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?
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.
Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post reports this week that a woman attending her mother’s funeral was denied Communion by a priest because she is a lesbian. It’s a truly outrageous incident that should offend any person of faith who recognizes that a holy sacrament should never be used to denigrate a human being made in God’s image.
It’s also a cautionary tale now that we’re knee deep in the fever swamps of an election year where culture-war politics is back with a vengeance, and the Catholic Church is flexing its institutional muscles against contraception coverage, same-sex marriage and a host of other divisive social issues. Regardless of the view one takes on same-sex marriage, can’t we all agree that our houses of worship should be welcoming places for all people? Official Catholic teaching, in fact, is clear that gays and lesbians should always be treated with dignity. According to the Catholic Catechism “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” Sadly, the church is often its own worst enemy in this regard.
Remember that this shameful story of Communion denial in the Archdiocese of Washington comes just two months after Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, the past president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, compared the gay rights movement to the KKK. Last summer in Boston, the Rainbow Ministry of St. Cecilia’s Parish posted a notice in the church bulletin about a Mass that would “honor Christ’s message of hope and salvation to all people” during Boston’s Pride Month. This was not controversial news for most Catholic clergy and laity until the city’s vociferous Catholic right hit squads, specifically the blog “Bryan Hehir Exposed,” (Fr. Hehir is a former president of Catholic Charities USA and a professor at Harvard University) urged Catholics to flood Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s office with protest calls. The blog described plans for the Mass as an “atrocious scandal” and demanded that the pastor be put on leave. The Mass was canceled by the archdiocese a few days later.
Let’s not miss the big picture. A well-organized Catholic right – including bloggers and Catholic watchdog organizations that monitor supposed breaches of orthodoxy on Catholic campuses – has played a significant role in shaping the political posture of many Catholic leaders today. A generation of young priests and bishops, far quieter on issues of economic justice and peace than contraception and abortion, are also the legacy of the late Pope John Paul II – whose 27-year pontificate included a strong critique of unfettered capitalism but was largely defined by his distinctive “theology of the body” and appointment of theologically conservative bishops. A widely respected, now retired, church official who served his diocese’s social justice office for several decades told me:
I am concerned about the tone of the bishops. What is missing today is the conciliatory, collaborative, politically astute leadership of the Bishops of the 80′s and 90′s. To compromise is considered weak by this crowd. The Bishops, to a great extent, have become captives of corporate elites, the National Right to Life, and conservative lay organizations. They have access and influence that eclipse that of progressive Catholics.
The retired official also lamented that the church’s revered social justice work is increasingly being drowned out by abortion politics, the fight against same-sex marriage and deep animus against the Democratic Party. Archbishop Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, unwittingly proved the point that right-wing Catholic activists and conservative intellectuals have the ears of bishops these days when he told reporter John Allen that he gets “far more criticism from people who feel we bishops are much too soft on the Democrats, who feel that we are actually in the pocket of the Democrats.” A truly stunning and revealing statement about the conservative bubble many Catholic priests and bishops live in.
To his credit, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington (like the majority of bishops) disagrees with Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and other bishops who politicize Communion, especially during election years. In this particular case, the Washington Archdiocese has written a letter of apology to the woman caught up this shameful incident, a gesture she acknowledges as sincere while still rightly calling for the priest’s removal from parish life. It’s still uncertain what will happen to this priest since archdiocesan officials have been quiet and a reporter’s attempts to reach the priest have been rebuffed. We know little about the priest other than he is fairly young, active in local anti-abortion protests and has referred to a Maryland doctor who performs abortions as the “Butcher of Germantown.” Predictably, some Catholic conservative bloggers in the archdiocese are defending the indefensible.
Many faithful Catholics who respect our church have reason to be concerned that today’s priests and some bishops often seem more eager to fight culture wars than be pastoral leaders. Let’s hope as election-year punches are thrown and divisive social issues are debated, our churches can be sanctuaries from the kind of scorched-earth tactics that have no place in God’s house.
After watching Franklin Graham continue to refuse to acknowledge the President’s Christian faith and spread anti-Muslim conspiracy theories in an appearance on Morning Joe Tuesday, Chris Matthews spoke out on Hardball against media networks (including his own) continuing to book the offensive pastor:
MATTHEWS: I think we should stop inviting this guy to talk about politics. He should stay out of the — I mean, I love the bookings on Morning Joe. I love the guests. In this case, I think this guy should not be in the public square talking politics,”
As Dan explained yesterday, we agree! People willing to attack faith and spread hate don’t deserve the endorsement and platform that national media appearances provide.
But Matthews’s truth-telling on this issue raises an important question: Why doesn’t he hold his own show to the same standard when it comes to the similarly problematic Tony Perkins?
When Perkins’s organization the Family Research Council was declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in November 2010, Perkins went on Matthews’s show to make the nasty, false accusation that “homosexual men are more likely to abuse children than straight men.” Since then Perkins has been welcomed back to MSNBC 23 times.
And Hardball has been one of his prime destinations; Matthews himself has started calling Perkins his “ol’ pal” because he appears so frequently. (In a particular twist of irony, Matthews earlier this month boasted about how he wouldn’t invite Graham on his show in the middle of a segment with Perkins!)
Given this double standard, it’s clear that either Matthews doesn’t know the extent of Tony Perkins’s record of dishonesty, or he doesn’t think Perkins’s extreme and deceptive rhetoric rises to the same level as Graham’s.
That’s the question Bishop Gene Robinson and 20,000 people of faith with Faithful America have been asking as well. Today, Michael Sherrard, director of the online community of people of faith, released this statement:
Chris Matthews said yesterday that Franklin Graham shouldn’t be ‘in the public square talking politics’ because of his extremist rhetoric. It’s a shame Matthews doesn’t hold his own guests to the same standard. Matthews regularly hosts Tony Perkins despite Perkins’s hateful, dishonest rhetoric against gays and lesbians.
Perkins’s Family Research Council is classified as a hate group for, among other things, accusing gays and lesbians of child molestation and predicting gay military personnel would rape fellow service members. I hope Matthews doesn’t think these views are appropriate for the public square. He needs to stop offering Tony Perkins an opportunity to misrepresent the views of Christian voters on national television.
Learn more about Faithful America’s campaign here.