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  • Extreme anti-LGBTQ group American Family Association says it met with “senior” Walmart executives to discuss ad with gay couple

    AFA runs a right-wing evangelical media apparatus that includes a website and radio network and has endorsed dangerous anti-LGBTQ positions

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX PATERSON


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ group the American Family Association claimed to have met with “senior executives” at Walmart to discuss its objections to the company’s Valentine’s Day advertisement that featured two men going on a blind first date at a Walmart.

    On May 9, AFA announced that “senior executives with AFA met with senior executives at Walmart where our objections to the video ad were strongly and respectfully articulated.” AFA wrote that it “shared our plea that Walmart remain neutral on the promotion of homosexuality,” asserting that it had a “forthright and engaging discussion about the matter.” 

    AFA launched a petition urging Walmart to remove the advertisement in February, complaining that it “normalizes homosexual relationships.” AFA dubiously claimed that the petition garnered “over 190,000 signers.” However, reporter Nico Lang noted that the petition was “likely bogus,” as it contained no security or verification measures. Lang wrote that users were able to sign the petition an unlimited amount of times using “transparently counterfeit” emails and “from the same IP address while using the same web browser.” Despite the questionable authenticity of its petition, Right Wing Watch’s Jared Holt reported on April 3 that AFA had secured the meeting with a representative for Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.

    In addition to its anti-LGBTQ advocacy work, AFA also runs a substantial right-wing evangelical media apparatus. It uses its American Family Radio network (AFR) and news website OneNewsNow to push extreme anti-LGBTQ narratives and misinformation to various types of audiences. Posts on its news website have claimed that Texas legislation would “ban Christianity” and pushed the debunked “bathroom predator” myth, which have received significant engagement from their audience.

    On AFR’s Janet Mefferd Live, host Janet Mefferd has linked homosexuality to child sexual abuse, suggested that LGBTQ-inclusive Christianity will destroy churches, and advocated for the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy. On AFR’s Focal Point, former AFA spokesperson and host Bryan Fischer has condemned gay men to hell, claimed that gays were responsible for the Nazi Party, and said that “any practitioners of any other religion other than Christianity,” such as Muslim and Jewish people, “do not have First Amendment rights.”

    In 2013, AFA endorsed Russia’s anti-LGBTQ “gay propaganda” law, which “effectively legalizes discrimination based on sexual orientation” and led to an increase in homophobic rhetoric and violence in the country. The group has also said that “gay sex is a form of domestic terrorism.”

  • Right-wing media botch GAO report to push myth that taxpayers are funding abortion

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On March 6, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an updated report about the use of federal funds by Planned Parenthood and several other health care providers for providing “preventive, reproductive, and diagnostic health care services in the United States or abroad.” Predictably, even though the report didn’t show any wrongdoing by the provider, right-wing media used its release to promote the longstanding myth that Planned Parenthood uses taxpayer funding to support its abortion services.

    According to the March 2018 GAO report, investigators sought to answer how much federal funding had been granted to federally qualified health centers, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Marie Stopes International, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America between 2013 and 2015, as well as how those organizations or networks had spent the funds. Right-wing media quickly seized on the data to push the myth of so-called “taxpayer-funded” abortion, even though the report showed no such thing.

    Even before the GAO’s most recent report came out, right-wing media have frequently claimed that U.S. taxpayers fund the provision of abortion services. In reality, under the Hyde Amendment, federal funding for abortion is prohibited except in cases of rape or incest or if the life of the mother is at risk. Although Planned Parenthood receives funds to support non-abortion health services, the allocations aren’t a blank check for the organization to spend as it pleases. Indeed, just like any other health care provider -- including the other providers listed in the GAO’s March 2018 report -- Planned Parenthood is reimbursed by the government for the specific non-abortion services it provides to low-income patients via programs like Medicaid. In many other cases, funds that are not reimbursed in this way are specifically allocated to cover a narrow set of health outcomes, such as HIV prevention.

    Nevertheless, right-wing media pushed their misleading reading of the report within their own echo chamber to allege wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. In order to make this point, many outlets ignored the reality that the allocated funding did not support abortion services. For example, in a March 8 article, Breitbart reported that the GAO report had shown that “federal and state taxpayers provided $1.5 billion in funding to abortion providers over a three-year period,” yet it failed to note that none of these funds supported abortion services. This tactic was copied by Newsmax, Washington Free Beacon, Townhall, OneNewsNow, and The Daily Signal, each of which repeated the implication that the money went to abortions. Some outlets went a step further in their allegations, arguing that even if the funding allocated wasn’t for abortion services, it would inevitably be used to support abortions. In one example, LifeSiteNews wrote, “Pro-lifers note that money is fungible, meaning that public funding Planned Parenthood uses for approved purposes frees funds from other sources to be spent on abortions.” The Federalist claimed that such “funds are fungible” because when “an abortion provider gets its hands on government money, it controls how that money is spent.”

    This narrative culminated in a March 12 appearance by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. In the segment, host Tucker Carlson and Black each lambasted anti-choice legislators for failing to strip Planned Parenthood’s funding by making a number of inaccurate allegations about the way the organization used taxpayer funds. In one instance, Black claimed that it was inappropriate for “taxpayer dollars to be going to abortion,” saying that the funding was “set up for family planning” but “abortion is not family planning, it’s family destruction.”

    The GAO's findings rebut the right-wing argument that the federal funding Planned Parenthood received supported the provision of abortion services. For example, in a chart listing the programs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funded at Planned Parenthood, there is no allocation that would include abortion services:

    Although right-wing media may be suggesting that the allocations for “Family planning services” or the “Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Program” could include support for abortion, a review of each program in the government’s Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance refutes this claim. Furthermore, the GAO not only reviewed the financial documents of Planned Parenthood and all of its affiliates, but also sought additional documentation and audit information.

    In other words, given the level of scrutiny applied to both the allocation and the expenditure of funds, it is highly improbable money allocated for other uses was spent on abortion care. Once again, the frenzy drummed up by right-wing media appears to be supported with only spin, and no substance.

  • 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.