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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Jesse Lee Peterson: Why this conservative’s gay sex scandal is different

What’s different about this latest scandal, which concerns Los Angeles based minister Jesse Lee Peterson- Maybe he just has a wide stance?

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Screenshot/YouTube Jesse Lee Peterson Channel

LOS ANGELES – It’s become a familiar story: An anti-LGBTQ+ politician or religious leader becomes embroiled in a gay sex scandal whose licentiousness is often correlated with the extent to which he harbors extreme, far-right wing views about queer people. 

Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig was caught soliciting an undercover officer in a men’s room in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley sexted with teenaged male congressional pages. Rightwing evangelical pastor Ted Haggard consorted a male prostitute in liaisons where the two allegedly used crystal meth. 

What’s different about this latest scandal, which concerns Los Angeles based minister Jesse Lee Peterson? He is not only an influential religious and conservative political figure but also a rising star in the “manosphere,” a growing online right-wing movement that prizes toxic masculinity and shuns, well, everything and everyone else (including – you guessed it – men who have sex with men). 

The Daily Beast was first to publish the allegations against Peterson, by two male associates who claimed in on the record interviews in June with Church Militant – a far-right Catholic website – that the minister engaged in sexual congress with them and propositioned others.  

Peterson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from this news service through his Instagram page. Nor did his group, the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND), when reached by phone this morning.

Following initial reports about Craig, Foley, and Haggard’s extra-curricular activities, the men were beleaguered by follow-on coverage of other corroborating accounts of their same-sex sexual activities. In Peterson’s case, those who have come forward noted the minister has been careful to ensure there are no emails, text messages, recordings, or video footage documenting their trysts. 

Of the “manosphere,” the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, writes this corner of the internet is “peopled with hundreds of websites, blogs and forums dedicated to savaging feminists in particular and women, very typically American women, in general. Although some of the sites make an attempt at civility and try to back their arguments with facts, they are almost all thick with misogynistic attacks that can be astounding for the guttural hatred they express.”

Even by the standards of the far-right “manosphere,” Peterson’s statements about LGBTQ+ people have been extreme. Pride parade participants are the spawn of Satan. Radical homosexuals are evil. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg should be ashamed of his relationship with his husband. 

Peterson has distinguished himself not just for his anti-LGBTQ+ animus, nor just for his proximity to conservative Republican figures like Larry Elder and Dennis Prager, nor just for his public spats with the likes of Gloria Allred, Jesse Jackson, and the NAACP, but also for his extremist views on matters from racial justice (Peterson is Black) to sex and gender. 

Speaking about Black unemployment in 2012, Peterson said, “One of the things that I would do is take all Black people back to the South and put them on the plantation…They need a good hard education on what it is to work.” South Africa was better under apartheid, Peterson said. Nelson Mandela was “an evil man,” but Donald Trump? “The Great White Hope.” 

That same year, Peterson claimed, “one of the greatest mistakes America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote.” Women “can’t handle power in the right way,” they “have no patience” and “don’t have love,” he said. In other broadcasts, he has said women should not orgasm during sex because sexual climax is a masculine pursuit.

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Monkeypox

Right-wing media exploit monkeypox- retread anti-vax misinformation

These anti-vax talking points are intended to stigmatize LGBTQ people by framing promiscuity as the primary driver of the disease

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Mia Gingerich | WASHINGTON – As monkeypox presents an ever-increasing threat to Americans, predominantly gay and bisexual men, conservative media figures are exploiting the global health emergency to stoke fears of the COVID-19 vaccine and related health measures and to attack queer men. 

These anti-vax talking points are often invoked alongside AIDS-era rhetoric intended to stigmatize LGBTQ people by framing promiscuity as the primary driver of the disease and gay and bisexual men as culprits in — rather than victims of — the growing outbreak. This stigmatization has already reportedly resulted in violence against gay men.

During the last week of July, the U.S. reported both the fastest rise in and highest number of monkeypox cases worldwide, leading the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency on August 4. The virus, which is endemic in certain African countries, is usually rare in Europe and the U.S. However, the virus recently found its way to men who have sex with men (MSM), where it has proliferated primarily through sexual contact. The gay community has emphasized the need to warn about the risk the virus poses to MSM while not feeding into anti-gay rhetoric that depicts gay sexuality as immoral. 

Despite this plea from those most affected by the ongoing health crisis, right-wing media quickly responded to the spread of monkeypox with homophobia – recalling the vilification that gay men experienced during the AIDS epidemic. In addition to being impacted by the latest right-wing media smear campaign risking targeted violence against LGBTQ people, queer men are also less likely to seek medical care for monkeypox in countries where their sexuality is stigmatized.

Conservative media figures invoke COVID-19 conspiracy theories and criticism of health measures in coverage of monkeypox

From early on in their coverage of the monkeypox outbreak, right-wing media figures used the story to renew efforts to sow vaccine hesitancy and undermine COVID-19 health measures. Some far-right figures have even spread conspiracy theories that falsely assert the COVID-19 vaccine is directly responsible for the monkeypox outbreak. 

On May 24, The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens said on her show that “the first person who lines up to get a monkeypox vaccine, I’m going to laugh in your face.” Owens then suggested the World Health Organization, Bill Gates, and Dr. Anthony Fauci were involved in the spread of both diseases as part of “attempts at authoritarianism” and “globalism.” This claim coincides with the recent conservative conspiracy theory claiming the U.S. was ceding power to the WHO.

From the May 24, 2022, edition of Daily Wire’s Candace

Fox News’ Sean Hannity brought anti-vax conspiracy theorist Dr. George Fareed onto the August 8 edition of his radio show, where Fareed falsely claimed “the mass vaccination with these gene therapies, COVID vaccines, have the ability to weaken the immune system and make people more vulnerable to viral infection,” suggesting the vaccine could precipitate the spread of monkeypox. 

Far-right blog American Greatness posted an article on August 3 promoting the work of Shmuel Shapira, an Israeli scientist pushing similar claims as Fareed. The article claimed “Twitter censored Shapira” after the platform flagged a tweet of his as misinformation. Shapira’s tweet read, “It is well established the mRNA vaccines affect the natural immune system. A monkey pox outbreak following massive covid vaccination: Is not a coincidence.”

Right-wing media figures have also taken advantage of the recent health crisis to reignite their crusade against public health measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conservative commentators claim that a double standard exists between government reactions to monkeypox and COVID-19, ignoring differences in how the two diseases spread. 

Podcaster Steven Crowder, amid a longer homophobic rant suggesting gay men were engaging in bestiality, claimed on August 2 that COVID-19 health measures were “politically motivated” and that masking and social distancing “didn’t make any difference whatsoever.” Crowder then contrasted those measures with the fact that Pride events still took place this year despite the spread of monkeypox, saying, “They won’t even cancel their gay San Francisco fuckfest.”

From the August 2, 2022, edition of Louder with Crowder, streamed on YouTube

An article for The Federalist titled “Americans Lost Fundamental Freedoms During Covid — But Halting Gay Orgies To Stop Monkeypox Is Too Far?” bemoaned COVID lockdowns and claimed, “We shut down the world for a virus that had no traceable transmission, it was entirely random. It really isn’t too much to ask for gay men to stop engaging in orgies and public sex events for their ‘mental health,’ their ‘self-esteem,’ and to continue ‘having fun.’”

On Twitter, right-wing personalities expressed a similar sentiment. 

Alt-right troll Mike Cernovich tweeted his criticism of public health advocate Dr. Gregg Gonsalves:

Far-right YouTuber Ian Miles Cheong continued his online anti-gay tirade on monkeypox:

Right-wing radio host Dan O’Donnell similarly tweeted:

Gay men are targeted with violence while right-wing media continues to depict them as threats

After the first cases of monkeypox were found among children in the U.S., LGBTQ advocates reported right-wing figures were using the news to falsely claim that gay men were guilty of abuse. This was a part of a larger attempt by right-wing media to use the monkeypox outbreak to depict LGBTQ people as a threat to society. By attempting to evoke the sort of stigmatizing rhetoric pushed during the AIDS epidemic that frames the MSM community as vectors of disease, right-wing media is feeding a culture of prejudice that has already resulted in violence against gay men. 

The above-mentioned article from The Federalist fearmongered that “as gay men spread the virus within their population at startling rates, the chances of it escaping into the mundane world through close contact in stores, crowded streets, or buses increases,” claiming that gay and bisexual men were spreading the disease through “truly selfish behavior [that] is endangering the rest of us.”

Right-wing talk show host Erick Erickson tweeted, “‘My orgy doesn’t affect you,’ said the man who spread monkeypox to the lady who worked at the gas station. Two weeks of no orgies to stop the spread is just too much to ask.”

On Hannity’s August 8 radio show, guest Dr. Brian Tyson said the virus would “spread to the heterosexual community if we don’t get a handle on the gay community to stop the transmission,” and claimed “the CDC and the NIH, they’re afraid to come out and tell the gay community to stop having intercourse until this pandemic goes away.”

On the August 5 edition of his show, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk characterized the government response to monkeypox as an attempt to avoid offending “the alphabet mafia” of the LGBTQ community, saying, “You can’t go after the gay community for maybe doing something they shouldn’t be doing,” before declaring he would “not live through another lockdown or an erosion of our civil liberties by a corrupt or usurpatious government because we’re afraid to offend people. Don’t care, and you shouldn’t either.”

From the August 5, 2022, edition of The Charlie Kirk Show, streamed on YouTube   

The effects of right-wing media’s misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine put their audience at serious risk. However, these conservative figures are now jeopardizing the health of millions of LGBTQ Americans as well by seeking to stigmatize their sexuality during a public health crisis.

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Mia Gingerich is a researcher at Media Matters. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government from Northern Arizona University and has previously worked in rural organizing and local media.

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

YouTube’s failure to moderate anti-LGTBQ hate speech

False accusations of LGBTQ people abusing children remain on YouTube, one of the few major platforms refusing to address the problem

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Graphic by Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

By Mia Gingerich | WASHINGTON – In a brazen violation of YouTube’s policy against hate speech, right-wing influencer Tim Pool spuriously claimed in a video released last Friday that “the LGBTQ community is now dominated by pedophiles” and levied the same slander against a Daily Dot journalist.

The fact that this video remains up nearly a week later, accumulating more than a quarter of a million views, is emblematic of YouTube’s systemic failure to crack down on even the most egregiously hateful content. 

Last week, following mounting pressure, Twitter told the Daily Dot it would ban targeted use of the term “groomer” to spread unfounded accusations of child abuse against LGBTQ people. Use of the word “groomer” as a way to disparage LGBTQ people is a part of a larger strategy by right-wing figures to co-opt language about child abuse to malign gay and trans people — a tactic that has led to harassment and violent threats against the LGBTQ community. 

In response to the Twitter news, Pool took to his YouTube channel (which has well over 1 million subscribers) on July 22 to disparage Claire Goforth, the Daily Dot journalist who has covered the issue, calling her a pedophile while also admitting he lacked any evidence to support his claims. Pool also falsely claimed that the LGBTQ community had been “taken over” by pedophiles. 

From the July 22, 2022, edition of Timcast, streamed on YouTube

Despite the fact that YouTube’s hate speech policy bans content “promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups” based on protected characteristics, including gender identity and sexual orientation, the video remained up as of publishing.

Meanwhile, YouTube continues to reap financial benefits from Pool’s presence on the platform. Pool, who previously admitted he believes YouTube is more concerned with retaining advertisers than combatting disinformation, recognizes this incentive and is clearly exploiting it.

YouTube’s refusal to crackdown on Pool’s extremism reveals deeper problem with permitting anti-LGBTQ rhetoric

Baselessly accusing LGBTQ people of being “groomers” and “pedophiles” has been a consistent problem on numerous social media platforms. However, in response to the recent push for platforms to more closely monitor this smear, TikTok, Reddit, and Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram) all took the step of clarifying that such rhetoric violates their hate speech policies. According to Goforth’s article from July 20, the only company that did not respond when asked by the Daily Dot about this rhetoric was Google, which owns YouTube. 

By allowing its rules against hate speech to remain nebulous, YouTube is refusing to take responsibility for a problem that goes well beyond this latest example from Pool. As previously reported by Media Matters, YouTube is rife with false accusations of LGBTQ people grooming children, with a particular focus on drag performers and those discussing LGBTQ topics in school. 

James Lindsay, a far-right author who has been instrumental in perpetuating this false claim, said that his use of the term started in October 2021 with his series titled “Groomer Schools,” which he streams on YouTube. Lindsay belongs to YouTube’s partner program, which allows him to directly financially benefit from his presence and following on the platform. 

Pool is not the only content creator with a large YouTube following who has recently maligned the LGBTQ community with false accusations of wide-spread pedophilia — Daily Wire’s Candace Owens, whose channel has more than 750,000 subscribers, falsely claimed in April that “pedophilia is around the corner” during her discussion of Disney’s commitment to LGBTQ inclusion. This plays into the slippery slope conspiracy theory pushed for years by extremists on 4chan, which falsely claims that the fight for LGBTQ rights will lead to more pedophilia. 

Owens went on to call a teacher who lamented having to hide her marriage due to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law a “mentally unstable adult predator who has access to children, our children,” and ended the segment by saying, “We must not give these freaks and predators so much as one inch.” Owens’ video remained up as of publishing.

From the April 5, 2022, edition of The Daily Wire’s Candace, streamed on YouTube

YouTube fosters extremism by failing to acknowledge prevalent and escalating anti-LGBTQ rhetoric

By not only failing to enforce its current policy on hate speech, but also refusing to even state that its policy covers prevailing hateful rhetoric, YouTube is signaling to increasingly extreme users that its platform will host their hate. 

In previous instances, YouTube has shown that it is perfectly capable of confronting this rhetoric when it decides to do so. After Media Matters revealed last year that YouTube was hosting multiple channels belonging to adherents of QAnon — a conspiracy theory that similarly seeks to wield false accusations of pedophilia for political ends — the platform responded by removing at least 18 of the flagged channels. 

Failing to address the problem of falsely accusing LGBTQ people and their allies of child abuse not only increases the risk of violence against LGBTQ people, it also hinders the efforts of those genuinely seeking to protect children from exploitation.

By letting the dangerous and inflammatory claims of Pool and others go unchecked, YouTube is directly profiting from the sort of rhetoric that is inciting violent acts in real life — a far cry from the “ongoing commitment to the community” it espoused just last month.

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Mia Gingerich is a researcher at Media Matters. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government from Northern Arizona University and has previously worked in rural organizing and local media.

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

 

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Daily Wire host says: “There is no such thing as same-sex marriage”

Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles: “If Pete Buttigieg and Chasten can be married, then marriage has no concrete meaning”

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Screenshot/YouTube - The Michael Knowles Show

By Media Matters Staff | WASHINGTON – From the July 25, 2022, edition of The Daily Wire’s The Michael Knowles Show:

Transcript:

MICHAEL KNOWLES (HOST): What I suspect — I don’t know, I don’t talk to Marco Rubio — what I suspect it is is that Marco Rubio doesn’t think that gay marriage is real. I think Marco Rubio believes that marriage — he believes as virtually every single person for all of human history everywhere in the world — that marriage is between a man and a woman and that there is no such thing as same-sex marriage. And that Pete Buttigieg, though he keeps calling his relationship with this guy Chasten a marriage, it’s not really a marriage. He has a long-term relationship. He has gone through a technological and financial process to purchase the eggs of a woman and then to create a child in a test tube with the intention to deprive that child of his natural mother so that he and Chasten can feel more like they’re in a real marriage, a real marriage that has the possibility of generating children. But I suspect what Rubio thinks is that none of that is real. And that, actually, marriage does have a meaning and it has the same meaning it’s always had. And we can’t just radically change that. 

It’s just that Pete Buttigieg isn’t really married. And it’s hard — I know it’s hard to say that in our politically correct culture. But it’s not because two guys can’t be married to each other. Marriage is the union of a man to his wife. A perpetual union of a man to his wife for the sake of the generation and the education of children. That’s what it is. And that’s not possible between two men and two women. Marriage essentially has sexual difference at the heart of it. And so, if we call things that don’t have that marriage, we don’t expand marriage, we just get rid of marriage. If Pete Buttigieg and Chasten can be married, then marriage has no concrete meaning. 

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The preceding post was previously published by media Matters for America and is reposted by permission.

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