Right-wing media responded with mockery, disrespect, and sarcasm after Vanity Fair released a preview of its July cover story featuring Caitlyn Jenner.
The Associated Press violated its own guidelines for how to refer to transgender people in a voyeuristic report about former Olympian and reality television star Caitlyn Jenner's appearance on next month's cover of Vanity Fair.
On June 1, Vanity Fair released a preview of its July issue cover story, headlined, "Call Me Caitlyn." The story is Jenner's public debut as Caitlyn following a highly-watched television interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer in which Jenner, who still identified then as Bruce, announced that she is transgender and detailed her experiences hiding her gender identity while appearing on the popular reality show, "Keeping Up With The Kardashians." The Vanity Fair story says Caitlyn Jenner now wishes to be referred to as a woman.
In its report on the Vanity Fair cover, the Associated Press violated its own guidelines on how to report on transgender people, which state that trans people should be identified by their preferred pronouns. Instead, the AP story refers to Jenner as a male and calls her Bruce. The report also objectifies Jenner by describing her as wearing "va-va-voom fashion" and highlighting her "ample cleavage:"
Bruce Jenner made his debut as a transgender woman in a va-va-voom fashion in the July issue of Vanity Fair.
"Call me Caitlyn," declares a headline on the cover, with a photo of a long-haired Jenner in a strapless corset, legs crossed, sitting on a stool. The image was shot by famed celeb photographer Annie Leibovitz. Prior to the unveiling of Caitlyn, Jenner had said he prefers the pronoun "he," but Vanity Fair contributing editor Buzz Bissinger, who wrote the accompanying story, refers to "she."
Jenner debuted a new Twitter account as well with: "I'm so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can't wait for you to get to know her/me." In about 45 minutes, the account had more than 180,000 followers.
According to the magazine, which took to Twitter with the cover Monday, Jenner spoke emotionally about her gender journey: "If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, 'You just blew your entire life.'"
In addition to the corset, Vanity Fair released a black-and-white video on the making of the cover. It shows Jenner getting her hair done and posing in a long, off-the-shoulder gown with ample cleavage. [emphasis added]
From the May 27 edition of USA Radio Networks' Steve Deace Show:
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Fox News largely ignored the controversy surrounding Josh Duggar following his recent admission that, as a teenager, he molested young girls, including several of his sisters. The revelations are particularly stunning given that, under the guise of protecting children, the Duggar family has played an active role in the fight against LGBT equality.
On May 21, In Touch magazine revealed that in 2006, Jim Bob Duggar - patriarch of TLC's hit show 19 Kids and Counting - had waited more than a year before telling police that his son, Josh, had confessed to molesting several female minors, including his sisters, when he was a teenager. TLC has since pulled episodes of 19 Kids from its schedule.
The revelations drew widespread criticism in the media, with many outlets pointing out the Duggar family's reputation as a torch-bearer for conservative values and strong involvement in Republican politics and anti-LGBT activism. The revelations look to many like hypocrisy from a family that's become a political powerhouse in socially conservative circles in recent years by wielding its reality show influence to stump for "family values," Republican politicians, and the repeal of legal protections for LGBT people.
But while MSNBC and CNN have reported heavily on the Duggar scandal, Fox News has largely ignored the story. According to a Media Matters analysis, Fox News spent less than two minutes covering the story between May 21 and May 25, compared to almost an hour of coverage from the other cable news networks.
During the May 24 broadcast of Media Buzz, Fox News' media critic Howard Kurtz even criticized other media outlets for "piling on" by highlighting the Duggar family's ties to prominent Republican politicians:
Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson's regular interviews with White House hopefuls each presidential election season have turned him into something of a kingmaker, despite his record of pushing conservative misinformation, Islamophobia, and anti-gay views.
From the May 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox News' Shannon Bream relied on a hate group's unsubstantiated talking points to stoke fears that churches could lose their tax exempt status if a Supreme Court ruling finds that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Bream has repeatedly relied on rhetoric from discredited anti-LGBT groups to peddle bogus and misleading information about issues related to LGBT equality.
On the May 6 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News' Supreme Court correspondent Shannon Bream highlighted an exchange during oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that will determine the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage. During the exchange, Justice Samuel Alito asked U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli whether religious colleges would be able to keep their tax-exempt status if the bans are found unconstitutional and they continue to oppose same-sex marriage. Verrilli said although he didn't know all the specifics, "It's certainly going to be an issue":
Anti-gay conservatives are criticizing CBS News' Bob Schieffer for correctly identifying one of his guests as the president of an anti-gay "hate group," accusing him of "anti-Christian bias" for doing so. The outrage over Schieffer's disclosure highlights why it's so important for the media to hold extremists accountable for their views when they appear.
During the April 26 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, Schieffer invited Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), to discuss the Supreme Court's upcoming oral arguments on marriage equality. Schieffer began the interview by noting that FRC has been listed as an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and citing critics who argue that Perkins' extreme views don't represent the views of most Christians:
SCHIEFFER: I'm going to start with probably the most vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and that is Tony Perkins. He is the president of the Family Research Council. And, Mister Perkins, I'm going to say this to you upfront. You and your group have been so strong in coming out against this -- and against gay marriage -- that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group. We have been inundated by people who say we should not even let you appear because they, in their view, quote, "You don't speak for Christians." Do you think you have taken this too far?
Media outlets have relied on numerous legal scholars to downplay fears that controversial "religious freedom" bills in states like Indiana and Arizona could result in anti-LGBT discrimination. But underneath their credentials, many of these supposedly neutral experts harbor their own anti-LGBT agendas.
In March, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) sparked widespread criticism when he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law, a measure that could create a legal defense for business owners to refuse service to gay customers by citing their religious beliefs.
A group of legal scholars sent a letter to Gov. Pence endorsing RFRA during the debate over the law, basing their support on "many years of teaching and scholarship on the law of religious freedom." Several of the signees authored a similar letter during the debate over Arizona's proposed license-to-discriminate law in early 2014, which would have similarly permitted anti-LGBT discrimination in business and employment.
Media outlets have frequently cited these letters and their signees to suggest that fears about "religious freedom" laws might be overblown - but these legal scholars aren't impartial observers. Several have deep ties to the anti-LGBT groups that helped orchestrate the push for these "religious freedom" laws, while others have marked histories of attacking LGBT equality.
Robin Fretwell Wilson is a law professor at University of Illinois and has been cited by The New York Times, USA Today, PolitiFact, The Boston Globe, and Chicago Tribune in discussions of religious exemptions.
She also has ties to extremist anti-LGBT organizations - Wilson is a member of the Virginia Marriage Commission, formed by the Family Foundation of Virginia which advocates for the notion that "marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman, an institution of God and a foundation for civil society." She's helped author letters to lawmakers in over a dozen states proposing "strong religious-liberty protections for conscientious objectors" of marriage equality, testified in favor of adding exemptions for religious exemptions to Washington, DC's marriage equality bill, and supported RFRA laws in both Arizona and Indiana.
One of Wilson's colleagues at the Family Foundation of Virginia is reportedly Maggie Gallagher, former President of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM). The Foundation also partners with other extremist anti-LGBT groups, with ties to the hate group the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and the Alliance Defending Freedom - the group leading the fight for RFRAs across the country.
Harvard Law professor and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon has a long history of extreme anti-gay rhetoric and ties to radical anti-LGBT organizations. She was the first signee listed on the February 2014 letter defending the Arizona's expanded "religious freedom" law.
In 2011, Glendon helped author a letter warning that voting for marriage equality would be a "grave" and "inadvisable step" for members of the New York legislature. She's called marriage equality a "radical social experiment" and warned that "children will have to be taught about homosexual sex" in "marriage-preparation" classes and fear mongered about the threat posed by "alternative family forms."
For years Glendon has presented marriage equality as fundamentally incompatible with religion, writing in The Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):
Every person and every religion that disagrees [with same-sex marriage] will be labeled as bigoted and openly discriminated against. The ax will fall most heavily on religious persons and groups that don't go along. Religious institutions will be hit with lawsuits if they refuse to compromise their principles.
A vocal opponent of LGBT equality, Glendon serves on the advisory board for the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a project of the Alliance Defending Freedom, the same group that helped craft Arizona's license-to-discriminate law.
Perhaps due to her virulently anti-LGBT alliances and rhetoric, Glendon is less frequently cited a source of legitimacy for anti-gay legislation. But as Douglas NeJaime notes in the California Law Review, her views persist through Robin Fretwell Wilson, mentioned above, who in "a recent volume of essays ... ratchet[ed] down the rhetoric used by Glendon but nonetheless affirm[ed] the unique relationship between same-sex marriage and threats to religious freedom."
Helen Alvaré is a law professor at George Mason University School of Law who actively opposes same-sex marriage and has even edited a book advocating for "ex-gay" conversion therapy.
Alvaré was another signee on the Arizona RFRA letter and testified in support of Kansas's 2013 RFRA at an informational hearing called following the controversy surrounding Arizona's license-to-discriminate law.
In a 2013 radio appearance for the anti-LGBT group Focus on the Family, Alvaré declared that gays need to be told that "marriage is not in the cards for you." She has written multiple essays advocating against same-sex marriage, arguing that marriage equality proponents are "destroying the poor, the uneducated, and the formation of their family lives."
In 2012, Alvaré published a book Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves, which features a chapter by Dr. Michelle Cretella, who is on the board of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, an organization that advocates for dangerous "ex-gay" conversion therapy. The chapter, "Who Am I? Psychology, Faith, and Same-Sex Attraction," discusses the "condition of experiencing same-sex attraction," argues that childhood sexual abuse is a contributing factor "for many individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction," and advocates for "changes to same-sex attraction."
Alvaré runs the organization Women Speak for Themselves, which has gathered over 41,000 signatures from women in support of RFRA legislation.
Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, is a notorious advocate against LGBT rights who has pledged to defy "man-made law" to follow "God's law" in the face of marriage equality.
GLAAD has profiled George as a "well-connected scholar and professor with anti-gay ideology" and documented his history of anti-LGBT activism, including (emphasis added) how he:
- Decried the NY marriage vote by looking back to a time when being gay was "beneath the dignity of human beings as free and rational creatures."
- Argued that gay relationships have "no intelligible basis in them for the norms of monogamy, exclusivity, and the pledge of permanence."
- Says he and his allies will defy "man-made law" that conflicts with their view on "God's law"
A 2009 profile of George in The New York Times described him as the "reigning brain of the Christian right," and a respected range of academic journals and national media outlets have given him a platform. As his biography notes:
Professor Robert George's articles and review essays have appeared in the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Columbia Law Review, the University of Chicago Law Review, the Review of Politics, the Review of Metaphysics, and the American Journal of Jurisprudence. He has also written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, First Things, the Boston Review, and the Times Literary Supplement.
Michael McConnell is a professor at Stanford University Law, a former circuit judge and potential Supreme Court nominee under George W. Bush. McConnell signed his support for both the Arizona and Indiana RFRA letters, and has a history of portraying LGBT-rights activists as bullies who silence any "dissenters."
McConnell supports "efforts to limit congressional authority to protect civil rights ... weakening both statutory and constitutional protections against discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation," according to a 2005 report from People for the American Way.
The report documented McConnell's radical re-interpretation of the First Amendment, which would "substantially weaken the separation of church and state, give preferential treatment to religion, and authorize direct government funding of religion." For example:
McConnell criticized [a decision upholding the application of LGBT protections] because it allegedly "forced" on the university the "acceptance of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle." According to McConnell, this was the equivalent of forcing Jim Crow laws on Berea College in 1908. This was despite the fact that McConnell has agreed that public high schools should provide equal access to their facilities to gay rights groups. In other words, a non-government organization's preferences should once again trump anti-discrimination laws.
McConnell's views in this area are eerily reminiscent of much of the opposition in the 1950s and 1960s to civil rights laws. Integration was morally wrong, argued opponents, and those moral objections should prevail over court rulings and anti-bias laws.
The New York Times recently cited McConnell in an article on marriage equality, in which he argued that lawyers who oppose a constitutional right to same-sex marriage have been "bullied into silence," saying "the level of sheer desire to crush dissent is pretty unprecedented ... You're going to shut up, particularly if you don't care that much ... I usually just keep it to myself."
Robert P. George was previously identified as a "law professor" at Princeton. He is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton. The post has been updated accordingly.
An editorial writer for The Dallas Morning News offered an embarrassing defense for not bothering to correctly identify transgender people, arguing that widely accepted journalistic guidelines for talking about the transgender community are "confusing" and "misinform[s] the public."
In a May 4 column in The Dallas Morning News, editorial writer Tod Robberson criticized The New York Times and Associated Press for recognizing "the gender preference of transgenders in news copy." According to Robberson, identifying trans people using the pronouns they prefer "distort[s] the truth" in order to embrace "the politically correct transgender language of the day":
The New York Times and Associated Press, among other news organizations, have decided that they will recognize the gender preference of transgenders in news copy. Which is to say, when a male who has yet to undergo gender reassignment surgery nevertheless calls himself a female and is the subject of a news story, he will be identified as a female in all references.
See how confusing that gets? What is the actual, at-birth gender of the person we're talking about? And what gender will the person be identified as, once reassignment surgery is completed? Who knows?
There is a serious ethical discussion in this issue that we in journalism never really had. The orders came down from on high one day, and everyone just sort of jumped on board without questioning the implications. The first ethical issue is whether we journalists distort the truth by embracing the politically correct transgender language of the day.
Like it or not, the use of he/she, her/him, his/hers in print is a grammatical and journalistic necessity. We can't avoid it. But in doing so, choosing the correct word shouldn't be an option selected out of a sense of inclusion or demonstration of open mindedness about sexual identity. Our only choice must be to use the correct words to accurately and truthfully report the news.
From the May 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the May 1 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is again raising conservative media talking points in court, advancing the debunked idea that the definition of marriage has remained unchanged for a "millennia."
On April 28, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that will determine whether state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. During arguments, the conservative justices, including Scalia, expressed concern about "redefining" the institution of marriage to include gay couples. In one exchange with Mary Bonauto, the lawyer representing the same-sex plaintiffs, Scalia wondered if it was appropriate for the court to "decide it for this society" since marriage has applied only to heterosexual couples "for millennia."
The idea that the definition of marriage has had a fixed tradition or definition "for millennia" is untrue, although right-wing media have pushed that notion in varying forms for years -- and Scalia's propensity for embracing right-wing talking points is well-known. In 2012, he repeated the idea that if the Affordable Care Act was upheld, the federal government might be allowed to force Americans to buy broccoli -- an argument borrowed from Rush Limbaugh's talk show. Earlier this year, Scalia claimed that if the court struck down the availability of health care subsidies, Congress would move quickly to fix the problem -- apparently convinced by right-wing media's false claims that Senate Republicans had a viable back-up plan if the court hobbled the Affordable Care Act. When the Supreme Court struck down Arizona's notorious anti-immigrant racial profiling law in 2012, Scalia dispensed with legal arguments to instead attack the unrelated deferred action program for DREAMers and scaremonger that the "state's citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants." Professor Jeffrey Rosen of George Washington University said Scalia's commentary in that case "sound[ed] more like a conservative blogger or Fox News pundit than a justice."
National Review Online is calling on the Supreme Court to uphold states' rights to ban same-sex marriage because, in its view, recognizing marriage equality would redefine the institution to favor lesser "emotional unions" and adopted children over married procreation.
On April 28, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that could finally allow same-sex couples to marry in every state or, at minimum, require states that ban same-sex marriage to recognize the legality of same-sex marriages performed legally elsewhere. During arguments, Mary Bonauto, the lawyer representing the same-sex couples challenging state marriage bans, asserted that such bans "contravene the basic constitutional commitment to equal dignity" and that "the abiding purpose of the 14th Amendment is to preclude relegating classes of persons to second-tier status."
Several justices were receptive to Bonauto's argument, including conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is widely expected to cast the deciding vote in the case.
But NRO is less convinced. In an April 28 editorial, the editors called on the justices to "refrain from taking [the] reckless step" of recognizing that the fundamental right to marry should be extended to gay couples. The editorial also rejected the idea that gay couples who can't get married are routinely denied the same dignity that "traditional" married couples enjoy, and argued that the "older view" of marriage -- which prioritizes "the type of sexual behavior that often gives rise to children" -- is "rationally superior to the newer one":
An older view of marriage has steadily been losing ground to a newer one, and that process began long before the debate over same-sex couples. On the older understanding, society and, to a lesser extent, the government needed to shape sexual behavior -- specifically, the type of sexual behavior that often gives rise to children -- to promote the well-being of those children. On the newer understanding, marriage is primarily an emotional union of adults with an incidental connection to procreation and children.
We think the older view is not only unbigoted, but rationally superior to the newer one. Supporters of the older view have often said that it offers a sure ground for resisting polygamy while the newer one does not. But perhaps the more telling point is that the newer view does not offer any strong rationale for having a social institution of marriage in the first place, let alone a government-backed one.
From the April 29 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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