Accuracy in Media

One of the most extraordinary media campaigns against conservatives was recently launched over the death of homosexual student Matthew Shepard. The circumstances surrounding his death are still in dispute. Some reports indicated he was attacked after cruising for sex. In any case, he didn’t deserve to die. But conservatives who have been critical of the homosexual lifestyle didn’t deserve to be linked to his murder. Ironically, what we saw in the media was a hate campaign against conservatives being waged in the name of promoting hate-crimes legislation to protect homosexuals.

The spear carrier in this media assault was Katie Couric, the perky co-host of the NBC Today Show, who attempted to convey to her audience of millions of people that conservative Christian groups played some role in Shepard’s murder. Here is the question she put to her guest on the Today Show broadcast: “Some gay-rights activists have said that some conservative Christian political organizations, like the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family are contributing to this anti-homosexual atmosphere by having an ad campaign saying, ‘If you’re a homosexual, you can change your orientation.’ That prompts people to say, ‘If I meet someone who’s homosexual, I’m going to take action and try to convince them or try to harm them.’ Do you believe that such groups are contributing to this climate?”

This is a classic example of a loaded question designed to elicit a certain kind of response. Fortunately, the guest, Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer, didn’t bite. He said he wouldn’t trade one stereotype for another and believes that people shouldn’t be categorized unfairly. But it didn’t really matter what the governor had said. Couric had made her point by citing those “gay activists.”

Focus on the Family President James Dobson was outraged, issuing a statement in which he said, “That Couric would repeat such a ridiculous accusation on a national TV show only serves to perpetuate twisted stereotypes about Christian people. Ms. Couric’s comment was highly irresponsible and potentially libelous. Focus on the Family demands that NBC issue an apology to religious people across the United States.”

NBC didn’t issue an apology, but its telephone switchboards were so overwhelmed with calls protesting Couric’s remarks that the network called Focus on the Family asking the organization to back-off. The calls were designed to make it clear to the network that it had crossed the line. It had crossed the line into gross generalizations about conservative Christian people. Some might even say that Couric was guilty of her own “hate crime.”

Yet the same gay activists who prompted this outpouring of hate toward conservative Christians want their own national hate-crimes legislation to protect them. This suggests that, if they had their way, they might try to make it illegal to run advertisements or commercials describing how homosexuals can leave their lifestyle. Information about ex-homosexuals might be construed as “hate.” But Couric wasn’t alone in her hate campaign. New York Times columnist Frank Rich charged the Family Research Council with “stirring up” the atmosphere that led to the killing of Shepard. These, too, were hateful comments from someone supposedly against hate.

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