Last weekend Senator Ted Cruz, along with fellow GOP presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, spoke at a conference in Des Moines headed up by a man who advocates the execution of gay people -- per his interpretation of the bible -- and who made his call for mass extermination once again, onstage at the event, the National Religious Liberties Conference. Pastor Kevin Swanson has said in the past that Christians should attend gay weddings and hold up signs telling the newly married gay and lesbian couples that they "should be put to death." He was an advocate of Uganda's infamous "Kill the Gays" bill, which he saw as a model.
At the confab over the weekend, where he introduced Huckabee, Jindal and Cruz to the audience -- and where Ted Cruz's father, Rafael Cruz, an anti-gay Tea Party crusader, was a star speaker -- he reiterated his death penalty call, adding that homosexuals should first be given some time to repent before the executions begin. There's nothing subtle about what he said, and you can watch it for yourself, including his statements about what he would do if he were one of those parents of a gay person:
There are families, we're talking Christian families, pastors' families, elders' families from good, godly churches," Swanson said, "whose sons are rebelling, hanging out with homosexuals and getting married and the parents are invited. What would you do if that was the case? Here is what I would do: sackcloth and ashes at the entrance to the church and I'd sit in cow manure and I'd spread it all over my body. That is what I would do and I'm not kidding, I'm not laughing."
On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow, using extensive clips of video of the speech that had been posted by the indispensable Right Wing Watch, covered the conference in depth, and was rightly horrified that it even took place and that presidential candidates were there.
"This is a political event. This is a Republican presidential candidates' event," Maddow said. "It really was a 'kill-the-gays' call to arms. This was a conference about the necessity of the death penalty as a punishment for homosexuality."
But except for scattered online media coverage and blog posts, that was it. CNN's Jake Tapper asked Cruz if it was appropriate to speak at the conference before the event -- and Cruz dodged the question, claiming to know nothing of the pastor's views, and spinning back to religious people supposedly being under attack -- but there was no coverage I could find on CNN after the conference and focused on this evangelical leader who called for a future genocide after introducing presidential candidates who lauded him. As far as I can tell, no broadcast networks or major American newspaper covered the blood-curdling speech in which several times Swanson said the punishment for homosexuality is the death penalty.
Where is The New York Times? The Washington Post covered the conference and the candidates' comments, but didn't mention the "kill the gays" speech. Not news to them apparently. Several online sources that did focus on the conference placed more attention on Cruz telling Swanson that an atheist shouldn't be president, or on the unhinged Swanson's advice to parents that they should drown their children rather than let them read Harry Potter, than on Swanson calling for the extermination of an entire group of people at an event at which presidential candidates spoke.
It's 2015 and much of the media seem to accept, still, that LGBT people can be talked about this way at an event attended by presidential candidates and that it's not news. They view it as par for the course, religious conservatives doing what they do. It's as if they have blinders on. Indeed, if Ted Cruz -- or Huckabee or Jindal -- attended an event at which the host hinted at mass murder of Jews, African-Americans or any other group it would be a massive media story. He'd be forced to answer questions about it, at debates (and it didn't come up at the last debate), in press conferences and in interviews non-stop. He'd be pressured to condemn both the comments and the pastor -- as when John McCain had to dump Pastor John Hagee in 2008 because of his ugly comments about Catholics -- or he'd face the consequences.
Instead, the current Republican candidates are on the offensive against the media, claiming they're being unfairly targeted with "gotcha" questions, and the media is running for cover. After the CNBC debate and the outrage from the candidates and the Republican National Committee, the Fox Business Network debate moderators were perfectly accommodating (not that a Fox network wouldn't have been so anyway), throwing mostly softball questions or -- when they did ask a tougher one -- letting the candidate off the hook with their non-answers.
The GOP candidates have whined about how Hillary Clinton apparently doesn't get the same kind of scrutiny they get -- a laughable assertion. Ben Carson, in the midst of battling against the media for reporting on discrepancies in his biography, had the gall to claim the media didn't focus on President Obama's controversial former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, during the 2008 campaign. Obama, as we all remember, was in fact under such intense media scrutiny over it that he felt compelled to give an entire speech in which he distanced himself from Wright and then ran as far away as he could. That was based on comments Wright made that pale in comparison to a pastor calling for genocide of an entire people.
Swanson may not be Huckabee's, Jindal's or Cruz's own pastor, but they attended a hate conference organized by Swanson, who introduced them onstage, in the middle of a presidential primary race. The fact that it seems to be viewed as just another ho-hum campaign stop suggests we've not come as far on LGBT right as we all like to tell ourselves.
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