In a recent story from The New York Times Politics section, author Erik Eckholm profiles the notoriously anti-gay American Family Association and their most recent foray into national politics.
This summer, the association has thrust itself into presidential politics by paying for and organizing a day of prayer to save “a nation in crisis” that Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is convening this Saturday. Several Republican presidential aspirants, including Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty, have appeared on a radio program on the group’s American Family network.
It must be said that Eckholm does an excellent job of pointing out some of AFA's extreme (and frankly ridiculous) views - including a litany of not just comparisons between the movement for LGBT equality and the Nazis, but also claims that the actual Nazis themselves were gay men.
“Hitler found that he could not get straight soldiers to be savage and brutal and vicious enough to carry out his orders, but that homosexual soldiers basically had no limits on the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whoever Hitler sent them after.” - Brian Fischer
“Ladies and gentlemen, they are Nazis. Do not be under any illusions about what homosexual activists will do with your freedoms and your religion if they have the opportunity. They’ll do the same thing to you that the Nazis did to their opponents in Nazi Germany.” - Brian Fischer
And that video is just the very tip of the iceberg. All links courtesy of Good As You:
“Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” - AFA Blog
“Sexual behavior is a choice, homosexual behavior will leave you diseased, lonely, and dead.” - AFA Blog
I think it's safe to say that any reasonable adult living in the United States, regardless of political affiliation, would disagree with the notion that gay men in the military led to the Holocaust. Which leads to a real problem we had with this NY Times piece. How does Eckholm categorize people who think the AFA is a bit on the extreme side? (emphasis added)
To its liberal critics, it is a shrill, even hateful voice of intolerance
Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People for the American Way, a liberal group, says of the American Family Association’s radio network: “Clearly a lot of Republican politicians want to reach the people who are listening to the American Family Association. Many Republican candidates see no shame in lending credibility to the extremism and bigotry on its radio shows.”
Though liberal critics call it a hate group, the association and Mr. Wildmon are widely revered in conservative circles.
Not once does Eckholm indicate that perhaps non-liberals might also disagree with the assertion that LGBT people want to put Christians in "re-education camps" or that "the number one class of people who are committing hate crimes today are homosexual activists" (both claims made by Fischer). Nor does he mention that the “liberal critics” who designated AFA as a hate group are actually the widely respected Southern Poverty Law Center.
Yes, Eckholm does make it clear that the AFA holds these extreme views - which is more than some other outlets have done. But there are other problems as well, like in this paragraph.
In 1988, the group renamed itself the American Family Association, and it has had a direct if unheralded hand in recent political battles, sending $500,000 to support the down-to-the-wire campaign for Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, for example, and sending a crack political organizer to Iowa last fall for the successful drive to unseat judges who had supported same-sex marriage. The group also sponsors “pastor policy briefings” around the country that seek to mobilize evangelical voters.
Anti-gay activists claim that those judges “supported” marriage for gay and lesbian couples – a claim which Eckholm repeats here. But this is a gross mischaracterization. The truth is that those judges ruled that under the state constitution, the state could not legally prevent gay and lesbian couples from marrying. “Supporting” something and saying “it’s unconstitutional to ban” something are two very different statements, particularly when it comes to judicial rulings. By adopting AFA’s own claims here, Eckholm may as well have called them “activist judges.”
There are other instances of this too, like saying Home Depot supports “gay pride parades” instead of correctly pointing out that it supports the entire LGBT community. Why the focus on just parades? I have to assume that’s the language AFA uses, because that’s the image it wants to conjure up in its boycott calls.
By adopting AFA’s slyly inaccurate language – and by mischaracterizing this disagreement as one between the AFA and "liberals" rather than between the AFA and an overwhelming majority of Americans – Erik Eckholm has done his audience and his newspaper a great disservice.
We have reached out to Mr. Eckholm, and look forward to raising our concerns with him directly. Based on his body of work, it does not appear that these errors were made maliciously, or with the intent of lending any of his credibility to the AFA’s extremist and preposterous positions, but we hope that upon hearing our concerns, he realizes that’s what happened.