The image of John Oliver that accompanies a Focus on the Family response to his latest episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight.
The image of John Oliver that accompanies a Focus on the Family response to his latest episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight.
Courtesy of Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family Calls John Oliver "Vile" After Mike Pence Takedown

On the most recent episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver used Vice President Mike Pence's association with Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family to support his argument that the veep is a hypocritical homophobe. FOTF president Jim Daly has fired back with a post that brands Oliver as "vulgar and vile" and suggests that gay conversion therapy, an organization-supported technique that allegedly "cures" homosexuality, is widely accepted rather than condemned by medical experts everywhere.

But Daly has also invited Oliver to attend an event next week in Colorado Springs at which Pence's wife and daughter will discuss a new book about the family's pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo.

Oliver noted on his March 18 program that Focus on the Family "has a history of promoting conversion therapy. For a decade, it promoted a 'conference addressing, understanding and preventing homosexuality' called Love Won Out, which could not sound any more like a euphemism for masturbating."

Additionally, Oliver continued, FOTF founder Dr. James Dobson "wrote a book called Marriage Under Fire in which he stated that 'Focus on the Family promotes the truth that homosexuality is treatable and preventable.'"

Focus on the Family has "claimed they have softened their message" since Dobson parted ways with his creation in 2010, Oliver maintained. But in an email exchange with Westword, Paul Batura, FOTF's vice president of communications, confirms that conversion therapy retains favored status.

The organization "is dedicated to defending the honor, dignity and value of the two sexes as created in God’s image — intentionally male and female — each bringing unique and complementary qualities to sexuality and relationships," Batura notes. For that reason, he goes on, "we support counseling and the availability of professional therapy options for unwanted homosexual attractions and behavior."

Vice President Mike Pence's daughter Charlotte and his wife, Karen, joined by his pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo.
Vice President Mike Pence's daughter Charlotte and his wife, Karen, joined by his pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo.

Batura stresses that "we do not endorse or promote any one particular religious, psychiatric or psychological approach as the 'one and only' way to go about changing same-sex attractions and behaviors: Just as there are many paths that may lead a person to experience same-sex attractions, there are likewise multiple ways out. Thus, individuals and their helping professionals are called to discern and pursue the most appropriate approach that best enables them to steward their sexuality in alignment with their chosen values."

Colorado representatives Paul Rosenthal and Dafna Michaelson Jenet feel very differently. They're among the sponsors of HB18-1245, a bill to ban conversion therapy on minors in the state, which passed its first committee vote this week.

Daly, for his part, sees Oliver as an example of how "late-night television has devolved into a breeding ground for cynical, skeptical, bitter and so-called 'humor' that cuts people, attempting to both marginalize and tear down individuals and institutions with whom both hosts and often guests disagree."

Likewise, he's mystified by the way Oliver "politicized" Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President, a new book about Pence's pet rabbit written by his daughter Charlotte and illustrated by his wife Karen; it was released on March 19. To counter this effort, the Last Week Tonight crew put together a tome of their own — A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo — that portrays the bunny as gay. Proceeds from the book have been earmarked for The Trevor Project, a suicide-prevention project for LGBTQ youth, and AIDS United.

At this writing, the Last Week Tonight book, whose audio version co-stars Jim Parsons, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jeff Garlin, Ellie Kemper, John Lithgow, Jack McBrayer and RuPaul, is trouncing the Pence clan's in terms of sales. But Focus on the Family will be doing its part to level the playing field. On Monday, March 26, Karen and Charlotte Pence will take part in a book event on Focus on the Family's Main Street, at 8655 Explorer Drive in the Springs, and Daly writes that "John Oliver is welcome to join us."

We're guessing Oliver will be too busy pissing someone else off to stop by. But if he does, it will be an answer to our prayers.

Click for more information about the book event and continue to read Jim Daly's post about John Oliver.

"HBO’s John Oliver Attacks Focus on the Family"
By Jim Daly

Social media is abuzz...concerning HBO’s John Oliver’s Sunday night attack on Vice President Mike Pence and Focus on the Family. The "satirical" late-night talk show host’s screed was not just vicious in tone, but also vulgar and vile in every sense of the word and way.

Mr. Oliver’s rant was motivated by the release of a new book by Mrs. Karen Pence and daughter, Charlotte. Entitled Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President, the second family’s project is centered on the Pence’s pet rabbit. Illustrated by Mrs. Pence and written by Charlotte, the lighthearted work is a colorful children’s book designed to teach children about the workings of government.

So what’s so controversial about a children’s book about a bunny?

Welcome to 2018, where anything and everything is potentially politicized!

Over the years, late-night television has devolved into a breeding ground for cynical, skeptical, bitter and so-called "humor" that cuts people, attempting to both marginalize and tear down individuals and institutions with whom both hosts and often guests disagree.

This past Sunday night, John Oliver was incensed over Focus on the Family’s 40 year history of supporting a traditional and biblical sexual ethic. In particular, the host took issue with our belief that those with unwanted same-sex attraction should be free to pursue counseling, if that is their desire. Of course, millions of Christians and even non-Christians hold to this standard, but Mr. Oliver disagrees and his seething reaction to our ministry’s position was palpable.

I’m disappointed, though not completely shocked by the animus projected by John Oliver, a man whom I have never met.

Focus on the Family is proud to host Mrs. Pence and Charlotte for a book signing next Monday, March 26th. Though lampooned and shamed for selecting our location for one of their events, the Pences will be warmly welcomed guests to our campus in Colorado Springs.

John Oliver is welcome to join us.

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