Press Deliberately Smears Christian Scouting Group

trail life usaCommentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

The Associated Press (AP) is under fire for publishing a grossly misleading photo of a Christian scouting organization in which the boys appeared to be saluting Hitler, then doing nothing about it for days even though the organization received death threats so vile they had to be reported to the authorities.

Fox News’ Todd Starnes is reporting on what the Associated Press (AP) did to members of Trail Life USA, a rapidly growing Christian scouting organization that does not allow homosexuals in their ranks, after writing an indepth story about the club. They deliberately used a photo of the boys standing in a circle with their arms raised in what some are calling a “Nazi-like” fashion and erroneously captioned the photo as showing the boys reciting the club’s “creed.”

The photo ran in newspapers across the country last Sunday and prompted a flood of angry e-mails and even a few threatening phone calls to the Trail Life headquarters. Some of the calls were so bad, such as threatening mass-murder, they had to be reported to authorities.

Trail Life USA chairman John Stemberger was horrified when he saw the article. Not only was the picture misleading, but the boys were not reciting a creed at all. They were singing “Taps”, a longtime Boy Scout tradition that the club adapted for themselves.

Stemberger demanded that the AP acknowledge their error, which they did, but it took several days and by then, it was just too late.

” . . . By then, the unfortunate comparison to Nazi Germany had spread on the Internet faster than Hitler’s invasion of Poland,” Starnes reports.

Stemberger is understandably outraged. “It really misrepresented what was going on. There are children involved and that made it more outrageous. They were exploited and misunderstood.”

He hurriedly posted an explanation of the erroneous photo and caption on the club’s Facebook page.

On Tuesday of this week, Starnes reached out to the AP to get their side of the story and were told by spokesman Paul Colford that “Any suggestion that the photo shows the boys giving a salute was unintentional.”

Colford also said they corrected the caption to state that the boys were singing taps, not saluting Hitler as implied.

The AP did the right thing – finally.

“Still, the damage has already been done,” Starnes writes. “Liberal bloggers are having a field day with the photograph – at the expense of young patriotic boys.”

It is utterly unconscionable that a scouting organization comprised of innocent children should be subjected to this kind of danger just because a news organization thinks everyone should accept homosexuality.

As Starnes says, ” . . .any photograph that exploits children is egregious” and the editor who permitted this photo and erroneous caption to be published should be fired.

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