Last Saturday afternoon, historian Kristin Du Mez sat down at her computer to see if her new friend Lindsay Booker had posted any updates about the gathering Booker organized earlier that day at the Madison Library in Huntsville, Ala.
Even though Du Mez was not involved in organizing the event, her book Jesus and John Wayne was being given away along with a children’s book titled All Are Welcome after Booker posted a TikTok video offering free copies to people who would come out “to support teachers and librarians.”
That support was needed in Huntsville because it was to be the latest destination in a national tour by actor Kirk Cameron, who has been cashing in on evangelical fears of LGBTQ people by waging war with “woke libraries” in a publicity stunt for his new children’s book.
The event in Huntsville was sponsored by Moms for Liberty, a conservative political group that protests any discussion of LGBTQ rights, Critical Race Theory, and discrimination in school curricula.
Earlier this year, Cameron told Fox News librarians and educators are engaged in “tactics of war” to promote their ideals of inclusion and diversity.
So perhaps Du Mez should not have been surprised when she searched the internet for news of the Saturday event and found nothing positive.
She couldn’t find images of the homemade signs supporting teachers and librarians. She never read the testimony of a Huntsville police officer who had said her friend’s event went very well and that everyone was nice. She found nothing about the members of the two groups finding mutuality through conversation. And she didn’t hear the words of Booker’s friend Lauren, who spoke with Fox News.
Instead, Du Mez stumbled across a headline from Fox News that painted a very different picture: “Police in Alabama Stop Noisy Protesters from Disrupting Kirk Cameron Library Event.”
Contradicting the testimony of a Huntsville police officer, Fox News began its coverage by claiming police “prevented a crowd of protesters from disrupting a story hour.”
Fox News claimed Booker’s peaceful group “reportedly attempted to enter the event” and held signs that called conservative Christians haters and bigots, while the parents and children were simply “trying to enjoy (Cameron’s) book reading.”
Du Mez wrote on her Substack: “Wow, that wasn’t what I was expecting to hear. I was surprised. That didn’t sound like the event Booker had planned. She’d asked participants to keep things positive. She’d worked with the police to ensure that they were welcome and that they knew what rules to follow.”
Then Du Mez asked, “How is this possible? These aren’t just different interpretations of the same event, these are completely incompatible descriptions.”
A different reality
As has been routinely documented, Fox News reported a “reality” that was not real at all.
According to Fox News, members of Booker’s group caused a fracture in Cameron’s “wholesome” and “faith-filled” event.
Fox News even misrepresented the very premise of Cameron’s anti-librarian, anti-woke tour. Reporter Christine Rousselle, who worked for the Catholic News Agency prior to joining Fox News, wrote: “The nationwide series of events aims to bring together Americans from all walks of life to their public libraries.”
In reality, Cameron joined forces with the Brave Books brand to preemptively launch a war against “woke libraries” due to their “terrifying … slippery slope … tactics of war” he claimed were “just a transitional step toward totalitarianism.”
What were these libraries doing that was so threatening? They had books depicting LGBTQ families as normal.
Fox News tapped into Cameron’s anti-LGBTQ fear mongering at the time. On America’s Newsroom, Julie Banderas said, “You would never imagine that you would be in the battle of your life because you wrote a children’s book.”
The reason Cameron found himself in a battle likely was because he sent a letter to libraries across the nation with the invitation to have him read his book As You Grow and then “speak to families about following the wisdom of the Bible, as well as discussing the harmful effects of woke ideologies, specifically CRT and the transgender agenda.”
When libraries signaled they weren’t interested in sponsoring his events after reading his politically charged rhetoric, he threatened to sue them. In response to his threats, libraries reminded him he can rent rooms for his readings in accordance with his First Amendment right. But Cameron and Brave Books spun the narrative to say they were being religiously persecuted by supporters of drag queens.
In the months since January, Cameron and Fox News have continued to push for ratings and book sales by spreading fear.
In February, Fox News celebrated Cameron providing a book reading at a library in Georgia in contrast to a “drag queen event” taking place somewhere else in Savannah that day. Cameron said Americans want “real faith and morality for our children.”
In March, when the publisher of the Goosebumps books changed the phrases “a real nut” to “a real wild one” and “nutcase” to “weirdo,” as well as descriptions of characters from “roly-poly” and “plump” to “cheerful,” Fox News quoted Cameron saying they were “hacking into God’s plan for the healthy moral development of children” and that they were in danger of having “a millstone tied around your neck and being cast into the sea.”
In April, Fox News brought attention to Cameron joining Republican Senate candidate Mark Lamb for a children’s book reading where he spoke about “the border crisis” and “returning to good and godly values.” Cameron warned, “Families in America are watching companies fall to the ‘woke virus’ over and over again. Movies and TV shows are becoming unwatchable for families.”
In May, Cameron and Brave Books joined forces with Franklin Graham for a book reading at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C.
Graham lamented: “Libraries used to be safe places for families, but many of them now seem to be agenda-driven places that welcome drag queens to hold story hours for children. … It’s a shame that some libraries and activists have tried to stop (Cameron). They want him to shut up and sit down.”
Then on June 1, Cameron released a new children’s book titled Pride Comes Before the Fall — timed to coincide with LGBTQ Pride Month.
Again, Fox News featured Cameron who said, “With a nation that is so saturated with the idea that pride is a good thing, the Bible warns us that pride is the deadliest of the seven deadly sins. Before greed, gluttony, sloth, wrath, envy and lust is pride. … And with a nation that is perpetuating this idea that it’s good to be full of pride — especially this coming month, as we see signs that celebrate pride all over the place — we have to warn children that it’s humility that will lead to the good life, not pride.”
So knowing this background of Cameron’s national book tour, Booker chose to give her community an alternative message.
Against Cameron’s effort to ban books, she wanted to give away books.
All Are Welcome tells the story of “a school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other’s traditions.” And Jesus and John Wayne tells the story of “how white evangelicals corrupted a faith and fractured a nation.”
Throughout her book, Du Mez demonstrates how the fracturing of our nation was sewn with seeds of fear. She says the evangelical consumer marketplace was “a means by which evangelicals created and maintained their own identity — an identity rooted in ‘family values’ and infused with a sense of cultural embattlement. Christian publishing, radio and television taught evangelicals how to raise children, how to have sex and whom to fear.”
In an interview with Baptist News Global, Booker said she chose these two books because one communicates the hope of union and belonging, while the other details what went wrong.
That’s the real story why she gathered last Saturday: to encourage librarians and teachers with the hope of belonging despite the fracturing they’re experiencing this year by the antics of those who sow seeds of fear.
Booker said her desire to encourage teachers and librarians was strengthened when a teacher friend of hers read All Are Welcome to her preschool class and then was confronted the next day with an ultimatum to sign a statement agreeing marriage is only between one man and one woman or lose her job.
A peaceful gathering
From the beginning, Booker was explicit in organizing a peaceful event.
“If you’re bringing signs, and I encourage you to bring signs, just make sure that they say something nice like, ‘We love teachers,’ ‘We support libraries,’ ‘Moms for literature,’ that kind of thing,” Booker encouraged.
She also asked her followers not to yell at the cars driving into Cameron’s event because there would be children in the cars and she didn’t want to make them afraid.
“By any account other than Fox News, a peaceful event is exactly what happened.”
By any account other than Fox News, a peaceful event is exactly what happened.
After the event, a Huntsville police officer Booker had been coordinating with wrote to her: “You are most welcome. No issues at all. I think it went very well. You and your group have been very helpful and everyone out there was extremely nice. Thank you again!”
Booker said she even spent 20 minutes talking with someone from the other side.
“We talked and listened to one another,” she said. “And we went through every single page of this book, All Are Welcome, which is on the Moms for Liberty ‘No No List.’ We looked through it together and he agreed that there is nothing wrong with this book. It is lovely and very American really. He was a patriot.”
When asked for comment from a Fox News reporter, Booker’s friend Lauren, who attended the event, said: “I told her I was a lesbian mom to two boys and we were here to represent all families. Not just the ones out here holding signs but also the families inside the library and the family of the woman on the megaphone calling us pedophiles. They preach family values and parental rights but they’re not talking about parents like me or families like mine. My kids go to public school. Their family should feel as welcome and supported as the families inside that library. That’s why I’m here.”
Bad journalism, or straight-up propaganda?
A simple search of “Kirk Cameron” on the Fox News website reveals the problem Du Mez recognized runs far deeper than simply the one piece by Christine Rouselle. In addition to the three articles Rouselle has published in the past week, Fox News Managing Editor Maureen Mackey, who is a member of the Christian Women in Media organization, has added another 24 pieces promoting Cameron this calendar year. And that doesn’t include additional articles by others or the many appearances Cameron has made on the Fox News channel.
Fox News understands one thing: how to increase ratings by appealing to conservative Christians. According to research by Ryan Burge using data from the Cooperative Election Survey, immediately prior to the 2020 election, 61% of white evangelicals claimed to have watched Fox News in the past week, with no other news provider receiving more than 29% of a response.
“Fox News understands one thing: how to increase ratings by appealing to conservative Christians.”
One of the clearest examples of the Fox News bias toward white evangelicals came to light during the $1.6 billion Dominion lawsuit when Rupert Murdoch admitted under oath that Fox News propagated lies by allowing guests to continuously claim the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.
After Du Mez’s friend Booker came under fire this week by Fox News, she stated the obvious: “This is not journalism, this is not bad journalism, this is straight-up propaganda.”
That fits the pattern of what Cameron and Brave Books have been doing too, telling lies about the dangers of inclusion and diversity in public education.
“It’s as if Fox News just made things up to suit their own narrative,” Du Mez wrote. “Stoking controversy and division, real or imagined, drives clicks and enhances revenue. Keeping viewers and readers outraged keeps them fearful and keeps them coming back for more.”
Rick Pidcock is a 2004 graduate of Bob Jones University, with a bachelor of arts degree in Bible. He’s a freelance writer based in South Carolina and a former Clemons Fellow with BNG. He recently completed a master of arts degree in worship from Northern Seminary. He is a stay-at-home father of five children and produces music under the artist name Provoke Wonder. Follow his blog at www.rickpidcock.com.
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