The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How Mike Pence blamed the media for the Indiana religious freedom controversy

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) says his state will "correct" the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, saying the law "does not give anyone a license deny services to gay and lesbian couples." (Video: Reuters)
Placeholder while article actions load

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence made crystal-clear what (and who) he believes is at the root of the controversy spawned by his signing of a religious freedom law late last week: Misperceptions fueled by the media.

"We've got a perception problem here," Pence said at one point.  "This was a perception problem," he said at another. "I understand the perception of this has gone far afield of what the law really is," he said at yet another.

And, while Pence did acknowledge that he could have been a bit clearer about what the law does and does not do during his appearance on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, he saved the real blame for the press.

"Some of the national reporting on this has been ridiculous," said Pence. He lambasted "sloppy reporting," "reckless reporting" and "irresponsible reporting."  He said the media had "grossly mischaracterized" both the law's intent and its impact. He described the reporting on the bill as a "smear."

You get the idea. Pence's message was this: The law needs to be amended to make clear that it doesn't condone discrimination against gays and lesbians not because the initial language was overly fuzzy on that point but rather because the media has gotten out of hand and created a perception problem that now has the potential to impact Indiana's reputation and economy.

Here's Pence's thinking on his proposed solution -- as described by the movie "Office Space":

There's no question that the law has caused a national and international controversy that has grown well beyond Pence's wildest nightmares. "Heavens, no," he replied when asked whether he expected this sort of blowback in the wake of his decision to sign the bill into law. A large number of corporations and influential people -- led by Apple CEO Tim Cook -- had called for boycotts of the state until the law was changed. (Here's our regularly updating list of the people and companies who are boycotting Indiana.)

It's unclear whether Pence's call on the state legislature to add the "discrimination" language to the law before week's end will be enough to quiet the national hubbub he (or, in Pence's mind, the media) has created.  What is clear is that Democrats nationally have seized on the idea that Republicans in Indiana -- whether willfully or not -- passed a law that could have led to significant discrimination against gays and lesbians. Fixing that "glitch" won't likely quiet those voices in the Democratic party who believe -- and who find it in their political interests -- to paint Republicans like Pence as intolerant of those not like them.

Loading...