Bigoted in Seattle? Anschutz-owned festival group blasted by Seattle Weekly

Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival is an annual end-of-the-summer party that takes over the area around Seattle Center every Labor Day weekend. It’s mainly art and music and an event my family used to attend before the crowds and traffic pushed us away. But lots of people still go.

It's a gathering free of politics -- or it was until the Seattle Weekly attacked the festival organizer in a recent piece headlined “Bigotry in the Spotlight.” The piece is about how the entertainment group that produces the festival is owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz. And because Anschutz funds conservative causes, he is, of course, anti-LGBT and a bigot.

We’ve written about Anschutz here and here and here. Anschutz is a devout Presbyterian and he’s also funded a lot of faith-friendly projects, such as Walden Media, which produced C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which came out as a movie 10 years ago. So here's how he's playing in one Seattle publication:

When Chick-fil-A announced plans for a Seattle store in 2013, mayoral candidates rushed to denounce the chain. Current mayor Ed Murray said he would “push” to keep the company out of town, and then-mayor Mike McGinn called its leader a bigot, due to CEO Dan Cathy’s financial support of groups opposed to same-sex marriage and his statements opposing it.
But a far bigger bankroller of conservative causes—including anti-LGBT groups—already does brisk business in Seattle. His name is Philip Anschutz, and he is the owner of Anschutz Entertainment Group, or AEG. AEG took over local festival Bumbershoot in 2015, which it produces in a multimillion-dollar partnership with the city. The city also handed over large portions of KeyArena’s management to AEG in 2008, splitting the venue’s revenues. That contract was renewed in 2015.

After adding that King County (which surrounds Seattle and its suburbs) is also in business with AEG, and that an AEG subsidiary company in California got reamed by lefty outlets such as Vice and the Huffington Post for not falling in line with LGBT demands, the article continues:

Equal Rights Washington board president Monisha Harrell says the city must also reconsider its relationship with AEG. “This is very problematic,” says Harrell. “They always say that when you know better, you need to do better. Now that this information is coming into the light, this is one of those times that is true… . If the head of AEG has a record of supporting those who would do harm to our communities and our rights, we should certainly be looking for another partner for Bumbershoot.”
In a Washington Post editorial last summer, Anschutz was named one of the nation’s biggest “enemies of equality for LGBT Americans.” …

What the piece doesn’t mention is that the editorial/column wasn’t necessarily representing the paper’s official view but that of Jonathan Capehart, a staff blogger who just got married on Jan. 7 to his partner in Washington, DC. And that Capehart got reamed by his commentators for creating a gay enemies list and for ramping up the outrage. There's more:

This charge, leveled by national LGBT advocacy group Freedom for All Americans, was made in connection to his foundation’s donations to three groups: the Alliance Defending Freedom, an advocacy group that has compared being LGBT with committing incest and bestiality; the Family Research Council, a think tank that has lobbied against gay rights and argues there is a “disproportionate overlap” between being LGBT and pedophilia; and the National Christian Foundation, a philanthropy network that has donated over $163 million to anti-LGBT organizations.

It does throw the Anschutz Foundation a bone:

AEG Vice President of Communications Michael Roth pointed Seattle Weekly toward a statement from Anschutz, which noted that “Recent claims published in the media that I am anti-LGBT are nothing more than fake news—it is all garbage.” The statement added that the Anschutz Family Foundation would pull support from any organization found to be involved in anti-LGBT activity.

But that caveat was not enough for the Weekly.

Harrell says withdrawing financial support to these groups would be a welcome step, but not enough. “I personally still don’t eat at Chick-fil-A,” Harrell says, despite its withdrawal of support for antigay marriage efforts. “It’s not enough for them to say we don’t do it anymore. They need to repair the harms they’ve done. On issues of ethics, it’s not enough for them to be neutral, or for us as a city to be. Neutrality supports oppression.”

It’s no huge shock that Harrell doesn’t eat at Chick-Fil-A because there are only four locations in the state, none of which are in Seattle.

But it’s the last paragraph, with its fascist implications, that is disturbing. It’s not enough to be disagree. You must be forced to recant, kowtow to the opposition, then pay them off.

And although the article isn’t about religion, it’s about what some religious people are doing. The Alliance Defending Freedom is the legal group that is defending a lot of those Christian wedding planners, cake bakers and photographers who don’t want to service gay weddings. The Family Research Council and National Christian Foundation are overtly religious groups.

So the mode of attack these days is not to single out a person's faith, but to simply label them -- or their organization -- as "anti-LGBT."  

I wouldn't call this piece fake news; it is created news.  Do people really care that one of the city's most popular festivals belong to one of a zillion conglomerates and businesses owned by a conservative? It'd be one thing if certain musicians were barred from participating but even this story admits elsewhere that the AEG has promoted pro-gay-marriage musicians in the past. 

It's editorials-disguised-as-news like this piece that convince some people that the media is out to vilify anyone who doesn't agree with the LGBT movement. In this case, they're right. Even though the Weekly is well known as alternate media, that doesn't let them off the hook of responsible journalism. Unless they ceased caring about journalism a long time ago, which is what has happened here in the Emerald City.

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