Earlier this week, in a story picked up by local television stations and both major Seattle dailies, eastside Rev. Ken Hutcherson announced he is launching a nation-wide boycott of Microsoft, Boeing, Hewlett-Packard, and other companies that are supporting Washington’s gay civil rights bill. Here’s an excerpt from the Associated Press story that ran all over the nation:
The Rev. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church in the Seattle suburb of Redmond, said he would formally issue the boycott Thursday on the conservative radio show Focus on the Family.
It would have been a big deal for Rev. Hutcherson to appear on James Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio show, which is part of the powerful religious right media machine and reaches nearly 9 million people across the country each week. Well, yesterday was Thursday. And the day came and went with no sign of Rev. Hutcherson on Dobson’s national broadcast, which instead explored the hot tactic of “Confronting Abortion Through Prayer.” What gives?
I called Focus on the Family’s headquarters in Colorado Springs, and found the people there very reluctant to explain why Rev. Hutcherson hadn’t been on Dobson’s national show as promised in the AP article. They did tell me, however, that Rev. Hutcherson was allowed to record a “drop-in” for the radio stations in Washington State that carry Dobson’s program. A “drop-in” is a short segment that can easily be added by local radio stations to the beginning of a pre-recorded broadcast like “Confronting Abortion Through Prayer.” Could I listen to the Washington “drop-in”? The answer from Dobson headquarters: No.
In the end, I did find a way to listen to Rev. Hutcherson’s “drop-in,” but before I get to what it contained (and conspicuously didn’t contain), a question for the Associated Press:
What kind of nation-wide boycott is launched on a few local radio stations in Washington State?
It seems Rev. Hutcherson, a very skillful media manipulator, may have tricked the AP into giving his “boycott” the kind of national audience that his buddy Dobson wasn’t willing to provide. If this is the case, will the AP correct the record?
Dobson headquarters had suggested I try one of the local AM radio stations here in Seattle for a copy of Rev. Hutcherson’s “drop-in,” and in short order I found Keith Black, the news director for KCIS radio, a local “Christian Inspiration Station” (AM630) that has fewer than 50,000 listeners.
Black played the “drop-in” for me over the phone, and it began with Tom Minery, the Vice President for Public Policy at Focus on the Family, telling listeners that he had “a special announcement for all of our listeners in the great state of Washington” about something that would be happening in the state senate “today.”
Did the announcement have anything to do with a national boycott? No. And was anything happening on the gay civil rights bill in the state senate on Thursday? No. The bill hasn’t even been taken up in the senate yet.
The rest of the four-minute “drop-in” consisted of Rev. Hutcherson telling listeners to call certain Washington State senators (Republican Bill Finkbeiner of Redmond, Democrat Marilyn Ramsussen of Yelm, and Democrat Mark Doumit of Aberdeen). “Call these senators and let them know we are against this bill,” Rev. Hutcherson said, warning that the bill was on a fast-track. Then Minery (incorrectly) told listeners that the bill is a “most significant matter that will be voted on today in the state capitol.”
And of course there were Rev. Hutcherson’s standard complaints about the gay civil rights struggle being compared to the black civil rights struggle, the standard religious right language of “special rights,” and warnings about Washington State becoming a “mecca” of gay marriage as a result of the bill (which has nothing to do with gay marriage).
Here’s what this sounds like to me: False information in the radio spot, false information in the AP report (which was picked up by The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer among others), and all of it adding up to another media manipulation victory for Rev. Hutcherson.
Again, I return to the question the AP and the newspapers that published this story should probably be asking:
Does this “national boycott” actually exist? Or did Rev. Hutcherson trick the press into splashing his name nationally when he knew even his buddy Dobson wasn’t going to?
Attention Rachel La Corte of the Associated Press: I spoke to Rev. Hutcherson and he says you have your facts wrong.
“The AP was wrong,” Rev. Hutcherson told me. “I never said I was going to announce a boycott today.”
So when will he announce his national boycott?
“I will let you know, Eli,” Rev. Hutcherson said. “I will let you know.”
While I wait for Rev. Hutcherson to let me know, I’d also like to know whether the AP agrees that it got his quotes wrong. The AP’s a pretty reliable organization, and I’d be surprised if they did. But this gives us a great opportunity to find out who’s more trustworthy: Rev. Ken Hutcherson, or the Associated Press?
Over at the blog horsesass.org, Goldy weighs in with some advice for media manipulators and a question for the Washington State press corps:
One thing I never do is lie or trick journalists into reporting something I know to be false. That would not only be rude and inconsiderate, it would destroy my credibility… Rev. Hutcherson now claims he never said he was going to announce a boycott today, and I suppose that AP reporter Rachel La Corte could have gotten it wrong. But if she didn’t, my question for her and the rest of the press corps is: “Are you ever going to trust Rev. Hutcherson again?â€ť