Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Reading the Far Right: Don't Call Us Haters

Reading the Far Right: Don't Call Us Haters

Haters are gonna hate — but don’t you dare call them haters.

That was a big takeaway from our review of far-right media in the past week, with plenty of columnists objecting to the “hate group” label applied to Alliance Defending Freedom, the anti-LGBT legal nonprofit that recently hosted a closed-door speech by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Also we found major complaints about certain Republicans not being conservative enough — either because they didn’t vote for an anti-transgender amendment to a military spending bill or because they didn’t support a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Oh, and some are still defending Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer, but there are others who see the meeting as questionable at least.

Alliance Defending Freedom is demanding a retraction from ABC News, which described it as a hate group in covering Sessions’s speech, even though the words were placed in quotes in the headline on ABC’s website and preceded by “alleged” in the body of the story. NBC News also used the term, with attribution to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The SPLC is a liberal organization that, among other things, monitors groups that it says promote hatred based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other factors. Its page on ADF notes that the group engages in “regular defamation of LGBT people” and provides quotes from ADF leaders accusing LGBT people of “recruiting,” exploiting, and sexually abusing children, and saying that “the homosexual legal agenda” seeks “the silencing of all dissent.”

ADF and its defenders, however, say it’s just promoting a “biblical view” of sex and marriage. It’s “one of the nation’s most respected religious liberty law firms,” wrote Todd Starnes, who has his own site and is syndicated on Townhall and elsewhere. Starnes also described the deeply anti-LGBT Family Research Council and American Family Association, both designated hate groups by the SPLC, as “highly respected religious organizations.”

He went on to slam the SPLC: “Southern Poverty Law Center is a far-left partisan goon squad that labels any ideology they oppose as hate.”

Jerry Newcome, another Townhall contributor, denounced the group as well. “Initially, during the ending days of the civil rights movement, the SPLC did some worthy work, working against the hate of racism,” he wrote. “But recently the SPLC has begun to denounce pro-family groups that stand for traditional marriage — God’s rules for marriage — as haters. Furthermore, the SPLC has denounced those prophets among us, who are sounding the alarm on radical Islam, as ‘haters.’”

And on Fox News, host Tucker Carlson introduced an interview with ADF attorney Kristen Waggoner by calling the SPLC a “totally discredited but extremely rich left-wing organization” that seeks to “shut down legitimate debate by labeling ideas it disagrees with as ‘hate speech.’” (We don’t often feature Fox News in this column, as it’s more mainstream than some of the other sources we monitor, but sometimes it crosses the line.) Carlson and Waggoner both dubbed the SPLC a “scam.”

Actually, far from it. Charity Navigator, which rates nonprofit organizations how efficiently they use donors’ funds, gives the SPLC fairly high marks — three out of four stars for 2016. And its rating by Charity Navigator has risen since the early 2000s.

Also, as Media Matters notes, “It is a myth that the SPLC bases its hate group designations on conservative or religious beliefs about sexuality and marriage. As SPLC stated in 2010, when it first began listing anti-LGBTQ hate groups, ‘viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.’ Organizations are labeled anti-LGBTQ hate groups when they knowingly spread ‘demonizing lies about the LGBT community,’ engage in ‘baseless, incendiary name-calling,’ or actively work to criminalize the lives of LGBTQ people.”

And SPLC president Richard Cohen released this statement: "The Alliance Defending Freedom spreads demonizing lies about the LGBT community in this country and seeks to criminalize it abroad. If the ADF had its way, gay people would be back in the closet for fear of going to jail. It was inappropriate for Attorney General Sessions to lend his credibility to the group by appearing before it, and it was ironic that he would suggest that the rights of ADF sympathizers are under attack when the ADF is doing everything in its power to deny the equal protection of the laws to the LGBT community."

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Several far-right commentators lost it over the failure of the U.S. House of Representatives to include an anti-trans amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment, proposed by Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, would prevent the Department of Defense from paying for transition-related procedures, including hormones and surgery, for service members or their dependents. It was voted down 214 to 209, with 23 Republicans joining Democrats in voting against it.

“Two dozen Republican members of Congress believe you and I, taxpayers, should pay for castration and vaginal construction for transvestite males, double mastectomies of healthy breasts for male-posing women, as well as their artificial penises, and hormones administered to the opposite sex,” wrote anti-LGBT activist Linda Harvey on World Net Daily.

“It was a slap in the face of our military, who, like most Americans, had hoped the GOP would start cleaning up the messes of the last administration — not making more,” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins put in at BarbWire. “Instead, this band of defectors gave the far-Left the help it needed to keep Obama’s mission of dismantling the military alive. … Liberals won’t be satisfied until they’ve stripped common decency, faith, and morality from the public square.”

They and others, like former Congressman Allen West, likened gender-confirmation procedures (although, of course, they wouldn’t use that term) to cosmetic surgery and offered wildly inflated estimates of the cost.

Harvey also accused Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her staff of being insufficiently anti-LGBT. In June, DeVos aide Candice Jackson released a memo saying that although the previous administration’s guidelines on how to treat trans students had been rescinded, investigators with the department’s Office of Civil Rights could still evaluate complaints of anti-trans discrimination individually. Many LGBT activists saw this as way too vague and doing far too little to protect trans students’ rights. But to Harvey, this means DeVos is “an avid supporter of homosexual/gender rebellion lifestyles.”

Harvey went on to quote fellow homophobe and transphobe Peter LaBarbera, who denounced the memo in a column for LifeSite News. In an apparent attempt to discredit Jackson, LaBarbera wrote that she “is an open lesbian in a homosexual ‘marriage,’ a sexual assault survivor and a libertarian conservative activist who advocated for Trump in the campaign.” All that is true, but LaBarbera and Harvey’s world, being a lesbian, a sexual assault survivor, and a libertarian seems to mean she’s unfit for the office.

Jackson actually has been most in the news recently for inviting rape denialists to a Department of Education meeting on how to address campus sexual assault, and for making borderline denialist comments herself, saying most accusations of assault on college campuses “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’” She has apologized for the latter.

The facts that Jackson is an assault survivor and a lesbian are “less known” than her denialist comments and Trump support, The New York Times has noted, but they are indeed facts and have been out there for a while. However, while we at The Advocate have objected to Jackson’s actions, the far right objects to her very identity.

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Republicans are also getting some heat from the fringes for failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. Specifically targeted are the three Republican senators, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Shelley Moore Capito, who killed the chances of a straight-up repeal by saying they wouldn’t vote for it. Collins, a moderate from Maine, has long supported Obamacare, while Murkowski and Capito had previously voted to repeal it but this week acknowledged that doing so would hurt many people in their respective states, Alaska and West Virginia.

Reliably bombastic radio talker Rush Limbaugh lambasted the women as “three female leftists” who have usurped the power of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Now we find out the Republican caucus in the Senate is infected with essentially leftist members,” Limbaugh said on his Tuesday broadcast. “Collins, Murkowski, Capito — these three female leftists in the Republican caucus are running the Senate, not Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell is not running the Senate. These three women are running the Senate. The conservative Republicans in the Senate are not running the Senate. Three liberal women who call themselves Republicans are running the Senate.” Oh, heaven forbid that women have any power.

At The Resurgent, Sam Thomas wrote, “While it is incredibly disappointing that Collins is not on board with repeal, it is downright disgusting that Murkowski and Capito have flipped with a Republican President. They were on board with repeal when there was no possibility of it happening. Now they’ve sold out their constituents, their party, and the American people that have overwhelmingly elected Republicans for the past 8 years.” Actually, most of their constituents are probably relieved, although no one should relax just yet — the repeal efforts are continuing.

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And while details continue to emerge about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian operatives, some on the right are clinging to their “nothing to see here” assessment, while others are admitting that if it’s not (yet) evidence that his father’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia’s efforts at election interference, it was at least not a good idea for Trump Jr. to take the meeting.

At Townhall, David Harsanyi wrote that critics of the Trump administration are being too quick to call the meeting treasonous, “but it’s certainly shady.” He continued, “If it were no big deal, Trump Jr. would not have lied about it. The GOP should condemn Don Jr.’s actions because they're sleazy and dumb.” While we beg to differ with Harsanyi’s assertion that Democrats will turn the investigation into a “partisan clown show,” we do welcome his acknowledgement that the matter is “worth investigating further.”

The story will undoubtedly continue to unfold in the coming week, when we’ll be back with more info gleaned from reading the far right so you don’t have to.

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