A U.S. airman is facing a formal investigation for allegedly falsely claiming that he was punished for opposing marriage equality - a statement widely promoted by Fox News. Now, Fox News is citing the investigation as further evidence that the military is cracking down on anti-gay Christians.
Hoping to advance the right-wing myth that the military has an anti-Christian bias, Fox News has aggressively touted the case of Air Force Sgt. Phillip Monk. In August, Monk told Fox News that he had been relieved of his duties for vocally opposing marriage equality - a claim that the Air Force flatly denied, saying he was simply at the end of his assignment.
Now, Monk is being investigated for providing false statements about the incident, prompting further outrage from Fox.
During the September 23 edition of America Live, Fox's Shannon Bream - who's made a career of trumpeting bogus religious liberty claims - spoke to hate group leader Tony Perkins about Monk's case. Bream and Perkins framed the investigation as further evidence of anti-Christian bias, asserting that Monk was being punished for advocating for his "First Amendment right":
Fox News reporter Shannon Bream has become a reliable proponent of right-wing efforts to discriminate against LGBT people, using her national platform to validate religious extremists who claim that any LGBT protections infringe on religious liberty and freedom of speech.
Before joining Fox News in 2007, Bream practiced corporate law in Tampa, FL. In 2000, she left her legal career to pursue journalism, eventually getting noticed by Fox News' Brit Hume. She joined Fox as the network's Supreme Court reporter and is the host of Fox's Sunday show America's News Headquarters.
Bream is also a devout Christian who claims to have been inspired by the work of the notoriously homophobic conservative activist Jerry Falwell. Bream attended Falwell's right-wing Liberty University for her undergraduate degree, and in May of 2013, she became the first woman to deliver the keynote address at her alma mater's commencement ceremony.
During her speech, Bream urged the graduating class to live a life guided by the kind of Christian principles espoused by Falwell, challenging them not to "stand silently" as their "most deeply held beliefs are being questioned in the public square":
Now is not the time to stand silently by as your most deeply held beliefs are being questioned in the public square. Speaking up is rarely easy when the world is actively waiting to discredit and misconstrue what you have to say. But we have Christ as our model. He didn't care what others thought of him. He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. He loved them, never condemning them but also never condoning their sin. He spoke boldly and unapologetically in a way that made him a very unpopular guy and ultimately cost him his life. We are not called to live some kind of watered-down version of that truth. In fact, it is just the kind of life the Dr. Jerry Falwell I knew would expect his Liberty grads to live. [emphasis added]
Bream went on to urge the graduating class to fight against "religious oppression" while "never backing down" from "scriptural absolutes":
Not talking about politics, and I personally don't care what party you do or don't belong to. This is about right and wrong, unwavering absolutes, respecting life, loving our neighbors, yeah, as much as we love ourselves, purging our lives of the secret sins that we've convinced ourselves is just no big deal, living in humility, defending those who cannot defend themselves, fighting to end religious oppression against men and women and children all across the globe and never backing down from the scriptural absolutes we must stay tethered to. [emphasis added]
Bream also called on her audience to bring their fight for religious liberty into their workplaces, asking, "if we don't, if you don't, who will?":
Now along with religious liberty, one of the most important things our country has granted from its inception is freedom of speech. There are ways to disagree without compromising, to debate without annihilating each other, but it requires us to know what we believe and why. There are men and women who have fought and died for those freedoms, our very brave service members, and we must never allow the lives sacrificed in pursuit of the goals of liberty and freedom for all to be forgotten or in some way diminished because we are fearful of taking up the cause into our homes and our workplaces, whatever our sphere of influence. If we don't, if you don't, who will? [emphasis added]
Bream's comments offer a glimpse into the kind of narrative she's been working to promote at Fox News, where she's consistently given airtime to right-wing religious extremists and hate group spokespersons who claim their free speech and religious liberty are threatened by even the most basic protections for LGBT people.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes continued his network's ongoing campaign against a proposed non-discrimination ordinance in San Antonio, relying on a notoriously dishonest anti-LGBT activist to peddle blatant falsehoods about the measure.
On September 5, the San Antonio City Council is expected to vote on a bill that would expand the city's non-discrimination protections to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The measure would:
Right-wing media outlets have spent weeks smearing the measure as an assault on religious liberty and a case of "reverse discrimination." In a September 5 article for Fox News Radio, reporter Todd Starnes peddled a number of blatant, outright falsehoods about the measure, citing Mat Staver, president of the notoriously anti-LGBT group Liberty Counsel.
Major news organizations have honored Chelsea Manning's - formerly known as Bradley Manning - explicit request to be identified as a woman, but CNN continues to make excuses for misgendering Manning in its news coverage.
On August 22, Manning - who will soon begin serving a prison sentence for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks - announced in a statement to NBC that she wishes to be identified as a woman and go by the name Chelsea, stating:
As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility).
Following Manning's announcement, many news organizations struggled with deciding how to identify Manning in their reporting. Some outlets, like Slate and Mother Jones, quickly honored Manning's request and began referring to her as a female. Others, like The New York Times and the Associated Press, were reluctant at first but did agree to stop misgendering her, stating that they had been "persuaded" by arguments in favor of correctly identifying Manning.
CNN, however, has continued to refer to Manning by the name Bradley and use male pronouns.
During the August 22 edition of The Lead with Jake Tapper, Tapper explained that CNN will continue to refer to Manning as a male because "he has not yet legally changed his name." Moments later, he spoke with Lauren McNamara - who he identified as "a transgender" - about Manning's request for hormone therapy while in prison:
The cast of Fox & Friends went after The New York Times for its decision to begin referring to Chelsea Manning - formerly known as Bradley Manning - as a female in its news coverage.
Fox News personalities have repeatedly scoffed at the idea of referring to Manning as a female, and that sentiment was apparent on Fox & Friends. In a tease for an upcoming segment about the Times' decision, Fox played Aerosmith's Dude (Looks Like a Lady) in an apparent effort to mock Manning:
CNN host Fredricka Whitfield continued to incorrectly refer to Chelsea Manning as a male as one of her guests suggested that providing Manning with hormone therapy while in prison would be "beyond insanity."
During the August 24 edition of CNN Newsroom, Whitfield invited civil rights attorney Avery Friedman and criminal defense attorney Richard Herman to discuss the possibility of providing Manning - previously known as Bradley Manning - with medical treatment for her gender dysphoria while she serves her sentence in an all-male military prison for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Herman, who is a regular CNN legal commentator, railed against the possibility of providing Manning with adequate medical care, calling the idea "beyond insanity" and suggesting that Manning could get "good practice" presenting as a female in prison:
HERMAN: It's absurd. Sometimes we have to step back and say, "you know, some of these cases we cover, this is beyond insanity." There's no way that taxpayers are going to pay a hundred thousand dollars for a gender transformation for this guy while he's in prison. If he wants to be Chelsea, he can practice all he wants at Fort Leavenworth, because those guys are there for a long time. So he can get good practice and when he gets out, he can have the operation or whatever, and he can pay for it.
CNN's Whitfield continued Herman's line of questioning, repeatedly referring to Manning as a male and wondering why Manning had waited until after sentencing to announce her gender dysphoria:
WHITFIELD: And if this argument is entertained, the issue has to be "why now?" Why wouldn't this have been addressed long before trial, long before sentencing?
While appearing on MSNBC, Jeffrey Addicott - director of the Center for Terrorism Law - warned against "coddl[ing]" Chelsea Manning in prison by providing her with hormone therapy, suggesting that Manning was faking being transgender in order to get special treatment from the government.
During the August 25 edition of MSNBC's Weekends with Alex Witt, guest host Mara Shiavocampo invited Addicott to discuss the possibility of providing Chelsea Manning - formerly known as Bradley Manning - with hormone therapy and other accommodations typically provided to transgender inmates while she serves her sentence in a military prison for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Addicott called the suggestion "outrageous," arguing that the Obama administration had turned the military into a "social engineering product":
ADDICOTT: I don't coddle criminals. I don't think we need to coddle criminals. Whatever you want to call yourself, that's fine. Here's your suit, here's your jail cell, have a nice day. That should be the approach of most Americans. This is outrageous, that we should coddle this individual. That we should make the military a social engineering product like this administration has tried to do and other administrations in the past. The job of the military is not to engage in this type of supercilious activity. Let's just move on, lock him up, and hopefully that will be deterrents to other people that think that they might want to do the same thing that this individual did.
Fox News anchor Shannon Bream defended a New Mexico photographer who was sued after refusing to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, suggesting that forcing the photographer to serve gay customers would infringe on religious liberty.
On August 22, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Elane Huguenin -- owner of Elane Photography -- violated New Mexico's anti-discrimination law when she refused to photograph the commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple.
During the August 23 edition of America Live, Bream invited Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) senior counsel Jordan Lorence -- who unsuccessfully represented the Huguenins -- for a one-sided interview to criticize the court's decision as an attack on religious liberty:
BREAM: So many parts of the opinion raise a lot of questions. The concurring judge ... said that the Huguenins, the couple here, have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. What about the Huguenins?
LORENCE: Well that's exactly right. In a free society, we have to, people of different beliefs have to learn how to get along. There were plenty of photographers available, willing to shoot this same-sex ceremony. They got them. The Huguenins just need to be excused. This can't be used in an authoritarian, coercive way to force people to basically promote the messages that they don't agree with.
If you want to know how ridiculous this line of reasoning is, just replace "gay couple" with any other marginalized group. What if the photographer had refused to offer her services for a commitment ceremony for Latinos, or an interracial couple, or a Muslim couple? As the Justice Richard C. Bosson wrote in his concurring opinion:
The Huguenins today can no more turn away customers on the basis of sexual orientation--photographing a same-sex marriage ceremony--than they could refuse to photograph African-Americans or Muslims.
Fox News host Gregg Jarrett defended his decision to continue referring to Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning - formerly known as Bradley Manning - as a man, boasting, "I don't do what Bradley Manning wants me to do."
During the August 23 edition of America's Newsroom, Jarrett invited former prosecutor Annemarie McAvoy to discuss the prospect that Manning might sue to access appropriate medical treatment - including hormone therapy - while serving her sentence in a military prison for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. On August 22, Manning announced in a statement to NBC that she wished to be identified as a woman, explicitly asking to be referred to as Chelsea or using female pronouns.
Jarrett repeatedly referred to Manning as a male and used the name Bradley throughout the segment. At the end of the interview, Jarrett defended his decision to misgender Manning, saying:
JARRETT: People out there, don't send me angry emails that I refered to him as Bradley and not Chelsea and him instead of her. I don't do what Bradley Manning wants me to do. So thanks very much.
Prison can be a magical place for transgender people, especially once you get over the whole "rape" thing. That's according to an op-ed in The Daily Beast which suggests that Chelsea Manning - formerly known as Bradley Manning - might be treated like "royalty" as a transgender inmate in an all-male prison. The op-ed has already drawn criticism, prompting an editor's note in which The Daily Beast acknowledged the existence of prison rape but continued to ignore the horrific conditions experienced by transgender inmates in particular.
On August 22, The Daily Beast published an op-ed by columnist Mansfield Frazier titled, "How Will Chelsea Manning Be Treated In Prison?" The op-ed sought to downplay concerns that Bradley Manning - who recently announced her desire to be identified as a female named Chelsea - might be subject to violence and abuse once she begins her prison sentence for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.
According to Frazier - who bases his claims on his own experience in prison - the astronomical rates of rape and sexual assault against transgender prison inmates are overblown and exaggerated. In fact, in the original version of the piece, Frazier suggested most inmates who claim to be raped secretly want it:
[L]ife in prison is more complex than many statistics suggest. When I was in the joint, rape wasn't just something you could let happen to you.
Indeed, the vast majority of experienced convicts know that "true" rape is not a common occurrence in prison. That doesn't mean that homosexual sex doesn't occur--it certainly does. But it's really not that unusual for a new prisoner to show up on the compound and begin walking around the yard in pants far too tight. Before long they drop the soap in the shower, get a little close to another naked man, and then-- simply because they've never been able to come to terms with their own sexuality--tell anyone who will listen (but, interestingly enough, they usually never complain to the guards) that they were "raped." And a week or two later it could happen again, and then again.
To further prove his point, Frazier states - without citing a shred of evidence - that the desire to have gay sex and claim it was rape is why many prisoners choose to go back to prison once they've been released:
Quiet as it's kept, this is one reason for high recidivism rates. In prison, closeted homosexuals can receive what they desire but are able to maintain to the world they really find such behavior disgusting; in this manner they don't have to take responsibility for what happened to them.