Leave it to extreme elements of the anti-LGBT right to make Fox News look almost “fair and balanced” after all.
Frequently the target of left-leaning criticism, the cable news network and its most popular host, Bill O’Reilly, are now coming under fire for “helping violent homosexuals to kill Christians.”
Last week, a group of anti-gay activists leveled that charge as part of a campaign aimed at stopping O’Reilly from inviting LGBT rights advocate Wayne Besen onto his primetime program.
Besen is the founder and executive director of Truth Wins Out (TWO), a non-profit devoted to fighting anti-gay religious extremism. It specializes in combating the “ex-gay” ministries that claim – contrary to all evidence – that LGBT people can be changed into heterosexuals through prayer and therapy.
The vendetta against Besen began with a press release, signed by a long list of anti-LGBT extremists, that accuses Fox of being “complicit in the damage done to the victims of Wayne Besen's and the SPLC's smear campaigns.”
Next, a slightly broader array of anti-gay leaders signed a petition aimed at removing Besen from the air. Online readers were urged to stand “with us against anti-Christian violence by murderous homosexuals.”
What had the “murderous” activist – whose rap sheet actually consists, in his words, of “a few unpaid parking tickets” – done to deserve this epithet?
TWO played no role in, and immediately condemned, the “awful tragedy” on Aug. 15, when a gunman shot a building manager at the Family Research Council’s (FRC) office in Washington, D.C. “If the shooting is found to be politically motivated,” said Besen in a statement, “it is a detestable act of cruelty. …We stand squarely with the Family Research Council today and offer them our full support and prayers.”
Besen’s greatest sin was daring to defend the SPLC’s listing of the FRC as a “hate group” – a designation that somehow, in the words of the anti-LGBT activists, helped “create a climate that led to shooter Floyd Corkins’ actions.”
The petition advances this tenuous argument by repeating FRC President Tony Perkins’ false charge that the SPLC had given Corkins “a license to shoot” by “labeling organizations hate groups because they disagree with them on public policy.”
Actually, the FRC earned its hate group status not for its religious beliefs or political stands but rather for routinely propagating demonizing and demonstrably false propaganda about LGBT people. It’s one thing to oppose same-sex marriage. It is another entirely to spread outright lies, such as Perkins’ claim that pedophilia is “a homosexual problem.”
Besen’s opponents are free, of course, to raise vigorous objections to his advocacy of equal rights for LGBT people – as does O’Reilly when he spars on-air with the man he’s accused of “helping.” What’s inexcusable is this attempt to tar a law-abiding citizen as “murderous” and the broadcaster merely allowing him to publicly express his views as “complicit in the damage.”
As Besen himself poignantly observes, “it is rich to see these alleged defenders of liberty and freedom begging FOX to censor a point of view which they find objectionable. … This effort to silence diverse points of views [sic] is disappointing and stands in stark contrast to the America I grew up in and love.”
Disappointing – but not surprising, considering the cast of characters doing the begging.
Signing the petition were such far-right luminaries as Mathew D. Staver and Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian litigation group that has begun flirting with the paranoia of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement. Also involved were longtime activist Scott Lively, who is best known for writing a completely fallacious book claiming gay men orchestrated the Holocaust, and multiple representatives of the American Family Association, whose chief spokesman has claimed that the HIV virus is a “harmless microbe.”
So far, to their credit, Fox News and Bill O’Reilly have not responded to the petitioners’ demands.