The words "hate group" recently appeared in black and white in newspapers and websites all around the world. And because those words were used to describe the conservative law firm representing Kim Davis, her attorneys are red all over.
Claire Galofaro, a correspondent for the Associated Press, reported October 4 that the label was applied to the law firm by the Southern Poverty Law Center. SPLC defends that label on its website with dozens of examples of antigay positions, statements, and cases, and calls Liberty Counsel "a legal organization advocating for anti-LGBT discrimination under the guise of religious liberty."
Now, according to a report by watchdog group Media Matters, Liberty Counsel is demanding the AP permanently delete the report and accuses the wire service of putting the lives of Davis and Liberty Counsel staff at risk, saying death threats have come in.
The letter was obtained by the conservative news outlet Breitbart. Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, wrote to Brian Barrett, AP's assistant general counsel, saying that calling his firm a "hate group" was "defamatory and presents Liberty Counsel and me in a false light."
"The words and the way the article is written as a whole present a clear and unmistakable message to a reasonable person -- Mat Staver and Liberty Counsel are liars and haters, and the organization is a 'hate group.' These assertions are very damaging and place lives in danger."
However, in reality, the AP's original reporting appears to be a very clear statement of facts, as put forth by the SPLC on its website:
"With the expansion of equal rights for LGBT people, especially, the Liberty Counsel has come into their own, working to attempt to ensure that Christians can continue to engage in anti-LGBT discrimination in places of business under the guise of 'religious liberty.' Through lawsuits and its annual Awakening conference in Orlando, the Counsel attempts to enforce the idea that Christian beliefs and law trump all other law."
Liberty Counsel "regularly portrays gay people as perverse, diseased pedophiles putting Western civilization at risk," and in doing so it is "way, way over the line," Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the center, told the AP.
Among its egregious fallacies, the firm has claimed gay people are more promiscuous and engage in incest at higher rates than heterosexuals, Potok told the news service, ignoring scientific evidence to the contrary.
At press time, there was no confirmation of any death threats against Liberty Counsel being reported to Orlando police.