“I’m going to start with probably the most vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and that is Tony Perkins. He is the president of the Family Research Council. And, Mr. Perkins, I’m going to say this to you upfront: You and your group have been so strong in coming out against this– and against gay marriage that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group. We have been inundated by people who say we should not even let you appear because they, in their view, quote, ‘You don’t speak for Christians.’ Do you think you have taken this too far?”
Schieffer made a rather serious error here: the SPLC doesn’t, as he suggests, designate the FRC as a hate group because of its strident anti-gay views. Rather, the FRC is so listed because of its long history of promulgating false propaganda against homosexuals. It’s a very important distinction because Perkins and his apologists have presented this designation as being, instead, a consequence of their promotion of “Christian values” and “traditional marriage.” Perkins demagogues the SPLC and doesn’t engage with the real reason behind the SPLC’s judgment. The corporate press, which regularly employs Perkins as a source, largely conceals this information as well, treating the FRC as a serious policy org. So Schieffer botched that set-up but he at least earns kudos for pointing out the hate-group designation, something those other outlets virtually never do.
Even this was far too much exposure for the MRC. The day of Perkins’ appearance, Jeffrey Meyer whined
“Schieffer apparently didn't see the irony of him scolding Perkins for saying that a national law legalizing gay marriage would result in an ‘open season on people of faith’ when earlier in the segment he told the FRC president that wanted to deny him the right to free speech and not invite him on the broadcast.”
Meyer’s grammatical error aside, perhaps someone should explain to the analysts at the Media Research Center that “the right to free speech” doesn't include the right to appear on Face the Nation.
Meyer chided Schieffer for displaying “some extremely sloppy journalism when he asked ‘[d]id you really say that justices who come down on the side of gays on this should be impeached?… Because there are reports to that affect’ despite Perkins denying ever making such comments.” But, of course, Perkins only denied making it after he was asked. He denied it (“No, I didn’t say that”); he denied it again; he denied it a third time. “I didn’t say anything about impeachment of the judges.” Meyer continued:
“Isn’t it the job of a news organization like CBS News to actually research things their guests have said rather than asking them to defend an alleged statement they made? Instead of doing some basic research on Perkins, Schieffer seemed more than happy to level baseless attacks at him while he clearly showed his displeasure with having to interview someone who doesn’t agree with his political agenda.”
Meyer of course offers no evidence that Schieffer has some “political agenda” in this matter but in saying Schieffer had leveled “baseless attacks” on Perkins, he flunked the very “basic research” test he’d slammed Schieffer for failing. Only a week before his Face the Nation appearance, Perkins had discussed the gay marriage case on a radio show with Jan Mickelson:
MICKELSON: Instead of doing what you implied could be done, that is, remove [the Supreme Court’s] jurisdiction… Congress could say “that was a ridiculous decision. We’re nullifying it and removing your jurisdiction. If you try it again, we’ll impeach your sorry keisters.”
PERKINS: I don’t disagree with you. I think you’re absolutely right.
Thursday, when a gaggle of right-wing figures sent a letter of protest to the president of CBS News, the MRC was there to pimp the cause:
“The letter slammed Bob Schieffer for his recent bigoted and biased remarks and put forward conservative support for Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins.”
The letter itself is a raving rant, pretty much boilerplate right-wing faux-outrage in which the signers amusingly declare that Tony Perkins does, indeed, speak for America’s Christians (something Perkins himself perpetually asserts, thus provoking the outrage) and that questioning him is an attack on same:
“The interview was more than sloppy journalism. It was an assault against Judeo-Christian people of faith.
“The work that FRC and its president Tony Perkins do to promote healthy families and traditional values is irreplaceable in our culture. To suggest, as Schieffer did, that FRC doesn’t represent Christians flies in the face of reality. The millions of Americans that we, the undersigned, collectively represent are proof of that.”
The signers describe the Southern Poverty Law Center as “discredited” — which is a lie — and says Schieffer used it “to smear the FRC,” which “is outrageous given that an SPLC supporter shot and wounded a security guard inside the FRC’s headquarters in 2012.”
Sensing a disconnect there?
As with every public comment by rightists in defense of the FRC on this matter, the letter smears the SPLC while utterly failing to address any of the substantive criticism it has leveled. The FRC has spent decades“purveying demonstrably false propaganda portraying homosexuals as subhuman degenerates, predatory pedophiles out to get your children, anti-family, anti-religious, disease-ridden junkie militants who live short, depressed lives, mentally deranged people who can be “cured,” who, as homosexuals, have no place in society. People who should be made illegal, both at home and abroad.” The letter writers don’t regard the FRC as a “radical group” for such activities; they slaps that label on the SPLC for merely pointing them out.
"CBS, however, continues to use them [the SPLC] as a ‘resource’ to smear upstanding Christians and Christian leaders such as Tony Perkins… CBS is now linked to the disgraced SPLC and anti-Christian bigotry.
"CBS, and Bob Schieffer in particular, should apologize on Face the Nation for using the SPLC to smear people of faith. If this does not happen, you will have made CBS and Bob Schieffer synonymous with the SPLC and the rabid anti-Christian bigotry that it represents."
Among the letter’s signers are crackpot conspiracist Frank Gaffney, Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association (another hate group), William Boykin of — what a shock — the Family Research Council, Gary Bauer, the former head of — you guessed it — the Family Research Council and L. Brent Bozell III, the founder and president of the Media Research Center.
Bozell couldn’t resist getting in some separate licks of his own, calling the Schieffer interview an "ambush" that went "beyond the pale" and endorsing the notion that Perkins speaks for America's Christians. Turning the world on its head, Karl Rove style, he raves:
“For CBS News to cite the SPLC as a resource is particularly outrageous given that one of the SPLC’s supporters shot and wounded a security guard inside the FRC’s headquarters a few years ago. Would it be okay if Fox News cited a white supremacist group to call into question a liberal group? Of course not."
Of course, the reason people object to the corporate press hosting FRC figures is that this really isn’t any different than hosting white supremacists and treating them as serious analysts. The SPLC has spent decades in a dedicated battle against white supremacist groups, which, in turn, lob at the SPLC the same kind of attacks as the FRC and its apologists — they make a poor target for the kind of Rove-style reversal.Bozell attempts.
Rather than a powerful right-wing lobby spreading a war of hate against a small minority, Bozell sees things like this: “This is another example of the left’s continued war against Judeo-Christian people of faith.” A dispatch no doubt filed from a gulag.
[Note: This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog dedicated to a critique of the Media Research Center]