This week, a prominent news agency considered offering a platform to the leader of an anti-LGBT hate group to discuss the Orlando shooting, then quietly dropped him from the show without ever mentioning that it was a bad idea in the first place.
On Friday morning, ABC News released a preview of its guest line-up for This Week, its Sunday morning political talk show. Among those listed to join the “Powerhouse Roundtable” was Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC).
FRC has long been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a prominent anti-LGBT hate-group, and Perkins himself has a notorious reputation for his anti-LGBT vitriol. Though he often tames his rhetoric in mainstream news appearances to sound like his anti-gay views represent all U.S. Christians, he then tells FRC’s audiences things like that homosexuality leads to “eternal damnation” and is “harmful” to individuals “and to society as a whole.”
In response to the Orlando shooting, FRC has said things like, “It’s a little ridiculous to suggest that disagreement over special rights for people who identify as LGBT are responsible, since even the gunman’s ex-wife alleges he was gay.” They were also one of many conservative groups that tried to scapegoat Islamic homophobia for the shooting to suggest that if LGBT people feel any fear, it’s liberals’ fault for not treating that religion like it’s the enemy. “By coddling and promoting Islam, the Obama administration has created an environment where people who identify as gay, lesbian, or transgendered [sic] are increasingly vulnerable,” Perkins wrote. “What a stark contrast to Christianity, which believes that everyone is made in the image of God and has intrinsic value, regardless of the choices they make.” In the past, FRC spokespeople have even tried to blame other shootings on the advance of LGBT equality.
The group Faithful America quickly launched a petition calling on ABC to drop Perkins from the lineup. Noting that Perkins “has repeatedly accused gay men of molesting children,” the petition also pointed out that no other Christian leader was scheduled to offer a different perspective on behalf of people of faith. This is a recurring problem in media; evangelicals and other conservative Christians are over-represented in media appearances, but progressive faith voices and representatives from the Humanist, atheist, and agnostic communities are severely underrepresented.
Others called out ABC on Twitter:
— Kyle Franklin (@KAFranklin07) June 17, 2016
— Revn'It (@martuttle) June 18, 2016
— lauramariemusic (@lauramariemusic) June 18, 2016
Author Laura Bethany Taylor, a transgender woman who writes about her “tired but persistent faith in God through Jesus Christ,” also penned an open letter castigating ABC and host George Stephanopoulos for offering a slot to Perkins. “How tolerant would the national media be of a KKK leader speaking on a massacre of African Americans?” she wrote. “What sort of outcry would we hear if anti-military pacifists were given center stage on Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day as we seek to honor our service men and women?” Incidentally, Perkins actually has numerous documented ties to white supremacist groups like the KKK.
On Saturday, ABC News published a new post promoting its Sunday morning line-up and Perkins was no longer listed. And indeed, he did not appear on the show Sunday morning.
The network has yet to acknowledge that the change was made or the reason for it, nor has Perkins or anyone from the religious right. ABC has likewise not offered any apology for even contemplating giving someone like Perkins a platform to respond to the Orlando shooting.
Earlier this week, Fox News host Megyn Kelly similarly offered a platform to Brigette Gabriel, the leader of ACT! For America, another organization the SPLC has deemed a hate group for its anti-Muslim advocacy.