Soledad O'Brien Grills, Interrupts, and 'Agrees to Disagree' With Tony Perkins on Gay Marriage

In a rather blatant show of a double standard, CNN's Soledad O'Brien interrupted and grilled the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins over his opposition to same-sex marriage, but she gave an exceedingly soft interview to a guest who was "elated" at President Obama's open support of same-sex marriage. The interviews kicked off Thursday's 7 a.m. hour of Starting Point.

CNN was quite one-sided in its Wednesday afternoon coverage of Obama's announcement in favor of gay marriage, and O'Brien simply carried that bias into Thursday morning. She sought the "reaction" of guest Mitchell Gold to the President's remarks, and Gold told her he was "still elated" and lauded the President's "courageous" action. 

Soledad even asked Gold if he was "disappointed" that the President may not have gone far enough in leaving the issue to the states. This is the same CNN reporter who aired a prime-time one-hour special titled "Gary and Tony Have a Baby," so her bias toward same-sex marriage is pretty obvious.

Unsurprisingly, Perkins was grilled by Soledad after she threw softballs for Gold. First, she demanded his reasons for opposing same-sex marriage – a question she never asked of her other guest. "I want to ask you a question about sort of, what is your big argument against gay marriage? What's the root of your argument against it?"

That started a back-and-forth between the two on the whole issue. [Video below. Audio here.]




A transcript of the segment, which aired on Starting Point on May 10 at 7:00 a.m. EDT, is as follows:


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Oh, good. Good morning to you. Listen, give me a sense of your reaction this morning after hearing President Obama's announcement.

MITCHELL GOLD, founder, Faith In America: Well, I'm still elated and filled with emotion. What President Obama did yesterday was so courageous...


O'BRIEN: Well, he also said, Mitchell, he believes that the issue should be decided state by state, which really isn't going as far as potentially as he could go. Are you disappointed by that?


O'BRIEN: He talked about it being an evolution, and he talked about even the impact that his wife and his daughters' experiences have had on this evolution. Do you believe, in fact, it was sort of a personal evolution or was it more of a political evolution, and I know you are often heavily involved in politics, where you look at the poll numbers especially how the poll numbers trend among young voters and you think this is a smart political evolution actually.



O'BRIEN: I want to ask you a question about sort of, what is your big argument against gay marriage? What's the root of your argument against it?

PERKINS: Well, it's an argument for marriage. It's an argument for marriage. When we look at what the impact that policy, public policy has had on marriage, you know, we don't have to guess about that. We go back to the late '60s with the adoption of no fault divorce. When a government takes a position – a policy position on marriage, it has an effect.

And we've seen the consequences of that. We have over 40 percent of children being born out of wedlock. We have a decline in marriage, a rise in cohabitation. The social costs of that are tremendous.


O'BRIEN: When government took a position – but when government took a position, let's say, against the ban on interracial marriage it had an effect too, right? It brought legal marriage to blacks and whites who wanted to get married.


PERKINS: You're talking about redefinition. You're not talking about – there is no rational reason to keep people of different races that were of opposite sex to marry. They met the qualifications of the definition of marriage. What we're talking about here is a further redefinition of marriage.

O'BRIEN: But hasn't marriage been redefined and redefined?


PERKINS: The effect that's going to have – it's going to intentionally create environments where you have children growing up without a mom and a dad, and social science is overwhelming –


O'BRIEN: But we have environments where children grow up. Forgive me for interrupting you – but have environments already in heterosexual couples where kids grow up without a mom and a dad. So you're certainly not arguing well gay marriage is fine as long as the couples don't want to have kids, because then you would be able to avoid that problem of no – kids growing up without a mom and a dad, or older couples who aren't going to have kids.

PERKINS: There's no argument that – there's no argument that those things have occurred and that the state of marriage in this country is problematic. There's no argument there. What I'm saying is, you look at the consequences, the cost do government as a result of that, the increased social cost. Why would we want to intentionally do more of that? The point here is public policy -- what we set doesn't mean that everybody is going to reach that standard, but we should set a standard that is best for society. We don't make public policy based upon –


O'BRIEN: Doesn't public policy follow culture? But it sounds to me like you're saying public policy sets culture. I would say maybe culture actually goes first and public policy follows when you're -- certainly if you're going to talk about equality and rights to sort of say, well, you know, I'm concerned about this issue so we'll overlook the equal rights part of it, seems a little unfair at the least.

PERKINS: Well, it's not an issue of equal rights. The – everybody has the same rights, what we're is the redefinition of marriage –

O'BRIEN: How is it not –

PERKINS: – and it goes much beyond marriage –


O'BRIEN: Wait no, no, let me stop you there. Forgive me, and I just want to – let me stop you at that point. So how is it not an issue of equal rights if one group can get married and another group cannot?

PERKINS: There are restrictions on marriage now. You can't marry a close relative. You can't marry someone who is already married. So everybody has restrictions placed on them on who they can marry in our society. And this goes beyond the issue of marriage. This goes beyond as we've seen, curriculum that is introduced into schools. I mean parents, they want to have a right over what their children are taught.

And we've already seen that parents lose the right to determine what values their children are instructed with that are in contradiction to their religious convictions. So this goes way beyond just marriage. It goes to the employees and employer relationship. It goes to public facilities. So it's a much bigger issue than just two people who love each other and want to commit their lives to each other. They're free to do that. They just can't redefine marriage and try to bring with that all of these other issues that accompany it.


O'BRIEN: But I think marriage has – but hasn't marriage been redefined over and over and over? In the 1800s, right, women were property of their husband. Marriage has been redefined over time on that issue.


O'BRIEN: In slave era, black people could not marry each other, right? Marriage has been redefined to say that actually black people can – people who are no longer slaves and blacks can marry. Interracial marriage is now legal. That happened as recently as 1967. It was illegal when my parents got married. My dad's white, my mom's black. So marriage has – is always being redefined, what is legal and under the law in marriage, right?

PERKINS: No, marriage has always been the union of a man and a woman. That has – that definition has never changed for over 5,000 years of human history. What we're talking about here is changing the very core definition of marriage.

O'BRIEN: Marriage has always been as someone has decided to define it, and sometimes they change that definition. That definition has changed. Marriage – a man and woman as long as they're white in some laws, right? So I would disagree with you on that.

PERKINS: Never been changed from a man and a woman.

O'BRIEN: But the idea of marriage and the institution changes all the time. So the idea that somehow this is the first change to marriage, I think, you might be mistaken on it.

PERKINS: No, I admitted that. We have changed the policy regarding the marriage. The example I used was in the issue of no fault divorce, and the weakening of the marriage laws and what it has resulted in significant social cost and ramifications. So these things should be evaluated very carefully before we make such a – this would go beyond anything that's ever been done before, as I said, going back to the core definition of marriage that's always been between a man and a woman.

O'BRIEN: Well, we're going to agree to disagree on this one. Tony Perkins, nice to have you on the show, as always. Appreciate it.

-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center