By Jody May-Chang ©2010
Bryan Fischer is well-known in Idaho. To some he is a hero of “family values,” but to many he is a living, breathing example of what is wrong with America. Fischer is the pitchman for contempt and the poster boy for intolerance. The man’s obsession with and hatred of homosexuals is well documented, but recently he has been gaining national attention.
Fischer’s visceral scorn for gays was rarely, if ever, challenged by the Idaho news media that ran to him for a quote as if he was the anointed representative of all that is Christian in Idaho. He was essentially considered a “balanced” voice to oppose gays in Idaho.
Fischer is now climbing into the national spotlight to brand homosexuals and others who don’t fit into his narrow view of the world as threats that should be locked up or perhaps even executed. This past year, he was hoisted into the national spotlight when he was included in MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann’s Worst Person segment for his xenophobic rant that called on banning Muslims from the serving in the U.S. military following the Fort Hood tragedy.
More recently Fischer has been calling for the national criminalization of homosexuality, comparing gays to everything from IV drug users to murderers. This fact was brought out by Fox News’s Alan Colmes who called out Bryan Fischer on is daily radio show.
Colmes did what no reporter or editor in Idaho had the common sense, guts, or journalistic integrity to do when it came to Bryan Fischer â€“ Colmes held him accountable for his words and pressed him with hard questions!
Fischer’s inability to answer Colmes’s direct questioning demonstrated what many of us here in Idaho have known all along, that Fischer is a fraud! If only one reporter in Idaho had acted like a journalist instead of a hack, Fischer would hardly be enjoying the national limelight.
It took Colmes on Fox News to expose Fischer for the “weasel” that he really is.
Shortly after I posted the exchange between Colmes and Fischer, I received an unsolicited email from Mr. Colmes where he said, “That was one of the most frustrating interviews I ever did.” That is a pretty bold statement coming from a man that for years co-hosted a major cable program with the right wing’s water-boy, Sean Hannity.
Colmes did in five minutes what Idaho media failed to do in over a decade of covering Fischer. Colmes should be applauded! (left)
For three years now, I have researched and exposed Fischer as the fraud he really is, someone with a keen sense of how to use the media in order to garner headlines to promote an extremist ideology masked as “family values.”
During his decades in Idaho, Fischer carved out a career by regularly vilifying and dehumanizing gay, lesbian and transgender people.
Fischer is now parroting talking points from Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively who has been spreading vicious anti-gay hate propaganda in Uganda. Lively is one of a handful of American Christian extremists who testified before the Uganda parliament, laying the groundwork for the Anti-Homosexual Bill, that if passed, will imprison Ugandan gays for life or execute them.
Fischer loved to be on camera and boasted about his messages making press in the Idaho media. He used his website and email list to announce and promote each and every success in gaining a sound bite or ink in the Idaho Statesman. His hunger for media attention was well-fed by the Idaho news media for years.
Reporters and editors in Idaho rolled over and let Fischer state his contempt for gays on a regular basis without a single hard question or investigation into his motives or “facts.” The Idaho news media was essentially his personal public relations firm.
The Idaho Statesman and local broadcast news media was complacent and negligent when it came to covering Bryan Fischer’s rants and causes. Fischer owes the Idaho news media a debt of gratitude for launching him into the national spotlight.
Fischer enjoyed unprecedented access to the local news media and the Idaho Republican leadership.
Without question or concern, the Idaho media let Fischer get away with his many reinventions of himself. He was identified by the press as a pastor, Senate chaplain, church founder, lobbyist, activist and executive director of the now semi-defunct, Idaho Values Alliance (IVA). He was sought out by the media to address a myriad of topics from religion and politics to Constitutional law. He gained media access on virtually everything he had an opinion, especially his favorite obsession, the gay community which he enjoys referring to as living a “non-normative homosexual lifestyle.”
Idaho media turned a blind eye to his most outrageous statements of hatred and the plethora of unsubstantiated facts regularly heralded on his website. Fischer is media savvy and knows better than to dare repeat on camera the atrocious statements he still makes freely on his website.
Fischer was never seriously pressed or asked any hard questions. Instead he was given a free pass time and time again. Through the media he managed to create an image of himself as a knowledgeable and credible news source when in reality he is really nothing more than a polished ideologue with a propensity to lie and bully.
The Idaho Statesman’s Role
The Idaho Statesman, which is owned by the McClatchy Company, consists of a network of 30 daily newspapers in 15 states. This connection provides Idaho’s largest daily with an opportunity to push local stories out to a larger national audience.
The Statesman pushing Fischer’s narrow-minded agenda has probably given him more ink than any other Idaho print media.
Since Oct. 1999, approximately 100 stories were published where reporters directly quote Fischer. Many additional published pieces don’t quote Fischer directly, but reference him or discuss his cause of the day.
This astounding number of published articles does not include the 16 guest opinions written by Fischer that the Statesman published since 2003. Fischer used the guest opinion and a number of letters to the editor as a platform to launch attacks. At some point, editorial decisions were made to print another 80 letters and guest opinions in reaction to something Fischer said or did.
Was this a sound editorial policy or simply a method to generate controversy in order to sell papers? The Idaho Statesman basically handed Fischer the keys to the newsroom. The newspaper parroted his propaganda and bolstered his profile.
Fischer used the media to gain celebrity status where he was given a platform to offer his so-called “expert” opinions on such things as women’s issues, health, science, civil rights, Constitutional law and LGBT people.
While some Statesman reporters’ tried to provide balanced coverage, they lacked the spine to ask Fischer some hard questions or to subject him to scrutiny.
Several of Richert’s own blog posts contain quotes pulled directly from Fischer’s website with no discernible news value, added commentary or critical analysis.
For example, Richert made an editorial decision to post a lengthy quote he called, “a tirade,” and “tiresome old debate.” In another, Richert simply adds, “I’m stunned” and “I really have nothing to add.” Well if that’s the case, why then post them at all?
When Richert learned that Fischer was leaving Idaho to do a radio show in Mississippi, he posts, Let’s start talking about â€˜pro-family’ politics.” START talking? Richert had 10 years to engage that conversation.
“Fischer was the type of person with an opinion about anything and a penchant for getting ink and air time,” says Richert, forgetting that it was his very own newspaper that provided all that ink in the first place.
“I think he lectured more than he debated,” says Richert. “I think the Idaho Values Alliance’s one-way dialogue was misguided.” In conclusion Richert says, “Fischer said the Idaho Values Alliance will soon move into ‘whisper mode,'” then asks, “How about, instead, a conversational mode?”
For three years Fischer’s website has been CLOSED to reader comments, now only weeks before he closes up shop, Richert calls for two way dialogue. Where was Richert’s call for an open dialogue while Fischer was filling up space on the Statesman’s opinion page?
Richert wasn’t the only patsy paving the way for Fischer at the Statesman. Staff reporter, Heath Druzin wrote a puff-piece that was nothing more than a pitch for cash. Druzin regurgitates Fischer’s “urgent plea for money,” and what could happen to the IVA if Fischer didn’t collect some quick coin.
Druzin reports two weeks later that IVA received roughly $40,000 in donations. What Druzin does not say is Fischer misrepresented IVA’s revenue and his salary to Druzin who just printed what Fischer told him.
In 2007, Fischer gave himself a big fat raise, amounting to just shy of 80 percent of IVA’s annual budget, despite revenue being down over $9,000 from 2006. We can only speculate how many tax-free dollars Fischer would have collected without Druzin’s pitch for donations or had Druzin done a little digging into IVA finances.
Idaho Television News Media’s Role
Fischer also used local television media to get regular face time in front of cameras to advance his propaganda. In fact, reporters seemingly flocked to him for a sound bite.
In June 2008, Bryan Fischer posts a story on Bradley Stowell, as an “Action Alert” that a repeat Idaho sex offender whose victims were boys. Although the vast majority of male on male offenders identify as heterosexual, this fact is lost on Fischer since he always frames them as homosexual without fear of being questioned by reporters.
Fischer places the Stowell case, which did NOT include murder, side-by-side with the tragic 2005 rape and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford by a heterosexual offender, to champion for an Idaho version of Jessica’s Law.
Fischer crafts the story to seize an irresistible opportunity to dehumanize and vilify gay people. Fischer includes some homophobic red meat falsely asserting that pedophilia in homosexuals is 16 times higher than in heterosexuals. He also falsely contends homosexuals commit up to 40 percent of all incidences of child abuse.
After publishing his “story” and sending out to his mailing list and media contacts, then like moths to a summer’s night porch light, reporters swarm to Fischer and he is picked up by all local network affiliates for the evening and late night news casts.
How did Idaho news media handle the homosexuals-are-pedophiles statements in Fischer’s story? They didn’t, not one of them!
After the tapings, Fischer issues a media advisory, with a bolded in all caps headline that reads, “IVA INTERVIEWED BY ALL NETWORK AFFILIATES FOR STOWELL STORY.”
After the segments aired, Fischer pushes out an “IVA in the News,” update to his mailing list publicizing his coverage, a typical method he uses to solicit tax-deductible donations.
In September, just prior to the 2008 election, KTVB’s Ysabel Bilbao did a segment on the controversy surrounding vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin’s unwed teen daughter’s pregnancy. Four conservatives were interviewed including Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Fischer with just one “democrat” identified only as “Evan.”
Conspicuously, Fischer was not identified as Executive Director of IVA. Instead he was referred to as â€˜Rev.’ [Reverend], despite Fischer having not served as a regularly practicing pastor since mid 2005.
Practicing pastor or not is not what’s at issue here. If the story calls for a pastor then Fischer is a “reverend” if the story is about legislation, and then he is a “lobbyist.” Otherwise he defaults back to Executive Director of the IVA.
This is a tactic Fischer has used to bolster his credibility and fit the story. Fischer morphs into what the story requires rather than letting the subject matter of the story dictate who the sources should be.
If all Bilbao wanted was a religious figure for comment, why default to Fischer when there is no shortage of practicing ministers in Boise? The answer is simple, Bilbao like many reporters, knew what she would get, a quick and lively sound bite that would let her defend her piece as being balanced.
In January 2009, I organized a rally as part of coordinated national effort. “Join the Impact” rallies were taking place across the country protesting California’s passage of Prop 8 repealing same-gender marriage. All local media outlets were notified multiple times via email, fax and by phone about the Boise event calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA.
The local CBS affiliate, KBCI was the only television station that assigned a reporter to the story. A couple other stations came to get some crowd shots but left before the rally started and the crowd fully assembled.
KBCI’s Nicole Navarro put together a segment where she tried to explain the issue. However, as predictable as the sunrise, there was Bryan Fischer spreading his usual propaganda that same-gender marriage will lead to legalizing incest, polygamy, and permitting pedophiles to marry children.
No matter how inaccurate or outrageous Fischer’s statements are, local media seems to think that by including him as the opposing view, somehow they have created a balanced piece. That is misguided.
The Statesman was a no-show at the DOMA rally. I got a call the next day from a Statesman staff reporter who asked, “How did it go?” The reporter coughed up a few paragraphs for Monday’s edition, two days after the event, never having to so much as leave his desk.
Where was the Idaho Statesman and television news when Bryan Fischer promoted Scott Lively’s book The Pink Swastika, that blames gays for the Holocaust and says the Nazi party was founded in a gay bar? Fischer not only promoted Lively’s propaganda book but also that Lively would be coming to Nampa to address the 2008 â€˜Shake The Nation’ religious extremist political conference.
To my knowledge, and to their credit, the Idaho Press-Tribune was the only Idaho mainstream or traditional media that covered the â€˜Shake the Nation’ extremist gathering.
Fischer plugged Lively’s vile manifesto at length saying things like, “Most of Hitler’s closest aides were homosexuals or sexual deviantsâ€¦Many of the guards and administrators responsible for concentration camp horrors were themselves homosexuals.”
Although it might seem obvious, Lively’s book and Fischer’s only source material, has been widely debunked most recently by a Christian university professor with a PhD in Modern German history, Dr. Jon David Wyneken.
In his article, “A historian’s analysis of â€˜The Pink Swastika,'” [PDF Part 1 & Part 2] Wyneken quotes several other prominent historians who have done more in-depth work specifically on Homosexuality in Nazi Germany.
Wyneken sums it up when he states, “Lively’s book is simply not good history and is, in fact, not really history at all. Instead in my view,” says Wyneken, “it is a book that uses history as a weapon in a contemporary political battle, completely outside the historical context of Nazi Germany.”
Dec. 2, 2009 The Rachel Maddow Show reported Fischer’s friend, Scott Lively is directly linked to a Ugandan homosexual death penalty bill. Likely to pass, they will not just kill people for being gay, a 3 year prison term will be imposed on those who know of someone who is gay but do not report them to authorities. The law also requires extraditing Ugandan nationals from anywhere in the world if they are suspected to be gay.
These are the kinds of people Bryan Fischer promotes and aligns himself with and Idaho media has sat idly by — blind, deaf and mute, failing miserably to inform the public who Fischer really is and is not.
Where was Idaho media when Fischer deliberately misrepresented the Idaho Human Rights Amendment, (IHRA), to the State Affairs Committee? IHRA, if passed would have added protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in matters of employment, housing and public accommodation.
The State Affairs Committee killed the amendment silencing public debate. Fischer’s letter, riddled with untruths and misrepresented facts was never scrutinized by media. It was Fischer’s propaganda that many believe influenced the committee’s decision.
Shortly after, I published an in-depth investigative piece that debunked Fischer’s claims and then some. The piece went out to a number of Statesman reporters and editors, including Kevin Richert as well as television news media in hopes someone would look deeper at Fischer and start asking serious questions of him.
Instead, Richert made the editorial decision to recycle Fischer’s lies, without so much as asking one question, by publishing Fischer’s 16th guest opinion.
Perhaps as a reaction to scrutiny, an interesting thing happened. Fischer’s guest opinion contained some curious corrections; out of the blue a monetary figure was changed from a rounded up figure Fischer cited earlier to an exact figure I reported, a blatant debunked claim was eliminated, and new non-fact-checked â€˜examples’ were added.
Kevin Richert and Bryan Fischer are examples of an archetypal model for how the Glen Becks and Sean Hannitys of the media world are created. Richert and Fischer symbolize a much larger problem, the demise of journalist ethics, truth and transparency, and thus the press no longer serving as a check and balance paramount in maintaining a strong democracy.
These important principles are cast away in favor of selling more papers and achieving higher ratings. The public’s right to know is replaced with lazy and sloppy journalism which drives the public discourse down into the cesspool of extremism, where good people are dehumanized and vilified, where fear and hate are encouraged and no solutions to real problems are offered.
It is the likes of Bryan Fischer, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck and others who are hoisted to stardom with manufactured images of credibility, never belonging there in the first place.
If Fischer’s profile had not been so elevated by Idaho media, perhaps he would not now be the national poster boy for anti-Muslim racism, criminalizing gays and an embarrassment to Idahoans.
As Richert sums up his Nov 19 post, “Fischer gone global” referring to Fischer’s recent dis-honorable mention on Countdown with Keith Olbermann’s Worst’s segment he says, “Silver lining: No mention of Fischer’s Idaho connection.”
There is no such thing as a “silver lining” with the dark cloud that is Bryan Fischer when it was the complicit Idaho Statesman and television media, that helped create him by their own journalistic negligence.
How many more Bryan Fischers, Glen Becks, and Sean Hannity’s must we endure before we hold the negligent reporters, editors and producers who create them accountable? They should be called out and shamed for passing off extremist propaganda as legitimate news.
I would not be surprised if Fischer returns to Idaho to receive hometown accolades or donations from conservatives who will celebrate his elevated national status in the spotlight. If, or when, Fischer does return to Idaho, we can only hope the Idaho news media will have grown a spine and hold him accountable for the odious things he has said and the damage he has caused.
Lesbian activist gave birth to Sean Hannity’s celebrity, reluctantly
All you have to do is a Google search for “Sean Hannity’ and â€˜Turkey Baster'” and you will find all kinds of information on how Sean Hannity’s career got started.
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, (FAIR) Senior Analyst, Seven Rendall’s “An Aggressive Conservative vs. a â€˜Liberal to be Determined,’ The false balance of Hannity & Colmes” was a feature published in FAIR’s monthly magazine “Extra!” Nov/Dec 2003 edition, Rendall recounts Hannity’s beginnings.
“Lower forms of behavior”
Before Fox News, Hannity’s career included hosting a handful of confrontational talk radio shows in various states. He got his start in the late 1980s as a volunteer broadcaster at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s KCSB radio station, where his tenure was revealing.
After airing for less than a year, Hannity’s weekly show was canceled in 1989, when KCSB management charged him with “discriminating against gays and lesbians” after airing two shows featuring the book The AIDS Coverup: The Real and Alarming Facts about AIDS (The Independent, 6/22/89). Written by homophobic Christian-right activist Gene Antonio, the book crankily argued that AIDS could be spread by casual contact, including coughs, sneezes and mosquito bites.
Antonio charged that the government, medical establishment and media covered up these truths in the service of “the homosexual movement.” When Antonio appeared by phone on one of the shows, Hannity and his guest repeatedly slurred gay men. At one point, according to the UCSB campus newspaper The Daily Nexus (5/25/89), Hannity declared: “Anyone listening to this show that believes homosexuality is a normal lifestyle has been brainwashed. It’s very dangerous if we start accepting lower and lower forms of behavior as the normal.” According to the campus paper, Antonio responded by calling gay men “a subculture of people engaged in deviant, twisted acts.”
When a fellow KCSB broadcaster called the show to challenge the host and his guest, Hannity pointed out that the caller, a lesbian, had a child through artificial insemination, and Antonio dubbed the child a “turkey-baster baby.” When the caller took issue with that “disgusting” remark, Hannity followed up with “I feel sorry for your child” (The Independent, 6/22/89; KCSB, 4/4/89).
THAT lesbian was Jody May-Chang who went toe-to- toe with Sean Hannity on the air and in the press in 1989 that actually jumpstarted Hannity’s career. Back then, and to this day, Hannity boasted that getting fired from KCSB made him the most controversial college talk radio host in America, at a time when Morton Downy Jr. and Rush Limbaugh were rising stars in the shock jock era of talk radio.
He credits this status for landing his first paid talk radio show in Atlanta.
“I know from close personal experience as well as anyone, just how these hate-monger celebrities are created, asserts May-Chang. “They vilify and dehumanize LGBT people over and over again, using us as stepping stones to bolster their careers while our media eats it up like candy.”
“We have seen this very same thing here in Idaho with Bryan Fischer and his crony Scott Lively who significantly influenced the “kill the gays” bill to imprison and execute homosexuals in Uganda. THIS HAS JUST GOT TO STOP. This is precisely why I am the activist and watchdog I am today,” May-Chang attests.
Echoes from the past: (left) Jody May, now Jody May-Chang, is accepting a Community Service Award in June of 1988 for her radio program “Gay & Lesbian Perspectives.” The one hour weekly news, information and music show ran for five years on KCSB-FM. At the time of this photo May-Chang was two weeks pregnant with the child that would later become the subject of controversy ten months later. (right) Sean Hannity, April 1989. In KCSB studios broadcasting the first radio program of his career, “The Pursuit of Happiness” The one hour weekly show aired less than a year when station management canceled the show after multiple complaints of over-the-air defamatory comments about gays. (Hannity Photo: Christopher Gardner, Santa Barbara Independent – June 22, 1989)