About Tony Perkins
Since joining the FRC, Perkins has taken the group in a harder anti-LGBT direction, using it to publish false propaganda about that community and contending that gay rights advocates intend to round up Christians in “boxcars.”
In His Own Words:
“The videos are titled ‘It Gets Better.’ They are aimed at persuading kids that although they’ll face struggles and perhaps bullying for ‘coming out’ as homosexual (or transgendered or some other perversion), life will get better. … It’s disgusting. And it’s part of a concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that lifestyle.”
—FRC fundraising letter, August 2011
“Those who understand the homosexual community – the activists – they’re very aggressive, they’re – everything they accuse us of they are in triplicate. They’re intolerant, they’re hateful, vile, they’re spiteful. .... To me, that is the height of hatred, to be silent when we know there are individuals that are engaged in activity, behavior, and an agenda that will destroy them and our nation.”
— Speaking to the Oak Initiative Summit, April 2011
“While activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two. … It is a homosexual problem.”
— FRC website, 2010
The marriage debate “is literally about the entire culture: it’s about the rule of law, it’s about the country, it’s about our future, it’s about redefining the curriculum in our schools, it’s about driving a wedge between parent and child, it’s about the loss of religious freedom, it’s about the inability to be who we are as a people.”
— The Janet Mefford Show, May 22, 2014
Anthony Richard “Tony” Perkins, who since 2003 has served as president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council (FRC), was born and raised in Cleveland, Okla. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Liberty University, a far-right Christian college in Lynchburg, Va., established by the late Reverend Jerry Falwell. He earned a Master of Public Administration degree from Louisiana State University. After college, Perkins became a Marine. Following his service, he became a Baton Rouge police officer, where he also served as a law enforcement trainer for the State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, which trains law enforcement around the world.
Perkins claims on the FRC’s website that he resigned from the police force in 1992 due to a disagreement over police tactics in containing anti-abortion protests staged by the rabidly anti-abortion group Operation Rescue. The reality is quite different. According to The Nation, in 1992, while a reserve police officer in Baton Rouge, Perkins failed to report an illegal conspiracy by anti-abortion activists to his superiors. That was Operation Rescue’s “Summer of Purpose,” when the group targeted the Delta Women’s Clinic in Baton Rouge. Perkins was dividing his time between his duties as a volunteer for the city’s police force and his job as a reporter for “Woody Vision,” a local right-wing television station owned by his mentor, Republican state Rep. Louis “Woody” Jenkins. Perkins and his camera crew were a frequent presence outside the clinic, The Nation reported. According to Victor Sachse, a classical record shop owner in the city who volunteered as a patient escort for the clinic, Perkins’ reporting was so consistently slanted and inflammatory that the clinic demanded his removal from its grounds.
In order to control an increasingly tense situation, the police chief had a chain-link fence erected to separate anti-abortion activists from pro-choice protesters, and he called in sheriff’s deputies and prison guards as extra forces. Perkins publicly criticized the department and the chief. Then, after learning about plans for violent tactics by anti-abortion activists to break through police lines and send waves of protesters onto the clinic’s grounds, he failed to inform his superiors on the force. As a result of his actions, Perkins was suspended from duty in 1992, and he subsequently quit the reserve force.
In 1996, while managing the U.S. Senate campaign of Woody Jenkins against Mary Landrieu, Perkins paid $82,500 to use the mailing list of former Ku Klux Klan leader and state Rep. David Duke. The campaign was fined $3,000 for filing false disclosure forms in a bid to hide the payment to Duke. Perkins has stated he did not know about the mailing list’s connection to Duke.
Perkins served as a state representative for eight years, starting in 1998. On May 17, 2001, he gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist group that has described black people as a “retrograde species of humanity.” Perkins who addressed the group while standing in front of a Confederate flag, claimed not to know the group’s ideology at the time, even though it had been widely publicized in Louisiana and the nation. In 1999 – two years before Perkins’ speech to the CCC – Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott had been embroiled in a national scandal over his ties to the group. GOP chairman Jim Nicholson then urged Republicans to avoid the CCC because of its “racist views.” On the FRC’s website, Perkins does not mention this scandal, instead claiming of his political career that “he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.” Perkins served two terms in office, leaving the state Legislature in 2004.
The Duke incident surfaced again in the local press in 2002, when Perkins ran for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, dooming his campaign to a fourth-place finish in the primaries. He joined the FRC following the loss, in the fall of 2003.
Under Perkins’ leadership, the FRC continues to peddle false claims about homosexuality and has made combating the “homosexual agenda” a seemingly obsessive interest. Part of the FRC’s recent strategy is to pound home the false claim that gay men are more likely to sexually abuse children. This is false. The American Psychological Association, among others, has concluded that, “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are.”
That doesn’t matter to the FRC, though. Perkins defended the “gay men as pedophiles” claim yet again in a debate on the Nov. 30, 2010, edition of MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews” with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok. As the show ended, Perkins stated, “If you look at the American College of Pediatricians, they say the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children. So Mark is wrong. He needs to go back and do his own research.”
In fact, the SPLC did. The college, despite its professional-sounding name, is a tiny, explicitly religious-right breakaway group from the similarly named American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the 60,000-member association of the profession. The American College of Pediatrics (ACP) splintered from the AAP because of the AAP’s support of gay and lesbian parents. Publications of the ACP, which has only about 200 members, have been roundly attacked by leading scientific authorities who say they are baseless and who also accuse the college of distorting and misrepresenting their work. (Chris Matthews offered a clarification on a follow-up show to describe what the American College of Pediatricians is and separate it from the AAP.)
Perkins dove into the immigration issue in 2006, signing a statement along with leaders of the anti-immigrant Minuteman movement that called for strong measures aimed at halting immigration. Perkins said the effort was necessary, not so much for guarding America’s security as to protect its “cultural fabric.”
In addition to his work with FRC, Perkins co-authored Personal Faith, Public Policy (2008) with Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., the senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C. Jackson, who is African-American, runs the virulently anti-gay Hope Christian Church in Lanham, Md. He is a leader in an effort by white and black religious-right preachers to work together against gay rights.
In late 2010, Perkins held a webcast to discuss the dire consequences of allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military, using dubious statistics from a poll the FRC commissioned. The FRC report “Mission Compromised,” written by retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, FRC’s senior fellow for national security, contended that allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly would undermine morale and discipline and infringe on the religious freedom of military chaplains, who would be forced to accept homosexuality and no longer permitted to express their religious beliefs about it. In addition, Maginnis predicted that heterosexual service members would be forced to take “sensitivity classes” that promote the “homosexual lifestyle” and added that: “Homosexual activists seek to force the U.S. military to embrace their radical views and sexual conduct, no matter the consequences for combat effectiveness.”
The FRC under Perkins also has waded into the debate over anti-bullying policies, which became a matter of national discussion after several gay children committed suicide in late 2010. On Oct. 11, 2010, the Washington Post published a commentary by Perkins in which he reiterated his point that anti-bullying policies are not really intended by their supporters to protect students. “Homosexual activist groups like GLSEN [Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network] … are exploiting these tragedies to push their agenda of demanding not only tolerance of homosexual individuals, but active affirmation of homosexual conduct and their efforts to redefine the family.”
In 2012, Perkins claimed on CNN that allowing gay people into the Boy Scouts would put children in danger of sexual assault. When pressed by the CNN host, Perkins again resorted to FRC’s stock claim, as Perkins once put it, that pedophilia “is a homosexual problem. “They [Boy Scouts] are trying to create an environment that is protective of children,” he said. “This [allowing LGBT Scouts and Scout leaders] doesn’t make it more protective. There is a disproportionate number of male on boy – when we get on pedophilia, male on boy is a higher incident rate of that.”
Despite recent gains made for LGBT equality, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2013 ruling that struck down as unconstitutional parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, Perkins and the FRC have continued their anti-gay crusade, including continued opposition to the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). According to Perkins, President Obama is working with the “totalitarian homosexual lobby” to sneak ENDA into law and should that happen, freedom of religion will be “destroyed.” Perkins also has worked to keep America safe from Betty Crocker. In September 2013, he called for a boycott of the iconic brand because General Mills, which produces it, donated custom cakes to three LGBT Minnesota couples who were married after the state legalized same-sex marriage a month earlier.
In 2014, Perkins made a series of wild statements. In June, he said that gay rights advocates are “going to start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians.” In August, he agreed with a caller who predicted on his “Washington Watch“ radio show that anti-Christian violence will erupt in America. After the caller wondered if we are “going to find ourselves being loaded in cattle cars like it was when the Nazis took over before we realize we are in such terrible danger,” Perkins hailed her claim as an “excellent point.” “You’ve just hit the nail on the head,” he exclaimed, warning that “isolationist” and “libertarian” politicians like Rand Paul are leaving America’s national security vulnerable and that violent anti-Christian persecution taking place in the Middle East could soon find its way here.
In September, Perkins said that Islam is such a danger that Muslim-Americans should not have the same religious freedoms as other citizens. That same month, Perkins claimed that the separation of church and state in the United States has contributed to the rise of Islamic extremist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), arguing in his radio commentary that ISIS has “filled the void left by secularism.”