A hit piece, deconstructed

How ABC is cleverly citing bogus ‘experts’ to make Jeff Sessions’s defense of Christianity sound lik

By —— Bio and Archives--July 14, 2017

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Here’s the impression ABC News wants you to get: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, hater of gay people, went and gave a secret hateful speech to an even bigger group of haters, only to be called out by a civl rights watchdog.

Here’s what actually happened: Jeff Sessions gave a speech to a group that shares his concern that Christianity is under attack, and a left-wing group that will call just about anyone racist, sexist or homophobic (but especially Christians), did what it usually does.

Two different ways of looking at it, right? You can argue that my way is informed by my own biases, and I suppose that’s true. I am an opinion writer. I never pretend not to be giving you my opinion. ABC is supposed to be a straight-news organization. But straight-news organizations have their own way of giving you their opinions, one of which is seen in the sources they choose to treat as “experts,” and in the way they describe these sources to you.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a left-wing group that is very critical of conservatives and Christians, frequently labeling them “hate groups.” The Alliance Defending Freedom is a right-wing group that defends Christianity. There. I just told you the ideological leanings and biases of each group. So how did ABC portray it when Sessions gave a speech to the ADF? The answer tells you everything about ABC:

In a closed-door speech to a right-wing legal advocacy group, Attorney General Jeff Sessionssaid religion is under attack, according to text of the speech the Department of Justiceappears to have released to the conservative website The Federalist on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Sessions spoke to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which was designated an “anti-LGBT hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2016, at their Summit on Religious Liberty in Dana Point, California. The event was closed to reporters, and both the Department of Justice and the Alliance Defending Freedom declined to provide a copy of Sessions’ remarks to ABC News.

. . .

According to the civil rights watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy group founded by Christian right leaders in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1994 that “specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage and generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally.”


For Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen, the speech was a tacit endorsement of a group with extreme anti-LGBT views.

“The ADF 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,” Cohen told ABC News in a statement. “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.”

Now the story does include a response from the ADF that accurately describes SPLC as attacking “anyone who disagrees with its far-left ideology,” but then it proceeds to balance the balance by quoting a lesbian Democrat senator who basically repeats the accusations against Sessions and the ADF.

The thing you want to pay attention to is ABC’s own descriptions of the parties involved. It describes ADF as a “right-wing legal advocacy group,” which clearly indicates that ABC considers the group’s ideological bent central to its identity. But it does not describe SPLC as “left-wing,” choosing instead to use the term “civil rights watchdog.”

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What if the story described the ADF as a “protector of Christianity” while describing SPLC as a “left-wing advocacy group”? You’d get a totally different impression of the players, wouldn’t you? As presented, you’d think SPLC has no interest at all in anything but truth and civil rights, whereas ADF is a bunch of shameless right-wing agitators.

Another way the story brings its bias to life is by making an issue out of things that are not really issues. There are plenty of events held by private organizations in which reporters are not invited and transcripts are not made public. This is neither extraordinary nor particularly newsworthy, but by mentioning it right in the lead ABC seeks to give you the impression that this is highly unusual and suspicious.

By the way, the ADF did apparently give a transcript the The Federalist, which it wisely trusts more than it trusts ABC. If you’d like to read it, go here. How anyone could see this as hateful is beyond me, but people see what they want to see. And people believe who they want to believe, which is why the media continues to treat the SPLC as a credible source, even though they are anything but.

And here’s more on that from the estimable (most of the time) David French.

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Dan Calabrese -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Dan Calabrese’s column is distributed by HermanCain.com, which can be found at HermanCain

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