MSNBC's Chris Matthews Clears Up Anti-Gay Misinformation

On Monday night, Chris Matthews played host to both Mark Potok from the Southern Poverty Law Center and Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council on his MSNBC show Hardball. The discussion was centered on whether SPLC was right to label Perkins' organization a "hate group."

During the conversation, Potok said that one of the bases for classifying FRC as a hate group was this claim, made by Perkins and his group.

...the Family Research Council has done things - a few years ago, they put out a pamphlet called homosexual behavior and pedophilia in which they said that a part of the so-called homosexual agenda was to destroy, to get rid of all age of consent laws, having to do with sexual behavior, and then the Family Research Council went on to say that, in fact, homosexual activists—in their words—were working to make pedophiles the kind of apostles ..."

Perkins then attempted to back that claim up.

If you look at the American College of Pediatricians, they say the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a risk to children. So, Mark is wrong. He needs to go back and do his own research because this—this evidence is out there.

The debate then moved on to politics, and whether the results of the last elections were a referendum on social issues. Potok never got to respond.  You can watch the full exchange here:

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This was troubling for two reasons. Obviously, as we have said many times previously, most recently in the Washington Post, Tony Perkins and Family Research Council have no place debating serious issues in the mainstream media.  Since this particular discussion was about his group, it does make some sense that Perkins was there. But once again, he proved us right - and showed viewers that he is more than happy to mislead them in order to demonize the gay community.

The group Perkins cited?

The "American College of Pediatricians?"

That sounds like a legitimate and respected medical organization.  But actually, its name is deceptively similar to the "American Academy of Pediatrics" - which, in fact, is a legitimate and respected medical organization. One that fully supports parenting by gay and lesbian couples. 

And it was this statement of support by the American Academy of Pediatrics that led to the founding of the American College of Pediatricians, which is a small group of anti-gay religious conservatives, not a mainstream scientific organization.

So we sent a note to Chris Matthews and his producers, informing them that the American College of Pediatricians has been blasted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association for disseminating “non-factual information” about these issues. The National Association of Social Workers  calls it "out of step with the research-based position of the AAP and other medical and child welfare authorities." The director of the NIH said it had distorted her findings “to support an ideology that can cause unnecessary anguish and encourage prejudice.”

It turns out we weren't the only ones. Wayne Besen of the group Truth Wins Out writes:

Unfortunately, Matthews’ original show ended without him clarifying that The American College of Pediatricians was a sham group that was more interested in prejudice than pediatrics. Truth Wins Out wrote the producers of the show and urged them to clear up this confusion. To their credit — they actually did the right thing and, in this case, truth won out.

Here is that clip.

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We have already thanked Matthews and his team for taking the time to correct the record, and once again proving that everything Perkins says should be taken with enough grains of salt to keep Morton in business for a decade. Wayne Besen did the same, writing:

Yesterday, we saw a rare feat.

A cable news talk show host actually took responsibility for correcting a lie told on his show. Hardball’s Chris Matthews deserves much credit for having the class and integrity to set the record straight.

Even if a host or a program doesn't agree with the opinions of its guests, by simply inviting them on, they are lending that guest their credibility. Every time the media brings on a guest, it says "even if we don't agree with you, we believe you have something to contribute to this discussion."

But nobody wants a guest whose appearances require damage control.  Tony Perkins is a man who distorts the truth even when he himself is the topic of discussion. This is not a person the media can trust to contribute to a serious conversation about the lives of others.

Hopefully the media is well on its way to learning this lesson.

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