This week's drama involving the American Family Association and Bryan Fischer was not, surprisingly enough, the result of some outrageous comment from the right-wing activist, at least not directly. Instead, the story began with an announced trip to Israel.
The AFA announced that the organization was taking Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and dozens of RNC members on an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel. The nine-day excursion is scheduled to begin tomorrow, and at first blush, it may not seem especially controversial. After all, Americans travel to Israel all the time.
The problem, as noted by Israeli and American media alike, is the Republican National Committee's willingness to associate itself with the American Family Association and its notorious, hateful spokesperson, Bryan Fischer. Especially in light of Fischer's record -- he's characterized all non-Christian faiths as "false religions"; he's said minority faiths do not have the right to exercise their religious beliefs in the United States; he's said all immigrants to America should expect to convert to Christianity -- shouldn't the RNC keep its distance?
It was questions like these that led the American Family Association to announce this week that Fischer is no longer the group's official spokesperson. Indeed, the Republican National Committee, after days of silence on its controversial partnership with AFA, told "The Rachel Maddow Show" yesterday:
"We don't agree with Bryan Fischer's comments and are glad the AFA has severed ties with him."
That's the whole statement in its entirety. The problem, of course, is that we also learned yesterday that the Republican National Committee's statement isn't true.
As Rachel explained on the show last night, the AFA may have ousted Fischer as its official spokesperson, but the far-right organization will continue to pay Fischer to host its AFA-sponsored daily radio show -- the same venue in which Fischer has spent years making ugly and offensive remarks.
What's more, this story is about more than just Fischer. The man who will personally lead the AFA/RNC trip to Israel is a man named David Lane, who works on an AFA project called the American Renewal Project. Lane is a controversial figure in his own right, having said in 2012 that he wouldn't support Mitt Romney's presidential campaign because of the candidate's religion.
These are the folks the Republican National Committee is choosing to pal around with? As Rachel put it on the show last night, "I have to say, it's kind of hard to believe that they will go ahead with this trip.... What will it mean to the Republican Party going forward if they go on a trip, to Israel, with a group that advocates that America is by Christians and for Christians only?"
It's not too late to cancel.