Sunday, March 06, 2005

Neela Banerjee brings Lou Sheldon in from the cold in this morning's Times (the paper should be embarrassed)

On page A15 of this morning's Times, we get Neela Banerjee's "Black Churches Struggle Over Their Role in Politics: Conservatives Looking to Align With Bush."

No, the biggest problem isn't that Banerjee's article covers what ColorLines already has in their article "True Colors." (Apologies to the author of the piece. We'll note the author at another time. I've dug through the closet and can't find that issue. I may have loaned it out. But we'll credit the author in this post with a correction later in the week. In addition, we'll note the author in a current item on the day I find my copy of the magazine.) The New York Timid often checks to see what periodicals are writing about -- it really doesn't set the lead on anything but "the official version/story."

Certainly, "True Colors" explores the topic better. (But then magazines have fact checkers. Newspapers, don't believe what Keller says, do not have fact checking departments.)

But the Times has done something really offensive. (Maybe it's an effort to court the people Keller spoke of when interviewed by the New Yorker?)

Here's the passage:

White evangelicals are also participating in the discussion. Ministers like Rev. Lou Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, an organization of 43,000 churches, are organizaing black ministers in major cities around the issues of sexuality. "We're looking for African-American clergy members who have local authority, and we're getting them to hold a summit on marriage, just one issue," Mr. Sheldon said.

How sweet that Banerjee and Sheldon bonded. Maybe they had a few giggles over gays? Perhaps Banjeree enjoys homophobic jokes or outright expressions of homophobia?

I don't know, I don't care.

The Times should be embarrassed and ashamed of this passage.

Lou Sheldon given the stamp of approval by the Times. I'm not referring to him being quoted.
The Times can quote any crackpot they desire. I'm referring to the way they present him.

Let's go to Matthew Shepard Online Resources:

Gays are like Hitler and Gestapo
"The Rev. Lou Sheldon, president of the Traditional Values Coalition, said the 'hate crime' designation is increasingly going to be applied against those who believe homosexuality is wrong. 'What Hitler began to build against the Jews is now being built against people of faith who believe the Scriptures are valid for today and their injunctions against certain sexual behaviors is correct,' he said. Several years ago, homosexual activists disrupted a similar conference of his in Sacramento, he said, 'but I didn't have the finances to get a lawyer. For a long time we were the target of their wrath. Now other people are surfacing against them, thank God. If you don't agree with [homosexual activists], they use Gestapo tactics to stop you.' - Washington Times, Tuesday, October 27, 1998, Page A2
Sheldon for quarantining AIDS patients
"Reverend Louis Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition has come out in favor of quarantining AIDS patients in what he calls 'cities of refuge.' " - Mark E. Pietrzyk, News-Telegraph, March 10, 1995.
Gays are amoral extremists
"If the Ameircan people are shocked by all of the same-sex smooching that is on television, wait until they see an American president kissing up to the wealthiest extremists of the amoral left." Andrea Sheldon, quoted by People for the American Way, "Hostile Climate," 1988, p.9.

Need to know more about Sheldon (possibly, since the Times doesn't inform us)? Let's go to Hans Johnson's article from In These Times, "Bush’s Sheldon Game:"

He backed quarantining people with AIDS and tried to quash the law shielding the disabled from bias. The national organization he heads, Traditional Values Coalition, gave money to Operation Rescue, a violent anti-abortion group. In the wake of 9/11, he joined the chorus to deny gays relief funds, even vowing to slam tight the gates of toleration and "get the foot out of the door."
. . .
Sheldon, unlike Bush, bares his teeth without obliqueness. He once wrote that "gays and lesbians live perverted, twisted lives that feed upon the unsuspecting and the innocent." His is a public face that only a right-wing president seeking his first real mandate could love.
. . .
Sheldon has a history of turning into a liability in the harsh light of elections. In 1994, his supposedly nonpartisan charity took $47,000 from the California GOP to churn out voter guides, only to see this shady quid pro quo blow up in the press a year later -- but after Republicans won. Still unrepentant in 1998, Sheldon's nonprofit took $50,000 from moderate U.S. Senate candidate Matt Fong for "voter education efforts." In late October, the tables turned. Hard upon news of the gay-bashing murder of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard, revelation of the Sheldon gift on the San Francisco Chronicle's front page rocked
Fong's toss-up race to topple Barbara Boxer. Liberals labeled Sheldon "irrational" and "mean-spirited," and many gay Republicans defected. Boxer won a cakewalk.
Californians’ visceral reaction against Sheldon crosses the political spectrum. In 1978 Sheldon was director of a statewide drive to ban gay teachers from the public schools. The measure, fueled by Anita Bryant’s demagoguery, awoke the fledgling gay community. Its massive outcry reflected fears that life and livelihoods were on the line. Yet the knockout blow that year against Lou Sheldon’s brand of hate came from an unlikely agent: Ronald Reagan. The former two-term governor’s denunciation in the campaign’s closing stages gave conservative voters permission to reject the measure. The referendum failed by a 4-3 margin.

May, 2004, Sheldon's still spewing hate and nonsense,John at AMERICAblog:

"Our nation needs to pray for guidance concerning our international war on terror and the culture war here at home. Islamic terrorists are seeking to destroy Western Civilization and militants here in the U.S. are determined to destroy traditional marriage and all standards of biblical morality. Both of these forces must be defeated and only God can give us the ultimate victory through our prayers and actions!" - Lou Sheldon, Traditional Values Coalition, May 4, 2004

When you find Sheldon presented as a benevolent figure in rags like the Washington Times, you aren't really surprised. When you read this junk in the New York Times, it is upsetting.

Banerjee's article is ripping off the work done by ColorLines, no real surprise. The "outreach" to Lou Sheldon is shocking.

James at My Three Cents (scroll down for the entry, it's Nov. 22nd):

Who's leading this movement, you may be asking yourself....well that's the Rev. Lou Sheldon. What a shock....he's a Rev. He's also quoted in saying, "During the Clinton administration, it's like we felt like we lived in outer Siberia, and [during] this past administration, it's like we died and went to heaven and got a preview of what's to come." Really....what in the hell is this guy smoking??

Well Banjerjee is certainly welcoming him with open arms and a warm hug. Possibly an air kiss (we'll assume no open mouth kisses were exchanged)?

That Lou Sheldon, he's just a simple "rev" with a genuine concern. At least that's how the Times presents him. What's next? I don't even want to think about where this might lead. When quoting controversial figures, the Times need to note that they are controversial. If they want to be a part of the rehabilitation of Lou Sheldon, they're going to find themselves with a lot less readers. (Hint to the Times, subscribers who weren't bothered by same-sex wedding announcements may be bothered by homophobia being presented as a friendly face.)

While they've hyped officials like the worst Hollywood p.r. hack, they've yet to sink this low on non-officials. But Keller's New Yorker interview may have been intended to prepare us for the new reality at the Times. If that's not the case, they need to take a strong look at what they printed today and realize how offensive it is.