Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) fired off an angry letter to the president of ABC News on Monday, taking the network to task for a recent story they ran on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a speech he gave to a prominent Christian legal organization.
In the story, ABC News casually suggested that Sessions and the Justice Department were hiding the contents of the speech from public view and said that was disturbing because of the “hate group” nature of the organization in question: the Alliance Defending Freedom.
The article explained that ADF, which is instrumental in providing legal help for Christian business owners facing persecution due to their refusal to participate in gay weddings and other LGBT events, was labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Nothing in the July 12 report reminded readers that the SPLC is a left-wing advocacy group and not, as often assumed, the final authority on American hate groups.
“I found it odd that ABC would designate ADF as a hate group not based on any actual crime or action, but apparently based on their belief in religious liberty or traditional marriage,” Lankford wrote. “Since I think I can confidently assume that ABC News is a strong supporter of the First Amendment, why would ABC News label a peaceful group as a ‘hate group’ simply because of a difference of opinion?”
Lankford said the issues at stake in journalism and religious freedom were too important for reporters to casually throw around terms like ‘hate group’ without backing up those claims with something more substantial than the word of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“In this country, we have the ability and freedom to disagree,” he wrote. “However, disagreement is not the same as discrimination and it’s not the same as hate. As journalists and members of the government, we have a responsibility to distinguish between the two. Labeling ADF a ‘hate group’ feeds into a narrative that the news media frequently editorializes beyond the facts. This ultimately harms American trust in the press.”
We sincerely hope this letter is not easily dismissed by ABC News and the rest of the mainstream media, because while we have little hope that these liberal journalists will relent in their war against the Trump administration (and no hope at all that they will begin giving fair coverage to Christian interests), there is an opportunity here for a small, but important course correction. It’s time, simply, for the MSM to stop treating the Southern Poverty Law Center as a legitimate, unbiased source for “hate group” information. Relate their quotes and designations if you must, but do so only after explaining to viewers/readers that the SPLC has an agenda, just as you would before quoting Rush Limbaugh or the Heritage Foundation.
We’ve given up trying to get the “liberal” out of the liberal media, but we can at least start taking steps toward getting the “fake” out of fake news. This would be a decent place to start.