As far as I’m concerned, MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews should ban the Family Research Council’s (FRC) President, Tony Perkins, from appearing as a guest. Indeed, all respectable media outlets should take this congenital liar off of their rolodexes and give precious airtime to more respectable spokespeople.
I reached my verdict after watching Perkins square off against the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Mark Potok. Perkins was livid because the SPLC had just categorized FRC as an official, certified hate group. One of the primary factors that placed FRC on the list was the group’s tendency to distort the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
It was fascinating to watch Perkins defend his organization by trotting out more lies – thus proving that FRC earned its dubious classification. The spouting of anti-gay falsehoods seems so deeply ingrained, that even for this short television segment, Perkins was unable to curb his compulsion to fudge the facts.
During the show, Perkins deftly shifted the conversation about FRC’s transgressions into one about pedophilia. Without flinching, Perkins smeared gay men by falsely saying they were more likely to molest children. To back his bogus claim, he cited the discredited American College of Pediatricians.
In case you missed it, The American College of Pediatricians made national news this year after one of its chief activists, Dr. George Rekers, was caught vacationing with an escort he met on Rent Boy.com. Only weeks before the scandal, this hypocritical group had sent a letter to every public school superintendant in the nation. The pseudo-scientific letter condemned homosexuality and referred school officials to an anti-gay website, “Facts About Youth”, that was packed with junk science.
The website cherry picked quotes from legitimate researchers, including University of Minnesota scientist Dr. Gary Remafedi, who charged that the American College of Pediatricians was “knowingly misrepresenting research findings”.
Of course, this is no surprise. The American College of Pediatricians is a small, anti-gay sham group that purposely tries to confuse itself with the credible American Academy of Pediatrics. The American College of Pediatricians is run by politically-motivated charlatans that do not produce peer review research on LGBT people. Meanwhile, The American Academy of Pediatrics is a group of legitimate researchers that actually do produce respected peer review science on homosexuality.
Citing the American College of Pediatricians on homosexuality is like citing the cigarette lobby on the health benefits of smoking. Of course, Tony Perkins knows this, yet he was still sleazy and dishonest enough to cite the group, proving SPLC’s original point that FRC’s misrepresents the facts in an ugly effort to demonize LGBT people.
Similar to Perkins, United States Rep. Michele Bachann (R-MN) is severely truth challenged. On Nov. 3 she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Obama’s upcoming trip to India would “cost the taxpayers $200 million a day.” Bachmann went on to say that, “He’s taking 2,000 people with him. He will be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.”
The problem with her assessment, of course, was that it wasn’t true. Yet, it is a fair bet that Bachmann will be invited back on the air to spew her fabricated garbage. But given her lack of credibility, why do cable networks provide a soapbox? Is this really about greedy corporations that control newsrooms pressuring booking departments into choosing reprobates and hate mongers who will rant for ratings?
The truth is, giving a platform to unrepentant liars and propagandists has harmed this country. For example, this week’s Pentagon report on repealing Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell concludes that much of the concern in the armed forces about openly gay service members was driven by misperceptions and stereotypes, and that fears were “exaggerated and not consistent with the reported experiences of many service members.”
In essence, the biggest problem with lifting Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell is not having actual gays serving openly, but having to unravel the insidious lies peddled about gays in the military.
If the cable networks insist on setting the stage for those who tell whoppers, the least they can do is carve out time the following evening to correct the mistruths. Without such consistent follow-up, these programs become little more than unwitting conduits for misinformation.
I get the need for ratings, but how about balancing it with respectability?
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”