Fox News attacked efforts to restrict school bullying by describing them as attempts to limit conservative free speech and misrepresenting a study on the effectiveness of certain anti-bullying programs.
During the October 20 edition of America's News HQ, Fox's resident pro-discrimination crusader Shannon Bream invited Fox News contributor David Webb and radio host Mark Levine to discuss whether efforts to combat school bullying "suppress" conservative students' right to free speech:
Several Fox News personalities wore purple to show their support for Spirit Day, despite the network's ever-growing track record of promoting anti-LGBT bullying and fear mongering.
October 17 is Spirit Day - a day during which millions of Americans wear purple to stand against anti-LGBT bullying and show their support for bullying victims. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), which organizes the event, confirmed that Fox News had been sent information about participating in advance. And, as in 2012, a number of Fox News personalities wore purple throughout the day's broadcast.
Fox & Friends First hosts Heather Childers and Ainsley Earhardt:
Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney:
Fox Businesses Network reporter Lauren Simonetti:
Fox News contributor Gerri Willis:
Fox Nation promoted a story claiming that a transgender student was "harassing" female students in the school bathroom, citing wildly inaccurate reporting from a conservative Christian news site that has been debunked by the school's superintendent.
On October 14, Fox Nation touted an article by the Daily Mail which stated that a transgender student in at Colorado's Florence High School was "harassing female students in the girls room." According to the report:
A male student at Florence (CO) High School who claims to be transgendered has caused controversy by harassing female students in the girls room, but will not face any discipline - this despite vocal protests from the girls' parents.
According the school's superintendent, however, CBN's story is based on the complaint of a parent opposed to allowing transgender students to use appropriate bathroom facilities - not on any actual reported incidents of harassment. In an interview with The Transadvocate, Superintendent Rhonda Vendetti stated:
VENDETTI: Nothing has actually been verified with us. This is one parent basically bringing their viewpoint about this situation to the media because they weren't getting the responses that they hoped they would get from the district, from parents of students at the high school, or from the board and myself. So I think it's just an attempt to elevate the situation to a point where maybe some more attention can be drawn to that in the hope of having a different outcome. But to our knowledge and based on our investigation, none of those things have actually happened. We do have a transgender student at the high school and she has been using the women's restroom. There has not been a situation.
Vendetti's comments aren't surprising - fears about harassment or misbehavior in schools where transgender students are allowed to use appropriate school facilities have proven to be overblown.
But right-wing commentators, and especially Fox News personalities, have been desperate to promote the myth that equal treatment for transgender students will increase rates of sexual abuse in schools, even going so far as to cite their own alleged desires to harass women in restrooms. Citing a completely fabricated example of harassment as proof that their transphobic fears are justified is par for the course.
Fox News contributor Sandy Rios made several extreme anti-gay remarks during her speech at the 2013 Values Voter Summit, including calling the murder of Matthew Shepard a "total fraud" and touting the existence of "ex-gays."
Speaking at this year's Values Voters Summit on October 11, Rios, a Fox News contributor and host of American Family Radio Talk's "Sandy Rios in the Morning," repeated the right-wing myth that the brutal murder of openly gay Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard was actually motivated by drug use and not anti-gay bias. According to Huffington Post reporter Christinia Wilkie:
The Daily Caller accused President Obama of "contemptuously" allowing a government shutdown on the first day of National Bullying Prevention Month, seemingly oblivious to its own history of actively bullying LGBT teenagers.
In an October 2 article, the Daily Caller's Eric Owens attempted to blame the president for allowing the federal government shutdown in the midst of National Bullying Prevention Month, writing:
President Barack Obama contemptuously chose to allow the first federal government shutdown in almost two decades on the first day of National Bullying Prevention Month, according to a press release sent to The Daily Caller by the National Education Association (NEA).
The NEA has announced that a group of researchers, policymakers and other key players in the education industry will convene on October 8 for a summit in Washington, D.C. for a National Bullying Prevention Month summit to talk about how to prevent bullying and make schools across the country safe environments for every student.
It's not clear if the current shutdown of the federal government will have any effect on the National Bullying Prevention Month summit.
The most common form of bullying remains the spoken kind. Physical torment is also too widespread. Cyber-bullying continues to be a growing concern.
Owens' attack is just the latest in the conservative media's desperate attempt to blame Democrats and the Obama administration for the government shutdown, but it's especially perplexing given Owens' own penchant for actively bullying transgender students.
Fox News has reported on a number of alleged cases of Christian persecution in the military, relying heavily on the claims of a San Antonio pastor with a history of peddling misinformation about efforts to protect LGBT people.
On September 30, Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes published an article warning that the Air Force is "punishing evangelical Christians" - a right-wing myth he's been peddling unsuccessfully for months.
His article relied largely on statements made by Steve Branson, pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. According to Branson, persecution of Christian service members is on the rise thanks to the growing acceptance of gays and lesbians in the military:
"There is an atmosphere of intimidation at Lackland Air Force Base," said Steve Branson, the pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio. "Gay commanders and officers are pushing their agenda on the airmen. There is a culture of fear in the military and it's gone to a new level with the issue of homosexuality."
"The religious persecution is happening," the pastor said. "It's getting bigger every day. Gay and lesbian airmen can talk about their lifestyle, but the rest have to stay completely quiet about what they believe."
Starnes primarily relied on the case of Air Force Sgt. Phillip Monk, who baselessly claims he was reprimanded for opposing marriage equality despite repeated denials by the Air Force, to support this conspiracy theory.
Aside from Monk's story, Starnes' only evidence of a military-wide anti-Christian conspiracy is what Branson claimed to have been told at a private meeting with "at least 80 airmen" at his church:
Branson tells me at least 80 airmen attended a private meeting at the church where he heard them voice their concerns about religious hostilities at the Air Force base. It was a standing-room only crowd.
"They're getting mirandized several times a month - but most of the accusations never stick," Branson tells me. "Branson said he's getting email and letters from military personnel across the country - telling him their stories of religious persecution - and asking for help.
National Review Online reporter Katrina Trinko criticized mainstream media outlets for characterizing the homophobic head of Barilla Pasta as "anti-gay."
In a September 28 article titled, "The Gay-Marriage Double Standard," Trinko defended recent comments made by Barilla Chairman Guido Barilla in which he stated that he would "never" run an ad with a "homosexual family," adding "Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role." Barilla went on to say that if gay customers "don't like it, then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand."
Trinko criticized media outlets for describing Barilla's comments as "anti-gay," asserting that other anti-gay comments had failed to generate similar condemnation:
The mainstream media is giving widespread -- and negative -- coverage to comments made by pasta king Guido Barilla.
Just check out these headlines: "Italian pasta baron's anti-gay comment prompts boycott call" (Reuters); "Pasta maker Barilla under fire for anti-gay comments" (CNN Money); "Pasta Barilla boycotted after CEO's 'homophobic' remarks" (MSNBC); and "Barilla pasta executive in hot water for anti-gay comments" (New York Daily News). Even a post on the Los Angeles Times website that has a more neutral headline ("Guido Barilla says pasta maker will never show gay families in ads") goes straight for the anti-gay accusation in the first sentence: "Is Barilla pasta taking a page out of the Chick Fil-A anti-gay playbook?"
So what exactly did Barilla, who heads a huge pasta company, say that was so awful? Did he propose that gay relationships be illegal? Did he make hateful comments about gays and lesbians, like movie star Alec Baldwin, whose July homophobic tweets such as "I'm gonna find you George Stark, you toxic little queen, and I'm gonna f**k you . . . up" not only didn't get him axed from his Capital One spokesman role, but also didn't prevent him from getting hired to host an MSNBC show? No. What Barilla did was to announce that he doesn't approve of adoption by gay couples, and he doesn't plan to feature a family with gay parents in Barilla ads. That's it. In fact, Barilla even added that he supports gay marriage.
However, supporting gay marriage, but not gay adoption, isn't good enough to suit the mainstream media, which has a long history of ditching objectivity when covering LGBT issues. [emphasis added]
According to Trinko, comments can't be accurately described as "anti-gay" unless they explicitly include hate speech or call for the outright criminalization of homosexuality. It's an absurd standard, meant to whitewash the homophobic content of Barilla's statements.
In his comments, Barilla suggested that gay people aren't fit to be parents, and families headed by gay couples aren't real families. To Barilla, the mere existence of same-sex parents is so objectionable that it deserves to be censored from his company's advertising. That's not a mere disagreement about adoption policy; it's an example of clear anti-gay animus.
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.