Fox News struggled to consistently cover President Obama's endorsement of marriage equality during his second inaugural address, at times agreeing with his position while still looking for ways to criticize his comments.
On January 21, President Obama became the first president in U.S. history to mention gay rights during an inaugural address, stating:
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths - that all of us are created equal - is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall...
It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law - for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. [emphasis added]
Yet, when it came to Obama's support for marriage equality, the network shied away from the anti-gay talking points one might expect to hear on Fox.
Following criticism over its recent coverage of transgender issues, Fox News is being petitioned to put an end to its long history of promoting misleading and defamatory representations of the transgender community.
Fox News came under fire after its Fox Nation website paired a January 13 article about transgender health insurance coverage with an image from the movie "Mrs. Doubtfire":
The Fox Nation post sparked a petition from LGBT equality group Basic Rights Oregon, which called on Fox News to "end its transphobic content":
Fox News: stop misrepresenting gay and transgender people with sensational and dehumanizing coverage. Trivializing transgender people's need for medically necessary health care ignores the position of the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and countless other authorities on health care. We demand an apology and that Fox News end its transphobic content.
The transgender community has been a constant target of Fox News' anti-LGBT commentary and misinformation over the past several years.
Fox Nation used a degrading image from the movie "Mrs. Doubtfire" to accompany a story about transgender healthcare, adding to the website's long history of using offensive images to mock and demonize transgender people.
On January 13, Fox Nation posted a Newsmax.com article describing new regulations in California and Oregon that require insurance companies to cover medically necessary treatments for transgender patients if they also cover those treatments for patients who aren't transgender.
The Fox Nation post featured a picture from the film "Mrs. Doubtfire," ostensibly meant to poke fun at the serious problem of denying transgender people health insurance coverage for medical treatment:
In response, the LGBT equality group Basic Rights Oregon launched a petition to end Fox's dehumanizing treatment of transgender people. By the morning of January 15, the image had been taken down and replaced with an image of a stethoscope:
Fox Nation has a history of using inflammatory and insulting images to degrade transgender people.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly mocked the physical appearance of a transgender inmate, repeatedly referring to her as a "he" and joking that she isn't attractive enough to be in danger of sexual assault.
During the January 11 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly and Kelly discussed a transgender inmate in Massachusetts - Michelle Kosilek - who successfully sued the state in order to acquire gender reassignment surgery while in prison. After criticizing the state for covering the cost of Kosilek's surgery, O'Reilly turned to mocking her appearance, repeatedly referring to her as a male:
O'REILLY: My question is, in the promo, couldn't they do a better job for a million bucks than this guy? Look, there he is. For a million you figure he might look like Annette Funicello or somebody. I don't know.
KELLY: Listen, let's not forget.
KELLY: He's in a male prison.
O'REILLY: Alright, but I don't think he's in any danger-
KELLY: I bet he looks pretty good.
O'REILLY: No. Even in a male prison, he doesn't. But for a million bucks, that's what we get? I don't know. Alright.
KELLY: The surgery hasn't been performed yet, Bill.
O'REILLY: It hasn't.
KELLY: He only has breasts and the hair now.
O'REILLY: I think that might be a little bit too much information.
O'Reilly typically has no problem making LGBT people the target of his jokes, but the segment is a shocking change of tone for Kelly, who has previously defended transgender people, noting that they "have it really, really hard." It seems that not even Kelly can resist Fox's obsession with bullying LGBT people.
Transphobic bullying aside, the segment also trivializes the often life-and-death issue of providing transgender inmates with appropriate medical treatment. Major medical organizations, along with a number of U.S. courts, have already recognized the dire consequences of denying treatment to transgender inmates.
The segment also downplays - and even mocks - the horrific problem of sexual assault against transgender inmates in prison. A study by the Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project found that in 2006, 59 percent of transgender inmates reported being sexually assaulted in prison, as compared to 4 percent of the general prison population, oftentimes as a result of being misgendered and placed in the wrong facilities.
CNN invited Family Research Council (FRC) Senior Fellow Peter Sprigg - who has previously advocated the criminalization of homosexuality and deportation of gay people from the United States - to condemn the recent withdrawal of an anti-gay pastor from President Obama's second inauguration.
During the January 11 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Carol Costello invited Sprigg and Truth Wins Out director Wayne Besen to discuss Georgia pastor Louie Giglio's decision to withdraw from performing the benediction at Obama's inauguration.
Giglio announced his withdrawal after ThinkProgress revealed that he had given a "vehemently anti-gay" sermon in the mid-1990s during which he condemned the "homosexual lifestyle," claimed gay people would go to hell, and claimed that gay people could become straight through the power of Christ.
Sprigg, whose organization has been labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for spreading known falsehoods about LGBT people, attempted to downplay Giglio's comments, accusing gay activists of pursuing "intolerance in the name of tolerance":
SPRIGG: The world we live in, unfortunately, is increasingly marked by the enforcement of intolerance in the name of tolerance, exclusion in the name of inclusion, and forced uniformity in the name of diversity. It's contradictory, it's downright Orwellian, and yet people actually make these statements, unbelievably, with a straight face.
Besen responded by pointing out that Sprigg has previously called for the criminalization for homosexuality and advocated for exporting gay people from the United States, a point that Costello confirmed:
BESEN: Peter, I find it ironic that you're embracing diversity. I mean you called for the imprisonment of gay people and said we should export homosexuals out of the United States and suddenly you're for tolerance? I'm a little confused here.
SPRIGG: [laughing] Well this is about Pastor Giglio and President Obama, it's not about me.
BESEN: No, I just find it ironic that you're a spokesperson for tolerance.
COSTELLO: But Wayne is right, Peter. Wayne is right about that, Peter.
Sprigg's history of inflammatory anti-gay rhetoric goes even further, endorsing "ex-gay" therapy and claiming that gay people are mentally ill. According to a recent SPLC report:
Sprigg authored a 2010 brochure touting "The Top Ten Myths about Homosexuality." In the brochure, Sprigg claimed that ex-gay therapy works, that sexual orientation can change, that gay people are mentally ill simply because homosexuality makes them that way, and that, "Sexual abuse of boys by adult men is many times more common than consensual sex between adult men, and most of those engaging in such molestation identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual." He also claimed that "homosexuals are less likely to enter into a committed relationship" and "less likely to be sexually faithful to a partner." Sprigg's sources are a mixture of junk science issued by groups that support ex-gay therapy and legitimate science quoted out of context or cherry-picked, a tactic long used by anti-gay groups to bolster their claims about gay people. [emphasis added]
It's not surprising, then, that Sprigg falsely claimed that the majority of Americans find homosexuality to be immoral. Pastor Giglio's anti-gay remarks may seem tame to someone like Sprigg, but they're far out of line with the American public's growing acceptance of LGBT equality.
Following the announcement that Pastor Louie Giglio would no longer be performing the benediction at President Obama's second inauguration, Fox News reporter Todd Starnes rushed to blame "heterophobic bigots" for allegedly forcing the pastor to withdraw from the event.
On January 10, Georgia Pastor Louie Giglio announced that he had decided to withdraw from performing the benediction at President Obama's second inauguration. His decision came in the wake of criticism over a January 9 Think Progress report detailing a "vehemently anti-gay" sermon Giglio gave in the mid-1990s, during which he railed against the "homosexual lifestyle" and claimed that gay people could become straight through the power of Christianity.
The announcement sparked outrage from Fox News reporter Todd Starnes, who took to Twitter to condemn "anti-Christian bigots" for objecting to Giglio's anti-gay comments:
Starnes then published a Fox News Radio article suggesting that Giglio had been "forced out" of the inauguration by the Obama administration:
To support his baseless accusation - which plainly contradicts Giglio's own statement about his withdrawal - Starnes relied on comments from two of the country's most notorious anti-gay hate group leaders: Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins and American Family Association (AFA) spokesman Bryan Fischer:
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox News that he was shocked at the attacks from homosexual activists.
"What's becoming ever so clear to those who thought homosexual activists could be appeased is that their ultimate goal is to sanitize the public space of anyone who holds to a biblical view of morality," Perkins said. "It pulls back the curtain and shows us the true agenda here. It's not about tolerance. It's about forced acceptance."
Bryan Fischer, who hosts a popular national show on American Family Radio, said Giglio was banished in a "naked display of bigotry."
"It's clear from the statement from the inaugural committee that Giglio was bounced from the program. It clearly wasn't his idea," Fischer told Fox News. "The banishment of Giglio is a naked display of bigotry and hatred directed at the last safe target in America for angry intolerance: Americans who believe what the Scriptures teach about human sexuality. Truth about homosexuality has now become hate speech, and speaking the truth about homosexuality has now become a hate crime."
Fischer said the bottom line is that "bullies and bigots have won a major victory."
Neither Perkins - who has made a career of trying to link homosexuality to pedophilia - or Fischer - who has repeatedly blamed gays for the Holocaust - is a credible source when it comes to lecturing the administration about "bigotry."
But this is apparently what qualifies as journalism at Fox News: float a baseless accusation of anti-Christian bigotry, quote a few anti-gay hate group leaders who agree with your theory, and hit "publish."
Fox Nation joined Rush Limbaugh in promoting a bogus link between support for same-sex marriage and the acceptance of pedophilia.
During the January 7 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh referenced a National Review Online (NRO) column, which criticized an article in The Guardian for highlighting the growing debate over whether pedophilia should be classified as a distinct sexual orientation.
Limbaugh - who has previously accused the "gay lobby" of trying to downplay cases of child molestation - attempted to link the growing acceptance of pedophilia to the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage:
LIMBAUGH: There is an effort underway to normalize pedophilia... I want to take you back. I want you to remember the first time, wherever you were, that you heard about gay marriage, and I want you to try to recall your reaction -- your first gut reaction -- when you heard that some activists or somebody was trying to promote the notion of gay marriage. What was your initial reaction? "Aw, come on. It'll never happen. That's silly. What are you talking about?" There is a movement on to normalize pedophilia, and I guarantee you your reaction to that is probably much the same as your reaction when you first heard about gay marriage. What has happened to gay marriage? It's become normal -- and in fact, with certain people in certain demographics it's the most important issue in terms of who they vote for. So don't pooh-pooh. There's a movement to normalize pedophilia. Don't pooh-pooh it. The people behind it are serious, and you know the left as well as I do. They glom onto something and they don't let go.
Now, there were people -- I just want to remind you -- back during the early days of the effort to redefine what a family is, and in the early days of the gay marriage activists, there were people who said, "Well, if this becomes mainstream, then someday marrying your dog is gonna be okay, and then having two husbands and two wives in one family is gonna be okay, 'cause who can say it isn't?" There were others who predicted that pedophilia would be mainstream, and there was an outcry of opposition to this.
The same NRO column appeared on Fox Nation, along with an almost 14-minute clip from Limbaugh's radio show:
Fox has a history of attempting to tether pedophilia to LGBT equality. Fox's resident anti-LGBT pseudoscientist, Dr. Keith Ablow - who is a member of Fox News' "Medical A-Team" - has previously criticized the American Psychological Association (APA) for "caving into cultural pressure" to destigmatize homosexuality and pedophilia. And last August, Fox's Bill O'Reilly defended the right-wing smear that child molesters are more likely to be gay.
Fox's promotion of Limbaugh's comments is also surprising, considering that the network has previously supported the idea that pedophilia is a distinct sexual orientation. In a FoxNews.com article, Ablow warned that a person's sexual orientation could be shaped by environmental factors, such as men who become pedophiles after viewing sexualized images of children.
An Equality Matters report found that cable news outlets were lacking in their coverage of the reemergence of Uganda's proposed "Kill the Gays" bill - a measure that would put LGBT Ugandans at risk of suffering the death penalty.
During the December 5 edition of MSNBC's NOW with Alex Wagner, Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kenedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, warned that major media outlets weren't drawing enough attention to international human rights abuses, including Uganda's proposed anti-homosexuality bill:
KENNEDY: I think there is a tremendous amount of compassion and concern by ordinary Americans. I hate to say this on this TV show, but you're actually covering those issues. And a lot of places just aren't to the extent that they used to. So I think that's part of the problem.
Kennedy was right.
Since Uganda's Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga vowed in late October to bring the anti-gay law to a vote, cable news networks have spent just over 15 minutes covering the issue. Significantly more time was devoted to covering "Gangnam Style," a Korean pop song that went viral this summer:
Kennedy was also correct in noting the decline in coverage of Uganda's anti-gay bill in the years since it was first introduced. In 2010, when the "Kill the Gays" bill seemed near to becoming a reality in Uganda, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow ran multiple segments spotlighting the measure, noting its ties to prominent American evangelical leaders (and politicians) and grilling its supporters over their anti-gay extremism.
MSNBC spent less than five minutes discussing the bill over the course of two segments (including Kennedy's mention on NOW).
Fox News fared even worse, failing to mention the "Kill the Gays" bill even once over the course of the study.
Cable news networks could have easily picked up any of the several angles in covering the potential passage of Uganda's anti-homosexuality law. In November, Speaker Kadaga pledged to pass the law as a "Christmas Gift" to the measure's supporters. There's been significant confusion and misreporting over the measure's death penalty provision, as well as the scope of who could be targeted under the law. The U.S. State Department has warned Uganda about the measure, causing a rift between the countries.
And then, of course, there are the bill's ties to prominent members of the U.S. religious right. One such member is Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council (FRC), who in last month tweeted in support of the "Kill the Gays" bill, writing:
Perkins has previously denied supporting Uganda's "Kill the Gays" measure, while also claiming the FRC does not sanction other attempts to criminalize homosexuality. He's also a regular guest on all three cable news networks.
To see the full Equality Matters report, click here.
An Equality Matters analysis found that cable news networks' coverage of the reemergence of Uganda's proposed "Kill the Gays" bill - legislation which would make homosexuality punishable by death - has been scant over the past several weeks and paled in comparison to their coverage of the Korean pop song "Gangnam Style."
In The Atlantic, former Washington Post reporter Garrett Epps defended a federal district judge's decision to put a new California law banning "ex-gay" therapy on hold, lending credence to the shoddy claim that the law limits the free speech of therapists hoping to cure their patients of homosexuality.
California is in the midst of a legal battle over SB-1172, a law adopted in September that bans the harmful practice of "ex-gay" therapy. On December 4, U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb granted a preliminary injunction against the law, handing a victory to the plaintiffs who have argued that the law restricts the free speech of therapists.
In his December 5 article, Epps references this argument, embracing the claim that the law would prohibit therapists from even suggesting "ex-gay" therapy - also known as "sexual orientation change efforts" (SOCE) - to their patients:
At its heart, the statute forbids a therapist's communication to a patient: I think that you can change your sexual orientation and if you want to, I will help you. And thus it embodies what First Amendment lawyers call a "viewpoint-based restriction." Therapists are free to counsel patients that their gay sexual orientation is a good thing, and are free to counsel against SOCE; those who give the opposite advice face state-mandated loss of their therapists' licenses.
Epps cites Conant v. Walters, a 2002 case in which the Ninth Circuit struck down a policy that prohibited doctors from recommending medical marijuana to their patients on first amendment grounds.
But SB-1172 does not prohibit doctors from discussing or even recommending "ex-gay" therapy to their patients. It only prohibits them from performing that therapy, as the text of the law clearly states: "this bill would prohibit a mental health provider... from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts."