Fox News continues to push myths about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), baselessly claiming it will undermine religious freedom. In fact, ENDA contains explicit language providing for an exemption for religious organizations from the law.
ENDA, introduced in Congress by a bipartisan group of senators and scheduled for a Senate vote as early as next week, would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. An overwhelming majority of Americans support the law, including a majority of Republicans, Catholics, and senior citizens. Small businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike support policies protecting LGBT employees.
On the October 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier introduced a segment on ENDA and stoked fears that it could endanger religious freedom, saying, "some people want religious freedom to take a backseat to another kind of freedom":
Conservative media figures are pouncing on a fallacious column suggesting that bullying has nothing to do with suicide rates among teenagers, in order to justify their long-standing campaign against anti-bullying efforts.
Writing for the Poynter Institute on October 25, Poynter faculty member Kelly McBride denounced media coverage of bullying-related suicides as "emotional linkbait." McBride argued that such stories promote "a false narrative" - that bullying can lead to suicide - "that has no scientific support":
Yet when journalists (and law enforcement, talking heads and politicians) imply that teenage suicides are directly caused by bullying, we reinforce a false narrative that has no scientific support. In doing so, we miss opportunities to educate the public about the things we could be doing to reduce both bullying and suicide.
There is no scientific evidence that bullying causes suicide. None at all. Lots of teenagers get bullied (between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 teenagers report being bullied in real life, fewer report being bullied online). Very few commit suicide. Among the people who commit suicide, researchers have no good data on how many of them have been bullied.
It is journalistically irresponsible to claim that bullying leads to suicide. Even in specific cases where a teenager or child was bullied and subsequently commits suicide, it's not accurate to imply the bullying was the direct and sole cause behind the suicide.
McBride's entire argument proceeds from the construction of a straw man. Nobody claims that bullying always causes suicide, but it's hard to ignore the finding that victims of bullying are two to nine times more likely to consider suicide, according to researchers at Yale University. Similar research has confirmed a correlation between bullying victims and suicidal behavior.
It's true, as McBride notes, that not all bullying victims kill themselves. It's also true that not every cigarette smoker dies of lung cancer, but that's hardly a compelling reason to downplay the risks of smoking.
Unfazed by the logical flaws plaguing McBride's column, right-wing pundits reacted with glee, wielding it to advance their long-running crusade against anti-bullying programs, particularly those aimed at addressing bullying of LGBT youth.
On the October 28 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh read extensively from McBride's column, concluding that bullying has been over-hyped by the media:
The New York Post lauded Stephen Jimenez as a fearless, dogged, and truth-telling reporter, ignoring the numerous substantive flaws in his new book claiming that Matthew Shepard's 1998 murder wasn't an anti-gay crime but the result of a meth deal gone awry.
In her October 28 column, the Post's Andrea Peyser effectively acted as Jimenez's stenographer, fawning over "the most dangerous journalist on earth" whose critics are irrational "protectors of Matthew Inc." Jimenez is so heroic, Peyser would have her readers believe, that he may well end up saving lives as a result of his book (emphasis added):
Stephen Jimenez didn't set out to be the most dangerous journalist on earth.
Or, more to the point, the most dangerous gay journalist.
But Jimenez unearthed a story that few people wanted to hear. And it calls into question everything you think you know about the life and death of one of the leading icons of our age.
Matthew Shepard, college student. Killed, at 21, for being gay.
Or was he?
Jimenez's "The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard," out last month, challenges every cultural myth surrounding Shepard's short life and unspeakable death. After some 13 years of digging, including interviews with more than 100 sources, including Shepard's killers, Jimenez makes a radioactive suggestion:
The grisly murder, 15 years ago this month, was no hate crime.
Shepard's tragic and untimely demise may not have been fueled by his sexual orientation, but by drugs. For Shepard had likely agreed to trade methamphetamines for sex. And it killed him.
Why dredge this up now? Jimenez's answer surprised me.
"As a gay man," he said, "I felt it was a moral thing to do."
Activists, journalists, politicians and filmmakers who, with the best of intentions, based careers on Shepard's murder are furious. But Jimenez insists he's willing to trade Shepard's irreproachable image for a serious talk about drugs. Meth, he said, is haunting the gay scene, bringing with it a plague of ultra-violence, new HIV infection -- and gay-bashing.
If this book saves one life, it's worth it.
I find it offensive that a gay journalist should be held to a different standard than a straight one. But Jimenez's every word has been vetted by protectors of Matthew Inc. to determine his agenda. Is he a traitor to the cause?
Jimenez is not the enemy. He's just a man who told an uncomfortable truth, as he saw it.
He should be proud.
Media Research Center (MRC) President Brent Bozell slammed Hollywood for including too many gay characters in television programs and films, lamenting that gay characters "never face any real opposition to the gay agenda on these so-called 'inclusive' programs."
In an October 25 column for TownHall.com, Bozell criticized the LGBT advocacy group GLAAD's efforts to track the number of LGBT characters in television programs. Bozell mocked GLAAD for throwing a "tantrum" over the lack of LGBT characters on many networks, asserting that the group wants "children indoctrinated," because apparently it's "propaganda" to expose them to LGBT characters on their shows (emphasis added):
These cultural trend-enforcers went after the movies this summer, complaining that out of the 101 film releases by the major studios in the 2012 calendar year, "only 14 films contained characters identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual. There were no films containing transgender characters."
In the 2012-13 TV season, GLAAD found a record number of LGBT characters -- 4.4 percent, or at least double their actual percentage of the population. Fox was honored for having these characters in 42 percent of their programming hours -- although that wasn't enough for "Excellent" status, merely "Good."
There's no wonder that a Gallup poll in 2011 found that on average, American adults estimate that 25 percent of Americans are homosexual. They're getting that crazy idea from TV.
They want children indoctrinated as well. GLAAD is also not shy when it comes to Teen Nick, Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel. Apparently, children also desperately need the propaganda of gay characters in 42 percent of programming hours. They're extremely happy with the liberalism of "ABC Family" and have relayed that Disney Channel executives promised GLAAD they will "introduce LGBT characters in an episode of its original series 'Good Luck Charlie' set to air in 2014, a first for the network." The first of many, they expect.
Here's the catch: Gay characters never face any real opposition to the gay agenda on these so-called "inclusive" programs. There is no measure of Orthodox religious inclusion and no real debates. The victory of the left is assumed without thinking. When a conservative character is created -- like Ellen Barkin's "Nana" in "The New Normal" -- it's a vicious cartoon, the kind that those "against defamation" folks deeply enjoy.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes urged listeners to donate money to two anti-gay hate groups that routinely accuse gay men of being pedophiles.
The Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA) are two of the most extreme anti-gay hate groups in American politics. They regularly peddle smears about LGBT people, including the myths that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia and are responsible for the Holocaust. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC):
Together, the Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association (AFA) may comprise the most important anti-gay lobby in this country... The FRC and the AFA are certainly among the most powerful groups on the American religious right.
They are also among the chief purveyors of lies about LGBT people. They have both regularly pumped out propaganda asserting that gay men molest children at far higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts -- a claim that has been debunked by virtually all the recognized scientific authorities in the field. The FRC has claimed that gay activists "work to normalize sex with boys," seek to "abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the 'prophets' of a new sexual order," and support anti-bullying programs solely in order to promote homosexuality. The AFA has declared that "homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler ... the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews," suggested that gay sex be punished like heroin use, and said that the "homosexual agenda" endangers "every fundamental right" in the Constitution, including religious freedom. Both groups have enthusiastically promoted "reparative therapy," which claims against the bulk of the evidence that it can "cure" gay men and lesbians and make them heterosexual, but in fact has left a string of people behind who were badly hurt by the process. [emphasis added]
On the October 23 edition of FRC's Washington Watch radio program, FRC president Tony Perkins invited Starnes on to once again falsely accuse the military of persecuting Christian groups because of their opposition to homosexuality. At the end of the segment, Starnes - who has acted as a de facto mouth piece for AFA and FRC on Fox - encouraged listener to "pick up that phone and throw a few dollars into the cause" by donating to the notorious anti-gay groups:
STARNES: Tony, I want to thank American Family Radio. This is a share-a-thon.There's a reason why we need groups like Family Research Council, why we need folks like American Family Radio. Get the word out there, airing my daily commentaries. So folks, pick up that phone and throw a few dollars into the cause.
This isn't the first time a Fox News employee has solicited donations for an anti-gay group. In August, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson encouraged his supporters to give money to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group working to criminalize homosexuality abroad.
Janet Mefferd has become one of talk radio's most relentless purveyors of homophobia, using her eponymous program to provide a platform to fringe anti-LGBT activists and to spout her own bigoted, occasionally conspiracy-minded views.
Billed as a "distinctively Christ-centered" host, Mefferd came to talk radio after a career in print journalism, during which she wrote for newspapers including Chicago's Southtown Economist and The Dallas Morning News.
After Mefferd had worked in Christian radio for two decades, Salem Radio Network syndicated The Janet Mefferd Show in 2010. Her show - touted by Salem as "mainstream, faith-based Christian radio"- is heard on more than 100 stations nationwide. Mefferd has scored such prominent conservative guests as businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, National Organization for Marriage (NOM) President Brian Brown, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).
Despite Salem's avowals about Mefferd's "mainstream" credentials, her show routinely serves as a welcoming forum for the nation's most extreme anti-LGBT activists and hate group leaders to spew venom and misinformation.
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:
Author Stephen Jimenez claims that he doesn't want his book, The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard, to be used by right-wing media figures to "score political points." So why is he promoting his book on one of the most extreme anti-gay radio shows in the country?
The September publication of Jimenez's book revived the right-wing media's obsession with Matthew Shepard trutherism, allowing anti-LGBT commentators to seize on the book to assail hate crime laws and describe the problem of anti-gay violence as a fake crisis.
During an October 7 interview with radio host John Quinlan on Forward Forum, Jimenez proclaimed that he "completely" disagreed with the agenda of his right-wing supporters, calling it "frustrating" to witness "people attempting to score political points with the book":
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 News Radio reporter Todd Starnes continued to shill for the extremist American Family Association (AFA), allowing the anti-gay hate group to bill itself as "a mainstream, evangelical, pro-family group" and baselessly asserting that the military is waging a campaign of "retribution and reprisals" against conservative soldiers who support the AFA.
In an October 15 column for FoxNews.com, Starnes assailed the U.S. Army for including the AFA in a presentation on domestic hate groups. Much as he did in an appearance on Fox & Friends earlier on October 15, Starnes whitewashed the AFA's record of anti-gay hate, describing the organization as a "well-respected Christian ministry" that simply supports "traditional family values" (emphasis added):
The Pentagon has admitted that information used in an Army briefing that labeled the American Family Association (AFA) as a domestic hate group was not acquired from official sources and does not reflect Army doctrine.
Meanwhile, the president of the well-respected Christian ministry says his organization may file a defamation lawsuit against the military.
"We are probably going to be taking legal action," said Tim Wildmon, president of one of the nation's most prominent Christian ministries. "The Army has smeared us. They've defamed the American Family Association."
The AFA was listed alongside domestic hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam during a briefing last week at Camp Shelby in Mississippi.
A soldier who attended the briefing recently sent me a photograph of a slideshow presentation that listed AFA as a domestic hate group because of their support of traditional family values and their opposition to homosexuality.
"For a taxpayer-funded organization like the military to use a politically-motivated group's hate group list is problematic," Wildmon said. "One way or another, we're going to get this changed."
And he strongly rejects accusations that AFA is a hate group.
"We are a mainstream, evangelical, pro-family group," he said. "We don't hate anybody. We have strong feelings on moral values. We oppose the gay and lesbian social and political agenda. We always have. We always will, but that doesn't mean we hate anyone."
Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis at the American Family Association (AFA), praised Fox News for its "very friendly" coverage of his organization, which has been designated an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
On the October 15 edition of American Family Radio's Focal Point, Fischer lauded the network for providing Fox News Radio reporter and hate group mouthpiece Todd Starnes a "very friendly venue" to attack a military training session on domestic hate groups, including the AFA:
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.
The appellate attorney who represented an accomplice in the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard assailed author Stephen Jimenez's book suggesting that Shepard's murder was fueled by meth, not anti-gay hate.
In a statement provided to Equality Matters, attorney Tim Newcomb - whom Jimenez lists as a source in The Book of Matt - responded to Jimenez's claim in a recent interview that Newcomb's criticism of the book is invalid because Newcomb was an appellate attorney and not involved in the Shepard case from the beginning. As a longtime resident of Laramie, the small college town where Shepard was brutally murdered, Newcomb said in his statement that unlike Jimenez, he has a long-standing familiarity with the tight-knight community:
Unlike the author, who visited Laramie from New York a year and a half [after Shepard's murder], I was an attorney living in Laramie, and had been for several years, when Matthew was murdered. I mention that only because Laramie has few people and we tend to know of each other. Hidden truths behind notorious crimes are as rare as windless winters.
Moreover, as the appellate attorney for Russell Henderson, Aaron McKinney's accomplice in Shepard's killing, Newcomb dealt with one of Jimenez's apparent sources, who claimed to know the "hidden truths" in the murder. In his statement, Newcomb described how -- like many of Jimenez's other sources -- this man put forth multiple shifting stories, including the theory that Shepard's murder wasn't motivated by homophobia:
Fox News whitewashed the record of the anti-gay hate group the American Family Association (AFA), falsely claiming an army training that highlighted the group's attacks on gay marriage was targeting Christians and "traditional" values.
On October 15, Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes attacked a military training session in Mississippi on domestic hate groups that included the AFA, calling the training "anti-Christian activity." Co-host Steve Doocy claimed the AFA was a "well-established, traditional Christian ministry," that simply "opposes gay marriage." Starnes concluded by falsely claiming that the military was targeting Christian groups exclusively, despite the fact that an on-air graphic identified the Nation of Islam as one of several groups the military presentation identified.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designated AFA as a hate group for promoting anti-gay attacks that harm individuals and threaten human rights. According to the SPLC (emphasis added):
The AFA has declared that "homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler ... the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews," suggested that gay sex be punished like heroin use, and said that the "homosexual agenda" endangers "every fundamental right" in the Constitution, including religious freedom. Both [the AFA and the Family Research Council] have enthusiastically promoted "reparative therapy," which claims against the bulk of the evidence that it can "cure" gay men and lesbians and make them heterosexual, but in fact has left a string of people behind who were badly hurt by the process.
Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association's unofficial spokesman and the group's director of issues analysis, has previously called on the government to prohibit mosques from being built anywhere in the United States, suggested "the most compassionate thing" America can do is deport all Muslims, and wrote that "gay sex is a form of domestic terrorism."
The American Family Association has also enthusiastically endorsed Russian President Vladimir Putin's draconian anti-gay laws, with Fischer stating that the country isn't being homophobic but "homorealistic."
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: