In a spirited interview, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank defended his stance that the antigay Family Research Council should not be listed as a “hate group” by the venerated civil rights group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, because they wear suits and “don’t wear white sheets,” and some of their founders and officials are “respected” individuals. (Scroll down to listen to the interview)
Milbank was invited on my SiriusXM show to discuss the column he wrote last week which has generated much controversy on social media. In the comments section on the Washington Post’s web site and on Twitter and Facebook, many criticized Milbank’s defense of the FRC as a “Washington think tank” which thus shouldn’t be called a hate group, and his calling the Human Rights Campaign and the SPLC “reckless” for terming the FRC a hate group. The controversy reached a point where Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Jonathan Diehl sent a tweet out defending Milbank, but that only inflamed the controversy as Dielhl referred to "idiotic' emails he had received on the topic.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, which has propagated false and reckless charges for years against LGBT people, claiming, among other things, that they are trying to recruit children and are more likely to be pedophiles, had lashed out at the “hate group” label last week. He stated, without providing evidence, that it inspired the shooter who went to the FRC last week and was subdued after wounding a security guard.
“The hate group category, is with the exception of the Family Research Council, a bunch of neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan-like groups, and while they may say all kinds of wacky things at the FRC, they’re a Washington think tank, not a group that puts on sheets and organizes lynch mobs,” Milbank said.
Milbank seemed not to know, nor would he address it when pointed out, that the SPLC lists many groups on its website that are not violent, or even claim to oppose violence, but which propagate hate as well. The hate group list includes the Nation of Islam and the Conservative Citizens Council.
“I’m not going to defend [FRC], I’m not going to do it,” he said, repeatedly, affirming that he didn’t come on to defend FRC and does agree that the group’s repeated claim that gays are pedophiles is “hateful,” though believes it should be called by another term other than hate group. “I think there should be a list of people who use unacceptable language.”
Milbank’s reasoning is that because FRC is a “Washington think tank” with respectability it simply can’t be accused of being a hate group.
“This is a group that was founded by James Dobson and was run for many years by Gary Bauer, who was a presidential candidate, a widely respected commentator around town,” he explained. “Why would would you say that’s the same sort of thing as Stormfront?”
When it was explained to him again that the SPLC doesn’t list only groups that are violent as hate groups, and when asked what he sees as the distinction between groups like FRC and the other groups he mentioned, he said: “Some of them put on white sheets and go around and lynch people and some of them don’t. It’s not the same as the KKK and Stormfront. There is a fundamental distinction. I think people who say hateful things are in one category and people who commit violent acts are in another category.”
But in fact, a a great many of the groups and individuals tracked as hate groups by SPLC don’t engage in violent acts; when they do, they often cross the line into domestic terrorism, something law enforcement then takes up. After the interview, Milbank told The Advocate that the interview was “an ambush and unfair,” and made the same comment in a email he sent to another SiriusXM host which he cc’d me. That is patently untrue: Milbank was not asked to come on the show under any false pretenses. He was invited on the show to discuss the controversial column he’d written, and he accepted the invitation.Listen to the interview with Milbank here: