The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Tony Perkins Defends Family Research Council, Sort Of

By Mark Potok on November 30, 2010 - 2:22 pm, Posted in Anti-LGBT, Extremist Propaganda

I went up against Tony Perkins, the head of the hard-line anti-gay group Family Research Council (FRC), on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” last night. Perkins was there to defend his organization after the SPLC listed it as a hate group last week. The whole experience was like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall.

When I pointed out that FRC Senior Research Fellow Peter Sprigg had been on Matthews’ air just last February saying that “homosexual behavior” should be outlawed, Perkins said the FRC is not currently engaged in trying to send gay people to prison for having sex. But as much as Matthews tried to pin him down, Perkins never repudiated what Sprigg had said as an official FRC representative.

That may have been the least of Perkins’ slippery behavior.

After I noted the FRC’s long record of associating gay men with pedophilia — a spurious allegation that has been roundly rejected by relevant scientific authorities including the American Psychological Association — Perkins responded, in part, by citing what sounded like a respectable medical professional association.

“If you look at the American College of Pediatricians, they say the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children,” Perkins said. “So Mark is wrong. He needs to go back and do his own research.”

Was I wrong? Perhaps the more relevant question is this: What is the American College of Pediatricians?

One thing it’s not is the similarly named 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics, the professional association of most American pediatricians and the publisher of the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In fact, the American College of Pediatricians is a tiny group of doctors who broke away from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2002 because the latter group supported LGBT parental rights. The American College of Pediatricians, believed to now have about 200 members, explicitly demands, as a condition of membership, that would-be joiners “hold true to the group’s core beliefs … [including] that the traditional family unit, headed by an opposite-sex couple, poses far fewer risk factors in the adoption and raising of children.”

The group Perkins cited as authoritative has come under repeated attack by real scientific authorities. After it published Facts About Youth last spring, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association described the booklet as non-factual. Several individual researchers — including Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health — said the handbook misrepresented their findings. “It is disturbing to me to see special interest groups distort my scientific observations to make a point against homosexuality,” Collins wrote. “The information they present is misleading and incorrect.”

In other words, the American College of Pediatricians, despite its erudite name, is akin to the fake environmental front groups some energy corporations have set up to make dubious claims about the non-existence of global warming.

There’s more that Perkins failed to mention about the American College of Pediatricians. Until this spring, long-time anti-gay propagandist George Rekers, who has testified against adoptions by same-sex couples, was on the Pediatric Psychosocial Development Committee of the American College of Pediatricians. That ended when it was revealed that Rekers, who also was a founding member of Perkins’ FRC, had just returned from a two-week European vacation with a male prostitute. Rekers insisted that the man had merely been hired to carry his luggage, but the man disagreed. In fact, he told reporters, Rekers had hired him to perform daily nude massages.

All mention of Rekers has since disappeared from the college’s website.

Perkins also referenced a 1988 article that came from a real scholarly journal, Archives of Sexual Behavior, that said 86% of child molesters in a particular study group identified themselves as homosexual or bisexual. But the statement was entirely parenthetical to the article and, as other sex researchers have pointed out, does not provide any supporting data whatsoever. The claim is at stark odds with most other research into the nature of pedophiles. The American Psychological Association, for example, says in a policy statement that “homosexual men are not more likely to abuse children than heterosexual men are.”

This morning, Warren Throckmorton — a psychology professor at a Christian college who has counseled clients conflicted about their sexual identity for years — offered his insights into the SPLC’s criticisms: “Reviewing the charges leveled against the Christian groups, I think their responses are mostly unfortunate and unhelpful. The SPLC has identified some issues which are legitimate and have damaged the credibility of the groups on the [hate] list. Going forward, I hope Christians don’t rally around these groups but rather call them to accountability.”

  • Patrick Hogan

    It’s also important to note a few other things about the 1988 study Perkins cited.

    — The study was non-representative, even of child molesters in the state in which it was conducted, much less nationally

    –The study was not random (i.e.: no analysis of selection bias, primarily because the study was never intended to be random or representative).

    –The study did not specify criteria for determining and/or confirming sexual orientation; it could have been done by asking participants how they would describe their sexual orientation, but it could also have been something entirely different (i.e.: “Are you sexually aroused by males?” might very well receive a higher affirmative response than “Are you gay?”).

    –The study found that 86% of men who molested boys “self identified as gay or bisexual.” Not 86% of child molesters, as (if I recall correctly) Perkins said; in fact, out of the 229 participants, only 63 involved cases against males. 86% of 63 is 54, which is just under 24% of the total number of cases. So, if Perkins was being honest, he would have highlighted extremely small sample size of individuals who identify as homosexual or bisexual in the study and pointed out that only 24% of the cases in the study involved individuals who identify as homosexual or bisexual.

    But 24% isn’t nearly as shocking a statistic, and a total of 54 individuals isn’t shocking at all on a state level, much less a national level, particularly coming from a 22 year old study. So Perkins picked a statistic that sounded shocking to support his point, without bothering to mention how very little it actually meant.

  • billyblog

    Coming to this a bit late, but Chris Matthews explicitly carved out time the next day on Hardball to point out to his audience the bit of flim flam that Tony Perkins was shamefully trying to get away with the day before on the American College of Pediatricians. Of course it would have been better if it had come up right at the time, but Matthews was clearly in a pissed-at-Tony mood when he outed Perkins’ junk science the very next day.

    But remember, IOKIYR, because you’re acting for a higher good.

  • Kevin

    The inclusion of the Family Research Council to the SPLC’s hate group list is highly important. FRC and groups like them are analogous to Confederacy groups: they don’t just seek to malign one group of people or reduce their civil rights. Ultimately, FRC and groups like them want to eradicate GLBT folks, just like Confederacy groups wish to ultimately eradicate people of color.

  • ME

    Dick, have you seen what Reker, this “misguided homosexual” has done to children in the name of “research”? Go read about a little boy named “Kraig” and the research that Reker did on him at UCLA in the early 1970’s and many more like him. This is not a misguided gay man… he’s a man afraid of who he is and decided long ago to punish others and then chose to establish a career and livlihood off of their destruction.

  • Peter Hockley

    Methinks he doth protest too much, these guys are so far back in the closet that they live in Narnia!

  • R Lavigueur

    Dick Lancaster,

    As a gay man, I have to disagree with you. Many LGBT people struggle with their sexual orientation, but why should we, the gay community who suffer from homophobic rhetoric and violence every day, express sympathy and kindness to someone like Rekers?

    Does Rekers struggle with his sexuality? Probably, and maybe his struggle to reconcile his desires with his worldview will lead to self harm, but that is no reason to ignore Rekers own activism, or to believe that his self victimhood justifies his actions. Lots of gay men and women try to live in a straight world, they closet themselves and weave lies to block out the hatred. Maybe some of them find some happiness, but either way, you’re right that they’re worthy of pity. Rekers could have easily been one of these men. Had that been the case, I wouldn’t know to pity him, I wouldn’t have heard of him at all.

    Why? Because Rekers didn’t choose to live in silence or in the closet, he chose to make a career attacking the reputations, psychological health, and civil rights of gay men and lesbians who didn’t share his revulsion with their own sexuality. He chose the spotlight, he chose to testify to remove children from same sex households and to fight to deny committed couples the right to validate their love. How many did Rekers harm, while all the while enjoying the moral righteousness of the ‘straight’ identity he wore to cloak his use of male prostitutes?

    There’s an old saying about living by the sword, and it applies as well here as anywhere else. I can have some pity for Rekers the gay man destroyed by his fear. But for Rekers the anti-gay crusader? Rekers made his own choice between politics and humanity, and ridding the world of his ‘expertise’ is a triumph for those that would have otherwise been his brothers and sisters. If he wants our pity and support, he’ll need to earn it by more than hypocrisy and hate.

  • Dick Lancaster

    There’s a lesson in here for you, Mark. When you have a choice to make between your politics and your humanity, your politics wins.

    Let’s take the George Reker hypocrisy. You infer here that Reker is a closet homosexual yet you condemn him for his anti-gay activism. You could just as easily defend his difficulty as a gay man trying to fit into a straight world. Aren’t gay people the subjects of your sympathy and activism? But you don’t do that because Reker is on the wrong side politically.

    If you had any humanity, Mark you would be kind to this misguided gay man. What if he reads what you write about him and harms himself because of it? What would be your role in that? Would you be responsible for the bullying of another gay man, a tragedy; or would you take credit for ridding the world of another hated conservative, a triumph?

  • Allen

    What I have to praise Mark Potok on in the video was saying his piece and then not interrupting the other guy and just sitting back patiently while the FRC guy blabbered away incriminating the his hate group and burying himself on national TV. Good job.

  • Fredric L. Rice

    Ironic how these hate-filled Christian lunatics are exactly equal to their fellow hate-filled Islamic lunatics, all while these religious loons point at each other and demand that they’re nothing like each other.

    Religion is the problem.

  • Arturo Cruz

    should read used Gen 19 to compare–excuse the error

  • Arturo Cruz

    Has anyone considered adding the Catholic Church or other Christian denominations to the list of hate groups. This past summer a listened to a sermon that was given which used Genesis 19 compared the GLBT community to rapists and to the violent. The sermon doesn’t actively encourage hate oriented activities, but creates an impression that violence against individuals is tolerable or justifiable since they are sinners. This is in Minnesota–the state with the anti gay marriage DVD that was also sent out by the Church.

    per the USCCB NAB
    ‘They called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to your house tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have intimacies with them.”‘

  • Stephen Tucker

    My Human Services class is discussing the harm of missinformation and uncontrolled information sharing (such as medical records) in our new electronic age. I plan on sharing this story with my class this Thursday. We just finished a chapter about diversity, and I have been fortunate to be able to enlighten my classmates on LGBT issues. I thank the SPLC in general for the work they do for our diverse population in this country.

  • Mark Potok

    In my own defense, I’d like to point out that Chris Matthews did not give me the opportunity to respond to Perkins’ falsehoods. Perkins was allowed the last word, and the segment was ending (it was the top of the hour); I had no chance to say anything. This is the very reason that I decided I needed to write a blog post about it.

  • JJMoody

    Tony Perkins and the FRC have an amazing ability to totally ignore logic, reason, and critical thinking. They also seem to think that every member of society has some kind of short term memory loss.

    I just read their report on DADT that ‘proves’ 63% of the people they surveyed believe that DADT should not be repealed. Their total abuse of statistics would fail any college course with a flaming F. The fact they think the phone survey they did with people who were active duty/retired/veterans/family members of someone who had once been in or was currently serving is a total joke. At least the DoD actually asked the question of people who are currently serving (or National Guard/Reservists) or their families… you know the people this policy actually has an effect on, not some 80 year old vet who served 60 years ago.

  • Erin

    So pleased that you have added these issues to your mission. Hate is hate, regardless of whether it’s based on race, religion or sexual orientation.

  • The Village Heathen

    This is just too good. These idiots are so screwed when they have to resort to “studies“ by groups like the American College of Pediatricians.

  • Rev. MoJoSweet

    Interesting that Perkins said something like, “wait until the Pentagon study comes out tomorrow”.

    OK Tony; it is out. Looks like the Pentagon study doesn’t agree with you either.

    Thanks for being there SPLC!

  • Rick

    I wish the information that was written here about the American College of Pediatrics had been mentioned on the air. Perkins was able to put that information out there once again and stereotypes were not dispelled, they were reinforced. I don’t think the SPLC representative did anything to challenge the FRC’s position, instead, Perkins was able to parrot FRCs disinformation once again, unchallenged.

  • Louis


    Thank you for going after the FRC. Keep up the good work.

  • Delia Frederick

    It is a shame that folks who label themselves christian are so busy pointing out what is wrong with others, but fail to reflect on how to improve themselves. James states if a man claims to love God, but hates his brother (fellow man), then the love of God is not in him.

  • Buffy

    The anti-gay groups in their death throes–at least as major players in American society–and they know it. The smell of abject desperation is in their every pathetic whine. Beautiful.