By Lucas Grindley
Originally published on Advocate.com March 31 2012 1:57 PM ET
Chris Matthews said he doesn't believe in "silencing people," and that includes Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and other activists have launched a campaign to keep off the air the Family Research Council, which is labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its habit of spreading misinformation about LGBT people.
Matthews was confronted during a book signing in Massachusetts this month by a group called Faithful America that has made ridding cable television of Perkins a top priority.
"I don't believe in fatwas, I don't believe in silencing people," Matthews said when confronted. "I don't believe in it, OK? I want Rush Limbaugh on the air. I want him on every day. I want people to hear, I want everybody to hear all the arguments. It's a free country."
MSNBC most recently had Perkins on to offer his reaction to Rick Santorum's win in Louisiana. But Matthews' show, Hardball, is accused of inviting Perkins on as a guest more than any other.
GLAAD recently launched its Commentator Accountability Project with Perkins listed prominently as one voice that shouldn't be used to represent evangelical voters on television because while off the air he's pushing antigay rhetoric.
"He doesn't pull that homophobic stuff on my show," Matthews claims, though Faithful America doesn't agree. And even so, one of the people confronting Matthews points out: "But when he's on your show, you lend legitimacy to the things he says off your show."
Just this week, the Family Research Council spoke out in favor of businesses legally being able to turn away LGBT customers. In an email to supporters, the group used the example of a Kentucky T-shirt maker that backed out of an order when it learned it was for a gay pride festival.
"Just because it sells to the public doesn't mean it has to surrender its private views," the newsletter said, according to Equality Matters. "Like any business, Hands On has the freedom to establish its own criteria of conduct and conscience. The same applies whether the clients are Planned Parenthood, the Ku Klux Klan, or baby seal hunters."
Matthews was unswayed by the argument that putting Perkins on his show lends any credence to that sort of view.
"OK, OK, you made your case," he told the people off camera. "You may be right. But not right now."
Matthews is an outspoken supporter of LGBT rights and he and his wife were honored guests during a Human Rights Campaign benefit earlier this month in Los Angeles. Watch video of the confrontation and his HRC speech below.