If there's one thing I despise most about our current national discourse around LGBT equality, it's the ridiculous abuse and ubiquitous misuse of the false equivalency meme -- the belief that, on issues of basic civil and human rights for LGBT people, there exists two equally legitimate "sides".
Sadly (and infuriatingly), this belief is stubbornly reinforced by many reporters and media outlets. But as support for LGBT equality has moved into the mainstream, rather than update their coverage to reflect this societal enlightenment, they've increasingly sought out the opinion of extremists -- and even hate groups -- in order to uphold that false equivalency.
Would they dare consult David Duke in order to appear "balanced" on African-American civil rights or include Matt Hale in a panel discussion on anti-Semitism? Of course not. But even the vilest of anti-LGBT bigots are still granted a media megaphone for spreading their dangerous views.
The clearest recent example of this has been the media coverage surrounding SB 1062, Arizona's "right to discriminate because Jesus" bill, and the other so-called "religious freedom" bills that have cropped up in state legislatures across the country.
We'll explore some of the worst offenders after the break.
First up is CNN, which hosted Peter Sprigg for over two hours, on Crossfire and Erin Burnett OutFront, on the night of Brewer's veto. Sprigg serves as Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council, an SPLC-certified anti-gay hate group. But hey -- he's anti-gay, he's conservative, and he's available, so why not, right?
Jeremy Hooper breaks down just how irresponsible the selection of Sprigg is:
[CNN] chose a man who sits on the board of PFOX, an organization that is solely focused on "changing" gay people. They chose a man who once admitted that he'd "prefer to export homosexuals from the United States." They chose a man who, on another network, admitted that he'd like to impose criminal sanctions on "gay behavior." They chose a man who has claimed that "[t]he most effective way of reducing teen suicide attempts is not to create a 'positive social environment' for the affirmation of homosexuality. Instead, it would be to discourage teens from self-identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual."
And despite the fact that Sprigg routinely spouts ugly bigotry -- the kind that earned FRC the dubious "hate group" distinction in the first place -- CNN decided to present him merely as an average, run-of-the-mill conservative pundit who's worried about "religious freedom." Talk about irresponsible!
The network compounded the error the very next day by interviewing notorious extremist blowhard Bill Donohue, president of the so-called Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights -- a man who has compared marriage equality to apartheid, slavery, racism, and genocide; falsely blamed the Catholic Church's clerical sex abuse crisis on homosexuality in a full-page ad in the New York Times; called AIDS "self-inflicted," and even claimed that gay dogs in high-kill shelters get special treatment. (Seriously.)
To his credit, New Day host Chris Cuomo called Donohue out on many of his bogus and hysterical claims (see below), but why legitimize his toxic, dying brand of homophobia by having him on in the first place?
No surprise here, right? On the night of the Brewer veto CNN had FRC's Sprigg, but Fox News snagged the big kahuna: Tony Perkins, the hate group's slickest and most telegenic spokesman.
Media Matters reports:
Fox's Megyn Kelly opened the February 26 edition of her show with a segment on Brewer's veto that featured Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council. Kelly gave Perkins a platform to lambast the veto as an example of "how fundamental freedoms are trampled," while citing a New Mexico couple who were prosecuted for refusing service to a same-sex couple as proof that the law differs from discrimination against mixed-race couples in that it "address[es] some very significant problems."
As GLAAD's Commentator Accountability Project reminds us (by the way, bookmark this incredible resource if you haven't already), Perkins has quite literally built a major part of his media career on spewing lies about LGBT people. Perkins compares gay legal advocates to terrorists; lies that pedophilia is a "homosexual problem;" consistently misgenders trans people; endorses the dangerous "pray away the gay" myth; and calls gay people "intolerant," "hateful," "vile," "spiteful," and "pawns of the enemy [Satan]."
Yet Perkins is one of the most frequently-booked anti-LGBT pundits in cable news, routinely called upon to deliver the anti-gay "balance" to news stories about LGBT issues. Galling, isn't it?
Yes, NPR. Just last week, the network aired an interview with Scott Lively, a hate group spokesman and one of America's most infamous equality opponents. If Lively's name is familiar, it's because he played an integral part in sparking Uganda's infamous Anti-Homosexuality Law and has also exported homophobic propaganda to Russia, Latvia, and Moldova. He's currently on trial for crimes against humanity for his role in the Uganda law, and last month he teamed up with notorious anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera to launch a new international umbrella network of anti-LGBT hate groups.
Yet NPR granted Lively an interview on Tell Me More, where he implied that homosexuality is linked to pedophilia and spouted the discredited and dangerous lies that being gay is a choice with "serious public health, social, sociological implications." The only response host Michel Martin could muster was a meek "I understand that's your point of view."
What an egregious abdication of a journalist's responsibility to the truth. According to Martin, though, calling out dangerous lies isn't her job -- in a segment called "Back Talk" where she responded to the uproar over the Lively interview, Martin said she didn't regret interviewing him and "will do so again if [she feels] it's newsworthy."
Martin took a jab at the critics who said she should have pushed back against Lively's lies: "I think that some of [them] are actually looking for something else," she said. "I think that what they are looking for is the emotional release of my berating him for his views."
No, Michel, we're asking you to do your job. But her next sentence made it abundantly clear that she felt she had a higher responsibility than calling out misinformation: upholding that damn false equivalency.
I felt that my job in that moment was to let people who are not acquainted with his views know what those views are.
No. No, no, no, no, no. While Lively, and other anti-LGBT extremists like him, are free to hold views that are as toxic and hateful as they wish, the mere existence of said views does not automatically make them legitimate or entitle them to a national media platform.
Hate is not an expert opinion. The media must stop legitimizing extremists and hate groups in the name of a false "balance" on basic LGBT rights. Shame on CNN, Fox, and NPR for failing to do that.