Laura Ingraham attempted to tie a drag show fundraiser on a US military base to the problem of sexual assault in the military, suggesting that the drag show was part of an effort to "further sexualize" life on military bases.
On March 1, the Okinawa chapter of OutServe-SLDN held a fundraising event featuring six servicemembers - gay, lesbian, and heterosexual - lip syncing in drag. The event was a major success for the group, selling 400 tickets and receiving a warm reception by attendees.
The event has predictably drawn outrage from conservative commentators, including radio host Laura Ingraham. During the March 5 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show, Ingraham criticized the military for allowing "lewd" events like drag shows and questioned whether such events might anger "the Muslim world."
When a caller raised the issue of sexual assault in the military, Ingraham used the opportunity to suggest that military sexual assault might somehow be tied to attempts to "further sexualize bases":
INGRAHAM: Is it counterproductive to efforts to curb sexual assault on military bases to further sexualize the atmosphere on these bases? Is there any relation between the two issues? These are things we should talk about. It's not about demonizing anyone. I don't want to demonize any group of people. But this is a military. It is a fighting force. ... Above all else that is what they are charged with doing. And there's a military code of conduct that is different from civilian life. And they separate themselves from civilian life for a reason, because you need that discipline and you need that code and you need that respect for authority to hold it together on the battlefield. If you don't have that, if all the lines dissolve away, then we are less effective as a military force. That is a fact.
Ingraham isn't alone in suggesting that the drag show fundraiser is somehow related to military sexual assault. Far-right website WorldNetDaily, in an article about the fundraiser, similarly cited levels of male-on-male sexual assaults and tied them to broader acceptance of gay people in the military.
Following criticism over insensitive comments about Facebook's new gender options, Fox News host Clayton Morris gave a heartfelt apology to the intersex community, stating that he regretted his "stupid" remarks.
During the February 14 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Clayton Morris joined a number of his Fox News colleagues in mocking Facebook's decision to offer its users a variety of new terms to identify their gender, including "transgender" and "cisgender."
Following a brief mention of Facebook's announcement, Morris joked that he had changed his gender identification to "intersex," describing people who are born with a physical anatomy that does not appear to fit typical definitions of male or female:
During the March 1 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, Morris and his fellow co-hosts Anna Kooiman and Mike Jerrick discussed a high school considering making all of its graduation gowns one color in order to be inclusive of all students. Though the segment was framed by a chyron that asked "Over-Sensitive Society?", Morris quickly shifted gears to make an impassioned plea for understanding of transgender and intersex people (emphasis added):
MORRIS: There are millions of Americans and children who are born with the sexual organs who are not there or are not fully developed and therefore don't define themselves by a particular gender. I mean, that's a fact. It's not as black and white as we would like to make it. Just pick whatever color gown you want. Imagine being a parent and your daughter is born a specific way where her sexual organs are not developed. Then as a parent you have to be sensitive to the fact that your daughter doesn't identify with a particular gender.
KOOIMAN: And we've done news stories too about bathrooms and some schools, middle schools and high schools, considering having unisex bathrooms, so that these people who fit into this category won't have to pick the boys or the girls. But then you think about these young teenagers who are going through puberty, if you're a mom or a dad, do you want your daughter in the bathroom with a boy, potentially?
JERRICK: My goodness, are we overthinking this? It's just the color of a garment.
MORRIS: Just put yourself in the shoes of those children, though, who have to deal with that. Look, I made a pretty ignorant statement a few weeks ago, we were talking about the Facebook story where they added the bunch of different gender-identifying things. And I made sort of an offhanded comment and I regretted it later because now, 'Wait a second. There are people who are actually dealing with this and I'm an idiot for saying something stupid like that.' So before you open your mouth, just think about it a little bit.
Morris' comments are extremely uncharacteristic for Fox News, which has never missed an opportunity to mock and demean people with different gender identities. Morris demonstrated a degree of empathy and willingness to accept criticism rarely seen on his network. He deserves to be commended, and his colleagues who have yet to apologize could do a lot of good by following his lead.
MSNBC and CNN both shined a spotlight on the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the extreme anti-gay group behind Arizona's recent effort to allow businesses to refuse service to gay customers. The networks' decisions to profile ADF stand in stark contrast to a broader media tendency to ignore anti-gay group's records of extremism.
In the same week that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer chose to veto SB 1062, a measure that would have expanded protections for businesses refusing service to gay customers, both CNN and MSNBC ran segments profiling ADF, which drafted the law along with the Center for Arizona policy.
During the February 25 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper noted the similarities between the talking points used by proponents of SB 1062 and similar measures in other states, tracing their shared "genetic code" back to ADF. Though Cooper invited ADF to participate in the segment, the group declined:
After months of championing anti-gay business owners and criticizing efforts to protect gay and lesbian customers from discrimination, Fox News is finally waking up to the consequences of its fear mongering campaign - and it doesn't like what it's seeing.
The Supreme Court's historic decision to strike down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013 left many anti-gay marriage activists reeling. Recognizing that their decade long fight against marriage equality was quickly becoming a lost cause, many anti-gay conservatives turned their attention to an issue that they believed might offer them more traction - the religious liberty of anti-gay business owners.
While opponents of marriage equality have long warned about businesses being forced to serve gay couples, it's only recently that the issue of protecting anti-gay business owners became a rallying cry for social conservatives.
That rallying cry has been largely amplified by Fox News, which in recent months has worked to tout anti-gay business owners as martyrs, victimized by gay activists seeking services for their same-sex weddings and commitment ceremonies.
Falsely accusing gay activists of ushering the "death of free enterprise" in America, Fox News has highlighted a number of anti-gay horror stories in which religious business owners have faced penalties for refusing to serve gay customers:
In each of these cases, the business owners were found to have violated their state's non-discrimination laws. And in each of these cases, Fox News depicted the business owners as victims whose religious freedoms were being threatened by being required to serve gay customers.
After months of championing anti-gay business owners who refuse service to gay customers because of their religious beliefs, Fox News condemned a proposed Arizona law that would protect businesses that discriminate against gay customers, comparing the measure to "Jim Crow laws."
During the February 25 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum invited Fox News contributor Juan Williams and The Five co-host Andrea Tantaros to discuss Arizona's controversial new anti-gay segregation law, SB 1062 which would protect businesses that refuse to serve gay customers on religious grounds. The measure, which awaits Gov. Jan Brewer's signature, has been condemned by a growing number of conservatives and business owners, including three Republicans senators who regret voting for the bill.
MacCallum, Williams, and Tantaros all condemned the measure, with MacCallum and Tantaros both drawing comparisons between the bill and racist "Jim Crow laws":
TANTAROS: What has happened, Martha, is this has spiraled totally out of control. And so, while the First Amendment is a really strong argument, I don't know why you would want to bring Jim Crow laws back to the forefront for homosexuals.
MACCALLUM: I mean, that's exactly what it sounds like.
TANTAROS: If you're a business owner, I don't know why you'd want to turn business away. And if you're gay, let's say, why would you want the baker of hate baking your cake anyway? Unfortunately, it has taken a really crazy turn and gotten way out of hand. And as Juan mentioned, a number of Republicans, three of them who voted to pass this said that they would change their mind.
MACCALLUM: It sounds like the lunch counter, Juan.
CNN anchors grilled an Arizona anti-gay activist who refused to answer whether a measure passed by the state legislature would allow businesses to discriminate against gay customers. In reality, the bill would allow businesses and individuals to refuse to serve gay customers without fear of punishment or a lawsuit.
During the February 21 edition of CNN's This Hour, co-anchors John Berman and Michaela Pereira asked Cathi Herrod - president of the conservative Center for Arizona Policy Action - to explain a measure in Arizona that would protect businesses and individuals who discriminate against gay customers on religious grounds. The bill, SB 1062, which awaits Gov. Jan Brewer's signature, mirrors "anti-gay segregation" bills being considered in states like South Dakota and Idaho.
Near the end of the segment, CNN's Berman asked Herrod, whose group actively supports passage of the measure, whether the bill would allow a restaurant to ban a gay couple. Herrod repeatedly dodged the question, visibly frustrating CNN's anchors:
The bill allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination. It also allows the business or person to seek an injunction once they show their actions are based on a sincere religious belief and the claim places a burden on the exercise of their religion.
Opponents raised scenarios in which gay people in Arizona could be denied service at a restaurant or refused medical treatment if a business owner thought homosexuality was not in accordance with his religion. One lawmaker held up a sign that read "NO GAYS ALLOWED" in arguing what could happen if the law took effect, drawing a rebuke for violating rules that bar signs on the House floor.
Bill O'Reilly criticized the Girl Scouts for hiring a spokesman who, according to O'Reilly, is a member of a "controversial punk band with homosexual overtones."
During the February 19 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly interviewed Girl Scouts spokeswoman Kelly Parisi to discuss whether the organization had begun "leaning left." O'Reilly questioned Parisi about the employment of Josh Ackley, a spokesman for the organization that O'Reilly claimed was a member of "a controversial punk band with homosexual overtones":
O'REILLY: Let's get on to a spokesperson who I don't think works for you now but certainly did, was a member of a controversial punk band with homosexual overtones. ...[added space] When I saw that you guys hired, paid a guy in a punk band with homosexual overtones, I'm going 'is that a good choice for the Girl Scouts?'
O'REILLY: You then have to understand the flak when conservative Americans see a spokesperson for the Girl Scouts who is a member or was a member of a punk rock band with homosexual overtones. They're going 'what the deuce is going on?' Surely you understand that.
The spokesperson in question is Josh Ackley. Last December, Breitbart.com's go-to anti-gay extremist Austin Ruse published an article attacking Ackley for his involvement in a "homo-punk" rock band called The Dead Betties. The article was part of a smear campaign Ruse has led against Ackley since late 2011, in conservative publications like The Washington Times and National Review Online.
On February 18, O'Reilly picked up Ruse's efforts, mentioning Ackley by name while discussing whether the Girl Scouts had been taken over by "secular progressives."
It's not the first time O'Reilly has worried about homosexuality in a national scouting organization. In 2004, he said that it would be "impossible for... any children's organization to admit avowed homosexuals because of the potential liability."
Fusion's Alicia Menendez took Fox News to task for its response to the unveiling of Facebook's new gender options, asking the network "do you not have producers?"
During the February 18 edition of Fusion's AM Tonight, Menendez mocked Fox News' confused response to Facebook's announcement that it would allow its users to choose from a number of different terms to describe their gender:
MENENDEZ: Fox & Friends and enemies, you are totally right. That is hilarious and not at all complicated or sensitive. I am so sorry that Facebook assaulted your male/female, socialist/patriot, illegal alien/noble pilgrim paradigms. Now, let's get back to the business of dog weddings and mocking other disenfranchised people, shall we?
Fox News employees struggled to wrap their head around Facebook's decision to allow users to choose from a number of different terms to describe their gender, with one Fox News reporter asking "what if you identify as a pine cone?"
On February 13, Facebook announced that it would begin offering its users the ability to choose from a wider range of terms to describe their gender, including "transgender" and "cisgender." As Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrsion told the Associated Press, the change "means the world" to many Facebook users:
"All too often transgender people like myself and other gender nonconforming people are given this binary option, do you want to be male or female? What is your gender? And it's kind of disheartening because none of those let us tell others who we really are," she said. "This really changes that, and for the first time I get to go to the site and specify to all the people I know what my gender is."
At Fox News, the change was met with confusion and mockery. During the February 14 edition of Fox & Friends, several Fox News employees joked about the proposed changes:
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes criticized the changes on his Facebook page, asking "what if you identify as a pine cone?":
It's not the first time the network has mocked attempts to properly identify transgender people. In 2011, Fox & Friends criticized the Australian government for offering alternate gender descriptions in passports. The network has a history of proudly misgendering transgender people, so it's no wonder that Facebook's move to better accommodate the transgender community is met with bewilderment on Fox.
CNN's Piers Morgan viciously lashed out at critics who accused him of sensationalizing an interview with transgender activist Janet Mock, making a number of personal attacks against transgender activists and dismissing his critics as hysterical, dishonest, and "stupid." His over-the-top reaction to criticism highlights that even LGBT-friendly journalists can do serious damage when they ignore the voices and concerns of LGBT people.
Following a February 4 interview with Mock about her new memoir Redefining Realness, Morgan was criticized for his overemphasis on Mock's body, physical appearance, and romantic relationships with men. Throughout the segment, on-screen text described Mock as being "a boy until age 18."
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Mock accused Morgan of "trying to do info-tainment" and criticized him for sensationalizing transgender people while avoiding a substantive discussion about her book - a sentiment that was echoed by many critics. Mock didn't accuse Morgan of being transphobic - rather, she challenged him for asking the same kinds of questions that are repeatedly used to objectify transgender people's bodies.
Morgan spent the next day lashing out at Mock and her supporters on Twitter, describing himself as an ardent supporter of transgender equality. That night, Morgan invited Mock back on his show for an interview during which he repeatedly played the victim, talked over Mock, and refused to apologize for his comments:
Following the interview, Morgan hosted a panel discussion between three cisgender people, two of whom ridiculed Mock for criticizing Morgan's actions.
The entire incident demonstrates that even well-intentioned journalists can do serious harm when they react defensively rather than listen to criticism from marginalized groups. Morgan's behavior illustrates exactly how journalists - and especially self-identified LGBT allies - should not behave when being criticized for problematic coverage of LGBT issues: