When ‘Balance’ Becomes Bias: Transparency Urged on Anti-Gay Pundits
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has launched a new resource which aims to educate people on the opinions of anti-gay pundits who often appear on news programs.
The Commentator Accountability Project (CAP) “aims to educate the media about the extreme rhetoric of over three dozen activists who are often given a platform to speak in opposition to LGBT people and the issues that affect their lives,” the media monitoring organization said.
Among those pundits are Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council; Bob Vander Platts, the president of The Family Leader; Candi Cushman, an education analyst at Focus on the Family; and Bill Donahue, the head of the Catholic League.
Aaron McQuade, GLAAD’s Director of News and Field Media, writes for Mediate that news programmers and hosts may not be aware of these pundit’s actual views. He cites:
· Bizarre allusions to Nazi Germany.
· Frequent accusations of satanic influence.
· Apocalyptic predictions for a world in which LGBT citizens are treated equally.
· Vile claims that the AIDS epidemic is God’s judgment.
· Dehumanizing comparisons of loving same-sex relationships to crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, or “jumping off a 10-story building.”
“Accountability” does not necessarily mean keeping these people out of the media. But if a reporter is interviewing someone who insinuates that his or her political opponent is controlled by the devil, it’s the reporter’s journalistic responsibility to put that person’s opinion in perspective.
The truth is, many newsrooms don’t actually know the extent of the animosity that these anti-LGBT activists hold towards the LGBT community. They’re often careful not to say these things in the mainstream media. But get them speaking to right-wing radio, or writing statements to their supporters, and you see them in a whole new way.
Last year I spoke with a reporter from a very well-respected newspaper who had quoted one of the figures profiled in our project. I asked why the reporter had gone to this person for a quote. The reporter told me that an editor had demanded “balance.” I explained that this person would only provide “balance” if the LGBT advocates quoted were calling for criminal sanctions against heterosexuality, or said that straight people were “pawns of the enemy.”
Another issue is inaccuracy going uncorrected.
Pundits like Tony Perkins on MSNBC’s ‘Hardball’ have said things like “they say the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a risk to children.” Such statements go unchallenged by hosts like Chris Matthews.
McQuade says that the resource is also there for those appearing with such pundits.
An example of how these statements can be challenged if people have the facts available to them was an appearance by National Organisation for Marriage (NOM) Director Maggie Gallager on the Chris Hayes show. In the segment where she was interviewed, she claimed that she did not support so-called gay reparative therapy (aka ‘pray away the gay’) but in the segment following her appearance Richard Kim, executive editor of TheNation.com, was able to correct that on air as he’d Googled and found an article where she did precisely that.