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American Family Association repudiates chief spokesman’s racist and anti-LGBT statements before hosting Israel trip for RNC members

In a letter to SPLC officials, the American Family Association (AFA) has disavowed a series of racist and bigoted statements made by its chief spokesman in recent years. The SPLC called the group’s effort a “shell game.”

The repudiation of Bryan Fischer’s statements came just two days before members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) are scheduled to embark on a trip to Israel sponsored by the AFA.

Last week, the SPLC wrote to all 168 members of the RNC urging them not to accompany the AFA on the trip because of the group’s long track record of bigotry and hate. The SPLC has named the AFA as a hate group due to its history of making false, demonizing statements about the LGBT community, including Fischer’s contention that gay men were responsible for the Holocaust. 

SPLC President Richard Cohen, in a letter to the AFA today (see below), wrote that “it’s difficult to see the AFA’s disavowal as anything other than an effort to quell the negative press attention you’re receiving in connection with your sponsorship of an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel for members of the Republican National Committee.”

Fischer has claimed, for example, that black people “rut like rabbits”; that the First Amendment applies only to Christians; that Hispanics are “socialists by nature” and come to the U.S. to “plunder” the country; that Muslims should not be permitted to build mosques in the United States; that an underground railroad is needed to protect children from gay parents; and more.

In the Jan. 28 letter to the SPLC, AFA general counsel Patrick Vaughn listed a series of offensive comments from Fischer and said the organization “has never held these views and wishes to clarify that it still rejects such sentiments.”

Vaughn also wrote that Fischer would no longer serve as an AFA spokesperson or its director of issue analysis. However, Fischer will continue to host his two-hour, daily Focal Point radio show and write blog posts. Vaughn wrote that the AFA’s radio network provides a “diversity” of viewpoints but that Fischer’s statements do not represent the views of the AFA.

In response, Cohen wrote, “The fact that the AFA is continuing to allow Mr. Fischer to host a daily radio show and blog on its website also makes us question the AFA’s sincerity. Sponsoring Mr. Fischer’s racism, anti-Semitism, and hatred of the Muslim and the LGBT communities in the name of  ‘diversity’ says as much about the AFA as it does about Mr. Fischer. 

“Is there nothing beyond the pale in the AFA’s view? Does the AFA believe that statements such as these have a place on its airwaves? Is this what the AFA considers ‘diversity’?”

Cohen noted that other AFA officials, including its president, Tim Wildmon, and founder, Don Wildmon, also have made statements “that reflect narrow-minded bigotry” and that AFA printed materials have demonized the LGBT community.

“Without ending Mr. Fischer’s talk show, without apologizing for the bigoted statements that he, Mr. Wildmon, and others associated with the AFA have made, and without making it crystal clear that the AFA will not tolerate any such statements in the future, the AFA’s 11th-hour disavowal of Mr. Fischer appears to serve only one purpose:  to give the AFA a degree of plausible deniability while it continues to spew hateful rhetoric,” Cohen wrote. “It’s a shell game and a transparent one at that.”

Letter to the American Family Association from the Southern Poverty Law Center, Thursday, January 29, 2015. Download (PDF).

Letter to the Southern Poverty Law Center from the American Family Association, Wednesday, January 28, 2015. Download (PDF).