A prominent Christian legal group is demanding ABC News retract a story that labeled them a “hate group,” calling the article “journalistic malpractice.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal organization that specializes in First Amendment cases, is a respected legal organization that recently represented Trinity Lutheran Church before the Supreme Court — winning a 7-2 victory just last month.
But NBC News, ABC News, Mediaite, Newsweek and The Daily Beast all portrayed ADF as an anti-gay “hate group” in their coverage of a speech that Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave at an event for the group earlier this week.
The news outlets all relied on the Southern Poverty Law Center, a left-wing group that frequently smears conservatives as “extremists,” as the basis for labeling ADF a “hate group.” The SPLC includes ADF on its list of “hate groups” — the same list that inspired left-wing shooter Floyd Lee Corkins in to open fire at the Family Research Council, a conservative nonprofit, in 2012.
ADF spokesperson Kerri Kupec blasted ABC News on Thursday in a statement condemning the article.
“ABC News has committed journalistic malpractice. For ABC News to essentially cut-and-paste false charges against Alliance Defending Freedom by a radically partisan, violence-inciting organization like Southern Poverty Law Center is a discredit to ABC News and to the profession. Americans’ trust in media is cratering, and the blatant bias and lack of professionalism that ABC attempted to pass off as news can only serve to confirm and intensify that distrust,” Kupec said.
“Alliance Defending Freedom is one of the most respected and successful Supreme Court advocates in the legal profession, having won seven cases at the High Court in the last seven years. Southern Poverty Law Center spends its time and money attacking veterans, nuns, Muslims who oppose terrorism, Catholics, Evangelicals, and anyone else who dares disagree with its fringe ideology. Meanwhile, ADF works every day to preserve and affirm free speech and the free exercise of religion for people from all walks of life and all backgrounds because we believe freedom is for everyone,” she added.
Kupec concluded: “For the sake of its own integrity, ABC News should issue an apology to Alliance Defending Freedom and retract the defamatory story it published Wednesday.”
ABC News, which first reported about Sessions’ private ADF speech, mirrored an SPLC press release in its headline. “Jeff Sessions addresses ‘anti-LGBT hate group,’ but DOJ won’t release his remarks,” read ABC News’ headline, which came the day after an SPLC press release titled, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Address Anti-LGBT Hate Group in Closed-Door Event.”
Conservatives on Twitter blasted the media coverage of ADF as an obvious example of media bias.
ABC News calls a Christian legal group a “hate group” for defending Christians in court. https://t.co/UujgYzvgYb
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) July 13, 2017
Wow, ADF is not a “hate group.” Amazing that media keeps treating SPLC seriously. Extreme bias. https://t.co/R0lFCw8Gr4
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) July 13, 2017
— Denny Burk (@DennyBurk) July 13, 2017
Smearing Christians who believe the Bill of Rights secures religious liberty as a “hate group” is how you got Trump. https://t.co/C4jCRdaReN
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) July 12, 2017
A Catholic civil rights organization, the Catholic League, similarly criticized the media’s coverage of Sessions and ADF.
“It is biased stories such as the Sessions-ADF one that give rise to public mistrust of the media,” said Bill Donohue the organization’s president. “This is beyond ‘fake news’—it is a mean-spirited and ideologically driven assault on Christian activist organizations.”
The SPLC does include some left-wing groups on its list but is “focused, whether people like it or not, on the radical right,” an SPLC spokesperson told Politico. The SPLC did not return TheDC’s request for an explanation regarding ADF’s classification as a “hate group.”
Many of the news organizations using the SPLC’s “hate group” label against ADF, declined to give the New Black Panthers, one of the black nationalist groups on SPLC’s list, the same treatment.
A November 2016 Daily Beast that focused on Sessions brought up the New Black Panthers in the context of voter intimidation allegations, but made no mention of the group’s classification as a “hate group.” Another Daily Beast article in July 2016 also mentioned the New Black Panthers, this time in the context of the Dallas police shooter. Once again, The Daily Beast left out the black nationalist organization’s classification as a “hate group” by the SPLC.
In 2015, SPLC placed Dr. Ben Carson, current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, on its list of anti-gay “extremists” for believing that “Marriage is between a man and a woman.” The organization later apologized and removed Carson from the list after a public backlash.