Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed is out with a new profile of Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association spokesman, revealing that Fischer is a wildcard in the Religious Right movement not because of his extremist views but as a result of his readiness to broadcast them without restraint or fear of the consequences. Social conservative leaders never question or rebuke his hardline rhetoric or radical claims, chronicled almost daily on this blog, and are happy to give Fischer a platform at key events like the Values Voters Summit and appear on his radio show. As Gray writes, the leadership of the AFA is squarely behind Fischer, with Buster Wilson boasting that Fischer “will say things that a lot of people on the conservative side of things think but they won’t say.”
Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches noted in her report from October, 2010, that former AFA employees told her that “the views represented by Fischer are not only tolerated within the organization, but any opposition to its anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant invective—including reliance on white nativist sources in the AFA’s media programs—is dismissed. What’s worse, former employees say, anyone questioning such attitudes as un-Christian is denigrated, and in some cases forced out.”
In fact, the only times his columns were censored by the AFA was not due to internal disagreement but because the issues he was talking about veered outside of the group’s mission.
While the AFA did not remove Fischer’s column denying the link between HIV and AIDS from its website (which you can find here), the group expunged Fischer’s columns defending the expulsion of Native Americans from their land, demanding all immigrants to the US convert to Christianity and maintaining that African Americans “rut like rabbits” as a result of the welfare system. Again, the AFA didn’t think Fischer was wrong, but as Tim Wildmon said, they were about “topics that we wouldn’t get into.”
And what of the drumbeat volume of accusations from those to his left — including many Republicans — that he is a bigot and a homophobe?
“It doesn’t bother me because I know I’m right.”
“Eventually everybody in America is going to agree with me,” Fischer said gravely. “Either before it’s too late or after it’s too late. Because what we’re talking about is the truth.”
Fischer’s confidence has made him a compelling messenger. In 2009, Tim Wildmon invited him nearly 2,000 miles southeast to work at AFA headquaters [sic], and he and his wife Debbie moved to Tupelo. The couple attends the Hope Church, a midsize evangelical congregation on a desolate highway on the way out of town, and have two grown children, Jenna and J.D.
When the younger Wildmon took over the AFA from his ailing father in 2010, he immediately set out to boost its already-robust radio network — an effort that involved hiring rising star Fischer. AFA’s programming goes out to 200 stations across the country and pulls in between 800,000 and 1.2 million listeners a week, of whom Fischer’s show takes the majority, the group says. Buster Wilson, who hosts the show after Fischer’s, said he believed Fischer had inherited the elder Wildmon’s high-profile role in the conservative movement.
“Bryan will say things that a lot of people on the conservative side of things think but they won’t say,” Wilson said. “Or believe but they won’t speak of,” Wilson said.
Wildmon was careful to note that Fischer’s views, on his blog and on his radio show, do not always reflect those of AFA. He said there have been two instances in the past two years when he’s asked Fischer to take something off the site. One was a post asserting that Native Americans were “morally disqualified” from controlling territory in North America. Another was a column using the example of Magic Johnson’s health to question whether or not HIV really leads to AIDS.
Why can’t Fischer say that, but can say, for example, that Hitler was gay, or that God will cure AIDS if gays cease all sexual activity? Or that Bill Clinton is responsible for the rise in oral cancer?
“Most times his views are going to be be consistent with ours, but sometimes he’s going to stray and speak on topics that we wouldn’t get into,” Wildmon said. “I’m not distancing myself or our ministry from Bryan in the sense that he does work here, he’s on our payroll.”
Fischer said that every time something’s been taken off the blog, it’s been of his own volition.
“I made those decisions,” he said.