Media outlets have repeatedly turned to an extreme anti-gay hate group to comment on the Supreme Court's recent marriage equality decision, needlessly exposing audiences to misinformation while failing to hold the group accountable for its track record of dishonesty.
Following the Supreme Court's June 26 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges -- which found that bans on same-sex marriage violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution - several media outlets invited representatives from the Family Research Council (FRC) to offer their reactions to the decision.
FRC has been labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) because it propagates "known falsehoods" about the LGBT community, including linking homosexuality to pedophilia and accusing gay people of trying to "recruit" children. The group has a long track record of making wildly inaccurate policy predictions about the consequences of basic protections for LGBT people.
Spokespersons from FRC were also invited to react to the decision on national television. ABC's This Week invited FRC's Ken Blackwell - who previously blamed same-sex marriage for a mass murder - to discuss the court's decision. On Fox News' The Kelly File, Megyn Kelly offered a platform FRC president and frequent guest Tony Perkins, who has called pedophilia a "homosexual problem." As usual, none of these outlets identified FRC as a hate group or informed their audiences about the organization's history of misinformation.
And during the June 29 edition of CNN's New Day, host Chris Cuomo invited FRC's Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies, to discuss the decision in Obergefell. Sprigg, whoseprofessional experience before FRC includes serving as a Baptist minister and 10 years as a "professional actor," has previously suggested he'd prefer to "export homosexuals from the United States." But despite his extremism and lack of expertise, Sprigg was given a platform to fearmonger about the consequences of country-wide marriage equality:
On November 18, 2003, Bill O'Reilly dedicated the "Talking Points Memo" portion of his Fox News show to criticizing the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which had just made a historic ruling determining that the state could not deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In his monologue, O'Reilly claimed that while he personally "couldn't care less about gay marriage," if judges continued to "impose their views on everybody else ... the core values of this country will be changed dramatically":
O'REILLY: Personally I couldn't care less about gay marriage. If Tommy and Vinny or Joanie and Samantha want to get married, I don't see it as a threat to me or anybody else. But according to a poll by the Pew Research Center, only 32 percent of Americans favor gay marriage. And the will of the people must be taken into account here.
We simply can't allow this country to be run by ideological judges. Marriage is not a right, neither is driving a car. Both are privileges granted by the state.
If the good people of Massachusetts want a secular approach to marriage, let them vote on it. But judges have no right to find loopholes in the law and impose their views on everybody else. That's happening all over America. And if it continues, the core values of this country will be changed dramatically. Another secular victory today, this Massachusetts marriage deal.
It took 12 years, but the U.S. Supreme Court has now ruled, in Obergefell v. Hodges, that state bans on same-sex marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The decision is the culmination of a culture war saga that saw marriage equality evolve from a controversial thought experiment into a popularly-supported civil rights struggle.
That evolution was reflected in nearly all facets of American media. As public opinion on same-sex relationships and homosexuality shifted, so too did media depictions of the LGBT community, both mirroring and reinforcing the normalization of same-sex relationships in the public's imagination. In popular culture and mainstream news reporting, the fight for same-sex marriage has increasingly been presented as the story of a marginalized group fighting for civil rights and equal treatment, much to the dismay of anti-LGBT conservatives.
But while most major media outlets kept pace with the public's evolution on same-sex marriage, Fox News held out, popularizing conservatives' most dire warnings about marriage equality. As public support for marriage equality grew, the network shifted its focus - largely bowing out of debates over same-sex marriage in order to gin up right-wing fears about the threat that LGBT equality might soon pose to religious liberty and individual freedoms.
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly defended the Family Research Council (FRC), the anti-gay hate group that previously employed Josh Duggar, claiming that the group advocates for "strong Christian values." Kelly is one of the group's principal allies on Fox.
On the June 4 broadcast of The Kelly File, Kelly interviewed Democratic National Committee (DNC) committee member Robert Zimmerman about the media reaction to the revelation that Josh Duggar of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting had molested five girls, including his younger sisters, when he was a teenager. Before resigning in the wake of the controversy, Duggar was executive director of FRC Action, the political arm of FRC, which has been labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its promotion of known falsehoods about LGBT people.
During the segment, in response to Zimmerman's criticism of FRC's extreme attacks on LGBT people, Kelly defended the group and its president, Tony Perkins, as supporters of "strong Christian values":
Kelly's comments are the latest in Fox News' ongoing effort to conflate anti-LGBT extremism with Christian beliefs.
FRC has repeatedly peddled extreme and damaging myths about the LGBT community, including calling pedophilia a "homosexual problem" and claiming that gay activists want to "recruit" children into a "lifestyle" of "perversion."
Kelly has a history of whitewashing FRC's extremism and providing the organization with a welcoming platform on Fox News, despite knowing about their "hate group" designation. According to a recent study, she has hosted the group on her show more frequently than every other Fox News program combined.
A popular right-wing activist with extreme, discredited views about LGBT people is making the media rounds to talk about Caitlyn Jenner, peddling the myth that many transgender people end up regretting transitioning.
Walt Heyer, contributor for the rabidly anti-LGBT web magazine The Federalist, appeared on the June 2 edition of CNN Newsroom to comment on Vanity Fair's cover story about Caitlyn Jenner's decision to publicly identify as a transgender woman.
Heyer's life story has made him a pseudo-celebrity in anti-LGBT circles; in his forties, he decided to transition to living life as a woman, only to transition back to living as a man less than a decade later. Since then, he's pushed the debunked claim that transgender people often experience regret after transitioning, arguing that what transgender people actually need is "psychiatric or psychological help."
On CNN, Heyer warned that Jenner might regret her decision to transition, comparing transitioning to "going down to the bar" and "wak[ing] up with a hangover":
The Associated Press violated its own guidelines for how to refer to transgender people in a voyeuristic report about former Olympian and reality television star Caitlyn Jenner's appearance on next month's cover of Vanity Fair.
On June 1, Vanity Fair released a preview of its July issue cover story, headlined, "Call Me Caitlyn." The story is Jenner's public debut as Caitlyn following a highly-watched television interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer in which Jenner, who still identified then as Bruce, announced that she is transgender and detailed her experiences hiding her gender identity while appearing on the popular reality show, "Keeping Up With The Kardashians." The Vanity Fair story says Caitlyn Jenner now wishes to be referred to as a woman.
In its report on the Vanity Fair cover, the Associated Press violated its own guidelines on how to report on transgender people, which state that trans people should be identified by their preferred pronouns. Instead, the AP story refers to Jenner as a male and calls her Bruce. The report also objectifies Jenner by describing her as wearing "va-va-voom fashion" and highlighting her "ample cleavage:"
Bruce Jenner made his debut as a transgender woman in a va-va-voom fashion in the July issue of Vanity Fair.
"Call me Caitlyn," declares a headline on the cover, with a photo of a long-haired Jenner in a strapless corset, legs crossed, sitting on a stool. The image was shot by famed celeb photographer Annie Leibovitz. Prior to the unveiling of Caitlyn, Jenner had said he prefers the pronoun "he," but Vanity Fair contributing editor Buzz Bissinger, who wrote the accompanying story, refers to "she."
Jenner debuted a new Twitter account as well with: "I'm so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can't wait for you to get to know her/me." In about 45 minutes, the account had more than 180,000 followers.
According to the magazine, which took to Twitter with the cover Monday, Jenner spoke emotionally about her gender journey: "If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, 'You just blew your entire life.'"
In addition to the corset, Vanity Fair released a black-and-white video on the making of the cover. It shows Jenner getting her hair done and posing in a long, off-the-shoulder gown with ample cleavage. [emphasis added]
Fox News largely ignored the controversy surrounding Josh Duggar following his recent admission that, as a teenager, he molested young girls, including several of his sisters. The revelations are particularly stunning given that, under the guise of protecting children, the Duggar family has played an active role in the fight against LGBT equality.
On May 21, In Touch magazine revealed that in 2006, Jim Bob Duggar - patriarch of TLC's hit show 19 Kids and Counting - had waited more than a year before telling police that his son, Josh, had confessed to molesting several female minors, including his sisters, when he was a teenager. TLC has since pulled episodes of 19 Kids from its schedule.
The revelations drew widespread criticism in the media, with many outlets pointing out the Duggar family's reputation as a torch-bearer for conservative values and strong involvement in Republican politics and anti-LGBT activism. The revelations look to many like hypocrisy from a family that's become a political powerhouse in socially conservative circles in recent years by wielding its reality show influence to stump for "family values," Republican politicians, and the repeal of legal protections for LGBT people.
But while MSNBC and CNN have reported heavily on the Duggar scandal, Fox News has largely ignored the story. According to a Media Matters analysis, Fox News spent less than two minutes covering the story between May 21 and May 25, compared to almost an hour of coverage from the other cable news networks.
During the May 24 broadcast of Media Buzz, Fox News' media critic Howard Kurtz even criticized other media outlets for "piling on" by highlighting the Duggar family's ties to prominent Republican politicians:
Fox News' Shannon Bream relied on a hate group's unsubstantiated talking points to stoke fears that churches could lose their tax exempt status if a Supreme Court ruling finds that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Bream has repeatedly relied on rhetoric from discredited anti-LGBT groups to peddle bogus and misleading information about issues related to LGBT equality.
On the May 6 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News' Supreme Court correspondent Shannon Bream highlighted an exchange during oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that will determine the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage. During the exchange, Justice Samuel Alito asked U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli whether religious colleges would be able to keep their tax-exempt status if the bans are found unconstitutional and they continue to oppose same-sex marriage. Verrilli said although he didn't know all the specifics, "It's certainly going to be an issue":
Anti-gay conservatives are criticizing CBS News' Bob Schieffer for correctly identifying one of his guests as the president of an anti-gay "hate group," accusing him of "anti-Christian bias" for doing so. The outrage over Schieffer's disclosure highlights why it's so important for the media to hold extremists accountable for their views when they appear.
During the April 26 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, Schieffer invited Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), to discuss the Supreme Court's upcoming oral arguments on marriage equality. Schieffer began the interview by noting that FRC has been listed as an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and citing critics who argue that Perkins' extreme views don't represent the views of most Christians:
SCHIEFFER: I'm going to start with probably the most vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and that is Tony Perkins. He is the president of the Family Research Council. And, Mister Perkins, I'm going to say this to you upfront. You and your group have been so strong in coming out against this -- and against gay marriage -- that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group. We have been inundated by people who say we should not even let you appear because they, in their view, quote, "You don't speak for Christians." Do you think you have taken this too far?
An editorial writer for The Dallas Morning News offered an embarrassing defense for not bothering to correctly identify transgender people, arguing that widely accepted journalistic guidelines for talking about the transgender community are "confusing" and "misinform[s] the public."
In a May 4 column in The Dallas Morning News, editorial writer Tod Robberson criticized The New York Times and Associated Press for recognizing "the gender preference of transgenders in news copy." According to Robberson, identifying trans people using the pronouns they prefer "distort[s] the truth" in order to embrace "the politically correct transgender language of the day":
The New York Times and Associated Press, among other news organizations, have decided that they will recognize the gender preference of transgenders in news copy. Which is to say, when a male who has yet to undergo gender reassignment surgery nevertheless calls himself a female and is the subject of a news story, he will be identified as a female in all references.
See how confusing that gets? What is the actual, at-birth gender of the person we're talking about? And what gender will the person be identified as, once reassignment surgery is completed? Who knows?
There is a serious ethical discussion in this issue that we in journalism never really had. The orders came down from on high one day, and everyone just sort of jumped on board without questioning the implications. The first ethical issue is whether we journalists distort the truth by embracing the politically correct transgender language of the day.
Like it or not, the use of he/she, her/him, his/hers in print is a grammatical and journalistic necessity. We can't avoid it. But in doing so, choosing the correct word shouldn't be an option selected out of a sense of inclusion or demonstration of open mindedness about sexual identity. Our only choice must be to use the correct words to accurately and truthfully report the news.
On CBS' Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer accurately identified one of his guests as the president of an anti-gay "hate group," providing his audience with valuable context often missing from mainstream media interviews with anti-LGBT extremists.
On the April 26 edition of Face the Nation, Schieffer invited Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), and Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, to discuss this week's Supreme Court arguments over marriage equality. Scheiffer began the interview by noting that Perkins' group has been labeled an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC):
SCHIEFFER: I'm going to start with probably the most vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and that is Tony Perkins. He is the president of the Family Research Council. And, Mister Perkins, I'm going to say this to you upfront. You and your group have been so strong in coming out against this-- and against gay marriage that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group. We have been inundated by people who say we should not even let you appear because they, in their view, quote, "You don't speak for Christians." Do you think you have taken this too far?