Good Journalism: CNN's Baldwin Puts Perkins' Anti-gay Views in Context

Thursday afternoon, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin gave an almost textbook example of how to tell a complete story when dealing with an anti-gay activist. Joining Baldwin was Tony Perkins, there to speak about his 3PM press conference opposing President Obama’s support for marriage equality.

Perkins is certainly one of the loudest anti-gay activists in the country, and his voice was absolutely relevant to today’s discussion, surrounding his press conference. But he always needs to be put into context, since in front of mainstream audiences he plays a completely different character than the one he plays in front of supporters

In order to tell the full story when interviewing Perkins, it needs to be made clear to the audience that this is someone who believes gay people “have an emptiness within them” and are trying to “recruit (children) into that lifestyle” through support campaigns like It Gets Better.

GLAAD President Herndon Graddick wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post earlier this month focusing on Wolf Blitzer’s failure to do this, and it appears CNN did its homework this time.

“Tony Perkins isn’t merely someone who opposes marriage equality, this is someone who opposes gay people period, and Brooke Baldwin did a good job of making that clear,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “Tony Perkins cannot be used to represent those who may not yet be there on marriage but support LGBT people in other areas. Baldwin used her questions to put his views into context, and told her audience a complete story.”

Here are a few of the key questions, along with Perkins' answers.

  • Baldwin asked Perkins if he had ever been to the home of a married same-sex couple. He had not.
  • She asked how he would explain to a married gay couple that they should not have the protections of marriage. He did not answer.
  • Baldwin asked Perkins why gay people bother him so much. He said they don’t … but he did so very uncomfortably, and it was evident he was not telling the whole truth.
  • When he implied that his was the majority position, she corrected him, citing the latest polls showing only 39% of Americans believing marriage equality should be illegal, opposed to 53% who say it should be legal.
  • And when he told her it was a policy issue, she corrected him, and told him it was a human issue.

Of course, the interview wasn’t perfect – and this is one thing that we’d like to see every journalist get right.

Perkins, as he always does, gave his line about “social science” showing “kids do best with a mother and a father.” This is absolute garbage. The studies he is citing compared kids raised by a mother and a father to kids from single parent homes. Every single mainstream study that has ever been conducted, comparing kids raised by two gay parents to kids raised by two straight parents, has found absolutely no difference

Here is what a few of the nation’s leading health and child welfare organizations have to say: (feel free to skip ahead, unless you’re a journalist.)

The American Academy of Pediatrics says: "[S]cientific literature demonstrates" that same-sex couple children "fare as well."

The American Psychiatric Association says: "Research indicates that optimal development for children is based not on the sexual orientation of the parents."

The American Psychological Association says: "There is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation."

The American Psychoanalytic Association says: "Gay and lesbian individuals and couples are capable of meeting the best interest of the child."

The Child Welfare League of America says: "Any attempt to preclude or prevent gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals or couples from parenting, based solely on their sexual orientation, is not in the best interest of children."

And here are just a few of the studies that back that up:

“Gay & Lesbian Parenting” (PDF - a review of the research literature by the American Psychological Association.)

“Meta-Analysis of Developmental Outcomes for Children of Same-Sex and Heterosexual Parents” (2008 metastudy from Michigan State University)

“Pychosocial Adjustment Among Children Conceived Via Donor Insemination by Lesbian and Heterosexual Mothers” (1998 research from the University of Virgina)

“Children’s Gender Identity in Lesbian and Heterosexual Two-Parent Families” (2009 research from the University of Amsterdam and New York State Psychiatric Institute)

“Nontraditional Families and Childhood Progress Through School” (2010 research by Stanford University)

“Parent-Child Interaction Styles Between Gay and Lesbian Parents and Their Adopted Children” (2007 study from Florida State University)

“U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents” (2010 study from the University of California-San Francisco, the University of California-Los Angeles and the University of Amsterdam)

We need for journalists like Baldwin to be aware of this, so viewers will know that anti-gay activists like Perkins aren’t telling the whole truth.

But aside from this, Baldwin did the best job we’ve seen from anyone at CNN since the Obama announcement of showing her audience exactly who Tony Perkins is, exactly who he speaks for, and most importantly, that he doesn’t speak for them.


Watch the video here: