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When Will The Media Stop Trusting A Hate Group To Label Hate Groups?


On Thursday, Newsweek ran a story by Harriet Sinclair, captioned “Donald Trump To Speak At Hate Group’s Annual Event, A First For A President.” While headlines occasionally skew the thrust of an article, not so here.

Sinclair’s article began by explaining that “Trump will be the first sitting president to address the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) described as a ‘rogues’ gallery of the radical right.’…The anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, labeled as a hate group by SPLC, has hosted its annual summit since its inception in 2006.”

Sinclair’s tactic is a well-worn one for both the liberal media and the political left: Scapegoating the slander by pointing to SPLC’s “hate group” tag. Just last month, Sen. Al Franken executed a similar maneuver during Senate hearings for President Trump’s nominee for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Notre Dame law professor Amy Barrett. While Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s “the dogma lives loudly” soundbite dominated the news cycle and drew a rebuke from the university’s president, Franken’s equally appalling statements went mainly unnoticed. In questioning Barrett about her association with Alliance Defending Freedom, Franken asserted that, according to SPLC, ADF is a hate group “that calls for the sterilization of transgender people abroad.”

Franken’s charge was blatantly false. Had the media investigated the claim, SPLC would have been exposed for the political hacks they have sadly become. Ed Whelan, a conservative lawyer and president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, exposed the fraud in detail at his blog Bench Memos—twice. SPLC then doubled down on its smear of ADF twice while expanding its “hate” slur to Whelan. Yet because politicians and the press unquestioningly acquiesce in SPLC’s branding of organizations as hate groups, the claim remained unchallenged in the mainstream media (MSM).

SPLC’s Claim About ADF Is Blatantly False

Now Newsweek has pulled the same stunt, happily regurgitating SPLC’s “hate group” slur without investigating the underlying claim. Whether ignorance, laziness, or partisanship has prompted the MSM to overlook SPLC’s deceit to this point is unclear, but it must stop. So, let’s rule out the first two possibilities with this simple and straightforward guide (links included) for non-partisan journalists.

Claim: Franken charged that ADF “calls for the sterilization of transgender people abroad.” SPLC proclaimed on its webpage that ADF “Defended State-Enforced Sterilization for Transgender Europeans.”

Facts: Both SPLC and Franken’s claims are based on a brief ADF’s international arm filed in a case pending in the European Court of Human Rights, A.P., Garcon, and Nicot v. France. In that case, three men who identify as women argued against France’s requirement that they “first undergo an irreversible identity change through an operation or sterilization treatment in order to correct their ‘sex’ designation on their birth certificates violated Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

In its friend-of-the court brief on the case, ADF did not address whether gender-reassignment surgery or sterilization should be required for a transgender individual to obtain a new birth certificate. Rather, after noting that “the three instant cases concern the proper legal approach to individuals identifying as the opposite sex,” ADF summarized its argument as follows:

This brief argues firstly that while the Court has dealt with the question of whether countries should provide a mechanism for changes to gender after birth, the mechanics of so doing have always been considered a matter for the member State. It is further argued that this position should remain unchanged for two reasons. Firstly, because such practical questions are best decided at a national level; and secondly because there is a clear divergence of approaches within the Council of Europe region.

Anyone who reads ADF’s brief in good faith—or, frankly, even in bad faith—would conclude that Franken’s SPLC-fueled assertion that ADF “calls for the sterilization of transgender people abroad” is utterly false. ADF didn’t call for anyone’s sterilization! Further, European countries were not mandating sterilization of transgender individuals. To obtain a new birth certificate,  some countries required proof of gender-reassignment surgery, others proof of sterilization, others a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

A Contingent Offer Is Not the Same as Force

SPLC’s original claim is equally dubious, but it purposely obfuscated the facts by calling the sterilization “state-enforced.” That meant a few countries “enforced” a rule that to obtain a new birth certificate, the individual must undergo sterilization. But SPLC’s word choice implied that the government forced all transgender individuals to be sterilized, rather than requiring this choice only of people who wanted a birth certificate listing their sex as opposite what it truly is. That is exactly how a reasonable person—or even an unreasonable one—would interpret SPLC’s muddied language, which is why Franken paraphrased the charge against ADF the way he did.

To reiterate: In its brief, ADF did not discuss sterilization. Indeed, rather than “calling for” or “defending” sex-reassignment surgery, ADF noted “that gender reassignment surgery is not viewed universally as an appropriate treatment for transgenderism.” Instead, ADF argued that individual European countries should decide their own legal requirements for a transgender individual to obtain a new birth certificate—not the European Union. That is exactly how it is done in the United States, with some states requiring sex-reassignment surgery for a new birth certificate and other requiring a note from a doctor, and still others not allowing for changes at all.

Yet for all of SPLC’s duplicity, I do agree with one point: The government should never force or even encourage an individual to become sterilized. First and foremost, because, “[e]xcept when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.” Second, there is growing, albeit buried, evidence of sex-change regret (sex-change operations and accompanying hormone therapy often cause sterilization). Let’s see if Newsweek will report this.