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2020 Governor Featured Montana Politics The Media Tim Fox

Chik-fil-A Gate Tells Us Something About Tim Fox and the Coverage We Can Expect in 2020

I told myself I wasn’t going to hammer the press again this week. I told myself that it doesn’t ever achieve any real good and that there’s little point hammering people for the same perceived faults over and over again.

And then I read today’s coverage of Tim Fox’s pathetic, pandering political stunt to invite Chik-fil-A to open more restaurants (and I use that term very loosely) in Montana. Seizing on weeks old news that San Antonio and Buffalo had denied the chain licenses to operate at their airports, Fox issued a press release encouraging Chik-fil-A to open more chains in our state and defending the company from “unnecessary criticism.”

Let’s talk about that criticism. While Fox laments the dangers of bigotry in his press release, he fails to note that the company and its founders explicitly endorse a bigoted agenda. In an interview with the Baptist Press in 2012, the president and CEO of the company acknowledged that the company is opposed to same-sex marriage:

Chick-fil-A is “very much supportive of the family,” according to Dan Cathy, president of the popular fast food chain. That is, “the biblical definition of the family unit,” he said. And that doesn’t include Adam and Steve, suggests Cathy, whose father S. Truett Cathy founded the Atlanta-based company.

In a new interview with Baptist Press, Cathy puts on the record what critics say his company’s actions have indicated for years. “Well, guilty as charged,” he said in the interview when asked about Chick-fil-A’s backing of families led by a man and a woman.

And the charitable wing of Chik-fil-A, the WinShape Foundation, has donated millions to anti-gay causes and organizations, including the Family Research Council and Exodus International, which only gave up its harmful “conversion therapy” programs once states started to outlaw the practice.

None of that made the coverage in the state’s newspapers, which rushed to get the story out even though it was so obviously just an effort by Fox to shed the “moderate” label he’s acquired before the inevitable announcement that Greg Gianforte is going to challenge him for governor comes out.

That Fox is desperately pandering to the hard right in Montana by bashing the LGBTQ community isn’t surprising, and it offers a troubling look at the kind of campaign we can expect from the GOP gubernatorial candidates, but it also tells us something about the kind of press coverage we can expect.

Today’s choice to cover this political stunt follows a failure by the press to cover a story with real significance about Fox’s attitude towards the LGBTQ community. Back in 2017, we reported that Fox hired Dale Schowengerdt, a right-wing attorney who made his entire early legal career attacking equal rights for same-sex couples, going so far as to regularly appear on a show hosted by a man who has repeatedly expressed racist and inflammatory views, as his solicitor general.

One would think that a press corps covering Fox’s stunt today would ask him to explain a few things:

  • As Attorney General, is it appropriate to offer an invitation to one company like this?
  • Does he only concern himself with “bigotry” directed at Christians? Or does he care about bigotry towards other faiths? The LGBTQ community?
  • Does he have concerns about his solicitor general, who repeatedly appeared on a right-wing radio show hosted by someone who referred to the “Gay Gestapo” and compared the closure of a restaurant in Indiana to the Holocaust?
  • Why, if he is so concerned about bigotry, did he hire a Solicitor General who claimed that it’s not bigotry to oppose same-sex marriage?
  • Why, if he is so concerned about bigotry, did Fox join a lawsuit to defend discrimination against transgender folx?
  • Why did Fox join a lawsuit opposing equal marriage rights for the LGBTQ community?

All of those questions are a hell of a lot more important than Fox’s pandering, but what we’re likely to get is a one-day stunt that will let Fox boost his bona fides in the Christian right and no coverage of the real harm he has done at Justice, no real coverage of the anti-gay agenda he has pursued since he became Attorney General.

And that’s of far more concern than Fox’s effort to bolster his bigoted credentials in a day of free media.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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