Brewer Camp Miffed Over AZ Gay Conversion Policy Hoax
A bogus news article written about plans for a fictitious mandatory gay conversion therapy program, backed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) for the state school system, went viral yesterday after being posted on the political satire website National Report. The satire was taken seriously at home, causing confusion, outrage, havoc and indignation across the Grand Canyon State -- and laughs just about everywhere else.
The joke article starts with an outrageous, yet (given the local political environment) believable statement: "Beginning November 1st of this year, the state of Arizona is implementing a mandatory school program designed for all children grades K-12 to help homosexual males and women become straight." The following 600 words go on to cite news outlets FOX and CNN and erroneously quote a spokesperson from Christian ex-gay ministry People Can Change.
In addition to being posted on the political lampoon site National Report, the joke article, which could easily pass for media announcement sent out by the Arizona State Department of Education, had a second life as a fake press release on press release distribution site PRLog, where, presumably, it went viral after being picked up by legitimate news sources like CafeMom and then circulated via social network in tweets and Facebook wall posts. The Department of Education has since been scrambling to assure parents the news item is a hoax.
People Can Change, the Virginia based ex-gay ministry, wasted no time in distancing themselves from the "news item." A disclaimer proclaiming the article a fraud was posted prominently on their website, reading as follows: "The spokesperson is fake, the interview is fake, the photo with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is fake, the press conference is fake -- and the quotes are fake, rude and demeaning of gays."
Continues the disclaimer at the "ex-gay" site, "People Can Change does not provide programs or services for minors. We are a peer-led support organization of men who have personally experienced significant change from unwanted same-sex attractions ourselves and who now share our experience and give support to other adults who voluntarily seek similar change."
Some of the most skewering pieces of comedy in the faux news piece came in the form of quotes from controversial Arizona public official Sherriff Joe Arpaio, star of the three-episode Fox Reality Series "Smile You're Under Arrest." The fictional (but true to character) quote is embedded in the following passage: "Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who runs some of the toughest jails and prisons in the country, applauds Brewer's decision. 'Less gays in our jails makes for a smoother running prison system. There will be no more prancing around along with all the other gay activities that homosexuals like to do,' Arpaio said. 'More importantly, we as parents can now sleep a little better at night just knowing there will be less gays out there wandering the streets trying to molest our children. I'm excited about this, and I know all Arizonians are too.' "
Perhaps most peeved by viral circulation of the joke article as real news is the state's Republican Governor, Jan Brewer, who is quoted in the piece as saying, "Can you imagine how much more productive these 'now-straight' children will be, not always being bullied or wondering why God made them defective? What we have done here today is monumental. I can only hope and pray that other states follow suit."
According to MyFoxPhoenix, Brewer is currently in India on a trade mission and was unable to comment. But Andrew Wilder, a spokesman for the Governor, was quoted as saying, "It's a completely phony and vile report, and its authors should be ashamed."
The plausibility of the fake news item may have something to do with the factual news stories that have come out of Arizona in recent years. Since taking office in 2009, Governor Brewer's hard right policies have included her support of a controversial immigration law that targets Hispanics and the signing into law of an anti-abortion bill that declares pregnancies in the state begin two weeks before conception.
Moreover, Brewer has shown herself to be inimical toward gay and lesbian constituents. In July, the governor requested that the Arizona Supreme Court overturn a ruling that allows state employees to keep their same-sex partners on their benefits, including health insurance.