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'Slanderous' Fake News Sparks Death Threats Against 'Hate Group' Over Anti-Lynching Bill

Earlier this week, Mat Staver, president and CEO of the Christian legal nonprofit Liberty Counsel, warned against a liberal attempt to hijack an anti-lynching bill to focus on LGBT issues. Various news outlets condemned Staver and Liberty Counsel, insinuating that this Christian leader and his organization somehow condone lynching LGBT people. Liberty Counsel condemned the "false, slanderous narrative" and went public about receiving death threats due to the media barrage.

"Liberty Counsel has received death threats as a direct result of the false media narrative," the group announced in a statement on Thursday. "One person, whose identity is being traced, said 'All LC leaders must die.' The media and those with a political axe to grind must exercise caution when reporting or using social media. False reporting endangers lives."

As for his position on the bill, Staver declared, "No one can or should oppose a bill that bans lynching. We oppose lynching across the board for any person. Period!"

"The bill in question created a list of protected categories, thus limiting the application of the law. Lynching should be prohibited no matter the person’s reason for committing this violent crime," Staver concluded.

The Liberty Counsel president originally objected to the inclusion of special protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity into the bill in an interview with One News Now published Tuesday. He falsely claimed that "this would be the first time that you would have in federal law mentioning gender identity and sexual orientation." (The terms are mentioned in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act signed into law by President Obama in 2009.)

Various news outlets seized on Staver's declaration.

NBC News's headline screeched, "Evangelical group wants gays removed from anti-lynching bill." That article uncritically referenced the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designation of Liberty Counsel as a "hate group." [SPLC's false and malicious "hate group" designations have inspired at least one terrorist attack, and last year the group settled a multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit for calling a Muslim reformer an "anti-Islamic extremist."]

Newsweek reported, "Evangelical 'Hate Group' Lobbies to Remove LGBT Protections From Anti-Lynching Bill." While Newsweek eventually incorporated Liberty Counsel's response, it also uncritically cited the SPLC "hate group" designation.

The Hill reported, "Evangelical group calls for LGBT people to be removed from anti-lynching bill." This article also uncritically referenced the SPLC's label.

Pink News reported, "Evangelical activists want LGBT people excluded from anti-lynching bill." Like the others, it uncritically cited the SPLC label.

The LGBT magazine The Advocate reported, "Hate Group Leader Objects to LGBTQ Inclusion in Anti-Lynching Bill." This article, which did not even put the SPLC designation in scare quotes, proved the most egregious. "Mat Staver of the far-right legal group Liberty Counsel thinks it’s a terrible idea to make lynching a federal hate crime — if the law covers crimes against LGBTQ people," Trudy Ring wrote.