Hate group or hateful reporting? This is why alleged 'news organization' ABC News is under fire

ABC News is under fire for a story in which it characterizes the Alliance Defending Freedom as "an alleged hate group."

In some ways, it's the same ole, same ole.

Click the above links, and you can read my GetReligion colleague Mark Kellner's excellent recent commentary on the Southern Poverty Law Center labeling certain conservative organizations as "hate groups." 

Kellner rightly asked: "Here's a proactive journalistic question: Does expressing one's faith and beliefs always and without exception equal hate?"

Apparently, ABC didn't get the memo. 

So we end up with this headline today:

Jeff Sessions addresses 'anti-LGBT hate group,' but DOJ won't release his remarks

And the lede:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered a speech to an alleged hate group at an event closed to reporters on Tuesday night, but the Department of Justice is refusing to reveal what he said.
Sessions addressed members of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which was designated an “anti-LGBT hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2016, at the Summit on Religious Liberty at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, in Dana Point, California.

Let's be real clear: The fact that the attorney general gave a closed-door speech is certainly a valid news topic to investigate. But at this point, can anybody really consider the SPLC a nonpartisan source when it comes to identifying hate groups?

(To be fair, NBC News had an equally horrid report, by it's "NBC Out" desk.)

The Wall Street Journal had a spot-on opinion piece just recently on "The Insidious Influence of the SPLC":

Aided by a veneer of objectivity, the SPLC has for years served as the media’s expert witness for evaluating “extremism” and “hatred.” But while the SPLC rightly condemns groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Westboro Baptist Church and New Black Panther Party, it has managed to blur the lines, besmirching mainstream groups like the FRC, as well as people such as social scientist Charles Murray and Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a critic of Islamic extremism.

So it's probably no surprise that the Alliance Defending Freedom fired back at ABC this afternoon:

The ADF issued this statement from legal counsel and director of communications Kerri Kupec:

ABC News has committed journalistic malpractice. For ABC News to essentially cut and paste false charges against Alliance Defending Freedom by a radically left-wing, violence-inciting organization like Southern Poverty Law Center is a discredit to ABC News and to the profession. Americans’ trust in media is cratering, and the blatant bias and lack of professionalism that ABC attempted to pass off as news can only serve to confirm and intensify that distrust.

Alliance Defending Freedom is one of the most respected and successful Supreme Court advocates in the legal profession, having won seven cases at the high court in the last seven years. Southern Poverty Law Center spends its time and money attacking veterans, nuns, Muslims who oppose terrorism, Catholics, Evangelicals, and anyone else who dares disagree with its far-left ideology. Meanwhile, ADF works every day to preserve and affirm free speech and the free exercise of religion for people from all walks of life and all backgrounds because we believe freedom is for everyone.

For the sake of its own integrity, ABC News should issue an apology to Alliance Defending Freedom and retract the defamatory story it published Wednesday.

By the way, The Federalist has published Sessions' remarks online, and senior editor Mollie Hemingway — a former GetReligionista — has noted: 

Here’s why reporters such as Pete Madden and Erin Galloway should be wary before slightly rewriting SPLC press releases and passing off the work as their own. SPLC previously had a reservoir of credibility based on a history of good work exposing legitimately nefarious individuals and groups. In recent years, however, that reservoir has all but dried up as SPLC has gone after reasonable groups it merely disagrees with politically but labels as hate groups. It engages in this campaign while ignoring serious problems on the left.

At the American Conservative, Rod "Friend of this Blog" Dreher commented on "ABC’s outrageous anti-Christian smear."

And at the National Review, David French wrote that the media should beware because the SPLC "has become a dangerous joke."

I could go on, but you get the point: This is more a case of hateful reporting than an actual hate group.

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