CNN and New Day anchor Chris Cuomo stacked the day against social conservatives again on Friday morning. During a segment on Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s passing of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), CNN asked on screen "‘Religious Freedom’ Law Legalize Discrimination?," as Cuomo wondered out loud "‘why is there so much concern about how others choose to love?"
Cuomo began his report by noting that Governor Pence signed a "religious freedom" bill that “may allow business to refuse service to gays on the basis of the...owner's faith.” He further quipped that this was done “under a media blackout, and you can judge for yourself why that was done."
Just how many bill signings are closed to the press remains unknown. For whatever reason, investigative journalist Chris Cuomo did not see fit to tell us. Nor did he tell us that Governor Pence issued a public statement on the matter "shortly after he signed Senate Bill 101, otherwise known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA.)"
It’s almost as if Cuomo was trying to portray the passage of the bill as an exercise in shameful secrecy, and was apparently not above omitting key facts to accomplish his agenda.
He was also sure to finger-quote the term "religious freedom," as if it were code for some diabolical subversive theocratic plot and not an attempt to preserve religious liberty in a culture that his growing increasingly hostile to traditional religion.
One wonders how the media would react if one of their own used finger quotes around the word "discrimination" or the phrase "equal rights" when discussing gays and lesbians.
Cuomo then welcomed his guest, Michelangelo Signorile, a radical gay activist and satellite radio host who once displayed his loving tolerance by telling a professing homosexual Mitt Romney supporter to "buy some arsenic...and take it."
Before addressing Signorile’s complaints with the bill however, Cuomo showered him with compliments, calling him "a good Polish man" and tipping his hat to Signorile’s alleged prophetic insights, "It’s all about implicit bias becoming the new wave of the battle and it seems that you were quite the Cassandra on that, predicting this."
Cuomo engaged Signorile as a devil’s advocate, questioning him on how this bill protects people who discriminate and making him work to prove his point. But Cuomo never challenged Signorile’s outrageous assertions, such as his contention that the law allows businesses to treat gays in the same manner as "African-Americans during Jim Crow."
If only Signorile was someone like Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Cuomo might have grilled him with tough follow up questions such as “Do you think that it is insulting to compare yourself to African Americans who were enslaved and treated as second class citizens for decades?” "How exactly does your situation correlate with that of African Americans under Jim Crow?" "Why should sexual rights trump religious rights, especially when the latter is recognized by our constitution while the former is not?" "If religious people have to keep their faith in the closet, why can’t they ask the same of you and your behavior?" "If homosexuals get minority protection, why shouldn’t such protection be extended to other sexual minorities, such as those who practice polygamy and incest?"
But since Signorile is not a Chief Justice refusing to cave in the face of a radical sexual ideology, Cuomo gives him a much warmer treatment.
"This conversation is an extension of something you saw coming a few years ago. Your book It's Not Over you talk about, yes, the big marriage battle is somewhat over. We'll see what happens with the Supreme Court, but there are a lot of other implicit biases out there. Is this what you were worried about?”
Signorile responded in the affirmative, noting that these RFRA laws are examples of "anti-gay forces...re-brand[ing] their bigotry to make it more acceptable."
Soon afterwards, Cuomo melted into an unabashedly sympathetic host by declaring out of the blue that this issue, "still raises the same question, ‘why is there so much concern about how others choose to love?’"
Towards the end, Cuomo cautioned his viewers against thinking that he was taking sides in this story by only bringing on a pro-gay guest, "We offered Indiana Governor Mike Pence the opportunity to come on the show. His office declined our invitation. The offer remains open."
Given how Cuomo treated Chief Justice Roy Moore, it is not surprising Governor Pence declined to appear.
Transcipt is below:
CHRIS CUOMO: Now under a media blackout, and you can judge for yourself why that was done, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a “religious freedom” bill Thursday that could allow businesses to refuse service to gays. on the basis of the business owner’s faith. That’s an argument about the bill. So is this about belief or bigotry? Here to discuss Michelangelo Signorile, a good Polish man and a host at Sirius XM-Radio also author of several books, one of them called It's Not Over, Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia and Winning True Equality.
It’s all about implicit bias becoming the new wave of the battle and it seems that you were quite the Cassandra on that, predicting this. But let's give the governor his due. He says that this law is an extension of the federal law of religion protection that grew out of the Hobby Lobby case. We all remember that. And here’s what the governor says, Governor Pence of Indiana, about why this law should not be feared.
GOV. MIKE PENCE: This legislation restricts government action. It doesn't apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved.
CUOMO: All right. For the sake of our discussion, Mike, I will suggest the governor's position on this. What is your problem with what he said?
MICHELANGELO SIGNORILE: Well, he is distorting exactly how far reaching this law is. There are 19 states that have religious restoration freedom acts, many of them -- all of them, really, are -- except for Mississippi which recently passed one about really protecting employees and their religious discrimination. This takes off from Hobby Lobby and really just gives the employer Carte Blanche to deny services to people in a business, perhaps fire people from jobs.
CUOMO: But he says it's only state action. That would be private action. That would be, you know, this is just about the government making your business sell contraceptives when you're a Christian and you're against it. You know-
SIGNORILE: But it's about allowing them to say, “we don't serve gays, we don't allow gays in here. We're not going to service this particular event. We don't like that these two people are nuzzling, or they’ve holding hands in our store. We don't like that. You can't come in here.”
CUOMO: But why does this law apply to that if the governor says it only applies to state action, then couldn't the business not claim protection under this law because that's not a state action, that's two people doing what people in love do?
SIGNORILE: No. Actually, there's no law in Indiana that protects gay people or transgender people against discrimination in public accommodations.
CUOMO: But why would this law protect a business? If I go into the restaurant and the restaurant owner doesn't like how we're behaving with each other, they say get out, how does this law protect them?
SIGNORILE: This allows them to say my religious belief says I don't -- I cannot bear to have you in here. I cannot bear to accept serving you. That would go against my religious belief. So therefore you have to go to another business. And the argument with all these laws has been “Oh you can go to another business down the street” but in many small towns there is no other business down the street. It is literally saying to people you can't be served here in the way we saw with African-Americans during Jim Crow.
CUOMO: So you're saying that the governor’s suggestion that this only involves state action, which means not having the federal government or state government infringe on your religious rights as a business you’re saying that’s not what this is about.
SIGNORILE: Well, no matter whether it's about state action or federal action, it is the state engaging in or allowing businesses to engage in discrimination and turn people away when the state should be about protecting people, all people, from discrimination.
CUOMO: Right. Because you know what his counter is, he says “I understand your concern. And that would be violating the protection of a protected class, which being gay is a protected class, lgbt protected class, deserving equal protection under the law. I get it.” That's not what this law is. This law is when the government passes a law that a private owner of a business who has religious beliefs doesn't like, they don't have to follow it. Your scenario doesn't fit in that.
SIGNORILE: Well, he is really broadening what the protection is for religious people in this country. Gay people are not protected under title 7 of the civil rights act. So there are no protections for gay people. There are protections for people on the basis of religion but not to discriminate against other people on that basis. So you can't say on the basis of religion, my religion doesn't like African-Americans, I'm not going to serve them. Gays are-
CUOMO: Because they’re a protected class under title 7.
SIGNORILE: They’re a protected class under title 7.
CUOMO: Gays are not.
SIGNORILE: Gays are not.
CUOMO: So it’s race, color, creed but not LGBT?
SIGNORILE: That's right. We have no federal law in this country and we have only a handful of states that have these laws. 29 states do not protect gays from discrimination and that is where this law does come into play. Indiana is not one of them.
CUOMO: Now last thing, this conversation is an extension of something you saw coming a few years ago. Your book It's Not Over you talk about, yes, the big marriage battle is somewhat over. We'll see what happens with the Supreme Court, but there are a lot of other implicit biases out there. Is this what you were worried about?
SIGNORILE: Absolutely. What we're seeing anti-gay forces do is re-brand their bigotry to make it more acceptable. We've seen this happen with African-Americans. They go for the issue and with women. They go for the issue that they think will be broader to the public so this sounds like, “well, a business shouldn't have to do something they don't believe according to their religious beliefs.” When I was at one of the conferences doing a lot of research, I went to the conservative political action conference, one of the anti-gay leaders said if we lose at the Supreme Court on marriage we'll look for the gay version of the partial birth abortion. They’re looking for the issue that the larger public could agree with them on. And that is how they're re-branding.
CUOMO: And just still raises the same question, “why is there so much concern about how others choose to love.” All right. We're going to be right back after this. Thank you very much to you.
SIGNORILE: Thank you, Chris.
CUOMO: The book again, It's Not Over, an interesting one. And to be clear on this, we're not just talking to Signorile. We offered Indiana Governor Mike Pence the opportunity to come on the show. His office declined our invitation. The offer remains open.