At what point will Fox News stop conflating anti-gay bigotry and Christian religious belief?
Phil Robertson, one of the stars of A&E's Duck Dynasty, has been put on indefinite hiatus by the network following criticism of a number of anti-gay and racist remarks he made in an interview with GQ. In the interview, Robertson refers to homosexuality as a “sin,” comparing it to bestiality and calling gay sex illogical:
“It seems like, to me, a vagina--as a man--would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me.I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical.”
“Everything is blurred on what's right and what's wrong,” he says. “Sin becomes fine.”
What, in your mind, is sinful?
"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men," he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers--they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right.”
In the aftermath of his anti-gay comments, several Fox News employees have rushed to Robertson's defense, depicting him as a run-of-the-mill Christian who espoused mainstream Christian theology. Host Sean Hannity described Robertson's comments as "old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values." Fox reporter Todd Starnes claimed his comments reflected "the teachings of the Bible." And Fox Business' Dennis Kneale claimed Robertson had just "stated his religious beliefs."
But not everyone at Fox News is so quick to accept Robertson's anti-gay comments as what they believe to be basic Christian dogma. During the December 18 edition of Hannity, Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. seemed hesitant to describe Robertson's remarks as “religious,” saying, “I wouldn't accept that that's a religious view” :
Johnson later added, “I don't think there's anything religious about it. I don't think it's quoting the good book.”
Johnson's unwillingness to accept the “religious beliefs” defense was echoed shortly after during The Kelly File, when host Megyn Kelly asked her guest Bernard Whitman why he wasn't willing to entertain and debate Robertson's Christian views:
KELLY: This Christian guy, this is how he feels, right? Disagree or agree. This is how he feels. Why can't there be, you know, then you come out and say, 'Let me tell you why that is so offensive to me'?
WHITMAN: Because it's time that we stop agreeing that religion can be used as a weapon to spew hate and cause people to feel bad about themselves, who they are, and who they love.
Both responses raise an important question: at what point does homophobia stop becoming religious speech and start becoming hate speech? After all, a shrinking minority of Americans actually believe homosexuality is a sin. Among certain subsets of American Christians, like Catholics, opposition to homosexuality is even lower.
At Fox, however, the line between anti-gay bigotry and Christianity appears non-existent. Anti-gay hate groups like the Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA) - which have described gay people as pedophiles and blamed gay people for the Holocaust - have been routinely treated as typical Christian organizations.
Given the network's vocal defense of Robertson thus far, it's worth asking what anti-gay extremists can't get away with as long as they attribute their homophobia to religion.