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MSNBC Invites FRC’s Peter Sprigg To Defend Bachmann’s “Ex-Gay” Clinic

July 14, 2011 3:05 pm ET by Carlos Maza

MSNBC has demonstrated yet again that it has no problem turning to the Family Research Council (FRC) -- which has been labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- for commentary about LGBT issues.

On Tuesday, the network invited Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at FRC, and R. Clarke Cooper, Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans, to discuss a recent investigation which revealed that Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s (R-MN) husband was offering “ex-gay therapy” to patients at one of his Christian counseling centers.

In the past, Sprigg has recommended exporting gays and lesbians out of the United States and attempted to link homosexuality to pedophilia. Sprigg has also criticized student gay-straight alliances for supposedly promoting “high-risk behaviors” and has argued that the “most effective way” of reducing anti-LGBT bullying is to have kids stop identifying as LGBT.

This kind of over-the-top anti-LGBT animus isn’t enough to keep Sprigg off the air at MSNBC, unfortunately.

During the segment, Sprigg couldn’t seem to figure out why the Bachmann clinic’s practice of “ex-gay therapy” is “even news”:

SPRIGG: Well, I’m surprised that this story is getting so much attention, that this is even news. This type of therapy or counseling is based on the undeniable fact that some people who experience same-sex attractions experience them as something unwanted. And it’s based on a fundamental ethical principle in the counseling profession which is client autonomy: that the client sets the goals for therapy and the therapist helps the client attain their own goals.

It’s news because Rep. Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, has previously called gay people “barbarians” who “need to be educated.”

It’s news because, in 2006, Marcus Bachmann denied offering “ex-gay therapy” to his clients.

It’s news because Marcus Bachmann’s clinic has received tens of thousands of dollars the federal government.

And it’s news because Rep. Bachmann, who, according to some polls, is currently the GOP frontrunner in Iowa, includes Marcus as one of her primary political strategists.

Sprigg wants his audience to believe that people who provide this kind of therapy are just helping clients who are consciously seeking to rid themselves of unwanted same-sex attractions. What he doesn’t disclose is that “ex-gay therapy” has been demonstrated to be ineffective and psychologically damaging to gay men and lesbians, which is why it’s been discredited by every major medical association in the United States Sprigg also fails to mention that many of those that undergo “ex-gay therapy,” even at Bachmann’s clinic, do so against their will under pressure from their parents.

Later on in the segment, Sprigg decries the “intolerance” of those who oppose this kind of treatment:

SPRIGG: The only intolerance here is intolerance towards those people who are seeking help for what they consider unwanted sexual attraction. That’s the intolerance that we’re seeing here.

It isn’t “intolerance” to oppose a medical practice that has been demonstrated to inflict serious harm to patients. Does Sprigg spend many sleepless nights worrying about the “intolerance” experienced by sick patients hoping to undergo leeching? Anorexic patients asking for liposuction? Athletic patients looking to be treated with steroids?   

Sprigg spent the segment portraying “ex-gay therapy” as some kind legitimate and reasonable solution for those who feel guilty about being gay.

While MSNBC host Richard Lui did label Sprigg’s comments “extreme,” MSNBC must do more. Failing to aggressively and proactively challenge the myth of “ex-gay therapy” isn’t just intellectually lazy; It put real LGBT people at risk. As Aaron McQuade of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) wrote:

If even one parent who thinks his or her child might be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, sees media coverage of this issue and comes away with even a sliver of doubt as to whether so-called “ex-gay therapy” is a terrible idea – if even one parent thinks they don’t need to love and accept their child exactly the way they are and that they can try to change them – if even one young person or adult sees one of these stories and decides to try it out for themselves – then the media has failed to cover this issue accurately.

It’s hard to imagine MSNBC didn’t know what it was getting into, either. In a February 2010 appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, Sprigg said he supported instituting “criminal sanctions” against those who engage in “gay behavior.” The network has already been forced to clarify statements made by FRC President Tony Perkins after he, in front of countless viewers, falsely claimed scientific evidence found a link between homosexuality and pedophilia.

MSNBC should know better. If Peter Sprigg is the most qualified person the network can find to defend “ex-gay therapy,” it’s probably a sign that there aren’t really two sides to this story.


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