The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s days are numbered, but there’s still time for their editorial board to set the record straight on the new domestic partnership legislation being debated in Olympia, and the blatantly misleading, anti-gay TV ads that are using the P-I to validate their lies.
Of course, the legislation does not “redefine marriage” as the ad claims, nor does it require schools to teach that homosexuality is normal; it merely extends to domestic partnerships the same rights and responsibilities under state law that are currently available to married couples. The bill does not legalize gay marriage, so all you gay-bashers out there can rest assured that same-sex couples will still be denied the 1,138 rights and protections enjoyed by married couples under federal law.
Yeah, sure, these are the types of lies and exaggeration we’ve come to expect from social conservatives on issues concerning gay rights, but this ad goes one step further, deliberately misquoting a state legislator in a smear campaign that borders on libel.
The sponsor of this law says, those who disagree with homosexual marriage should “face being fined, fired, and even jailed until they relent.”
The sponsor of this bill is Sen. Ed Murray (D-Seattle), and he said no such thing.
The alleged quote comes from a May 20th, 2008 guest column in the Seattle P-I from David Benkof, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage. Benkof wrote:
Openly gay Washington state Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, and a representative of the largest Michigan gay-rights group, the Triangle Foundation, have both told me that people who continue to act as if marriage is a union between a man and a woman should face being fined, fired and even jailed until they relent.
This is, of course, not a direct quote, and as Sen. Murray complained five days later in a letter to the editor, it was a “deliberate misrepresentation” of his views on the issue:
In an e-mail exchange, Benkof posed to me numerous hypothetical scenarios in a world where same-sex marriage was legal. One such scenario was of a business owner who “was just stubborn and wouldn’t treat wife-wife couples equally” to heterosexual couples for religious reasons. What should be made of their “principled stand,” Benkof asked me.
[…] I wrote to Benkof: “The law should be enforced, just as it was when either King or Gandhi engaged in civil disobedience. Both ended up in jail despite the righteousness of their cause.”
A state legislator urging that state laws be enforced… who’d a thunk?
So how does Sen. Murray’s reasonable statement get transformed into a fascistic call for jailing people who oppose homosexuality? It is tempting to blame the lying, amoral scaremongers who put together that ad… but that’s kinda like blaming a pig for wallowing in mud. It’s what they do.
No, it’s the P-I who really deserves the blame here.
Benkof was entitled to his opinions—that’s the whole purpose of publishing guest columns—but the editors at the P-I had an obligation to at least make an effort to verify his statements of fact, and anybody who is at all familiar with Sen. Murray would have been immediately suspicious of such an uncharacteristically impolitic assertion on such a sensitive subject. A simple phone call would have sufficed… you know, the kinda basic fact-checking the legacy media so often accuses us of bloggers of neglecting.
Now, as is often the case in political campaigns, the lie, which first appeared in print, is being compounded and exaggerated on TV, and given even more weight by the bogus claim that the alleged statement appeared in a “Seattle P-I Editorial,” as opposed to a mere guest column.
The P-I failed in their obligation to fact-check Benkof’s column, but they still have time to make amends. I’m sure there are plenty other topics on which they’d probably prefer editorializing during their final days, but it would serve them well to acknowledge their error, correct the public record, and demand that this misleading ad be pulled. As this incident proves, newspapers do matter. It would be nice to see the P-I prove that they matter in a good way.