therefore is an attempt to re-structure society to fit a societal vision we simply do not share or can support.” The site also claims that all LGBT identities “are defined by their behaviors — not by characteristics given to them at birth.” [ThinkProgress, 8/24/15; Media Matters, 5/5/16]

National and some local media have failed to identify CRT as a hate group, contextualize its extremism

NY Times uncritically quoted Woodfill and failed to mention CRT’s hate group status. In a July 18 article, The New York Times failed to identify Woodfill as the leader of a hate group or note its representatives’ extreme past statements. The Times noted Woodfill’s opposition to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, a “moderate Republican” opposed to anti-transgender “bathroom bill” legislation, but contextualized CRT only as a group that “has spent a small fortune in recent years to defeat Mr. Straus and his lieutenants in the House.” [The New York Times, 7/18/17]

Economist labeled CRT members “far-right Christian conservatives” but failed to note CRT’s hate group designation or leaders’ past extreme statements.On July 27, The Economist published a story about Texas Republicans’ fight to pass a statewide “bathroom bill,” uncritically reporting that CRT would support “a primary challenger” to “any Republican lawmaker that opposes the bill.” The article did not label CRT as a hate group or mention its leaders’ past extreme statements, though it did refer to its members as “far-right Christian conservatives.” [The Economist, 7/27/17]

AP uncritically quoted Woodfill attacking Straus and did not mention CRT’s hate group designation. On July 17, The Associated Press featured a quote from Woodfill in an article on the Texas “bathroom bill” and CRT’s role in the 2018 Texas GOP primaries. The article noted that CRT was “ready to pounce on those who don’t support the strict proposal” but did not mention the group’s designation as a hate group. Similarly, Woodfill was identified only as “a Houston attorney who is the group’s president” but no further context was given about his history of extreme comments or campaigns. [The Associated Press, 7/17/17]

San Antonio Express-News gave Woodfill a platform to cast doubt on CRT’s hate group designation, did not mention its history of extremism. A June 29 San Antonio Express-News article noted CRT’s hate group designation, saying that SPLC labeled it as such “due to the way it works on issues affecting lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people.” Unfortunately, the article then gave Woodfill a platform to dispute the classification and attack SPLC as “ultra-liberal” as well as calling it “a hate group opposed to family values.” The San Antonio Express-News did not include SPLC’s perspective in the story and also failed to point out additional context about CRT’s past extremism aside from the group’s opposition to HERO. From the San Antonio Express-News:

The Southern Poverty Law Center has put the Conservative Republicans of Texas on its list of hate groups due to the way it works on issues affecting lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people.

Woodfill said the center — which came to prominence fighting racial discrimination and has broadened its watchdog role — is “ultra-liberal” and “a hate group opposed to family values.”

He added that his group was put on the list after opposing the Houston equal rights ordinance. [San Antonio Express-News, 6/29/17]

San Antonio Express-News failed to contextualize CRT in a separate article. A March 6 article in San Antonio Express-News noted that CRT was making a “$100,000 targeted cable ad buy” attacking Straus and “urging support” for a statewide “bathroom bill” without mentioning its hate group designation or past extremism. [San Antonio Express-News, 3/6/17]

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