The Trump era has emboldened our worst opponents

While the Family Research Council has always enjoyed far more government access than most of us would like from an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group, there was a time in the not too distant past when even conservatives were starting to recognize that there are certain forms of advocacy that take them off message from the larger party brand and interests. Sure, from time to time mainstream conservatives, and sometimes even moderates, would show up at an FRC conference and play to that base. But for the most part, toward the end of the last administration and prior the current one, we were in a place where even elected officials who vote against our interests would shy away from catering to groups that unapologetically promote so-called “conversion therapy.”

In the Trump era, elected officials seem to have dropped all qualms. Let’s look at just one metric: The daily radio show of FRC president Tony Perkins.


Tony’s show has always featured occasional visits from the more extreme members of Congress. You get a Louis Gohmert here. A Vicki Hartzler there. Back in the day, then-congressman Mike Pence used to even occasionally fill-in as Tony’s guest host. But for the most part, it was only the far fringes, most always from the larger chamber, and still a somewhat rarity.

Now, elected members of Congress, from both chambers, appear on Tony’s show almost daily.  

  • In the nine shows that have aired this month, six different members of Congress (Loudermilk, Yoho, Burgess, Gohmert, Johnson Hartzler) have appeared. 
  • In the month of February, four Republican US Senators (Lee, Sasse, Daines, and Hawley) And ten GOP Reps (Gohmert, Johnson, Yoho, Davidson, Cheney, Gosar, Kelly, Wagner, Green, and Scalise) put in appearances. Two of them (Sen Hawley and Rep Johnson) appeared on multiple days, making for a broadcast calendar where the anti-LGBTQ hate group hosted Republican members of Congress on more days than not.
  • January was more of the same. Only this time, in addition to near-daily appearances from the (Republican) men and women of Congress, Vice President Mike Pence also went on Tony’s show, where he both talked about their close friendship and attacked the people who were questioning why his wife chose to take a job at an anti-LGBTQ school. That appearance is here, if you care to listen.
  • In December, Tony hosted twenty-one daily shows. Of those twenty-one days, fourteen of the programs featured members of Congress or a member from the Trump administration. On some shows, there were multiple elected officials. On the December 20 show, four members of Congress appeared on that same program.
  • November was no different. In the last week of that month, all five days of programs featured US Senators and US Reps. Tony had cozy chats with eight different high-ranking government officials in just those five days.

You can look through the archives in the time since Trump was elected and you will find the same: a GOP that seems to have absolutely no qualms catering to an organization the proudly strives to “convert” LGBTQ people, or a man who has said some of the worst imaginable things about us.

And let’s be 100% clear: these appearances are not disconnected from FRC’s larger anti-LGBTQ agenda. It’s not like Tony hosts special “mainstream” days where he only focuses on tort reform. On many days when these elected officials appear (which is to say most every day), they often appear right alongside people and organizations who go on the show to proudly hock their “reparative therapy” wares. Here are just a few examples:

  • Wednesday, 2/13/19: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) appeared. On that same show, FRC’s Peter Sprigg, a man who infamously said he wanted to “export homosexuals from the United States,” went on to discuss why trans people are incapable of serving in the United States military.
  • Monday, 1/28/19: Rep Ted Yoho (R-FL) chose to go on the show. Later in the same episode, his fellow Floridian, the viciously hostile John Stemberger , came to to attack a proposal to introduce sexual orientation and gender identity protections into the Sunshine State.
  • Tuesday, 1/8/19: Congressman Brian Babin (R-TX) appeared in the first block. On that same show, Michele Cretella from the highly discredited American Academy of Pediatricians  (which is also designated as a hate group by the SPLC) discussed supposed Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, which she insists shows that transgender is a fad
  • Friday, 1/4/19: Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) made an appearance. On that same program, a representative from an organization called Living Hope Ministries, which purports to “change” LGBTQ people, went on to discuss  “people who are experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction.”
  • Tuesday, 10/23/18: Rep Jim Jordan (R-OH) put in a visit. In the next segment, Peter Sprigg, who in addition to calling to “export” us has also said he supports criminal sanctions against us, went on to discuss his narrow views on biology as it relates to LGBTQ people
  • Wednesday, 6/13/18: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was the first guest. Later in that same show, a California pastor who supports “conversion therapy” and who opposed his states attempts to ban it went on to make the case for why “changing” LGBTQ people is a fair practice.
  • Tuesday, 2/13/18: Rep Ted Poe (R-TX) went on. In the very next segment, a Michigan pastor appeared to talk about his program to “help” women who are struggling with sexuality and identity.

The above is just a small selection. You can look through the archives and pull just about any show. And it’s not even just the guests themselves. On many of these shows, Tony discusses a particular news story in which he takes the decidelty anti-LGBTQ view. His callers weigh in with their own anti-LGBTQ views, and they all have a good laugh at our expense. The whole production is geared toward delegitimization of LGBTQ rights and, decidedly, LGBTQ people.

But in this new era, where Tony Perkins is a regular White House guest and hostilities abound in just about every department of government, this sort of delegitimization has become par for the course.

In a country where so many norms are being obliterated on a daily basis, this is yet another thing that we cannot allow to become a new normal. Perhaps the GOP needs to adopt a new rally cry: Make Bigotry Unacceptable Again.


Jeremy Hooper is a writer, activist, and father in New York, NY.