In a stunning choice Wednesday morning, MSNBC invited a spokesperson for an anti-gay hate group to opine on the anti-gay "religious freedom" laws sweeping the nation. Watch how she lies about verifiable facts – without any response from the MSNBC anchor.
Note: Sandy Rios segment begins at about the 3:45 mark.
It's not uncommon for Fox News to invite members of anti-gay hate groups, radical religious right pastors, preachers, and politicians onto its shows, and to offer them unfettered access to spew hate and lies. That's just how Fox News works.
But MSNBC, after years of pushback by LGBT activists, the LGBT media, and LGBT organizations has wisely not called upon the Tony Perkins and Bryan Fischers to offer opinion or debate issues like marriage and family and discrimination with any regularity for quite some time now.
Rios, who is also a Fox News contributor and hosts a radio show on the American Family Association's Radio Network, is well know to many LGBT activists, and her animus and hate is well documented by both Right Wing Watch and GLAAD.
Via GLAAD's Commentator Accountability Project, some background on Sandy Rios:
"When homosexual men get together, they don’t look for activities to enjoy common interests, they look for activities to find and expedite sex," she once said.
Equated the love shared by two men to the “love” that kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro had for the young women he kept captive as slaves; when confronted, doubled down
When Supreme Court overturned criminal bans on gay sex, Rios described it as a "sad moment in American history;" said it was "an immoral act" on par with "the Dred Scott decision declaring slaves two-thirds persons"
MSNBC did not mention any of this, other than identifying Rios as the Director of Governmental Affairs for the American Family Association.
During the lengthy debate with Human Rights Campaign's Jason Rahlan over Indiana and Arkansas' anti-gay "religious freedom" legislation, Rios played extremely quick and loose with facts. In fact, she lied.
Here's how Rios described the case of Washington state florist Baronelle Stutzman, who just lost her discrimination case over her refusal to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.
"Barronelle Stutzman, 71-years old, a grandmother, who owns a floral shop in Oregon, inherited from her mother, who has gay employees, serves gay people all the time. A gay couple came to her, asked her to do her artistry for their wedding, she said, 'I can't do that. I don't agree with gay marriage.'"
"They're trying to take Baronelle's homes, they're coming after her trying to take her business and by they, I mean the government in Washington State," Rios falsely claimed.
"Because she doesn't have a right, as a 72-year old grandmother, to say, 'No, I love you, you're my customer, but I don't agree with gay marriage and I just can't give you my artistry."
Later, HRC's Rahlan responded. "At the end of the day there is no religious freedom crisis in America the only crisis is a rising wave of anti-LGBT legislation."
So Rios claimed:
"Ask Baronelle Stutzmann, who's losing her house. Ask the young bakers who lost their business and have five little children to support and have like multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines because they wouldn't do a cake for a gay wedding."
So, what's the actual truth?
Stutzman has been fined a total of $1001 and ordered to obey the law in Washington, like everyone else, and not discriminate.
But Rios claims the state is trying to punish her by confiscating her homes and business.
And no one, not Tamron Hall, not HRC's Jason Rahlan, pushed back. She was allowed to lie.
Rios also claimed, again, falsely, that, "The same thing happened to a young couple, Aaron and Melissa Klein, who had a cake shop."
She is of course referring to Melissa and Aaron Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa. After they refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, they chose to close their storefront store and do business online, presumably to avoid Oregon's nondiscrimination laws.
"So now they've been fined, hundreds of thousands of dollars, they have five small children, they've had to give up the business – this is the part of the story that people are not hearing."
What's the real truth?
The case has been argued and the Kleins have been found guilty, but no fine has been set whatsoever. It could go as high as $150,000, but again, no fine or final judgment has been set.
Yet Rios claims, "they've been fined, hundreds of thousands of dollars," and "they've had to give up the business."
Neither HRC nor MSNBC pushed back, they just allowed false statements to be accepted as truth.
Rios also engaged in this debate with Rahlan, after he mentioned Apple CEO Tim Cook, NIKE's CEO and President, NASCAR, the NCAA, Angie's List, and others who all oppose Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act:
RIOS: "They don't know the whole story, Jason."
RAHLAN: "They're pretty smart people Sandy, I think they do. They know the whole story."
RIOS: "No I don't think they're pretty smart at all."
RAHLAN: "You don't think the CEO of Apple is smart?"
RIOS: "You know if he were smart why is he doing business with countries where they are actually executing homosexuals?"
RAHLAN: "What about the NCAA?"
RIOS: "The NCAA watches, they watch the media! They watch the ridiculous exaggeration."
There's a great deal more, but bottom line, MSNBC should never have hosted a spokesperson for an anti-gay hate group, should at least have been better prepared, and should have properly identified Rios as a member of a hate group.
This was, in short, journalistic malpractice and MSNBC needs to apologize and correct the record.
Some reactions via Twitter:
.@tamronhall is interviewing Sandy Rios... and getting swamped by her speechifying. Would love to be in the room.— Lucas Grindley (@lucasgrindley) April 1, 2015