The non-profit organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has demanded a retraction and an apology from ABC and NBC after it was labeled as a "hate group" in news articles.
The ADF, which describes itself as "an alliance-building legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith," has been labeled as a "hate group" in the news stories published by both networks on Wednesday about an event hosted by the non-profit.
The stories in question focused on a closed-to-press speech delivered by Attorney General Jeff Sessions at ADF's Summit on Religious Liberty in Dana Point, California, The Washington Times reported.
The article published by NBC online came with the headline "Jeff Sessions Tells 'Hate Group' DOJ Will Issue Religious Freedom Guidance," while the report from ABC stated that Sessions "delivered a speech to an alleged hate group at an event closed to reporters."
The ADF has accused the networks of basing their reporting on a press release by the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), titled "Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Address Anti-LGBT Hate Group in Closed-Door Event," which the organization says was a biased hit piece.
"ABC News has committed journalistic malpractice," said ADF spokeswoman Kerri Kupec in a statement. "For ABC News to essentially cut and paste false charges against Alliance Defending Freedom by a radically left-wing, violence-inciting organization like Southern Poverty Law Center is a discredit to ABC News and to the profession," she added.
ADF spokeswoman Briana Herlihy said that neither NBC and ABC has responded to the ADF's request for an apology and retraction.
According to CBN News, ADF has been included in the SPLC's "Active Hate Groups 2016," and has been labeled as "Anti-LGBT."
In a statement released on Saturday, the SPLC doubled down on the "hate group" label and accused the ADF of spreading "demonizing lies about the LGBT community" in the U.S. and seeking to criminalize homosexuality abroad.
During the closed-door speech, Sessions had stated that religion is under attack in the U.S., and he revealed that a new federal guidance to protect religious liberty is on the way.
SPLC President Richard Cohen said that it was inappropriate for Sessions to lend his credibility to the group by appearing at the ADF event.
ADF senior counsel Kristen K. Waggoner decried the SPLC's designation as "propaganda," noting that the alliance has "one of the most respected Supreme Court practices in the country."
Waggoner pointed out that the ADF had won seven cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in seven years, including last month's ruling in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church, which sought public funds to resurface its preschool playground.
Former ADF senior counsel David French has called on news outlets to stop citing the SPLC, noting that its labels had led to violent attacks.
French pointed to the 2013 violent attack on a security guard at the Family Research Council carried out by Virginia gunman who said that he researched the group on the SPLC's website, which includes a "hate map" listing 917 organizations.
The SPLC drew controversy earlier this year after the charity tracker GuideStar labeled 46 organizations as a "hate group" based on the designations by the liberal organization. Guidestar agreed to remove the SPLC annotations from its database last month, noting that information would still be available upon request.