Many people are rallying around the Christian anti-sex trafficking organization Exodus Cry after actress Melissa McCarthy withdrew support from it over what liberal critics described as its “homophobic” and “anti-choice” views.
"HBO & Melissa McCarthy dropped us from their 20 Days of Kindness campaign after a hit piece came out about us with false info. But many people began to post 'I support everything Exodus Cry stands for,'" the organization tweeted Monday.
Exodus Cry was originally listed as a recipient of McCarthy's “20 Days of Kindness” campaign in partnership with HBO Max as part of an effort to promote their new movie, “Superintelligence.”
McCarthy, who is well-known for starring in films such as “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat” and “Spy,” announced last week that they were giving $20,000 to 20 different charities.
Charities that have received $20,000 checks so far include Girls Who Code, which aims to “support + educate young women to ensure they have a place in technology;” Team Rubicon, which trains “veterans to respond to disasters around the world & help communities recover & rebuild;” and The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth.
Other charities slated to receive $20,000 checks include Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign.
Exodus Cry was removed from the list after the Daily Beast published an article labeling the charity as an “anti-abortion group hell-bent on killing the sex industry.”
Daily Beast reporter Tarpley Hitt described Exodus Cry as “a conservative evangelical organization—whose founder has called abortion a ‘holocaust’ and homosexuality an ‘unspeakable offense to God’—that is dedicated to abolishing the commercial sex industry.”
McCarthy quickly received backlash for the plans to support Exodus Cry, with Twitter users responding to her daily tweets promoting the recipients of the $20,000 checks by hitting the actress for associating with a “homophobic” and “anti-choice” group.
McCarthy took to Twitter Friday to address concerns about Exodus Cry: “It has come to our attention that our 20 Days of Kindness … had one in there that there’s no other way to say it, we blew it, we made a mistake and we backed a charity that upon proper vetting, stands for everything that we do not.”
“I want to thank everyone on social media who said ‘what are you doing,’ ‘are you sure you want to back this’ because the answer is no, we do not. We have pulled it, we are so incredibly grateful for you ringing the bell and helping us be better. We’re sorry for our mistake, oh boy, are we sorry for it,” she added.
In response to the Daily Beast’s characterization of the organization, Exodus Cry tweeted out a link to a blog the charity wrote on Aug. 20 called “Myths vs. Truths About Exodus Cry.” After defining itself as a nonprofit organization seeking to “combat sex trafficking and all forms of commercial sexual exploitation both domestically and internationally,” Exodus Cry began addressing “misinformation” that “has been spread about Exodus Cry.”
Exodus Cry pushed back on the idea that it “campaigns against women’s rights,” arguing that it has instead advocated “for the rights of women not to be exploited for sex.” The blog acknowledged that “Exodus Cry’s CEO has expressed his personal views that he believes in the protection of life in the womb” while maintaining that “Exodus Cry has never taken any position on those issues” and highlighting partnerships with “organizations that are both for and against abortion.”
It also worked to dispel the idea that “Exodus Cry is an anti-LGBTQ+ organization.”
Citing a “single public comment made by Exodus Cry’s founder on his personal social media account a decade ago regarding his personal political opinion about the issue of marriage equality” as the basis for the characterization of the organization as “anti-LGBTQ+,” the blog featured a quote from founder Benjamin Nolot.
Nolot attempted to set the record straight about his views on the matter.
“Like much of our nation, a decade ago when the issue was being widely debated, I expressed in a single personal tweet that I thought government had a role to play in deciding who could and could not marry,” he explained. “Today, like many, my views have evolved and I have taken time to better understand the LGBTQ experience and listen to their voices.”
“In the past I did not adequately recognize the impact of anti-marriage legislation on sexual minorities and I deeply regret the pain and offense that has caused," he added. "I love, respect and advocate for the right of all people to be free from all forms of oppression. Without question that includes the LGBTQ community.”
The organization rejected the label of "religious extremist," saying, "Our aim is to be a faith-based organization modeled on the character of Jesus. He was motivated by care for the well-being and dignity of others in all he did."
Addressing the portrayal as a “right-wing” organization, the group insisted, “Exodus Cry is a non-partisan organization that has never advocated for any political party."
"Anti-sex trafficking and anti-sexual exploitation work is not a ‘right’ or ‘left’ issue, it is one of very few issues that people of all backgrounds, political parties, ideologies and faith or non-faith backgrounds can come together on," the group assured. "Any suggestion that Exodus Cry is politically affiliated is categorically false.”
The organization also maintained that it is not "anti-sex worker." It calls for "partial decriminalization," or "a model of law that would enable those in the sex industry to be decriminalized, but those who would seek to exploit them such as pimps, traffickers, and sex buyers face serious criminal consequences for their violent actions."