Most organizations of any stripe would think twice about partnering with another organization that has been designated a hate group by people knowledgeable about such things. A news organization would presumably be doubly averse.
WorldNetDaily is not one of those organizations.
A search of WND's archive shows dozens of references to a group called MassResistance. The Southern Poverty Law Center listed MassResistance among "anti-gay" groups on its list of "Active U.S. Hate Groups in 2008." The SPLC goes on to state: "Anti-gay groups are organizations that go beyond mere disagreement with homosexuality by subjecting gays and lesbians to campaigns of personal vilification."
And that personal vilification seems to be what WND likes about MassResistance, which has been WND's main go-to source for claims about Kevin Jennings, the Obama administration's so -called "safe schools czar."
WND has been spreading smears about Jennings for months. AWND's Bob Unruh falsely claimed that Jennings "violated a state law" by failing to report that when he was a high school counselor, he "was told by a 15-year-old high school sophomore that he was having homosexual sex with an 'older man.' At the very least, statutory rape occurred." WND further asserted that Jennings "counseled a 15-year-old student to keep quiet about being seduced by an older man." In fact, the student was 16, the age of consent, at the time of the counseling, and there is no evidence that Jennings told the student to "keep quiet" about the incident.
A Dec. 4 WND article by Unruh parroted the smear that the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, a group founded by Jennings, "is recommending XXX-rated sex writings for children as young as preschoolers." In fact, none of the books whose "XXX-rated sex writings" Unruh cited is recommended for preschoolers -- indeed, none of them appear on GLSEN's list of recommended books for grades K-6; all of the books cited appear on a list of books recommended for students in graded 7-12. Unruh also misleadingly cropped a disclaimer on the GLSEN site, omitting the statement that "We recommend that adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability."
While those false attacks on Jennings didn't come from MassResistance, they set the stage for other factually deficient attacks that did.
A Dec. 9 article by Unruh uncritically repeated a claim by MassResistance -- which Unruh benignly describes as a "pro-family organization' -- accusing Jennings of "knowing in advance the 'gross and disgusting" subjects that would be covered at a seminar on sex for teenagers" sponsored by GLSEN in 2000. Unruh includes the MassResistance quote, "Of course Jennings and the Massachusetts Department of Education knew beforehand what the 'sexuality educators' would discuss with children at the 'fisting' workshop. The instructor Margot Abels said so herself."
In fact, no direct evidence of such knowledge is offered. As Media Matters detailed, Abels did not say that Jennings knew of the contents -- only that her that her immediate supervisors in the Massachusetts Department of Education were aware of her work. MassResistance claimed that because Jennings was co-chair of the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth education committee, he knew of the content. But according to his bio, Jennings left that commission years before the 2000 conference.
Nevertheless, Unruh parroted another, related MassResistance claim in a Dec. 14 article, that according to an anonymous "teacher" who attended the conference in question, the seminar was Jennings' idea and, thus, he had to know about the controversial contents of every single seminar at it. Again, there's no actual evidence presented here, only speculation.
As MassResistance's attacks on Jennings grew more desperate, WND's Unruh was eager to write about them as well.
WND published MassResistance's freak-out over a questionnaire purportedly linked to Jennings asking such questions as "What do you think caused your heterosexuality?" Unruh, in a Dec. 18 article, asserted that the questionnaire "essentially undermines the basic building block of civilization, the family." He doesn't explain why that is so -- or why he is so afraid that such questions could even be asked.
A Dec. 24 article by Unruh rehashed MassResistance's claim that Jennings "once called renowned evangelist Jerry Falwell a "terrorist." Unruh eventually got around to explaining that Jennings was responding to Falwell's assertion that Mohammed was a terrorist, but then goes on to suggest that Falwell never called him that, only that Falwell called him "a violent man, a man of war." In fact, Falwell did say in a 2002 "60 Minutes" interview, "I think Mohammed was a terrorist." -- but that statement appeared nowhere in Unruh's article.
Again following the lead of MassResistance, Unruh penned a Jan. 8 article stating that Jennings "is president of the board of the Tectonic Theater Project, which created 'The Laramie Project,' a play about the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming homosexual Matthew Shepard that condemns traditional biblical views on homosexuality as hateful and bigoted." Unruh described Shepard as "the 21-year-old man who, according to a 2004 ABC News '20/20' report, actually was killed by drug-using thugs intent on robbery -- a fact ignored by the production."
But it's not a fact -- it's right-wing revisionism. One of Shepard's killers mounted a gay-panic defense at his trial, and the "20/20" report ignored the killer's in-custody interview, during which he offered what the Matthew Shepard Foundation calls "an un-rehearsed and unemotional anti-gay account of the events before, during, and after leaving Matt tied to the fence."
Unruh uncritically repeated whatever MassResistance asserted about "The Laramie Project" as fact without any apparent attempt to verify them or obtain any response to the attacks. Among them:
- It's an "insidious GLBT propaganda play ... which exploits the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard as a 'hate crime' and leads kids directly to groups promoting GLBT causes."
Unruh stated that, in repeating MassResistance's attack on a high school's production of "The Laramie Project," "Mass Resistance also noted the graphic language of the play for high schoolers to recite." Apparently high school students had never used graphic language until "The Laramie Project" came along.
In contrast to the hyperbolic MassResistance attack that Unruh swallows whole, The New York Times noted of "The Laramie Project" upon its New York premiere that "Even the evening's less sympathetic characters, including the Kansas preacher who showed up at Mr. Shepard's funeral as an anti-gay protester, are served up with respectful caution," adding that "There is an overriding sense that the characters -- who range from ranchers to university professors, from a lesbian waitress to a Baptist minister -- are cut from the same cloth of perplexed decency, embellished with the occasional signpost of an eccentricity." The Times also stated that the play has become "a catalyst for communities to discuss something of urgent importance: in this case, hate crimes, homophobia and the treatment of difference in American society," and that "it serves as a model for a way of speaking tough truths and listening respectfully."
Listening respectfully? That's a message WorldNetDaily and MassResistance don't seem interested in hearing. Nor, as we've seen, is telling the truth.
WND has referenced MassResistance's status as a "hate group" exactly once, buried in a Dec. 17 article by Unruh and presented in such a way as to portray the status as a way to "tar anyone who brings Jennings' shocking record to light."
MassResistance, for its part, unsurprisingly denies it's a hate group (don't all haters deny they're haters?) but is short on actual evidence to back up the claim, choosing to issue personal attacks instead. It denounced the SPLC as "far-left" and "widely discredited" and irrelevantly noted that "we've never heard" of most of the other hate groups on the SPLC's list. Responding to conservative Dean Barnett's statement that it "verges on being a hate group," MassResistance retorted that Barnett was "a weird pro-gay left-wing Republican." And Media Matters, for highlighting MassResistance's hate-group status, is a "major left-wing propaganda attack group funded by billionaire George Soros." (In fact, Soros does not fund Media Matters.)
MassResistance may also be upset that Media Matters documented other hateful statements by leader Brian Camenker, such as likening supporters of gay rights to Nazis and trying to deny the fact that homosexuals were a target of the Nazis during the Holocaust. MassResistance also virulently opposes the Day of Silence campaign, designed to bring attention to anti-gay bulling and harassment in schools, denouncing it as a "psychological assault on kids." (WND has touted right-wing attacks on the Day of Silence.)
But attacking Jennings is not the only instance in which WND has repeated MassResistance claims.
WND has long promoted, with MassResistance's help, the case of a parent who claimed schools were, in the words of Unruh in a February 2008 WND article, "indoctrinating his 5-year-old son in the homosexual lifestyle." How so? By issuing a book to students that, according to Unruh, "depicted at least two households led by homosexual partners." AThis plays into WND's anti-gay agenda in which any non-negative reference to homosexuality is is equal to "indoctrination" -- an agenda MassResistance shares.
WND's Drew Zahn joined in the anti-gay hysteria yet again with a Nov. 26 article -- essentially a rewritten MassResistance press release and blog post -- carrying the headline, "High school performs 'gay' musical on Thanksgiving." Well, not quite. As Zahn wrote, the Massachusetts high school in question was only performing scenes -- not the entire show -- from its upcoming production of a musical called "Falsettos," which Zahn describes as "a tale about a bisexual father torn between his family and his 'gay' lover."
An editor's note on Zahn's article claimed that "Falsettos" contains "profane, lewd and possibly racist material." Zahn did not explain what the supposedly "racist" material is, unless he's referring to the song "Four Jews In A Room Bitching," which in context is at most about stereotypes, not racism. Zahn made no apparent effort to contact school officials for their response.
But then, as far as WND and MassResistance are concerned, facts really aren't that important -- certainly not in comparison to hating gays.