The Gay Left's Media Support Group

Vice President Al Gore will once again toe the gay-left line on September 19 when he appears as the keynote speaker at the Human Rights Campaign's annual Washington dinner. President Clinton made headlines last year by being the first President to speak to a gay activist event. The Washington Post noted in July that Dick Gephardt is also wooing the gay left, including speaking to an annual Human Rights Campaign dinner in Denver. One HRC activist said: "I have taken note that in the last six to 12 months he has been much more clear and forthright on gay and lesbian issues."

The militant gay left, then, is every bit as important to the Democrats as the religious right is to the Republicans. But it's a testimony to the leftist slant of the news media that reporters find nothing controversial with the militant gay movement, and nothing but controversy with the religious right. The Post reported that HRC estimated "openly gay donors gave $3.2 million to Democrats. Two thirds of self-identified gay voters backed Clinton in 1996, providing seven percent of his total votes, according to an independent exit poll." The HRC itself says it gave $1.1 million in the 1995-96 election cycle, dispatched staff to work on key races and its major donors separately gave more than $3 million.

Look at how they label both sides. A new study by MediaWatch reviewed 411 national newspaper stories from 1995 to mid-1998 on five gay left groups, and found only five "liberal" labels (or 1.2 percent) in the entire sample. Amazingly, in two stories on the aforementioned Human Rights Campaign, the pandering target of Democratic presidential hopefuls, described them as "nonpartisan" or "bipartisan."

By contrast, in 1995 and 1996 these same newspapers regularly applied a "conservative" warning label to the Family Research Council (in 63 percent of stories), Concerned Women for America (71 percent), and Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum (75 percent).

Just like another core Democratic constituency - abortion advocates - gay left activists perpetually describe their opponents as "extremists," and the liberal media play along by refusing to dispute, or even question, the charge. Last month, the New York Times quoted the HRC's David Smith on House Republicans introducing bills of interest to social conservatives: "They are throwing bones to the extreme right wing of the party in advance of the '98 elections." On June 16, HRC political director Winnie Stachelberg said Trent Lott's comments about homosexuality being an affliction show "how the extreme right wing has a stranglehold on the leadership" of Congress.

When President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, the HRC's Elizabeth Birch complained to The New York Times: "This is a capitulation to political religious extremists." Her colleague David Smith repeated the talking point to The Washington Post: "A complete capitulation to religious and political extremists." On January 12, 1995, Birch asserted "All political stripes reject the extremist anti-gay agenda."

In none of these attacks on the right-wing "extreme" did reporters correct the record or even apply a similar label to the HRC. Thus, the religious right is radical, the militant gay movement, mainstream.

In all of the stories about Clinton and Gore and Gephardt speaking before them, the HRC never drew a liberal label. In 1997, the Post reported that Hillary Clinton headlined a Barbara Boxer fundraiser at the Maryland home of HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch. No label. Ted Kennedy spoke at their 1996 "United in Victory" convention rally in Chicago. Clinton sent a videotaped message claiming his administration "has taken more steps than any other to bring the gay and lesbian community to the table." No label.

Even when reporters contrast the gay left with the religious right, they label only one side. In a June 11, 1998 New York Times story on Internet filtering services, reporter Pamela Mendels referred to an appeals panel that includes "representatives of groups as diverse as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the conservative group Morality in Media."

The same phenomenon occurred in the September 16, 1995 Washington Post, when reporter Jay Mathews covered Coors offering domestic partner benefits: "The Christian right and the gay protesters appear somewhat disoriented at finding themselves assailing the same enemy...The move stunned conservative Christian groups that had been accustomed to Coors support for anti-gay rights efforts."

Carl Cannon once wrote of a Knight-Ridder editor telling him in 1992 that when Clinton supported policies like allowing open gays in the military, "we're hearing something that doesn't sound outlandish to us at all. In fact, it sounded reasonable. It sounded fair."

It isn't reasonable. It isn't fair. It's not even true.