Yet another ex-ex-gay leader apologizes -- but no one really investigates facts in this story

Yet another story about an ex-ex-gay crusader has surfaced in the news, starting with this Aug. 30 (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier piece and, a few days later, this Washington Post piece.

The big announcement in both pieces is that a guy named McKrae Game –- called a “conversion therapy leader” by the Post and Courier who was leading “one of the nation’s most prominent conversion therapy centers” (saith the Washington Post) –- wants to disavow his work in the ex-gay movement.

Both stories employ a narrative style of journalism that is quite fetching. However, only one side is told; that of Game. His luckless wife (who has stuck with him all this time); the board of directors that fired him back in 2017 and folks in his (apparently) former church all go uninterviewed. There is only one side worth telling in this drama.

First, the Post and Courier:

SPARTANBURG — McKrae Game is gay.

He was gay when he received counseling from a therapist who assured him he could overcome his same-sex attractions.

He was gay when he married a woman and founded what would become one of the nation’s most expansive conversion therapy ministries.

He was gay when thousands of people just like him sought his organization’s counsel, all with the goal of erasing the part of themselves Game and his associates preached would send them to hell.

For two decades, he led Hope for Wholeness, a faith-based conversion therapy program in South Carolina’s Upstate. Conversion therapy is a discredited practice intended to suppress or eradicate a person’s LGBTQ identity through counseling or ministry.

Over decades of religion reporting, I had heard of a lot of such efforts — but Hope for Wholeness had never come across my radar. Fortunately, the video alongside this piece mentions that it was an offshoot of Exodus, a much more famous ex-gay ministry.

But the group’s board of directors abruptly fired Game in November 2017.

In June, Game publicly announced he was gay and severed his ties with the organization.

Now, the man once billed as a leading voice in the conversion therapy movement is trying to come to terms with the harm he inflicted while also learning to embrace a world and community he assailed for most of his adult life.

Why this and why now?

“I was a religious zealot that hurt people,” Game said in an interview. “People said they attempted suicide over me and the things I said to them. People, I know, are in therapy because of me. Why would I want that to continue?”

Game recently published a written apology to his personal Facebook page in which he called for the dissolution of any conversion therapy practice or ex-gay ministry. Though he condemned the practices, Game also said a group like Hope for Wholeness could serve as a community for those that believe “homosexuality is incongruent with their faith.”

Game was in the closet until 1993 when he became a Christian and tried to live a hetero existence; getting married and having two children. His wife (and they are still married), Julie Game refused to be interviewed.

That fact sends up a red flag for me. If this turnabout is so wonderful, why isn’t she applauding it?

Hope for Wholeness also wouldn’t be quoted, even though it operates in some 15 states, according to the article.

“I created it all,” Game said of Hope for Wholeness. “We have harmed generations of people.”

Think journalism for a moment. The reporter couldn’t find one person of all the staff and board members listed on its website, to quote? One person to describe whether — from their perspective — the basic facts in this piece are accurate? The article was long and detailed but it only told us Game’s side.

The Post reporter who picked up the Post and Courier story (plus did some original interviews) for its editions didn’t do much better. It sounds like other newsrooms jumped on the story merely because of a social media post.

In a Facebook Live video posted Tuesday, Game said he decided to tell people he was gay because he was scared that someone would “out” him — reveal his sexual orientation — and he wanted to control his own story. He said he slowly hinted on Facebook that he was attracted to men.

Game said he is currently doing yard work and that his wife has been “ridiculously understanding” of his coming out.

If she’s so understanding, why isn’t she talking with reporters?

There are other holes in these pieces. Game was raised Southern Baptist. What is he now; anything? Does Christianity even speak to him? Is there a church he attends now?

The story ends with quotes from two other ex-ex-gay leaders and it looks like such a neat narrative, all nearly tied up with a foregone conclusion.

But what about the folks still in these conversion ministries (and they still exist). What do they say? Did either reporter try very hard to find one of those voices? They are out there. It took me one Google search to find two of them.

No one is questioning the sincerity of Game’s change of mind, but the narrative is a bit too smooth here. How big was he really in this movement? I think he was a lot smaller fish than he lets on. Check out his Facebook page for the press conference he just gave.

The coverage is mainly one guy talking with reporters about a politically correct topic. It isn’t hard to dig back into the files and find other quotes that fit the bill. Gay conversion therapies are about as popular as Hitler in the MSM these days, so whipping off a critical story is not tough to do. Who needs to hear the ministry leaders describe what they do in their own terms?

The video atop this piece, which came with the Post and Courier piece, is way too produced for me. It’s all this one guy, accompanied by soulful music, talking about his journey.

This is what GetReligion team members have long called “Kellerism” — an unofficial, unspoken policy in some media, which surfaced in 2011 remarks by former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller. It means that a media outlet that has made up its mind on a certain hot-button issue to the point where there is no legitimate other side to the story. Thus, only one point of view needs to be expressed.

It’s much tougher to actually report what’s going on, not acting like a tape recorder for this guy, who is on a PR binge. Did the South Carolina reporter visit the local Hope For Wholeness office and talk to people there? Ask them if they think Game is accurately describing what they do and why they do it?

I think there’s more of a story here. Too bad no one seems interested in checking it out.

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