Fox Dreams Up Media’s Obama “Double Standard” When Discussing Same-Sex Marriage
January 11, 2012 1:00 pm ET by Carlos Maza
Now that a majority of Americans support marriage equality, politicians of all stripes are having an increasingly difficult time explaining their opposition to same-sex marriage. Over the course of their campaigns, GOP presidential candidates like Rick Santorum have been subject to scrutiny over their views, facing tough questions during debates, campaign events, and media appearances, and sometimes having to defend their positions in front of openly combative audiences.
Fox News – not pleased to see Republicans facing tough questions on the campaign trail – has responded predictably, condemning the mainstream media for its “double standard” and accusing other news networks of unfairly targeting conservatives while supposedly ignoring President Obama’s own unwillingness to support marriage equality.
On January 9, Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson told Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy that “the press gives [Obama] a pass” on questions about gay marriage in order to make GOP candidates look extreme:
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE: Why is the mainstream media harping on this over and over again? I don’t get it. Are they not reading the papers? Do they not see what’s going on in this country? Why aren’t you focusing on the economy? Why are you nitpicking about these issues? And in fact they wouldn’t do it if it was the other way. I mean this is what bothers me about it.
GREG GUTFELD: Yeah. That’s a good point, Eric. You know, obviously President Obama shares the same opinion and stance on gay marriage. Do you think he’s going to come out of the gun the way they have?
ERIC BOLLING: No. I mean he’s never going to get that question asked of him, especially from the mainstream media.
GUILFOYLE: To the Democrats, right.
BOLLING: You’re not going to get it on ABC, you’re not going to get it on MSNBC.
DANA PERINO: I think the reason that they – look, he [Obama] is on 60 Minutes once a month. OK? They never ask him this question, because they know that he doesn’t, in his heart, he’s not really against gay marriage. That he just has to say it so that he can be elected. It’s such a double standard on that.
GUILFOYLE: But he doesn’t get in trouble for it, Dana.
PERINO: I know!
And yesterday morning, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson repeated the claim that “nobody talks about” the fact that Obama also opposes same-sex marriage:
CARLSON: How long have people been talking about the breakdown of the family as one of the main problems we’re facing in America? Hard to think that that could be booed. And by the way, President Obama agrees with Rick Santorum about gay marriage, which nobody talks about.
Contrary to Carlson’s assertion, the “mainstream media” has been anything but silent over Obama’s opposition to same-sex marriage. Since late October of 2010 – when the president announced that his feelings about gay marriage were “evolv[ing]” – he’s been repeatedly pressed on the issue by a number of mainstream and even LGBT-friendly media sources.
In December 2010, following the passage of legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” ABC News’ Jake Tapper asked Obama if it was “intellectually consistent” to allow gays and lesbians to “fight and die for this country” while simultaneously denying them the right to marry.
When the Obama administration announced in March 2011 that it would no longer be defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court, ABC again noted that marriage was a “sticky issue” for the president. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews even invited R. Clark Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, to criticize the president for not going far enough to support same-sex marriage.
Media attention to the president’s marriage position reached a fever pitch last June, however, as the New York legislature prepared to vote on a historic marriage equality bill at the same time that Obama was scheduled to attend several major LGBT events.
During a White House news conference, Obama was asked twice about his views on same-sex marriage, with NBC’s Chuck Todd pointing out the troubling similarity between his position and the position taken by many Americans who opposed racial desegregation.
MSNBC hosted several prominent leaders from the gay community who criticized the president for pushing the “snooze button” on marriage equality. Andrea Mitchell openly wondered if Obama would “cop out” by failing to declare his full support for same-sex marriage, while Willie Geist commented that Obama was having a hard time getting “gay marriage” to “roll off his lips.” Lawrence O’Donnell pressed David Axelrod on what it would take to get Obama to change his “public” position on the issue.
CNN’s coverage followed a similar pattern, hosting gay advocates who urged the president to “get on with it” and running segment after segment to discuss when and if the president’s position on marriage equality would evolve.
Progressive and LGBT-friendly media outlets have actually been some of the most aggressive in attacking the president’s position on marriage. During the progressive Netroots Nation convention in June 2011, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer was grilled over a 1996 questionnaire in which then-state-senate-candidate Obama stated that he supported marriage equality.
Chris Johnson, a reporter for the gay news publication Washington Blade, has pressed White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about Obama’s marriage position over and over and over again. And just yesterday, Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner explicitly asked Carney to explain the differences between Obama and Santorum’s positions on same-sex marriage.
The reality is that Obama’s ongoing opposition to marriage equality has been well documented for months by mainstream media outlets. In the midst of the Republican presidential primary, it’s only fair that GOP candidates face similar scrutiny.