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.
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.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan—the Archbishop of New York—weighed in on the issue after Mass on Sunday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral:
“Whatever we do, and however strongly we feel, we do it charitably, we do it civilly. We don’t judge the motives of other people. We just try, in a confident, peaceful, inviting way, to make our position felt, to invite other people to respect it.”
[T]his time the attacks on women’s authority in the public square through sexual shaming didn’t work. The advent of new media, and especially social media, means women’s voices can retain and even gain authority in the face of attack.