Just as Faithful America is continuing to make headlines for its rejected ad calling attention to hate group leader Tony Perkins’s frequent appearances on MSNBC, GLAAD has launched a new project on this same topic more broadly.
The Commentator Accountability Project (CAP) is focused on educating members of the media at all levels about the long record of hateful and false statements prominent Religious Right leaders have made over the years.
Given these spokespeople’s habit of code-switching — toning down their statements in mainstream outlets while saving their most vitriolic and extreme rhetoric for presumably friendly audiences — sometimes it really is the case that producers and hosts just don’t know their guests’ hateful histories.
To be clear, GLAAD’s campaign doesn’t call for any particular action on the part of news outlets. It is simply focused on giving them more information about their potential guests. But predictably, the conservative commentators whose records are being exposed are ignoring that fact to claim that they’re being “silenced.”
If these Religious Right leaders find themselves getting booked less often once the truth is out, it won’t necessarily signal any change in media policies. It will just be a sign that these figures have been exploiting news professionals’ unfamiliarity with their records for too long.
Perkins is clearly upset by the 20,000 people of faith who have called on MSNBC to drop him from their programming. In a rambling response, Perkins claimed “homosexual activist groups” are trying to “silence” him because they’re “afraid of the truth,” falsely attacked Bishop Gene Robinson and boasted about his recent appearance on MSNBC:
Wildmon: There’s something about, I didn’t read the whole story, something about you appearing on some news show the other night and now the homosexual activist groups want you banned for life or something, I don’t know.
Perkins: Well what’s new about that? They are afraid of the truth and they are probably listening because I know they like to monitor this program and that’s what it is, they are afraid of the truth. They do not want to have open debates, they know the facts simply do not line up, and so instead of publicly showing up and debating or putting their ideas out there on the table they simply want to silence Christians, that’s what it’s about. [emphasis added]
Perkins: You might remember the Episcopal Bishop Eugene [sic] Robinson who split the Episcopal Church because he’s openly gay and wanted to marry his lover or whatever you call it, and he gathered 20,000 signatures and presented them to MSNBC demanding that they keep me off of MSNBC because you know I’m on there you know talking about politics or whatever and usually it’s nothing to do with homosexuality, they just don’t want anybody who does have views that are counter to theirs.
Wildmon: I’ll tell you what, you’re in good company, the other day Kirk Cameron went on Piers Morgan on CNN, and man, Piers Morgan asked him a question about homosexuality, he said it was ‘unnatural,’ he just got torched.
Perkins: I talked to Kirk, I talked to him yesterday actually I was actually interestingly enough I was coming out of MSNBC where I was on yesterday with Martin Bashir, and I would actually encourage folks to go watch that interview that I did with him—they have it on their homepage; at least they did this morning on MSNBC—and thank them for allowing a balanced discussion. Obviously Martin did not agree with me but we had a very civil discussion on the issues and I tell you what I have to respect MSNBC for allowing debate and not buckling under the pressure of a loudmouth, Soros-funded group that is simply trying to silence the public debate over important public policy issues, so I will have to come to the defense of MSNBC for not buckling under that pressure. [emphasis added]
What’s more, Perkins’s appearance on Bashir’s show was a textbook example of how MSNBC lends Perkins undue credibility. After Bashir introduced him as a “committed Christian” he was “delighted” to have on to talk about the Rush Limbaugh controversy, Perkins proceeded to falsely claim that Sandra Fluke was testifying about “sexual promiscuity” and asking the government to fund her birth control.
Does MSNBC really think this exchange is a helpful one for its viewers?
We have many guests from a variety of viewpoints who all play roles in the political process. The views of our guests are not those of MSNBC.
But this, of course, is no defense at all. Faithful America isn’t suggesting that MSNBC shouldn’t have guests with a variety of viewpoints, just that those viewpoints shouldn’t include hateful lies.
Tony Perkins doesn’t occasionally get things wrong, he repeatedly uses debunked and discredited research in order to demonize an entire group of people. He’s simply not a trustworthy actor, and lifting him up as such does a disservice to Christians and conservatives alike.
But MSNBC’s viewers don’t learn that context when they see Perkins on television. Not only does MSNBC fail to alert its audience to Perkins’s credibility problems, they openly endorse him. Network anchors consistently treat him like a credible analyst and compliment him as an “honest conservative” whose conscience can be trusted.
Continuing their campaign demanding that MSNBC stop booking hate-group leader Tony Perkins on their news programming, Faithful America has produced an ad to educate the network’s viewers about the hateful lies the Family Research Council President tells about LGBT people and how frequently the cable network puts him on air.
Shamefully, MSNBC rejected the ad. After Faithful America attempted to purchase time to run the ad on the network, a representative responded:
Thank you for providing the ad and substantiation. Our policy states that we have sole discretion to accept or reject an ad based on its appropriateness. In this instance we are rejecting the ad.
Michael Sherrard, head of Faithful America, responded:
Clearly MSNBC doesn’t want its viewers to know the truth about one of their frequent guests. If network executives consider Tony Perkins’ false and hateful rhetoric about gays and lesbians inappropriate for an ad, then he shouldn’t have any place on their programming.
Here’s the information MSNBC doesn’t want you to see:
Earlier this month Faithful America, Bishop Gene Robinson and a delegation of clergy leaders delivered 20,000 petition signatures to MSNBC headquarters trying to raise this same issue. MSNBC responded to that event by featuring Perkins on air last week.
He was joined in his criticism of Limbaugh by Faithful America, which has launched a petition asking eHarmony (a Christian dating site) to stop advertising on The Rush Limbaugh Show. The petition states:
Rush Limbaugh is using “religious freedom” as a fig leaf for vile rhetoric about women who use birth control. eHarmony has built its business on Christian customers, and they must stop advertising on Limbaugh’s show immediately.
As of 6:00 PM EST, less than two hours after it went public, the petition has already garnered 5100 signatories.