Yesterday, Newsweek’s Ben Adler posted an article featuring Bryan Fischer, Issues Analyst for the American Family Association. In it, Adler portrayed Fischer as a provocative imp who has crafted a media shtick filled with offensive and outrageous positions designed to get ratings and offend liberals. He may or may not mean what he says, according to Adler, but it doesn’t matter because the Christian political business rolls with outrage – requiring a sanctified shock jock to shake things up. Fischer is just doing his job.
To support the tone of his column, Adler referred to Fischer’s protests (oh, the horror!) that “President Obama wants to give the entire land mass of the United States of America back to the Indians. He wants Indian tribes to be our new overlords.” Adler also picked up on some anti-gay, anti-Muslim and yes, the anti-bear comments (you’ll have to click the link for more on that one) but he left out the worst and least entertaining, to wit:
Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews. Gays in the military is an experiment that has been tried and found disastrously and tragically wanting. Maybe it’s time for Congress to learn a lesson from history.
Adler said Fischer was both threatening and entertaining – I call it “hatertainment” – but Fischer’s reference to the Holocaust doesn’t seem very entertaining to me. Neither do disparaging remarks about Catholic Latinos and Muslim inbreeding (click the links to be hatertained).
To me, Adler’s article points to a new low in the culture war. Is the AFA cynically putting out shocking positions in a manipulative effort to entertain an audience? If that’s true, that is scandalous. If it is not true, then he and the AFA really mean all of those things and deserve the scrutiny given to them recently by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Either way, the audience is clearly there. According to Newsweek, right wing politicians have taken notice:
Fischer’s program, “Focal Point,” reaches about two million listeners and has featured guest appearances from a number of prominent Republicans such as Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, and Mike Huckabee and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who on Wednesday told Fischer he would be in favor of reinstating Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
All of those guys are or have been at various stages of positioning for a run at the GOP nomination. Herman Cain, who just declared his intent to run for the nomination, was just on the show as well. Does this mean that the road to the GOP nomination runs through Bryan Fischer’s radio show?
I hope not.
It is certainly possible that none of Fischer’s GOP guests know of the outrageous positions he promotes. However, that was little defense for John McCain when he was endorsed by megachurch pastor John Hagee in 2008. Catholic groups were outraged. Why? On one occasion, Hagee accused Catholicism of being “a godless theology of hate” which during the Nazi’s reign, promoted “a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews.” Over time, reporters dug up more statements by Hagee which embarrassed McCain. McCain said he didn’t know Hagee’s views and if he had known, he would not sought his endorsement. After months of being dogged by the matter, McCain explicitly rejected association with him.
To date, Fischer has given his stamp of approval to Herman Cain and Mike Pence. However, those not inclined to support these candidates are already questioning the wisdom of even appearing on Fischer’s program. For instance, Andrew Sullivan asked about Fischer yesterday:
More to the point: is embracing a man who believes this kind of bile now essential to being viable as a primary candidate for president in the current GOP? If a Democrat had gone on a radio show with anyone as far out on the left as Fischer is on the far right, his or her career would be over.
Talk about burying the lead: Now I have come to the question which is the title of this post and which echos Sullivan’s question – is Bryan Fischer the new GOP kingmaker? Let me add some questions for discussion – is it fair to evaluate candidates based on friendly appearances with people who express incendiary views? Is Sullivan correct about a Democratic candidate who made a comparable appearance?
These questions are political but I am also interested in reader feedback on the religious matters involved. Applying Bryan Fischer’s evaluation of the President (“either he means what he says or he is a bald-faced liar”), how should we evaluate the positions promoted by the AFA? Is being shocking as a means to an end good practice for a Christian ministry?