Fox News launched an aggressive campaign to smear a California law that would protect transgender public school students from discrimination. And because the network's coverage of the law lacked commentary from experts or actual transgender people, Fox's commentators were able to manufacture wild horror stories based largely on transphobic misinformation.
On August 12, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed a law that would prohibit public schools from barring transgender students access to school facilities and athletic teams that correspond to their gender identity. In the days before and after the bill was signed into law, Fox News commentators peddled a number of baseless attacks on the measure:
Fox's fear mongering was based on several flawed right-wing talking points about the law, including the claim that male students would pretend to be transgender to sneak into the girls' bathroom and the assertion that students are too young to understand gender identity issues.
Any of these myths could have been easily dispelled had Fox invited an expert on transgender issues - or even an actual living, breathing transgender person - to discuss the law. Instead, Fox relied on its commentators to make their own judgments about the measure based on their personal opinions and biases.
In statements to Media Matters, experts on transgender equality condemned Fox's one-sided coverage of the story.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, warned that Fox's slanted coverage "contributes to violence and harassment trans young people already face in restrooms":
They don't seem to want to understand trans people. And I don't know what Fox News thinks transgender people do in restrooms, but their obsession with it is a bit creepy. Fox News' coverage of AB1266 is another example of their long record of using outdated fears of trans people to manipulate fair minded viewers. Their insistence on representing us this way contributes to the violence and harassment trans young people already face in restrooms.
Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, criticized Fox's "dangerously uninformed commentary," saying:
Transgender youth and others who don't fit into narrow gender stereotypes too-often experience bigotry and bullying at school. Now our youth are being subjected to dangerously uninformed commentary from media outlets like Fox "News" who are belittling vulnerable students who just want be themselves and succeed at school. Unfortunately we know that suicide rates among our youth, and violence against our community, skyrockets when anti-gay and anti-transgender sentiments dominate the media. Right now, we need all fair-minded Americans to speak up in support of transgender youth so that they can see there are people out there who love and support them. Creating a culture where it is both unpopular and rare for transgender youth to be bullied, beaten or belittled will free all people to live their lives fully and authentically.
To learn more about Fox News' transphobia problem, click here.