CNN Implies Boy Scout Ban 'Discriminatory,' Supporters 'On the Wrong Side of History'

CNN anchors dropped journalistic integrity and went into full attack mode against supporters of the ban on gay Boy Scouts on Wednesday morning.

When the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins questioned why the Scouts should change their long-standing policy, anchor Soledad O'Brien blurted out "Because it's discriminatory," before adding "Because they think it's discriminatory." She then asked "My final question for you, do you worry you are on the wrong side of history on this?"


O'Brien compared the struggle to racial integration in the military:

"Well some of those in the faith community would support lifting the ban, and I am curious to know if there is a possibility that you're wrong on this particular core value. As you know, historically, there have been core values in retrospect turned out to be flawed. (...) Blacks to serve in the military, you and I have discussed this before, that was considered morally problematic. How come that doesn't fall into the same kind of guidelines?"

Later in the morning, Carol Costello grilled Frank Page of the Southern Baptist Convention, who lamented that opponents of the ban had embarked on "a systemic attempt to hurt, to change a private organization, that holds to certain beliefs."

"What about 'love thy neighbor'?" she interrupted him. "Do you love gay people? Do you love your gay neighbor?" she interrupted again. After he answered her yes, an exasperated Costello let his opponent give the retort.

Costello oddly blamed Page for the potential downfall of the Scouts:

"The Boy Scouts depend on corporate sponsors. And those business leaders say they cannot be accused of supporting discrimination. They're going to pull their funding if the Boy Scouts don't change their tune. As more companies pull out, aren't you forcing the Boy Scouts to decide its very survival?"

A transcript of the segments is as follows:

CNN
STARTING POINT
2/6/13
7:05 a.m. EST

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Well some of those in the faith community would support lifting the ban, and I am curious to know if there is a possibility that you're wrong on this particular core value. As you know, historically, there have been core values that in retrospect turned out to be flawed. Women who are -- I remember when I was in school. If you were a teacher and you were pregnant, they removed from the classroom, right? It was considered morally inappropriate to have a pregnant woman at one point, in the classroom teaching students. Blacks to serve in the military, you and I have discussed this before, that was considered morally problematic. How come that doesn't fall into the same kind of guidelines?

TONY PERKINS, president, Family Research Council: We're talking about comparing immutable characteristics with characteristics that are not immutable. And first, the Boy Scouts have had a long history of struggling with an issue of protecting the boys. In fact, last fall, they were forced by the court to release about 15,000 pages that identified 1,900 predators within the Boy Scouts. And so in part their policy has been to protect boys to create obviously not a perfect environment but one that is in line with what the parents want to ensure that their children are safe when they go out and go in the scouting activities.

O'BRIEN: Let's go back to that. That's a time between 1970 and 1991. Those specific documents, called the "perversion files," as you know. Scouts didn't allow gays. So there is a sense – and I feel like, isn't that an indication in and of itself that –  

PERKINS: You are absolutely right.

O'BRIEN: So my point would be, if you are to – why would it make a difference to open up scouting to people who are gay?

PERKINS: Certainly –

O'BRIEN: You had pedophiles in your ranks in the Boy Scouts, obviously as we've seen from these documents?

PERKINS: Absolutely. You are correct. As I said, they have not been able to create the perfect environment, but they have been doing what they can, and they had to pay out millions of dollars as a result of that. The question they need to ask is will this help accomplish our mission as Boy Scout leaders and will this make for a safer environment for the children under our watch care? I don't think they can say that. So I think that --

O'BRIEN: Why would it not?

PERKINS: The reason they've had this – well first of all, look, this doesn't pass the parent test. I mean you've got – 

O'BRIEN: I'm a parent. Okay. What's a parent test?

O'BRIEN: Okay, I'm a parent. I have five children. I have three daughters. My heterosexual neighbor, man, like him, good guy, got kids of his own. But I'm not going to let him go camping with my girls. Why would I let a man who is attracted to other males go camping with my boys?

O'BRIEN: But a pedophile, you know, has –

(Crosstalk)

PERKINS: That's why last July after – Soledad, last July after the Boy Scouts did a two-year study of this issue, the overwhelming opinion of stakeholders, parents, troop leaders was let's not change the policy, and that's exactly what the Scouts did. Just a little over six months ago.

O'BRIEN: But you're certainly not saying – are you saying that someone who is gay is a pedophile? Sir?

PERKINS: No, I never said that. You said that. I didn't.

O'BRIEN: I'm asking your question, because you are saying that you would be worried about –

PERKINS: I'm saying that they are trying to create an environment that is protective of the children. This doesn't make it more protective. There is a disproportionate number of male on boy – when we get into pedophilia, it's male on boy, there's a higher incident rate of that. But we've never said all homosexuals are pedophiles or all pedophiles are homosexuals. That's not what we said. Nobody said that.

O'BRIEN: Why would someone like Jennifer Tyrell, right, who's a lesbian – Jennifer Tyrell is a lesbian and she wants to be a den mother. She'd be a perfect example of contradicting your very point, sir.

PERKINS: You don't make -- you don't make policies and you don't set standards based upon one situation or another situation. This is not just about scout leaders. It would be about scouts that are attracted to people of the same sex. Is that right for Boy Scouts who are out wanting to learn the basic tenets of scouting to have to worry about whether or not the boy in the tent with them is attracted to them? Is that right? Look, these folks that want to do – they are free to set up their own organization. Why do they want to come in and change an organization that's been around for over 100 years?

O'BRIEN: Because it's discriminatory. Because they think it's discriminatory.

PERKINS: And make that organization, those parents and those Scouts accomodate them.

PERKINS: Why do they need those scouts and parents to accommodate them?

O'BRIEN: Because they think it's discriminatory, would be I think, the answer that they would give you to that. My final question for you, do you worry you are on the wrong side of history on this? Again, when you tick off the changes that we've seen, at some point do you think that you're going to look up and say we were on the wrong side on this debate, that this is an organization that ultimately stood for discriminating against some people? Don't you worry about that?

PERKINS: For over 100 years, the Boy Scouts have been helping boys make this journey into manhood. And the question before the Scouts is, are we going to continue in our mission, and are we going to provide the safest environment possible for those boys, or are we going to cave into corporate dollars? That's the question before the board today.

O'BRIEN: We'll see how the board votes on it. Tony Perkins, nice to have you with us. Always appreciate your time. Thank you.

CNN
NEWSROOM
2/6/13
[10:09 a.m. EST]

CAROL COSTELLO: The Boy Scouts depend on corporate sponsors. And those business leaders say they cannot be accused of supporting discrimination. They're going to pull their funding if the Boy Scouts don't change their tune. As more companies pull out, aren't you forcing the Boy Scouts to decide its very survival?

FRANK PAGE, president, Southern Baptist Convention: Absolutely not. They have not given the churches an opportunity to step up to the plate and support more. This was all surprise to us. We were given one or two weeks notice. While the other side of this argument were given months. So that's just not even the issue. We would be glad to talk about increased support. But that was never even offered as an option.

COSTELLO: So in other words, if all of these businesses pull out, then religious groups and churches would make up the financial difference?

PAGE: I certainly believe they would. And could.

COSTELLO: And Matthew, there just doesn't seem to be any compromise in this thing, because even if the Boy Scouts make this decision to lift the national ban, local troops can still have that ban in place. So what difference will it really make, if the Boy Scouts of America make any kind of decision in favor of gay rights today?

MATTHEW BREEN, editor-in-chief, The Advocate: Well, we're looking at the Boy Scouts as a national institution. And to us nothing is less American than discrimination. I think that a preferable policy would be for Boy Scouts to change their policy to eliminate discrimination at all levels. And not just sort of kick it down to the troops. It would be really irresponsible for the Boy Scouts, I think, to teach different responsibilities and different character-building skills in different troops. And for Boy Scouts in one troop to see that discrimination is okay and for those in other troops to see that it is not okay. That disparity I don't think would solve any of the problems of the sort of inherent unfairness in the Boy Scouts as it exists now.

COSTELLO: And what would be your reaction to Frank's idea that these businesses are pulling the funding from the Boy Scouts, but churches would step up and put that funding into place?
 
BREEN: I have a more hopeful perspective. I would like to see that the Boy Scouts would end their discriminatory policy and the corporate sponsorships would return. There has been a drop-off in recent years in both membership and corporate sponsorship for the Boy Scouts. And by ending discrimination, I think you'd see a lot of corporations, a lot of local institutions as well, really be invigorated by the idea of American fairness and take more ownership of the Boy Scouts.

COSTELLO: And Frank, a final question for you. We have heard so many former Scout leaders step forward and say they served well in the Boy Scouts, they love the Boy Scouts, but they are gay. And nothing untoward happened with these Scout masters, when they were active in the Boy Scouts. So why can't there be some opening of the arms, just a little tiny bit toward gay Americans?

PAGE: Well let me just say we are thankful nothing did happen in some of those instances, we can also point out where it did happen. This is about discrimination. It is about intolerance toward a private group who holds to biblical morality, which does reveal righteousness and unrighteousness. It's about a systemic attempt to hurt, to change a private organization, that holds to certain beliefs. That's what this is about. It is about discrimination and intolerance toward those who hold a biblical morality. And it's a sad day, when we, they, cannot express their beliefs and hold to them without the kind of threat –

COSTELLO: What about "love thy neighbor"?
    
PAGE: Absolutely. We believe in loving all people. But we also believe that –

COSTELLO: Do you love gay people? Do you love your gay neighbor?

PAGE: Absolutely. I have gay family members, Carol. And I believe in loving them. But part of love is to tell people the truth. If you don't tell people the truth, it is the worst form of love.

COSTELLO: I'll leave the response to you, Matthew. What do you think?

BREEN: Sure. Sexuality and sexual orientation has never been part of the Boy Scouts of America. It's not the domain of the Boy Scouts, and this idea that the sky will be falling if inclusion is expanded is a red herring. And it's just fear mongering. Sexuality is not a part of the Boy Scouts' mission. It's not a part of character-building, it's not a part of teaching responsibility.


 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014