Tallahassee Reports has learned that current City Commissioner and Mayoral candidate Andrew Gillum is employed by the same organization, People for the American Way, which has been given credit for derailing an HGTV show staring two brothers, David and Jason Benham.
Gillum is employed by the 501(c)3 arm of the organization called People for the American Way Foundation.
The show, “Flip It Forward”, was scheduled to begin in October and would have chronicled the Benham brothers helping families purchase homes they otherwise could not afford.
On May 6, 2014, the Right Wing Watch, which is financed by the PFAW, posted a story titled “HGTV Picks Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Extremist For New Reality TV Show.”
The blog described one of the Benham brothers as a ”dedicated right-wing activist in the mold of his father, Flip Benham, who has headed the abortion-clinic protest group Operation Save America.”
The blog focused on the brother’s activities supporting the biblical definition of marriage and their pro-life position when it comes to abortion.
Tallahassee Reports has learned that the HGTV show was not based on the brother’s religious views, but rather on their ten years of success in the real estate industry.
CNN reported that after the post by the Right Wing Watch blog went public, HGTV tweeted, “HGTV has decided not to move forward with the Benham Brothers’ series.”
CNN also reported that the brothers believed HGTV was bullied into its decision because of the media firestorm. “It was too much for them to bear and they had to make a business decision,” David Benham said.
The People for the American Way
The blog was written by Brian Tashman who is employed by the PFAW. The Right Wing Watch blog is described on their own website as a “project of The People for the American Way.” Also, public records indicate the URL for the Right Wing Watch site is owned by PFAW.
In addition, the PFAW website provides a link for the the Right Wing Watch on its home page. See screen capture below.
The PFAW is a progressive advocacy group and was founded by television producer, Norman Lear, in response to the rise of tele-evangelists in the 1970’s. Actor Alec Baldwin is one of the group’s more popular board members.
While the PFAW claims to be non-partisan, many people acknowledge the group supports liberal causes, including New York Times reporter Charles Savage, whom described the Right Wing Watch blog as a “division of the liberal People for the American Way.”
Public records indicate that City Commissioner Gillum has been affiliated and/or employed by the PFAW through their People for American Way Foundation since 2002 and is currently employed as the Director of Youth Leadership programs.
In addition, City Commissioner Gillum has appeared on MSNBC promoting Right Wing Watch projects on two occasions.
The first time was in May 2011 when he appeared on the Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell to discuss a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report on a group that helps corporate donors get legislation they like placed in statehouses.
And the second time was in October 2011 when he appeared on PoliticsNation with Rev. Al Sharpton, pictured above, to discuss a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report on attacks on voting rights.
During the second visit, the Rev. Al Sharpton introduced Mr. Gillum and said “your group is breaking a new story on voter suppression.”
Tallahassee Reports reached out to Commissioner Gillum and asked him if he approved of the tactics employed by the Right Wing Watch blog and if personal religious beliefs should be a factor in employment decisions?
Commissioner Gillum first stated he had no affiliation with the group and chose not to answer the questions posed by Tallahassee Reports. Commissioner Gillum’s email response is below.
“I don’t have an affiliation with RWW. Any comment to the contrary would be a blatant disregard for the truth.”
However, the PFAW About Us page, shown below, indicates that both the author of the HGTV article and City Commissioner Andrew Gillum are employed by PFAW.
In a second response to our inquiry, Commissioner Gillum again failed to answer the questions, but provided this comment:
“I have done two interviews about ALEC and voting suppression tactics as a result of reports done by RWW (Right Wing Watch). Two issues that are near and dear to me. I however don’t work for RWW and have no authority to make comments on their behalf. I have commented on their reports when they impact issues I care about, just as I have done any number of times that I have given an interview to any number of TV outlets or newspapers when asked.”
In addition, Commissioner Gillum has told Tallahassee Reports that he is employed by the People for American Way Foundation, not the People for the American Way.
In our next report, Tallahassee Reports will seek to understand how Commissioner Gillum’s relationship with the PFAW influences his positions on issues that are important to the citizens of Tallahassee.