If you host a political chat show, nabbing an interview with a current Cabinet secretary is a major “get.” Getting two interviews with two Cabinet secretaries in the same show is almost unthinkable.
Yet on January 24, a certain radio host managed this feat. Though despite what you might expect, this was not a host with a major outlet like CNN or NPR or even Fox News. No, no– the man who managed to speak with two current Trump administration Cabinet officials on the same program was none other than Tony Perkins, one of the singularly most anti-LGBTQ human beings working in American politics.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar was the first. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the second. Both men gave cordial, even effusive interviews with the Family Research Council president, making it perfectly clear through their chummy tone that Tony was much more than a host. In Tony, these men have a friend.
So why does this matter? Well, as many readers are surely aware, Tony Perkins has said some of the most heinous things imaginable about LGBTQ people. GLAAD has been tracking Tony for years, and he is, pound for pound, truly one of the most outrageous voices on the radar. From routinely calling LGBTQ people “pawns of the enemy” to regularly comparing LGBTQ people to drug addicts, his profile is as robust as it is reprehensible.
Moreover, the Family Research Council continues to advocate for ideas that are out of touch with even most conservative voters. For instance, the organization continues to aggressively push the idea that LGBTQ people can and should “change.” In May of 2019, FRC put out an issue paper denying that sexual orientation is determined at birth. In March, FRC’s Peter Spirgg (who infamously admitted he would like to “export homosexuals from the United States”) put out a lengthy analysis arguing that so-called “conversion therapy” is effective. In July, FRC’s prayer team advised that “sexually confused and destructive LGBT behaviors” can be changed because “with consistent resistance to temptation, the temptation’s power slowly loses the power of its grip.” Last October, FRC helped organize and promote a panel of so-called “former homosexuals” who argued that we do note need pro-LGBTQ policies like the Equality Act because LGBTQ people can “change.” Before that, FRC promoted a so-called “Freedom March,” which was a gathering of so-called “ex-gays” whose purpose was solely to encourage LGBTQ people nationwide to “leave the homosexual lifestyle.”
But wait, there’s more! The organization also runs a microsite where they portray transgender people and being part of a “regressive cult” filled with damaging delusions.” To drive home their idea that this is all a dangerous fad, the URL for the site is quite literally http://FRC.org/cult. On that microsite, one will find claims that the trans lobby has duped major health organizations into support, a sister who refers to her trans sister as “disturbing” and as a boy who “slowly destroy[ing] himself,” and the overarching belief that trans people are tearing apart the country. If you oppose transgender existences, this FRC effort is a one-stop shop for every crude talking point you could ever want.
This is who FRC is. This is who FRC has always been. This is who FRC will always be. The fact that FRC can so easily connect with this White House is itself a major indictment of how this administration sees LGBTQ people. Here we have a White House that is quick to call any and every media outlet “fake” and carelessly attack hardworking journalists as biased liars. And yet when Tony Perkins calls and is like, “Hey, I’d like not one BUT TWO Cabinet secretaries on my show today,” the White House’s communication shop gladly fulfills the request of this man, an objective propagandist from an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center long ago (and rightly) designated a hate group?
If FRC can so easily book such high-level Trump officials, just imagine what else they are are coordinating behind the scenes.
Jeremy Hooper is a longtime researcher and strategist, with a particular focus on the anti-LGBTQ religious right. His work has been featured in press outlets across the globe, and has been used by numerous political campaigns. From 2004 to 2015 he ran the popular blog Good As You, and wrote a well-received book on his own LGBTQ rights journey. He lives in NYC* with his husband and daughter.