In that interview, Matthews initially protested but ultimately admitted that “you may be right. I may agree with you, but not right now.”
Yesterday, Matthews was asked again about the problem, and he expanded on those concessions:
MATTHEWS: Why don’t you think I should have him on my show?
Q: You said that you wouldn’t have Franklin Graham on your show earlier this year because he tells hateful lies and I was wondering if you thought that was a different standard.
MATTHEWS: Well you got to make your case, you know. I talked about this with my producers last night and we’re trying to decide how to deal with it. My view is I don’t like censoring opinion and Tony Perkins has been on this show and he hasn’t said something like that on my show, he doesn’t talk like that on Hardball.*
Q: Do you think it gives him credibility when he’s on Hardball though, for what he says off Hardball?
MATTHEWS: You know I think that’s an argument — that’s a good argument. I’m thinking about it. You’re doing the right thing, you’re doing the right thing keep it up. You know where I stand on the issues that I care about, you know. And I’m probably with you on these issues but I got to think it through.
In what will likely come as a disappointment to the right-wing activists who have been celebrating Matthews’s comments as an endorsement of their “right” to spread lies on TV, Matthews clearly indicates that he’s taking these concerns seriously, doesn’t have a good answer, and has already begun conversations with his producers about it.
Faithful America, GLAAD and the other organizations and individuals who are working to educate the media about the problems with hosting spokespeople who tell hateful lies should take this as a sign that they’re making real progress and should keep up their efforts.
*As before, Matthews seems to have forgotten about his November 2010 show in which Perkins specifically cited debunked research to claim that gay men are more likely to molest children.
The faith community has coalesced in opposition to HB-56, the extreme anti-immigrant law enacted by Alabama’s legislature and governor last year. Religious leaders are concerned both about how the law criminalizes their ministry and the larger moral questions such harsh legislation raises. Their voices have been unified, loud, and clear, but recent accounts in the media might leave you with a different impressions.
The group called Faith Leaders for a Welcoming Alabama says the law is having far-reaching negative impacts on the state. About 25 so-called faith leaders are part of the group that sponsored the ad.
This is not only unprofessional, it’s insulting. The faith leaders behind the ad are prominently listed on the campaign’s website with their city and church. They could all be independently verified by even the most amateur of journalists or researchers. Royer’s blatant denigration of these faith leaders is a shameful reflection on him and his network.
Even more egregiously, the Associated Press published a story looking at the “reforms” to the law being pushed by conservatives in the state legislature. The article was titled “Ala. immigration changes address religious concern.”
Yet the substance of the article clearly demonstrates that “changes” have done anything but!
The only source that claims so is an adviser to Governor Robert Bentley, an advocate for the law, who is clearly trying to spin the recent bill as having solved the problem. The story then goes on to extensively quote faith leaders speaking passionately about the severity of the problems encapsulated by the law, problems that they insist continue to exist despite nominal “reforms:”
The Rev. Angie Wright from the Beloved Community United Church of Christ in Birmingham said the changes don’t go far enough and in some cases make the law harsher. That includes levying a felony punishment for aiding five illegal immigrants, when the current law provides for aiding 10 or more.
“It is deeply disturbing to me, especially during Holy Week, that legislators have shown no remorse for the massive suffering caused by HB56,” she said, referring to the bill number for the law.
Wright is an organizer of Faith Leaders for a Welcoming Alabama, which is running TV ads criticizing the law. She said the proposed changes won’t stop criticism because even if the changes are enacted, the law will still interfere with the role of churches by creating fear in immigrant communities.
“This is the work of the Lord — looking after the least of these,” she said.
Kitty Rogers Brown, an attorney for Episcopal Bishop Henry Parsley Jr. of the Diocese of Alabama, said Friday the revision legislation is a sign that state officials are listening to religious leaders’ concerns. “But it does not go far enough,” she said.
Brown said some of the changes appear to offer protection to church leaders, but the wording of the bill makes her concerned the protection is not extended to church members.
Political issues and legislative processes are complex. People depend on the media for accurate information to help them understand the policies supported by their elected officials. These two instances of sloppy journalism reveal how the media contributes to the public’s confusion around a particular issue, particularly when Southern faith leaders don’t neatly fit the stereotype of being uniformly conservative.
One of the Christian leaders GLAAD included in their Commentator Accountability Project is conservative evangelical Chuck Colson, based on his record of extreme rhetoric about gays and lesbians.
Responding, Colson cries foul and paints himself as unfairly victimized for his faith:
So, yes, I’m surprised I made the list. But sadly, I realize I shouldn’t be. For one thing, this type of intimidation is par for the course for many in the so-called gay-rights movement. Not interested in dialogue, they seem more interested in demonizing and shouting down their opponents.
For another, their definition of “gay-bashing” is skewed. For them, anything short of renouncing the historical Christian teaching on sexuality is akin to hate. If I say that homosexual sex is a sin, they say I’m hateful. Yet I also say that pre-marital sex is a sin, as is drinking too much. Is that hateful, too?
Over the years I have been very careful not to involve in gay-bashing. I can’t think of a single time I have. I seek to honestly discuss the issues. So if any reporter has evidence of gay-bashing on my part, I’d like to hear it. But again, I reject the notion that disagreement — even strong disagreement — is gay-bashing or hateful.
Colson may want his readers to believe GLAAD’s concern is with his theological beliefs, but that’s just not the case. The project is focused on specific rhetoric that is demonstrably false or hatefully inflammatory. Perhaps Colson didn’t look at the list of evidence GLAAD put together, which gives specific examples of Colson making these kinds of statements, such as saying repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will cause soldiers to die and misrepresenting medical research to claim that being gay is a greater health risk than smoking.
If Colson were to admit that repealing DADT has not led to soldiers getting killed and renounce promoting distortions of medical research, he could start to gain back some credibility. But until then, media outlets should be fully informed about the types and quality of arguments he uses.
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.
Last week, TLC announced that it is canceling All-American Muslim, the network’s reality show tracking the daily lives of Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan. As the Detroit Free Press reports, TLC told the cast that the show’s ratings weren’t high enough to warrant a second season.
When All-American Muslim first premiered, we celebrated the show for helping to break down stereotypes and change negative perceptions of the Muslim community.
Unfortunately, anti-Islam extremists still found a way to attack it, claiming it covered up the “truth” about Islam by featuring peaceful, noncontroversial Muslim families rather than radical terrorists. One Religious Right group even led a public effort to convince companies to pull its advertising from the show, and Lowe’s Home Improvement caved to the pressure.
That decision prompted 200,000 people and faith leaders from around the country to rally around the show and call on Lowe’s to make a public commitment to reinstate their advertising,
However, despite the groundswell of support in that moment, not enough people actually tuned in to watch the show every week. The noncontroversial, unsensationalistic nature of the families featured was certainly helpful in advancing a public conversation about the portrayal of the American Muslim community, but it may not have made for the kind of reality television that scores well in the ratings.
As Alyssa Rosenberg has pointed out, the Muslim community would certainly benefit from greater saturation in the media at large. Consistently including fully-developed Muslim characters in scripted television shows and movies – similar to the way that the LGBT community has broken into pop culture – may help achieve the “normalizing” benefits of cultural exposure without relying on a sensationalizing format. Rather than a reality show, perhaps the next step ought to be more along the lines of a Muslim version of the Cosby Show.