Last week, Democrats and two mainstream media outlets branded Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal nonprofit which has won seven Supreme Court cases in seven years, an “anti-LGBT hate group.” Worse, this “hate” designation comes from a terror-linked organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). ADF has demanded an apology and attacked this “media malpractice.”
“Why is ABC and NBC willing to promote propaganda and cut and paste the Southern Poverty Law Center press release?” Kristen Waggoner, a senior vice president at ADF, asked Tucker Carlson on Fox News Friday night. “Americans are losing trust in the media for this very reason.”
On Thursday, ADF Legal Counsel and Director of Communications Kerri Kupec demanded an apology and a retraction from ABC News. “ABC News has committed journalistic malpractice,” Kupec declared in a statement.
“For ABC News to essentially cut and paste false charges against Alliance Defending Freedom by a radically left-wing, violence-inciting organization like Southern Poverty Law Center is a discredit to ABC News and to the profession,” Kupec declared. “Americans’ trust in the media is cratering, and the blatant bias and lack of professionalism that ABC attempted to pass off as news can only serve to confirm and intensify that distrust.”
Last Tuesday, the SPLC published a press release demanding the remarks that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was scheduled to deliver that evening at an ADF gathering. “SPLC: Attorney General Must Release Remarks Given to Anti-LGBT Hate Group,” read the release’s headline.
“How can we trust that the nation’s top law enforcement officer will protect all Americans when he’s willing to meet behind closed doors with a group that supports criminalizing homosexuality and marginalizing LGBT people around the world?” asked David Dinielli, SPLC’s deputy legal director. The release insisted that ADF is a “hate group” and others ran with the label.
“You can judge a person by the company they keep and tonight — Attorney General Jeff Sessions is choosing to spend his time speaking in front of one of the country’s leading anti-LGBT hate groups,” Democratic National Committee (DNC) spokesperson Joel Kasnetz said in a statement.
“ADF has been previously designated a hate group and Sessions’ appearance at this event, as the top law enforcement official in the country, brings in to question whether the attorney general intends to protect all Americans,” Kasnetz concluded, linking to the SPLC website’s page on ADF.
ABC News’ Pete Madden and Erin Galloway crafted this headline: “Jeff Sessions addresses ‘anti-LGBT hate group,’ but DOJ won’t release his remarks.”
Madden and Galloway cited the SPLC’s “hate group” designation and disparaging remarks about ADF from multiple sources, but did not include any ADF response to the labeling or any reference to the criticism SPLC has received for engaging in such rhetoric.
NBC News’ Mary Emily O’Hara wrote, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions Criticized for Speaking to ‘Hate Group.'” Her article was more centrist, and actually quoted an ADF attorney, Kellie Fiedorek, responding to the SPLC’s attacks.
Both of these news stories omitted the connection between the SPLC and the congressional baseball shooter, James Hodgkinson, however. Nor did they mention the 2012 terror attack directly inspired by SPLC rhetoric.
Laird Wilcox, one of the foremost experts on American political extremism, has explained the SPLC’s hate labeling tactics. The group has “specialized a highly developed and ritualized form of defamation … a way of harming and isolating people by denying their humanity and trying to convert them into something that deserves to be hated and eliminated.”
In 2012, that “hate” labeling inspired a terrorist attack in the nation’s capital. Floyd Lee Corkins III broke into the Family Research Council (FRC) armed with a semi-automatic pistol and Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches. Had unarmed security guard Leo Johnson not wrestled him to the floor, Corkins said he would have killed everyone in the building.
In February 2013, Corkins pled guilty to committing an act of terrorism and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. During an FBI interrogation, the shooter said he targeted FRC because it was listed as an “anti-gay group” on the SPLC website. (Horrifyingly, the “hate list” that inspired the attack was briefly adopted by GuideStar.)
Hodgkinson, the man who shot Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), “liked” the SPLC on Facebook, after the group had attacked Scalise multiple times.
In early June, Time magazine published an attack on ADF accusing the organization of “bullying LGBTQ children.” Alliance Defending Freedom responded with a powerful statement explaining why the “hate” and “bullying” labels were misplaced.
“When, for example, the courts recognized same-sex marriage, business owners who cannot in good conscience devote their talents to celebrating it are driven out of the market,” ADF declared. “And when the government embraces gender-identity ideology, people of faith who believe that sex is a biological reality rather than a subjective perception are pushed to the margins of society.”
The statement defended ADF’s solution to the transgender bathroom issue, noting the importance of the “privacy and dignity of young students who do not want to share overnight facilities, locker rooms, showers, and restrooms with the opposite sex.” ADF has advocated single-use restrooms for transgender people.
“What [the Time article] slams as ‘hate’ is really just a disagreement on how schools should balance the interests of all their students,” ADF explained. But the Time writer “insists that a biologically male student who claims a female identity must be allowed to access the girls’ facilities. And she seems unconcerned with the privacy rights and dignity interests of other students.”
“We at ADF have a different approach, one that calls for compassion and concern for all,” the release declared.
“But the irony is that the incendiary labels that [Time] and SPLC toss about can result in yet more violence,” ADF concluded, mentioning the 2012 attack at FRC. Furthermore, the violent mob that attacked Charles Murray at Middlebury College also cited the SPLC’s attacks on him to justify their attack. “It thus appears that trumpeting baseless allegations of hate might not be the best way to eliminate it after all.”
In a time of increasing polarization and vitriol on both sides, Americans should shun the SPLC and its “hate” labeling. These have no place in a civil society dedicated to free speech and open dialogue.