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After Hosting Anti-LGBT Hate Group, NPR Acknowledges "We Have To Do A Better Job"

December 17, 2015 4:34 pm ET by Rachel Percelay & Equality Matters staff

After NPR's The Diane Rehm Show hosted a spokesman from a notorious anti-gay hate group during a discussion of same-sex adoption, NPR's ombudsman admitted that the show erred in failing to properly identify the group.

On the December 10 edition of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, guest host Melissa Ross interviewed Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council (FRC), to discuss legal battles over parenting and adoption rights for same-sex couples. While the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed FRC as an anti-gay hate group since 2010, NPR didn't identify Sprigg as a hate group spokesman, and Sprigg used the platform to peddle misinformation about LGBT equality. 

In a post responding to criticisms of the segment, NPR's ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen joined Diane Rehm in acknowledging that the show erred by "not us[ing] a clear identifier" for Sprigg. Rehm admitted that she has "to do a better job of being more careful about identification":

I heard from many people after Media Matters for America, which calls itself a "progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media," wrote a blog post objecting to a guest on the Dec. 10 Diane Rehm Show (which had a guest host, Melissa Ross, that day). Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, was one of four guests invited to discuss the day's topic: legal battles over parenting and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

Media Matters wrote that NPR (which distributes the show but does not produce it) gave Sprigg "a national platform to peddle misinformation about same-sex parenting." The organization Faithful America also sent an email blast that said: "Tell NPR: Don't let anti-gay hate group speak for Christians."

In the last 45 seconds of the program, as Ross was focused on wrapping up, Sprigg said that "most orthodox Christians" believe that "engaging in homosexual conduct is contrary to the will of God," a claim that depends on the murky definition of "orthodox Christians." (See this May 2015 Pew Research Center poll looking at Americans' attitudes over whether their religious beliefs are in conflict with homosexuality.) But as I read the transcript, the show's other guests forcefully pushed back against Sprigg's other claims at pretty much every turn.

I asked Rehm about the guest booking. Her view (with which I agree): "I certainly don't see that there's a problem having someone like that on the program." Where the show erred, she said, "was we did not use a clear identifier [for Sprigg] other than the title of his organization." She added, "We have to do a better job of being more careful about identification."

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