Puff Pieces Profiling Paid Anti-Equality Activists Plague The Mainstream Media

This week’s Supreme Court oral arguments on marriage equality have understandably attracted media attention, but unfortunately the coverage has been peppered with blatant puff pieces that offer a free pedestal for paid operatives working against same-sex marriage. These articles claim to profile individuals who make their living off the anti-equality movement offer little context, instead invite them to share all their talking points without any rebuttal.

For example, last Friday USA Today ran a piece profiling some of the top lobbyists against marriage equality, while the New York Times profiled young conservatives working with many of the same organizations. NPR offered two puff pieces, one similarly profiling various conservatives and another just to highlight Maggie Gallagher’s views on the topic. Almost every individual in each of these stories advocates against equality as a profession. Here’s a list of who they are and how they used their free media pedestal:

  • Brian Brown is executive director of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). He told USA Today that “The people are definitely on our side,” even though polling continuesto show the exact opposite.
  • Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), told USA Today that “there will be collateral damage to other freedoms” because of marriage equality, but offered examples of people who seek to violate nondiscrimination protections.
  • Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America (CWA), told USA Today that marriage equality will “lure” people into homosexuality, just like legalizing marijuana, gambling, prostitution, abortion, “or any vice that is legalized.” The article neglected to mention that CWA is recognized as a hate group along with FRC.
  • Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, chair of the Catholic Bishops’ committee for the “Defense of Marriage,” told USA Today that same-sex couples are inherently inferior, and that the LGBT movement should have a “live and let live” philosophy instead of calling equality opponents bigots.
  • Rev. William Owens, head of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, which is funded by groups like NOM and FRC, claimed to USA Today that marriage equality is “another nail in the coffin for black families,” confirming his role in NOM’s race-wedging tactics.
  • New York Sen. Ruben Díaz (D), who regularly lends his name to NOM’s cause, told USA Today he gets along fine with his gay relatives, even though his lesbian granddaughter has openly rebuked him for his views.
  • Maggie Gallagher, who helped found NOM and now directs the Culture War Victory Fund (which is funded by Robert George, just like NOM), told NPR that there is a “morally relevant difference between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships.” Interestingly, she’s no longer speaking at NOM’s march on Tuesday.
  • Ryan Anderson, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation who co-wrote an anti-marriage equality book with Robert George, told NPR that same-sex marriage “redefines marriage to say that fathers are optional,” even though none of the studies about the consequences of “fatherlessness” have included same-sex couples. He also told the New York Times that “monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanency” will become option norms for marriage once “sexual complementarity” is disregarded.
  • Caitlin Seery, head of the Love and Fidelity Network (also founded by Robert George), told NPR that marriage is “about raising children,” but completely ignored the many same-sex couples raising children.
  • Sam Schulman, a social conservative columnist for The Weekly Standard, told NPR that if marriage is offered to same-sex couples, it “dilutes the currency a woman married to a man a wife,” somehow protecting her less.
  • John Eastman, chairman of NOM, told NPR that same-sex marriage would so drastically interrupt the connection between marriage and procreation that it would “forever sever love from diapers.”
  • Minnesota Sen. Warren Limmer (R), who sponsored the failed amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota, told NPR that every society that has recognized gay relationships has died out: “For some reason, those societies aren’t around.”
  • Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington (an FRC affiliate), told the New York Times that he’s working to counter the framing that marriage equality is “a vote for gay people to be happy.”
  • Will Haun, a lawyer with the conservative Federalist Society, told the New York Times that he’s not working against gay people or gay rights, he’s just supporting “a broader defense of marriage and a stronger marriage culture.”
  • Thomas Peters, another paid spokesperson for NOM, told the New York Times that opponents of equality are hiding “in the shadows” because they’re afraid of being labeled bigots.
  • Ashley Pratte, executive director of New Hampshire’s Cornerstone Policy Research (another FRC affiliate), told the New York Times that she’s trying to devise a “healthy discussion” to explain to her gay friends why they can’t get married.
  • Eric Teetsel, executive director of the Manhattan Declaration (another Robert George project), told the New York Times that even if marriage equality prevails and he’s “totally naïve,” he’s going to stick to what he believes because he’s “got a responsibility to be on its side for as long as I can be.”

There is no excuse for the media to provide such uncritical space for these views, particularly because every single person featured profits (either through wages or votes) off of their anti-gay advocacy. Of course they want the fight to drag out as long as possible, because every day the “culture wars” continue is another day they draw a salary. There’s nothing inherently wrong with highlighting what opponents have to say, but it’s shoddy journalism to provide so little context for it.