Fox News host Bill O'Reilly backtracked in his attempt to link a gay Colorado lawmaker's opposition to a measure affecting sexual predators who target children with that lawmaker's sexuality after criticism from a Colorado newspaper editorial writer.
Over the last several weeks, O'Reilly has used his national platform to attack openly gay Colorado lawmaker Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-2) over his opposition to "Jessica's Law," a measure that would impose a 25-year sentence on those found guilty of sexually assaulting children.
In a March 10 column, The Denver Post's editorial page editor Curtis Hubbard condemned O'Reilly for repeatedly citing Ferrandino's sexual orientation in his attacks, writing:
O'Reilly's fear-mongering should offend all Coloradans. He was saying "gay," but what he wanted his listeners to hear was "pervert-pedophile."
Disagree? Then you try explaining what Ferrandino's sexual orientation and stance on civil unions has to do with Jessica's Law.
During the March 11 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly responded to Hubbard's criticism, insisting that he was merely attempting to provide "context" for his criticism:
O'REILLY: We described the speaker as "openly gay" because Americans don't know who he is and that description is used in almost every article ever written about him. And the reason we brought up civil unions is because Ferrandino objected to that vote being sabotaged by Republicans a few years ago, then he turned around and used the same technique to table Jessica's Law.
The reason that I did that was to put into perspective who he is. People don't know who this guy is, he's not like Joe Biden. They don't know this guy is. So I had to tell people, 'look, this is what this guy's interested in. This is what he promotes.'
Fox's Bill O'Reilly used his national platform to launch a crusade against openly gay Colorado lawmaker Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-2) over his opposition to a law that would institute mandatory minimum sentences for sexual predators who target children, repeatedly suggesting that Ferrandino's opposition to the measure might be linked to his support for gay marriage.
During the February 22 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly criticized Ferrandino for opposing "Jessica's Law," a measure that would impose a 25-year sentence on those found guilty of sexually assaulting children. Law enforcement experts and victims' advocates in Colorado have deemed Jessica's Law unnecessary, noting that current Colorado laws "already go beyond what Jessica's law mandates."
During the segment, O'Reilly joined Colorado Rep. Libby Szabo (R-27) in attempting to link Ferrandino's opposition to the bill to his homosexuality and support for civil unions. O'Reilly also promised to hold Ferrandino "personally responsible," threatening that his life would soon "take a turn for the worse":
O'REILLY: Now this Ferrandino, I understand he is the, what, the first openly gay House Speaker in Colorado. He was a fervent gay marriage person. He objected when gay marriage was first tabled because they sent it into the same committee to kill it that he sent Jessica's law in. All of that true so far of this guy?
SZABO: So far you're correct.
O'REILLY: All right. So this guy doesn't want tougher mandatory sentences. Have you talked to him about it? Has he said anything to the press about why not?
SZABO: You know, I don't know that the press in Colorado, they covered this issue very well on, on my side of the issue and on Mr. Lunsford's side of the issue. But I don't believe he was willing to speak to them because obviously he's protecting somebody. Obviously the victims hold more credence with him -- I mean not the victims-- the perpetrators hold more credence with him than the child victims do.
During the February 27 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Brooke Baldwin led a panel discussion about Coy Mathis, a 6-year-old Colorado transgender girl who is suing her school district for the right to use female restrooms at her elementary school.
Everyone on the panel expressed support for Mathis' position except for Dr. James Sears, co-host of the CBS show The Doctors. Sears, who is a pediatrician and television personality, warned that Mathis might walk around the girls' bathroom with her penis exposed, like "most boys" allegedly do at that age:
SEARS: I have three kids, a daughter and two boys, and as when my daughter was that age, I would have been very uncomfortable if there was a boy with a penis walking around their bathroom. And you say that the stalls are private. You know, at that age, most boys especially will use the bathroom then leave their pants down while they walk to the sink to wash their hands and then pull it up. So it's going to be very uncomfortable for the other girls seeing a penis in their bathroom.
JENNIFER HUTT: She's a girl.
SEARS: She has a penis, though.
The other panelists were understandably confused and outraged at Sears' explanation and insistence on describing Mathis as a boy.
Fox's Bill O'Reilly condemned a new Massachusetts school policy protecting transgender students, suggesting that teachers should be allowed to out their transgender students to their families and fear mongering that "wise guys" might use the policy to infiltrate girls' restrooms.
During the February 26 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly railed against a new directive for Massachusetts schools concerning the treatment of transgender students.
The directive - which is aimed at encouraging non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity - instructs school officials to acknowledge students by their preferred gender identity and respect transgender students' privacy when discussing their gender identity with their parents.
O'Reilly called the directive "insane," suggesting that "wise guys" would casually alter their gender identity in order to enter the locker rooms of the opposite sex. He went on to argue that that schools should be required to inform parents about their children's "lifestyle" choices:
The Washington Post's ombudsman responded to claims that the paper's coverage of the same-sex marriage debate is too "pro-gay," noting that one reporter called it an issue of "justice and fairness." The debate over the Post's stance highlights a growing and significant divide in the way that journalists choose to write about the fight for LGBT equality.
On February 22, the Post's ombudsman Patrick Pexton published a response to reader complaints that the paper "has a 'pro-gay agenda' and publishes too many 'puffy' stories about gay marriage." Recounting an exchange between one reader and a WaPo reporter, Pexton defended the Post's coverage, comparing anti-gay discrimination to the kind of discrimination faced by African-Americans during the 1950s and 60s:
Replied the reporter: "The reason that legitimate media outlets routinely cover gays is because it is the civil rights issue of our time. Journalism, at its core, is about justice and fairness, and that's the 'view of the world' that we espouse; therefore, journalists are going to cover the segment of society that is still not treated equally under the law."
The reader: "Contrary to what you say, the mission of journalism is not justice. Defining justice is a political matter, not journalistic. Journalism should be about accuracy and fairness.
"Good journalism also means not demeaning conservatives as 'haters.' "
The reporter: "As for accuracy, should the media make room for racists, i.e. those people who believe that black people shouldn't marry white people? Any story on African-Americans wouldn't be wholly accurate without the opinion of a racist, right?
When the Boy Scouts announced in late January that it would be reviewing its ban on openly gay members, it should have sparked a national conversation about discrimination against LGBT youth. Instead, mainstream media outlets allowed their coverage to be hijacked by anti-gay conservatives fear mongering that gay scout leaders might sexually abuse young boys.
In the week following the Boy Scouts' announcement that it would be reviewing its ban on gay members, cable news coverage of the story repeatedly forwarded the claim that allowing gay scout leaders would increase the likelihood of child sexual abuse. According to an Equality Matters report, over half of Fox News' and CNN's segments about the story included references to pedophilia:
As the Boy Scouts of America considered lifting its ban on openly gay members, cable news network coverage of the story gave undue attention to the right-wing smear that exposing young boys to gay scout leaders would put them at higher risk of sexual abuse and/or assault.
The Family Research Council (FRC) has been one of the leading voices in the media condemning the effort to repeal the Boy Scouts' ban on openly gay members. FRC's talking points, however, are the same ones the organization used to lobby against the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy - all of which turned out to be completely baseless.
Since news broke that the Boy Scouts would be reconsidering their ban on openly gay members, FRC has been making the rounds on mainstream media outlets warning that lifting the ban would heighten incidences of sexual abuse and undermine the organization's retention.
If FRC's talking points sound familiar, it's because they're carbon copies of the (thoroughly disproven) arguments the group used while lobbying against the repeal of the military's ban on openly gay service members.
Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins appeared on Fox News to warn that lifting the Boy Scouts' ban on gay members would expose scouts to higher rates of sexual abuse and molestation, after a week of making the rounds on mainstream media outlets to provide anti-gay commentary in the debate.
During the January 3 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, Perkins repeated the widely debunked myth that allowing gay men to participate in the Boy Scouts would raise the risk of child sexual abuse in an interview with host Shannon Bream:
BREAM: How do you respond to those who say that the suggestion that somehow a gay scout master would be a threat to a child suggests that they would act inappropriately simply because of their sexual orientation, and they find that insulting?
PERKINS: Yeah, that's a good question, Shannon. Although there is a higher incidence of men who self-identify as homosexual who abuse children, not every homosexual is attracted to children. We've never said that, no one has ever said that. But let's be real. It doesn't pass the parent test. As a parent of three daughters, I wouldn't want my neighbor, who is a heterosexual, a man, camping out with my girls. So why would I want a man who is attracted to men camping out with my boys? [...]
BREAM: The Boston Globe had an editorial that said basically gay soldiers now serve openly in our armed forces, gay marriage is legal in a number of states. They say Eagle Scouts have been returning their badges in protest, that the country has changed and it's time for the Boy Scouts to change with that.
PERKINS: Well, first off, we're not talking about grown men, we're talking about children who are impressionable and cannot make informed decisions. That's why we treat them as children. And they're going to be in an environment where they are going to be secluded from their parents in many cases. And it's not just about scout leaders, it's about other scouts. Look, last fall the Boy Scouts were forced to release about 15,000 pages from what they call their "Perversion Files." They had identified between the 1960s and the 1990s, about 1900 individuals who preyed upon children. Now that was with the policy they had in place. They still had a problem and paid out millions of dollars. [emphasis added]
Despite the objection of one of its prime time hosts, Fox News' coverage of the Boy Scouts' review of its policy banning gay scouts and scout leaders has been tainted by the right-wing myth that gay men are predators looking to sexually abuse young boys.
During the January 29 edition of Fox Business Network's Imus in the Morning, Don Imus asked Martha MacCallum - co-host of Fox's America's Newsroom - for her thoughts on the Boy Scouts' decision to review their ban on openly gay scouts and scout leaders:
MACCALLUM: I think it's a great organization and I think there's room for everybody in that organization. I mean, I think you have to obviously be very careful with anybody who deals with children, whether you're a male or a female in school or in any organization you have to be careful. But I don't think that being gay has anything to do with being a pedophile.
MacCallum may not see a link between homosexuality and pedophilia, but her network certainly does. In two segments on the Boy Scouts' policy later that day, Fox News employees uncritically brought up the fear that gay scout leaders might sexually abuse their own scouts.