MSNBC and CNN both shined a spotlight on the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the extreme anti-gay group behind Arizona’s recent effort to allow businesses to refuse service to gay customers. The networks’ decisions to profile ADF stand in stark contrast to a broader media tendency to ignore anti-gay group’s records of extremism.
In the same week that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer chose to veto SB 1062, a measure that would have expanded protections for businesses refusing service to gay customers, both CNN and MSNBC ran segments profiling ADF, which drafted the law along with the Center for Arizona policy.
During the February 25 edition of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper noted the similarities between the talking points used by proponents of SB 1062 and similar measures in other states, tracing their shared “genetic code” back to ADF. Though Cooper invited ADF to participate in the segment, the group declined:
"This is America!" With that call to jingoism, Fox News legal correspondent Shannon Bream gave voice to a disconcerting push to grant private businesses the right to discriminate.
Bream's moment of candor came after her guest, Bernie Goldberg, cogently explained that business owners operating on Main Street don't get to pick and choose whom they serve and whom they refuse to serve. Bream jumped in:
Why not? Why not? I mean, this is America. We all have freedoms. I mean, why would you want to do business with somebody, no matter what your personal issue was that they had with you, why would you want to force them to do business with you? Why not just go down the street and say, "I'm going to spend my money to somebody who supports me and is kind to me and wants to help me and provide these services for me."
"Corporations are people, my friend," Mitt Romney quipped on the campaign trail in 2012. Increasingly, loud voices on the right are agitating to make sure that corporations and private businesses are seen as religious people who can always discriminate against employees and customers based on their religious beliefs.
At issue is a provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring for-profit businesses that offer health insurance to include coverage for contraceptive care. Religious groups, rallying behind the owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores, challenged that provision, arguing that it violated the right of Christian business owners to practice their religion.
In part this is the logical outcome of the push on the right to be more permissive of discrimination in the private sector, which Bream eloquently laid out by shouting "America" and "freedom."
In 2010, Rand Paul came under fire for saying that he objected to laws that prohibited businesses from discriminating. "I think it's bad business to exclude anybody from your restaurant," he said, "but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership." Paul expressed general support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but lamented the fact that it extended to private businesses, a core piece of the legislation. The market, Paul argued, would take care of businesses that chose to discriminate.
Because private businesses ought to get to discriminate. And I won't ever go to a place that's racist, and I will tell everybody else not to and I'll speak against them. But it should be their right to be racist.
That hypothesis, that private businesses should have the right to discriminate and be punished by the marketplace, has played out in recent days in the debate over an anti-gay bill in Arizona that would have made it easier for businesses to discriminate against gay customers.
That fight came after months of Fox News pushing anecdotes about Christian business owners under siege by laws the kept them from forcing their religious views onto employees and customers.
After months of championing business owners who discriminated against gay customers, Fox News showed further signs of whiplash celebrating Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of a pro-discrimination bill as a sign that the GOP is "growing the tent," despite the party's continued and overwhelming opposition to marriage equality and basic nondiscrimination protections.
During the February 27 edition of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Carlson sat down with Democratic strategist Bernard Whitman and Fox contributor Tony Sayegh to discuss Brewer's veto of the measure, which would have allowed individuals and businesses to refuse to serve gay people on religious grounds.
Carlson heralded the veto as a sign of a changing GOP, while Sayegh asserted it was yet another instance of the GOP "stepping up to the plate, consistently defending an individual's right to be free in this country":
SAYEGH: The significance for [Brewer], though, is this is someone who's often been found to be on the extreme right. So the fact that she even realizes - and I'd add Mitt Romney's name, John McCain, Sen. Flake, the other Arizona senator - that the most core principle of the Republican Party is liberty and freedom. She preserved that by doing what she did.
CARLSON: Since you bring that up, it's interesting to note - does this mean that the Republican Party is growing a bigger tent, so to speak? Just last week we were discussing that at CPAC, the conservative convention coming up in a couple of weeks, that they invited GOProud, a gay organization, to be a part of it. Is this significant, Bernard, that maybe the Republican Party is growing the tent?
Fox News dedicated its first segment on Gov. Brewer's veto of Arizona's anti-gay bill to an interview with one of America's most notorious anti-gay hate group leaders.
On February 26, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced that she had vetoed Senate Bill 1062, which would have allowed businesses and individuals to engage in legal discrimination by denying services to gay people on religious grounds. Brewer said that the bill "does not address a specific or pressing concern," and that it "is broadly worded, and could result in unintended and negative consequences."
Fox's Megyn Kelly opened the February 26 edition of her show with a segment on Brewer's veto that featured Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council. Kelly gave Perkins a platform to lambast the veto as an example of "how fundamental freedoms are trampled," while citing a New Mexico couple who were prosecuted for refusing service to a same-sex couple as proof that the law differs from discrimination against mixed-race couples in that it "address[es] some very significant problems":
Catholic League President Bill Donohue's anti-equality arguments collapsed under questioning from CNN host Chris Cuomo, who tried to get Donohue to explain how marriage equality undermines religious freedom. Donohue couldn't point to any specific damage done by marriage equality, but resorted to comparisons of same-sex marriage with polygamy and condemnation of the modern notion that marriage should be based on love.
During the February 27 edition of CNN's New Day, Donohue sat down with Cuomo to discuss Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of a measure that would have allowed individuals and businesses to refuse service to gay couples on religious grounds. Donohue defended the bill as an effort to protect religious liberty, leading Cuomo to ask how marriage equality engenders religious freedom.
Donohue couldn't point to any negative consequences - religious or otherwise - of allowing same-sex couples to marry, but he made clear he wasn't happy about "alternative lifestyles" or the shift away from the notion that marriage is about "duty," not shared love and commitment:
CUOMO: How does gay marriage compromise your rights?
DONOHUE: Gay marriage - the problem with gay marriage is this - it makes a smorgasbord. It basically says that there's no profound difference, socially speaking, between marriage between a man and woman - the only union which can create a family - and other examples.
CUOMO: Who says that's the purpose of marriage? What if you want lifelong companionship and commitment?
DONOHOUE: If a man and woman don't have sex, we can't reproduce, can we? We can't propagate.
CUOMO: But you don't have to be married to propagate.
DONOHUE: No, that's right.
CUOMO: You don't have to want to have kids to be married.
DONOHUE: Look, I don't want alternative lifestyles to be exactly that. I want marriage to be given a privileged position.
CUOMO: Who says it's an alternative lifestyle? Why isn't it just a lifestyle?
DONOHUE: Well, you want to make it that way and a lot of people - polygamy ...
Radio host Laura Ingraham allowed Brad Dacus of the discredited Pacific Justice Institute to peddle long-debunked myths about a new California law allowing transgender students to use facilities and participate in programs that match their gender identities. Dacus' claims about the law's implementation fly in the face of how California officials are carrying the new policy out.
During the February 26 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show, Dacus continued his organization's pattern of lying in the service of undermining transgender protections. In October 2013, the organization invented a story about a transgender Colorado teen harassing her peers in the restroom. The Colorado lie came in the wake of a concerted right-wing media push to depict transgender rights as an assault on others' privacy in the restroom. On Ingraham's program, Dacus warned the law would allow students to declare a different gender from day to day if they wanted to, with boys securing access to the girls' restroom "for the thrill of it":
INGRAHAM: Do you have to declare your belief about what you think about your gender and that's set in stone, or can you change it day to day? I mean it gets very confusing for people, I think. ... How does it go?
DACUS: Yeah, the law allows them to change every day if they want. There's no requirement on --
INGRAHAM: That you declare, "OK, I want to use the male bathroom as a woman because that's the way I feel like I'm situated and that's the way, that's what I have to do to respect who I am." And you don't have to declare that and then that's it for the year. You have to -- you can just keep changing it.
School officials across California have debunked Dacus' claim. In interviews with Equality Matters, school district spokespersons stated that eligibility for the law would be determined on a case-by-case basis, with counselors and other professionals ensuring that a student's gender identity is consistent and persistent.
Some school districts - including Los Angeles Unified and San Francisco Unified - have had trans-affirmative policies in place for a decade and haven't experienced a single instance of inappropriate bathroom or locker room behavior.
"We don't let children [decide], 'I'm gonna be girl during P.E. and the rest of the day I'm going to be a boy," Los Angeles Unified's Judy Chiasson told Equality Matters.
After months of championing anti-gay business owners and criticizing efforts to protect gay and lesbian customers from discrimination, Fox News is finally waking up to the consequences of its fear mongering campaign – and it doesn’t like what it’s seeing.
Fox Drinks The Pro-Discrimination Kool-Aid
The Supreme Court’s historic decision to strike down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013 left many anti-gay marriage activists reeling. Recognizing that their decade long fight against marriage equality was quickly becoming a lost cause, many anti-gay conservatives turned their attention to an issue that they believed might offer them more traction – the religious liberty of anti-gay business owners.
While opponents of marriage equality have long warned about businesses being forced to serve gay couples, it’s only recently that the issue of protecting anti-gay business owners became a rallying cry for social conservatives.
That rallying cry has been largely amplified by Fox News, which in recent months has worked to tout anti-gay business owners as martyrs, victimized by gay activists seeking services for their same-sex weddings and commitment ceremonies.
Falsely accusing gay activists of ushering the “death of free enterprise” in America, Fox News has highlighted a number of anti-gay horror stories in which religious business owners have faced penalties for refusing to serve gay customers:
In each of these cases, the business owners were found to have violated their state’s non-discrimination laws. And in each of these cases, Fox News depicted the business owners as victims whose religious freedoms were being threatened by being required to serve gay customers.
Fox News host and Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson championed an Arizona measure that would allow businesses and individuals refuse services to gay people on religious grounds as a bulwark against "fascism."
Appearing on the February 26 edition of America's Newsroom, Carlson told co-host Martha MacCallum that the bill simply promotes "tolerance." The measure, which awaits Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's signature, is opposed by numerous business owners and conservatives, including Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain (R-AZ), 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and three GOP state senators who originally backed the bill. Carlson wasn't swayed by such critics, twice charging that it's "fascism" to require individuals and business owners to provide equal services to gay people:
CARLSON: Well it's pretty simple. I mean, if you want to have a gay wedding, fine, go ahead. If I don't want to bake you a cake for your gay wedding, that's okay too. Or should be. That's called tolerance. But when you try and force me to bake a cake for your gay wedding and threaten me with prison if I don't, that's called fascism.
Carlson's attempts to distinguish between refusing to provide services related to a gay wedding and refusing to serve gay people in general ignore the substance of the bill. New York University constitutional law professor Kenji Yoshino has noted that the measure is broadly written enough that it would allow any individual or business owner to refuse services to any gay person as long as he or she contended that providing services would burden his or her religious beliefs. Carlson's Fox colleague Megyn Kelly seized on the "potentially dangerous" implications of the bill, pointing out that it could allow a doctor to refuse medical treatment to a gay person.
Despite recent criticism of the Arizona measure from some Fox personalities, the network played a major role in encouraging such legislation by waging a concerted campaign to depict marriage equality as a threat to religious liberty.
Writers at National Review have whipped themselves into such an anti-gay fervor recently that they're oblivious to the plainly contradictory points they're trying to make as news of prominent gay athletes and discriminatory anti-gay laws continue to generate headlines this month.
The confused commentary resembles something of a last-ditch effort to salvage a small victory in the right wing's losing culture war over gay rights and marriage equality. Just ten years ago the Republican Party successfully used same-sex marriage as a wedge issue against Democrats in the 2004 campaign. Now, conservatives remain in retreat as public sentiment continues to shift (For the first time, a majority of Ohioans support marriage equality.)
"On this particular issue, the cultural wheel has spun so quickly," noted ESPN's Tony Kornheiser, while discussing the breaking news last week that Jason Collins was signing a contract with the Brooklyn Nets to become the first openly gay player in the NBA.
It was Collins' historic coming out story that helped set off a nasty National Review Online screed by contributing editor Quin Hilyer, who condemned "homosexual chic" and "gay mania" in his February 24 essay. Hilyer complained bitterly about how the "professional Left" is "going bonkers" hyping "active homosexuality (or any one of several exotic variants thereof) as an absolute virtue."
"Enough already with the in-our-faceness from the homosexual activists and their aggressively enthusiastic cheerleaders," Hillyer complained. He was especially angry by the recent press attention University of Missouri star football play Michael Sam received as he stands poised to become the first openly gay NFL player. Hillyer was also upset about "attention-grabbing" Johnny Weir who made headlines and won praise for his astute commentary of Olympic ice-skating for NBC this year.
"The problem isn't homosexuality," Hillyer insisted. "But public sexuality. There was a time, a better time, when the sex lives of strangers were nobody's business," he wrote. "Most Americans assuredly don't much care what other people do."
The message to public gays like Sam and Weir: Tone it down!
But here's the contradiction: While claiming nobody really cares what gays do, Hillyer in the same column, and National Review editors the following day in an unsigned editorial, simultaneously applauded right-wing efforts to pass state-wide laws that discriminate against gays.
In its latest effort to undermine marriage equality, Breitbart.com hopes to drive a wedge between the gay rights movement and African-Americans. It's a strategy the anti-equality movement has attempted before and ignores increasing African-American support for marriage equality.
On February 25, Breitbart published two articles hyping an effort by a conservative coalition of black pastors to impeach Attorney General Eric Holder for "attempting to impose same-sex 'marriage' throughout the nation." Holder encountered withering right-wing criticism after telling state attorneys general on February 24 that they were not obligated to defend their states' marriage equality bans if they deemed them unconstitutional. However, Holder told the attorneys general that their decisions on the matter should be based on legal analysis, not policy preferences.
Breitbart's Taheshah Moise amplified Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP) President Bill Owens' declaration that the gay rights movement is "not a civil rights movement; it's a civil wrongs movement":
Owens said the idea to start the [Holder impeachment] petition began after Obama's 2011 decision to stop defending DOMA, which eventually was overruled. The pastors of the CAAP believe Obama's decision to champion the gay rights movement as a civil rights movement is a gross misapplication.
"They are trying to stand on the backs of real civil rights characters that stood up for what they believe regardless of who they were dealing with. I detest [the Obama administration for] calling it a civil rights movement. It's not a civil rights movement; it's a civil wrongs movement," Owens said.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes effusively praised hate group spokesman Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (AFA) as "one of the most intelligent talk show hosts in the country." Fischer is notorious for making rabidly homophobic statements, including the claim that gay men caused the Holocaust.
During a February 24 appearance on American Family Radio's Focal Point with Bryan Fischer, Starnes and Fischer discussed a halted Federal Communications Commission (FCC) study that would have examined how well newsrooms are meeting the public's "critical information needs" on key public policy issues. Right-wing media hyped the study as an invasive survey that could lead to the federal government dictating news coverage.
While the FCC has backed off the study following public comment, Fischer said it "sounded" like the FCC is "reloading" and will proceed with the study anyway. In his discussion of the study, Fischer accused the Obama administration of trying to censor anti-gay views. Starnes agreed, suggesting that the Bible could soon be censored or outlawed. The Fox commentator praised Fischer's analysis of the FCC study as emblematic of why Fischer is "one of the most intelligent talk show hosts in the country":
After months of championing anti-gay business owners who refuse service to gay customers because of their religious beliefs, Fox News condemned a proposed Arizona law that would protect businesses that discriminate against gay customers, comparing the measure to “Jim Crow laws.”
During the February 25 edition of America’s Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum invited Fox News contributor Juan Williams and The Five co-host Andrea Tantaros to discuss Arizona’s controversial new anti-gay segregation law, SB 1062 which would protect businesses that refuse to serve gay customers on religious grounds. The measure, which awaits Gov. Jan Brewer’s signature, has been condemned by a growing number of conservatives and business owners, including three Republicans senators who regret voting for the bill.
MacCallum, Williams, and Tantaros all condemned the measure, with MacCallum and Tantaros both drawing comparisons between the bill and racist “Jim Crow laws”:
TANTAROS: What has happened, Martha, is this has spiraled totally out of control. And so, while the First Amendment is a really strong argument, I don’t know why you would want to bring Jim Crow laws back to the forefront for homosexuals.
MACCALLUM: I mean, that’s exactly what it sounds like.
TANTAROS: If you’re a business owner, I don’t know why you’d want to turn business away. And if you’re gay, let’s say, why would you want the baker of hate baking your cake anyway? Unfortunately, it has taken a really crazy turn and gotten way out of hand. And as Juan mentioned, a number of Republicans, three of them who voted to pass this said that they would change their mind.
MACCALLUM: It sounds like the lunch counter, Juan.
Fox News has spent the last several months championing anti-gay business owners who refuse to serve gay customers - depicting efforts to prevent discrimination as threats to religious liberty. Now, with several states debating bills that would legalize homophobic discrimination in business and employment, Fox News is now defending the extreme, anti-gay segregation policies it helped to create.
The push to legalize anti-gay discrimination first came to public attention on February 12, when the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing individuals and businesses to refuse any services "related to, or related to the celebration of" any union - effectively allowing blanket protection for the denial of services to gay couples. After a storm of negative publicity, the State Senate has shelved the bill.
Similar bills have recently died in Idaho, South Dakota, and Tennessee, but the Arizona legislature has sent its own license to discriminate measure to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's desk.
The wave of anti-gay segregation measures is the culmination of a concerted right-wing strategy, bolstered by Fox News, to cast anti-gay discrimination as an integral part of religious freedom.
Gay Rights As "The Death Of Free Enterprise"
Long before the public outcry over Kansas' license to discriminate bill, Fox threw its weight behind businesses whose owners refuse, ostensibly on religious grounds, to serve gay and lesbian couples - precisely the form of discrimination that conservative state legislators have sought to legalize.
On December 10, Fox & Friends hosted Colorado baker Jack Phillips and his extremist Alliance Defending Freedom-affiliated attorney to discuss a court ruling that Phillips had violated the state's anti-discrimination law by refusing to serve a same-sex couple. The segment featured a graphic proclaiming "The Death Of Free Enterprise," while co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Phillips why he thought he shouldn't have to discard his "personal religious beliefs just to make a buck."
The editorial board of the National Review ripped into "organized homosexuality" for opposing a measure passed by the Arizona legislature that would allow businesses and individuals to deny services to gay couples on religious grounds, defending the bill as part of the "live-and-let-live" credo.
In an editorial published online on February 24, the conservative publication's editors defended the bill as "necessary," criticizing the "oppression envy" shown by LGBT activists who have opposed the law and rejecting comparisons of the legislation to Jim Crow laws (emphasis added):
It is perhaps unfortunate that it has come to this, but organized homosexuality, a phenomenon that is more about progressive pieties than gay rights per se, remains on the permanent offensive in the culture wars. Live-and-let-live is a creed that the gay lobby specifically rejects: The owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado was threatened with a year in jail for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. New Mexico photographer Elaine Huguenin was similarly threatened for declining to photograph a same-sex wedding. It is worth noting that neither the baker nor the photographer categorically refuses services to homosexuals; birthday cakes and portrait photography were both on the menu. The business owners specifically objected to participating in a civic/religious ceremony that violated their own consciences.
Gay Americans, like many members of minority groups, are poorly served by their self-styled leadership. Like feminists and union bosses, the leaders of the nation's gay organizations suffer from oppression envy, likening their situation to that of black Americans — as though having to find a gay-friendly wedding planner (pro tip: try swinging a dead cat) were the moral equivalent of having spent centuries in slavery and systematic oppression under Jim Crow. Their goal is not toleration or even equal rights but official victim-group status under law and in civil society, allowing them to use the courts and other means of official coercion to impose their own values upon those who hold different values.
Which is to say, what is regrettable here is not Arizona's law but the machinations that have made it necessary. It seems unlikely that those religious bakers and photographers were chosen at random, or that their antagonists will stop until such diversity of opinion as exists about the subject of gay marriage has been put under legal discipline.
The editors' assertion that the measure only targets services related to same-sex marriage has been debunked by experts. As constitutional law professor Kenji Yoshino of New York University has noted, the measure is written broadly enough that any individual or business owner would be allowed to refuse service to any gay person on the grounds that doing business with a gay person imposed a substantial burden on his or her religious beliefs.
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo highlighted the extreme anti-LGBT history of the legal organization that helped write an Arizona bill that would allow individuals and businesses to refuse to serve gay people on religious grounds, noting the group's record of opposing LGBT equality under the guise of protecting religious liberty.
As the Religion News Service noted on February 21, the principal drafters of the Arizona anti-gay segregation measure were the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy and the Scottsdale-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Spokespersons from both organizations have commented publicly on the bill, but media coverage has featured scant attention to the strident anti-LGBT positions taken by ADF in particular.
But in an interview with ADF attorney Kellie Fiedorek on the February 24 edition of New Day, Cuomo refused to let ADF escape scrutiny. Like other supporters of the measure, Fiedorek dodged uncomfortable questions about whether the bill would allow businesses to discriminate against gay customers.
But when Fiedorek compared requiring businesses to serve gay customers to asking a Muslim to participate in a burning of the Koran or an African-American to photograph a KKK rally, Cuomo pushed back, noting the ADF's record of defending anti-gay discrimination:
CNN anchors grilled an Arizona anti-gay activist who refused to answer whether a measure passed by the state legislature would allow businesses to discriminate against gay customers. In reality, the bill would allow businesses and individuals to refuse to serve gay customers without fear of punishment or a lawsuit.
During the February 21 edition of CNN’s This Hour, co-anchors John Berman and Michaela Pereira asked Cathi Herrod – president of the conservative Center for Arizona Policy Action – to explain a measure in Arizona that would protect businesses and individuals who discriminate against gay customers on religious grounds. The bill, SB 1062, which awaits Gov. Jan Brewer’s signature, mirrors “anti-gay segregation” bills being considered in states like South Dakota and Idaho.
Near the end of the segment, CNN’s Berman asked Herrod, whose group actively supports passage of the measure, whether the bill would allow a restaurant to ban a gay couple. Herrod repeatedly dodged the question, visibly frustrating CNN’s anchors:
In reality, the Arizona’s anti-gay segregation billwould protect a restaurant owner that chooses to ban gay couples. According to the Associated Press:
The bill allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination. It also allows the business or person to seek an injunction once they show their actions are based on a sincere religious belief and the claim places a burden on the exercise of their religion.
Opponents raised scenarios in which gay people in Arizona could be denied service at a restaurant or refused medical treatment if a business owner thought homosexuality was not in accordance with his religion. One lawmaker held up a sign that read "NO GAYS ALLOWED" in arguing what could happen if the law took effect, drawing a rebuke for violating rules that bar signs on the House floor.
Continuing his defense of draconian state legislation to allow individuals and businesses to refuse services to gay people on religious grounds, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson suggested that businesses serving gay couples were “aiding and abetting sin.”
Erickson continued his criticism of his Fox News colleague Kirsten Powers’ recent USA Today column, in which Powers criticized “homosexual Jim Crow laws” currently being debated in several state legislatures. Those laws would allow businesses to refuse service to gay customers for religious reasons.
In her column, Powers, an evangelical Christian herself, argued that Christians shouldn’t refuse services to people simply because they disagreed with them, noting that many “Christians serve unrepentant murders through prison ministry.” Erickson responded by asserting that, unlike prison ministers, businesses that serve gay couples would be “aiding and abetting” sin:
This isn’t the first time Erickson has defended anti-gay business discrimination. After a Colorado court ruled in December that a baker had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to serve a gay couple, Erickson blasted “evil” gay rights activists for allegedly using non-discrimination protections to wage war on Christians. Commenting in August on the case of a New Mexico photographer who refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, Erickson solicited donations for the photographer’s attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom – an extremist group working internationally to criminalize homosexuality.
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers and Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes continued their feud over Kansas' anti-gay segregation bill, with Powers calling Starnes out for "lying" in his criticism of her opposition to the measure.
The feud between Starnes and Powers began on February 19 with a USA Today column in which Powers challenged supporters of a Kansas bill which would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gay and lesbian couples on religious grounds. "Christians backing this bill," Powers charged, "are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws." Powers' Fox colleagues Starnes and Erick Erickson swiftly criticized the column and defended the Kansas bill as an effort to protect religious liberty.
Starnes reignited the feud with a February 20 tweet alleging that Powers - an evangelical Christian who quoted religious opponents of the Kansas bill in her column -- showed an ignorance of Christianity:
Powers pushed back, accusing Starnes of lying:
Starnes continued to take umbrage at the comparison between Jim Crow laws and "license to discriminate" legislation, charging Powers with "smearing people" who supported the legislation and accusing his critics of "playing the race card":
Bill O’Reilly criticized the Girl Scouts for hiring a spokesman who, according to O’Reilly, is a member of a “controversial punk band with homosexual overtones.”
During the February 19 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly interviewed Girl Scouts spokeswoman Kelly Parisi to discuss whether the organization had begun “leaning left.” O’Reilly questioned Parisi about the employment of Josh Ackley, a spokesman for the organization that O’Reilly claimed was a member of “a controversial punk band with homosexual overtones”:
O’REILLY: Let’s get on to a spokesperson who I don’t think works for you now but certainly did, was a member of a controversial punk band with homosexual overtones. …When I saw that you guys hired, paid a guy in a punk band with homosexual overtones, I’m going ‘is that a good choice for the Girl Scouts?’
O’REILLY: You then have to understand the flak when conservative Americans see a spokesperson for the Girl Scouts who is a member or was a member of a punk rock band with homosexual overtones. They’re going ‘what the deuce is going on?’ Surely you understand that.
The spokesperson in question is Josh Ackley. Last December, Breitbart.com’s go-to anti-gay extremist Austin Ruse published an article attacking Ackley for his involvement in a “homo-punk” rock band called The Dead Betties. The article was part of a smear campaign Ruse has led against Ackley since late 2011, in conservative publications like The Washington Times and National Review Online.
On February 18, O’Reilly picked up Ruse’s efforts, mentioning Ackley by name while discussing whether the Girl Scouts had been taken over by “secular progressives.”
It’s not the first time O’Reilly has worried about homosexuality in a national scouting organization. In 2004, he said that it would be “impossible for… any children’s organization to admit avowed homosexuals because of the potential liability.”
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers condemned a legislative push in Kansas to legalize religiously-motivated anti-gay business and employment discrimination, contradicting Fox News' pattern of defending anti-gay discrimination and sparking criticism from Powers' Fox News colleagues.
In a column for USA Today published on February 19, Powers blasted a Kansas bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples based on the owner's religious views. Since its passage by the state House of Representatives on February 12, the bill has been shelved by the Kansas Senate. Powers took issue with supporters of "homosexual Jim Crow laws" using Christianity to justify anti-gay bigotry - a common practice at Fox News (emphasis added):
Whether Christians have the legal right to discriminate should be a moot point because Christianity doesn't prohibit serving a gay couple getting married. Jesus calls his followers to be servants to all. Nor does the Bible call service to another an affirmation.
Christians backing this bill are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws.
Christians serve unrepentant murderers through prison ministry. So why can't they provide a service for a same-sex marriage?
Some claim it's because marriage is so sacred. But double standards abound. Christian bakers don't interrogate wedding clients to make sure their behavior comports with the Bible. If they did, they'd be out of business. [Evangelical pastor Andy] Stanley said, "Jesus taught that if a person is divorced and gets remarried, it's adultery. So if (Christians) don't have a problem doing business with people getting remarried, why refuse to do business with gays and lesbians."
Maybe they should just ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?" I think he'd bake the cake.
Powers' Fox colleague Erick Erickson made clear that he wasn't a fan of her column, tweeting a link to a blog post that criticized her position and called the right to refuse service essential to "the common good." Erickson called the post "your must read of the day":