Editor’s Note: Some readers might be offended by the language used in this story.
Correction: The original version of the story said that Judge Bork withdrew his nomination for the Supreme Court. He did not withdraw, but was voted down. MRC Business regrets the error.
Famed TV producer Norman Lear came out as “a bleeding-heart conservative,” in an Aug. 1, Entertainment Weekly interview. But much like Lear’s shows All In The Family, The Jeffersons and Maude, it’s fiction.
Lear’s pet organization, People For the American Way, proves it. The group (which is both funded and led by Hollywood figures) claims to stand up for freedom of speech and religion -- two core tenets of America’s founding. In practice however, People For the American Way attacks nearly any group or person whose views don’t align with its progressive agenda.
Expect a heavy dose of that anti-conservative agenda this week, as the Values Voters Summit comes to D.C. Sept. 25-27. The summit’s “primary sponsor has been FRC Action, the legislative affiliate arm of Family Research Council,” an organization PFAW loves to hate.
Lear’s Right Wing Watch (RWW) project is directly supported by PFAW and exists to monitor the supposed “extreme and intolerant agendas” of conservatives. In other words, it goes after pretty much every conservative it can find -- especially the Family Research Council (FRC).
An astonishing 1,700 of RWW’s online attacks (as of Sept. 23, 2015) went after FRC -- nearly twice as many as the second-most targeted organization, WorldNetDaily. FRC President Tony Perkins and talk show host Glenn Beck were slammed nearly 1,000 times each.
That agenda is set by its Hollywood leadership. A full 38 percent of PFAW’s board is made up of Hollywood insiders. PFAW’s current president is Michael Keegan, who was a founding member of GLAAD, the self-appointed pro-LGBT speech police. PFAW’s board also includes notoriously liberal actor Alec Baldwin, and gay rights activist/actress Jane Lynch. The organization is funded by left-wingers including billionaire George Soros.
This is the same PFAW that helped destroy Reagan Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s reputation in the 1980s. More recently, a project of PFAW falsely accused Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker of saying that ultrasounds should be mandatory for women because they are “just a cool thing out there.” And of course, the media regularly turn to the Hollywood-driven organization for such hit jobs against conservatives. In other words, anything with which PFAW disagrees.
Some of the most direct attacks on conservatives come through Right Wing Watch - one of PFAW’s offshoots. The Right Wing Watch (RWW) project is directly supported by PFAW and exists to monitor the supposed “extreme and intolerant agendas” of conservatives.
And while the media is quick to label conservatives as “far right” and “fundamentalist,” often when journalists turn to RWW they don’t disclose the group’s blatant liberal agenda. Instead, they help promote it. News organizations from The Washington Post to Politico and Huffington Post have all highlighted RWW hit jobs on conservatives that were provably false, such as the ultrasound accusation leveled at Walker.
That strategy doesn’t seem to bother Lear. He openly brags about PFAW preventing Bork’s appointment (something it accomplished through spreading lies about him) and bemoaned when Bork came back on the political scene. “Now, all these years later he's been appointed judicial consultant for Mitt Romney. You want to talk about frustration,” Lear told The Hollywood Reporter.
The Liberal Media Love Right Wing Watch
RWW has successfully secured media attention for its attacks on conservatives and religious people (and organizations), even the inaccurate ones.
In April 2015, RWW falsely accused Walker of saying that “ultrasounds should be mandatory since they’re ‘a cool thing.’” Media outlets including Politico, Salon, Huffington Post, The Washington Post and Mother Jones picked up the story without first researching to see if RWW was telling the truth.
Walker had not said, what RWW claimed. While discussing ultrasound legislation, Walker had shared an anecdote about how “cool” it was to still have the ultrasound pictures of his now adult sons. RWW brutally twisted his words without acknowledging the distortion.
The Daily Caller supplied Walker’s actual quote: “Most people I talk to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time who’ll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, you know we still have their first ultrasound picture. It’s just a cool thing out there.”
Because the media latched on to RWW’s false claim, Walker was forced to defend himself against something he never said. Walker called the media “biased” and “lazy” for spreading the story without checking the quotes themselves.
RWW also attacked HGTV’s Flip it Forward stars David and Jason Benham for being pro-life and defending traditional marriage, both things the group opposes. In April 2014, RWW called the Benham twins “anti-gay, anti-choice extremist[s].”
The media also bought that made-up scandal. The day after RWW first published its hit piece, HGTV canceled the Benham’s show. ABC and CNN then ran multiple reports repeating the accusations leveled at the Benhams.
In three separate stories, ABC news anchor Juju Chang was quick to mention the Benhams' faith, mentioning “their highly conservative personal beliefs” and referring to them as “highly conservative, Christian brothers.”
In all, ABC labeled the Benhams “conservative” four times, but simply referred to RWW as a “blog.” ABC didn’t bother labeling RWW liberal and never mentioned that is a project of PFAW.
MSNBC covered the story as well and published a statement from the Benham brothers, who were forced to defend themselves, just like Walker.
“With all of the grotesque things that can be seen and heard on television today you would think there would be room for two twin brothers who are faithful to our families, committed to biblical principles, and dedicated professionals,” they said in the statement. “If our faith costs us a television show then so be it.”
The media also boost the group and give it credibility by republishing “stories” first written by RWW, and by interviewing RWW staff, without disclosing their extreme liberal bias.
In August 2015, for example, The Huffington Post wrote a piece criticizing Christian Broadcast Network founder Pat Robertson for saying that "... a church saying [homosexuality is] not a sin, it's OK, they’re--they’re leading people down the road to perdition, which is a shame." It was RWW that first posted the video barely five hours earlier with its own commentary, slamming Robertson for voicing common Christian values. Huffington Post turned that into a piece it headlined: “Pat Robertson Has No Time For Christians Who Accept Gays. He's just a peach, isn't he?”
MSNBC’s Politics Nation, a talk show hosted by liberal Rev. Al Sharpton, featured PFAW’s Communications Director and RWW staff member Drew Courtney in May 2015. Courtney and Sharpton discussed federal military exercises in Texas and Courtney lashed out at conservatives complaining about the “paranoid fringe of the right that has so much power.”
Good Morning America also featured Courtney in its August 2011 broadcast criticizing then Texas Gov. Rick Perry for leading a prayer rally. Courtney, along with ABC News anchor David Kerley and Annie Gaylor, of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, all spoke against Perry leading a day of fasting and prayer.
People for the American Way’s History of Slamming Conservatives
People for the American Way -- and its hit squad, Right Wing Watch -- has been hounding conservatives for 34 years.
The by Hollywood, for Hollywood organization was founded by Lear in 1981 to discredit the conservative message of televangelists during that era.
On his website, Lear said PFAW began with a 50-second TV spot of a man complaining to the camera that it’s “not the American way” for evangelists to preach that people are good or bad Christians based on their political views.
“This idea that people need to worship God or, or aren’t going to get to heaven unless they believe the way I believe, is insidious. It isn’t the American way,” Lear told ABC anchor Ted Koppel in a 2002 Up Close interview.
PFAW has stayed true to Lear’s abhorrence for faith-inspired politics. Since 1981, PFAW has viciously attacked conservative leaders who have dared to speak about their values.
During discussions about PFAW, Lear often brags about his organization’s hand in keeping Bork, a Reagan Supreme Court nominee, from being appointed in 1987. PFAW spread numerous lies about Bork’s record. The charges included labeling him racist and accusing him of supporting poll taxes. The damage was done: Bork's nominated was voted down. PFAW’s attacks were so relentless and effective, that “Borking” became an official term for using baseless personal attacks to effectively keep someone out of a public office.
Right Wing Watch Misrepresents Conservatives
PFAW is committed to discrediting and silencing opposing voices. Ironically, RWW demonstrates how much Hollywood liberals disdain conservatives, especially those who stand up for their own beliefs about abortion, same sex marriage, or religion.
There are more than 1,200 conservative individuals and 600 organizations that RWW has attacked with its website. Though the majority of attacks never make it to the larger media, some are no less offensive or inaccurate.
Along with targeting the Family Research Council, RWW has also written hundreds of “articles” about Christian Broadcast Network founder Pat Robertson, former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and current GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
Some are malicious twisting of people’s words. In February 2015, RWW posted a video of a Huckabee speech and accused him of saying that the lies America is being told about gay marriage are “reminiscent of Nazi Germany.” What Huckabee really said was:
I realize the difference between the Nazis and those who are today leading the Islamic jihad is that at least the Nazis tried to hide what they were doing at Auschwitz and Birkenau.…I am just overwhelmed at the sobering reality that people did something so incredibly evil -- that they wanted to destroy millions -- millions of people because of their faith. Because they were Jews. And they targeted them, they hunted them, they rounded them up, they took them to a camp and they lied to them!…And when lies permeate our culture, it’s a dangerous dangerous thing….
Huckabee also said, “If you are a believer and you believe old-fashioned things, like the definition of life, the definition of marriage, it’s possible the government will put you out of business ...”
A month earlier, RWW accused Glenn Beck of demanding that U.S. Christians get preferential treatment. “On his television program last night, Beck insisted that not allowing Christianity to have a preferred place in American society is a violation of the very principles upon which this nation was founded.” Beck however was not demanding preferential treatment -- he was simply claiming that America no longer adheres to the principles of its founding.
Beck really said, “We’re not just coddling those who disagree now, we’re becoming openly hostile to our own foundation; the principles that set us up. We have tolerated and excused and embraced the ideals that are in direct opposition to our founding principles.”
Also in January, RWW published the article, “Chuck Grassley: Democrats Will Abolish Bill Of Rights By Overturning Citizens United Ruling.” That headline was false as the video of Grassley’s remarks showed:
Four liberal justices have an upside down understanding of the Constitution. They would vote to allow the congress to limit your right to participate in the political process by limiting speech. Now the Constitution has to be amended to do that after the Supreme Court has gone a long ways in that direction.
But do you know that there are liberal elements in the United States Senate. Almost all of them have introduced a constitutional amendment that would start amending the First Amendment. That’s a slippery slope [that] could lead us to the abol--uh--the abolition of the Bill of Rights as we’ve known it for 230 years.
RWW has also put words in conservative’s mouths. In March, 2015, the group did just that to Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver. They portrayed him as having said that a “second American Revolution [is] needed to stop gay marriage” if the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage.
What Staver actually did was call for conscientious civil disobedience if necessary, not a revolution.
“I suggest that [adoption clinics] ought to say, ‘Listen, we’re called to place orphans in the homes of moms and dads. That’s our calling -- we can’t get away from it. We gotta do it,” Staver said. “And we’re not gonna violate our conscience by placing them in homes with same sex households. So if that’s your bigoted wrong opinion, come and shut us down but we’re not gonna voluntarily comply.’ In other words we’re back to the days of Martin Luther King Jr. We’re back to the days of the American Revolution.”
RWW set its sights on FRC again in June 2015, accusing the non-profit of saying in a fundraising letter that “President Obama plans to ‘eliminate’ Christianity” through gay rights.
Unsurprisingly, that accusation was also false and the letter demonstrated it.
“Same-sex ‘marriage’ is not the ultimate issue; it is a stepping-stone. The real issue is the Obama administration's dogged determination to eliminate anything and everything that stands in the way of the President's radical agenda,” the letter read, in part.
This list was just a fraction of RWW’s misrepresentations, distortions and lies. Ultimately, its vicious attacks on conservatives betray PFAW’s own hypocrisy. Instead of defending religious liberty, as the organization claims, staffers work tirelessly to undermine the religious freedom and free speech of Christians and conservatives.
Liberal Billionaires Bankroll People For the American Way
To maintain its aggressive opposition to conservatives, PFAW relies on liberal Hollywood figures for financial support.
Between 2002 and 2013, PFAW received $170 million in donations, which it has used to attack conservatives and champion the liberal policies of its Hollywood board members and donors.
Not surprisingly, the single biggest donor to PFAW was its founder. Tax documents showed that PFAW received $7,027,375 from the Lear Family Foundation between 2002 and 2012.
The next largest donor was none other than liberal patriarch, George Soros, who has donated hundreds of millions to support liberal causes and attack conservatives. Between 2004 and 2013 his Open Society Foundations gave PFAW more than $6 million to advance its left-wing agenda.
After that came the liberal Ford Foundation (not affiliated with the car company), which donated more than $900,000 between 2005 and 2013.
PFAW was also supported by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, which has promoted left-wing immigration and gay agendas.
Other notable Hollywood donors include CNN founder and population fearmonger Ted Turner, who gave at least $54,000 to PFAW through Turner Foundation, Inc., Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and liberal singer and actress Barbra Streisand have also donated through their own foundations.
Hollywood Figures Comprise 38 Percent of PFAW Leadership
Celebrities not only give to People For the American Way -- they are, and have always been the “people” most involved in leading it.
Of the current PFAW board, 38 percent have close Hollywood ties. While the other board members were not tied as closely to Hollywood, they shared the anti-conservative values of the Hollywood left.
Founder Norman Lear was an incredibly influential television writer and producer before he founded PFAW in 1981. During the 1970s, he produced five separate TV shows, the most popular of which was All in the Family. It ranked as the No. 1 series for five consecutive years, according to The New Yorker.
Lear modeled All in the Family’s main character, Archie Bunker, after his own father. He regarded his father as a “bigot.” Archie was Lear’s caricature of conservatives: a racist, religious, right-wing white male.
The many sequels and spin-offs to All in the Family all carried an anti-conservative undercurrent of the original show. Maude also promoted a pro-abortion agenda.
Lear’s legacy of mocking conservatives through television lives on today, through his admirers. The New Yorker said that “Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee and American Horror Story, is a professed admirer of Lear, and his shows feature diva-bigots who are female variants of Archie Bunker.”
But, the Hollywood legend isn’t PFAW’s only Hollywood insider.
Of the 37 current PFAW and PFAW Foundation board members, at least 14 had direct Hollywood connections.
PFAW President Michael Keegan made a powerful name for himself with gay rights activists as a founding member of The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). He’s also a Hollywood insider, who worked with Columbia Pictures and Act III Communications, an entertainment company Lear owned and ran.
Keegan also writes op-eds for The Huffington Post (20 so far) that slam conservatives and the right. In them, he has accused Republicans of attacking women and plotting to “rig” the 2016 presidential election.
Famed liberal actor, writer, and producer Alec Baldwin is also a member of PFAW’s Board of Directors. Baldwin began his Hollywood career in the late ‘80s and has starred in many films including The Hunt for Red October. His recent successes include playing Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock.
In late 2013, ”Up Late with Alec Baldwin” on MSNBC was canceled after just five episodes when a video surfaced of Baldwin screaming homophobic slurs at a photographer.
Glee’s own gay rights activist Jane Lynch is another member of the board of directors. In addition to her Hollywood acting career portraying offensively liberal characters on equally liberal television shows, Lynch is very active politically. In 2012 she supported the launch of the first ever Lesbian Political Action Committee (LPAC). Lynch has also repeatedly mocked conservatives and verbally attacked conservative organizations. During a celebrity roast of Roseanne Barr, Lynch made a joke about Chick-fil-A and then said, “Oh and that reminds me. Fuck Chick-fil-A.”
Lara Bergthold, the current chair of PFAW’s Board of Directors, spent eight years working with Hollywood Women’s Political Committee, a PAC of more than 300 women in the entertainment industry. Bergthold was the Executive Director of that PAC from 1994 until 1997, when it disbanded to “protest the role of money in politics.”
She was also the Deputy Political Director for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. According to her bio at the issue advocacy firm Rally, her focus was securing Hollywood support for Kerry. She specifically worked to coordinate fundraising events including concerts performed and attended by key Hollywood liberals.
In addition to PFAW’s board, Bergthold is also the Executive Director of the Lear Family Foundation, which provides a good chunk of PFAW’s financial support.
PFAW Board Member Seth MacFarlane is the writer and producer of Family Guy as well as Ted and Ted 2. MacFarlane is so offensive and hateful, he earned himself the June 2015 Rolling Stone story, “Hating Seth MacFarlane: A Timeline,” which outlined everything he’s done to earn disdain, from the “often-bigoted absurdity” of Family Guy, to MacFarlane’s derogatory “jokes” while hosting the Oscars.
Another eight board members included entertainment lawyers, activists, fundraisers, and spouses of Hollywood insiders.
- Kathleen Turner: Actress and chair of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Board of Advocates. In the past she has slammed pro-lifers as “fundamentally wrong.”
- Margery Tabankin: A Hollywood fund raiser who connects many liberal Hollywood celebrities to the progressive causes they want to support. She is a board member of both The Streisand Foundation and The Nation Institute, which champion progressive agendas.
- Dolores Huerta: Liberal labor activist portrayed in “Cesar Chavez,”a 2014 film that explores the unionization of California farm workers in the 1960s. Huerta has lashed out against Latino conservatives by accusing them of supporting “ideals that offend our community.”
- David Altschul: Entertainment lawyer who previously worked at Warner Bros, where he negotiated “business dealings with such artists as Madonna, Prince, and Frank Sinatra.”
- Bertis Downs: Long-time lawyer and manager for the rock band R.E.M., which was a “proponent of political activism, encouraging voter registration and helping to raise funds for environmental, feminist and human rights causes,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
- Josh Sapan: President & CEO of AMC Networks Inc.
- Nicole Avant: Former ambassador to the Bahamas and wife of Netflix’s Chief Content Manager Ted Sarandos. Together the couple hosted Hollywood fundraisers for Obama in both 2008 and 2012, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
- Dr. Paul Song: Faculty member at the Samuel Oschin Cancer Center and married to TV personality Lisa Ling. She is “one of the most prominent broadcast journalists,” according to the Center for Asian American Media. Ling currently hosts This is Life on CNN, and previously hosted Our America with Lisa Ling on the Oprah Winfrey Network. From 1999 to 2002, Ling was one of The View’s co-hosts. She is also a self-proclaimed “severe gay rights activist.”
Journalists have helped make People for the American Way one of the most prominent anti-conservative groups. While Lear and the group portray themselves as standing up for the “American Way” of religious freedom and freedom of speech, their efforts are devoted to tearing down America’s conservatives, especially through Right Wing Watch.
As Lear’s anti-Christian commercial from 1981 pointed out at the very beginning, the group is really about undermining religious freedom and free speech, not protecting it.