One of America's most prolific anti-LGBTQ+ groups has reportedly been inflating its numbers for years.
The right-wing advocacy organization One Million Moms was behind last week's call to boycott the Hallmark Channel over airing a lesbian-themed commercial by the online wedding registry Zola. After a petition opposing LGBTQ+ content on the family-oriented channel the advertisement garnered more than 30,000 signatures, Hallmark decided to pull the ad -- before reversing its decision just days later.
But after Outreported that the petitions circulated by anti-LGBTQ+ conservatives were fake -- allowing individuals and bots to sign multiple times -- GLAAD claims those aren't the only tactics opponents used to reverse engineer a controversy.
According to the national LGBTQ+ nonprofit, One Million Moms does not, in fact, count millions of members among its ranks. Instead the name reportedly refers to just one right-wing activist: Monica Cole. In an op-ed published on GLAAD's website, contributor Jeremy Hooper says Cole "is quite literally the only staff member [he has] ever heard anyone name."
"She is the one and only person who appears on their petitions, as well as the one and only person who speaks for them to the media," he writes. "She is the mom. Her. Solo. One person, supposedly representing one million."
Its factually creative approach to its own membership numbers has been a criticism of One Million Moms for years. When the ubiquitous right-wing group, which is a project of the American Family Association, attempted to start a boycott of JC Penney for hiring lesbian daytime host Ellen Degeneres as its spokeswoman in 2012, the Miami Heraldremarked that the organization "actually has only 44,113 followers on Facebook."
"Guess how many FB fans their brother organization, One Million Dads, has?" the paper reported at the time. "Three."
Their numbers have barely grown in the seven years since: One Million Moms counts just 98,000 followers on Facebook, while One Million Dads has ceased to exist. A 2004 report from AdAge claimed that the two groups -- combined -- boasted an email list of 200,000 subscribers, but that count seems high if they can't even get 30,000 people to sign a petition without resorting to shoddy signature-gathering methods.
According to GLAAD, the organization's lack of grassroots support is further indicated by the dearth of "prominent voices speaking out in favor of OMM's campaigns."
"You can find all kinds of pro-LGBTQ+ people pushing back against OMM," Hooper says. "[...] But even though Social Conservative Twitter is a reliably outspoken bunch, it's pretty tough to find any sort of goodwill... for OMM. That would not be the case if they had anywhere near the support base they claim to have."
Even One Million Moms admits that its own name is an act of wishful thinking. On its website, the organization says it is "searching for one million moms who are willing to join the fight for our children."
"We want our children to have the best chance possible of living in a moral society," the group adds.
So essentially, it's not that One Million Moms already commands a legion of followers. It's that -- in an ideal world -- the group would have a million members at its beck and call. The name is little more than a marketing ploy, a pyramid scheme for people who care too much about lesbian Hallmark commercials.
But while One Million Moms is -- by all accounts -- a fringe right-wing group with no real backing, it continues to be treated as a legitimate power broker. In a recent report about the Hallmark controversy, the New York Times, for instance, did not mention that the organization's name is misleading at best. It also cited the "25,000 people [who] had signed a petition to make Hallmark reconsider the commercials" without a disclaimer.
According to GLAAD, gatekeepers at mainstream news publications have a responsibility to call out One Million Moms for what it is: one woman shouting into the wind.
"Here on the side of equality, our ranks are much larger, our voices are much louder, and our cause is infinitely more righteous," Hooper says. And many of us are moms and dads ourselves, and we know that Monica Cole's crude bigotry is not a family value. It is time we tell One Meddling Mom to not only stop attacking our families, but to also stop bearing false witness about her operation."
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