LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kim Davis’ lawyer stood onstage in a Washington, D.C., hotel and pointed to a photo on the screen. It showed 100,000 people packed into a Peruvian soccer stadium, Mat Staver told the crowd, to pray for the Kentucky clerk battling gay marriage.

The crowd erupted.

It wasn’t true.

Staver’s firm, the Liberty Counsel, which revealed Davis’ secret meeting with Pope Francis, has been accused by advocacy groups of peddling misrepresentations in the past. Yet it has become the main source of details about the controversial pope meeting.

Online sleuths quickly debunked the Peru story Staver told at the Values Voter Summit, a conference for the conservative Family Research Council. The photo was from a year-old gathering unrelated to Davis, who spent five days in jail for defying a court order and refusing to license gay marriages. Staver could provide no evidence of a massive Davis rally. Last week, he called it a mistake and blamed miscommunication with the Peruvian authorities who gave him the photo.

The next day, the firm dropped a bombshell. It said Pope Francis, on his celebrated visit to America, secretly met with Davis. The pope hugged her, thanked her for her courage and told her to “stay strong,” Liberty Counsel said. The Vatican on Friday said the pope had a brief meeting with Davis that should not be seen as support for her stance.

Critics have watched in exasperation as the organization has rocketed to national celebrity alongside Davis.

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Liberty Counsel as an anti-gay hate group for spreading false information.

“A group that regularly portrays gay people as perverse, diseased pedophiles putting Western civilization at risk are way, way over the line,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the center. The Liberty Counsel opposes laws banning hate crimes and supports discredited conversion therapies that purport to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals.