MSNBC anchor in Twitter fight with anti-gay church that picketed Obama kids’ school
The Westboro Baptist Church is telling the Obama daughters that God is their “enemy.”
The Kansas-based far-right church known for its outrageous choices of protest venues picketed outside the private school attended by first daughters Sasha and Malia Obama on Monday morning, and in the process got embroiled in an angry war of words with an MSNBC anchor.
“God is your enemy,” read one sign at the event outside of Sidwell Friends School, as captured in a photo by Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of church founder Fred Phelps.
The church is known for its signature protest sign that reads “God hates fags.”
MSNBC anchor David Shuster described Monday’s Westboro church protest as “beyond the pale.”
“Hopefully, some of the more rational conservatives/Republicans will condemn this stuff today,” he wrote on his Twitter account.
Most conservative and Republican politicians have long worked to distance themselves from the group, not least because of its practice of picketing the funerals of US troops. But Shuster’s Tweet set off an argument between the MSNBC reporter and Phelps-Roper.
“Don’t forget our Tuesday Sidwell picket,” Phelps-Roper Tweeted at Shuster, in reference to the group’s plans to picket the school again. “Put away your idols and obey God!”
“Go ahead,” Shuster Tweeted back at Phelps-Roper. “Show the entire world the vile, crude, and disgusting protest you put on this [morning] at the Obama kids’ school.”
As Amanda Terkel notes at ThinkProgress, the church has a long and colorful history of picketing their extreme views at inappropriate locations, including the funerals of homosexuals who died from AIDS or anti-gay violence.
In 2006, the group’s decision to picket the funerals of the victims of the Sago Mine disaster caused widespread outrage, and some politicians even contemplated banning funeral protests as a result.
The group was banned from entering Canada in 2008 to hold a protest at the funeral of a man killed on a Greyhound bus in a random act of violence that shocked the country. Less than a year later, Westboro Baptist Church members were barred from entering Britain for a protest against a play being put on by a gay youth group.
As Terkel notes, this isn’t the first time that an activist group has used the Obama girls’ school as a setting for political exposition. In September, the group Operation Rescue held a protest outside Sidwell Friends where they reportedly displayed pictures of fetuses.
“Showing pictures of fetuses to young children will surely convince Malia and Sasha to be anti-choice, and warm hearts everywhere,” liberal Fox News commentator Alan Colmes quipped at the time.
Washington Post reporter Michael Birnbaum described the protest as “tiny,” though his Tweets on the subject were later removed.