Right Wing Media, Anti-Gay Groups Attack Obama Over Ties To “It Gets Better” Project
May 04, 2012 2:09 pm ET by Carlos Maza
Gay activist and founder of the “It Gets Better” project, Dan Savage, came under fire following comments he made during last week’s National High School Journalism conference. During a discussion on school bullying, Savage criticized people who use biblical passages to condemn homosexuality, saying “we can learn to ignore the bullshit in the bible about gay people.” Several students walked out of the event in protest, prompting Savage to remark at how “pansy-ass some people react” when LGBT people defend themselves from religious-based bigotry.
In response to his comments, right-wing activists and news outlets have condemned Savage as a “bully” and “anti-Christian bigot.” Others, however, have used the incident as an excuse to attack the Obama administration over its support for the “It Gets Better” campaign.
On Sunday – just two days after video of Savage’s speech reached the internet –Breitbart website Big Government’s Ben Shapiro published an article criticizing the White House for endorsing Savage’s anti-bullying efforts, writing:
[T]here’s much more to Dan Savage than just anti-religious bullying. He’s one of the biggest bullies on the planet. And he’s the point person the White House specifically chose – and fundraised for – in order to push their anti-bullying agenda.
Now, it’s not as though the White House was ignorant of the fact that the It Gets Better Project is run by Savage. On the contrary – search the White House website for Savage’s name, and two It Gets Better links come up. Not just that – in June 2011, Savage himself visited the White House and hung out with Administration officials; the picture above shows Savage, his partner Terry Miller, and Vice President Biden as snug as peas in a pod. And Biden isn’t the only high official Savage hung out with.
In addition, Shapiro published a list of administration officials who had participated in producing videos for the “It Gets Better” project, asking them to “either step away from the It Gets Better Project” or call for Savage’s resignation from it. “Anything less,” he wrote, “is an endorsement of his bully tactics.”
Other right-wing outlets quickly jumped on board.
Fox Nation promoted Shapiro’s list, criticizing “Dem Elites” for teaming up with “Anti-Christian Bully Dan Savage”:
The Blaze followed suit, publishing an article chronicling Savage’s “history of bizarre rhetoric & ties to the Obama White House”:
RedState escalated the attack, going so far as to accuse the Obama administration of choosing Savage to be its “handpicked ambassador” to “attack Christians”:
Dan Savage is President Obama’s handpicked ambassador to represent his administration and to attack Christians, the Bible, and Christianity. The War on Christians is very real. The administration plan is very clear. They will attack the church for being intolerant of ideas and practices that contradict Biblical teachings. We have seen it in the Obamacare mandate and we see it now in the administration’s endorsement of homosexuality and the bullying of those who refuse to conform.
It wasn’t long before anti-gay activists jumped at the opportunity to attack the administration for its pro-LGBT policies. Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins went on Mike Huckabee’s radio show to attack Obama for “anoint[ing]” Savage as “an apostle of division and intolerance.” As Perkins wrote in his May 1 Washington Update:
As I told Mike Huckabee during an interview yesterday, the White House has given Savage a platform through his "It Gets Better" campaign to be an apostle of division and intolerance. By lending him that legitimacy, he's gaining access to schools across America for what is ultimately a one-sided, hate-filled assault on free speech. And in the end, it's the children who suffer. People like Dan Savage are putting so much attention on homosexuality that it's actually preventing us from dealing with the real problems of bullying. Even liberal surveys show that " students are more often bullied, called names, or harassed because of 'the way they look or their body size' than because of their sexual orientation." [emphasis added]
And by Wednesday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) had launched an email campaign calling on the administration to distance itself from Savage’s comments:
However, in reality, the Obama administration’s ties to Dan Savage are tenuous at best.
It is true that several administration officials, including Obama, have endorsed and made videos for the anti-bullying “It Gets Better” project. So have 30,000 other individuals, organizations, and politicians since the project’s inception. If, as Shapiro asserts, making these videos is akin to ‘essentially fundraising’ for Savage, then a laundry list of other entities – including Google, the World Bank, professional sports teams, and even service members in Afghanistan – are also guilty of promoting Savage’s alleged “anti-Christian” bigotry.
It’s also true that Savage was invited to last year’s reception for LGBT Pride month at the White House, where he was photographed talking to Vice President Joe Biden. As the founder of perhaps the most influential and successful grassroots anti-bullying campaign in American history, it seems reasonable for Savage to be invited to attend. Savage was one of several hundred attendees, and even wore a button calling on Obama to “evolve already” and support marriage equality.
None of this is exactly evidence of an insidious, secretive anti-Christian alliance. The Obama administration recognized the importance of combating bullying against anti-LGBT youth and decided to lend its support to a wildly popular anti-bullying campaign. Unfortunately for anti-gay groups and news outlets, breathless headlines do not a real news story make.