Major Publications Fail To Identify Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups In Transgender Policy Coverage

››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

Major news outlets have failed to label the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council -- groups praising President Donald Trump’s repeal of nondiscrimination protections for transgender students -- as anti-LGBTQ hate groups. This failure is part of a larger trend of major news outlets failing to properly identify anti-LGBTQ hate groups or acknowledge their extremism.

Trump Rescinds Protections For Transgender People

Trump Revokes Previous Department Of Education Guidance Aimed At Protecting Transgender Students. President Donald Trump “withdrew Obama-era protections for transgender students in public schools that let them use bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identity” on February 22, CNN reported, leading to condemnation from civil rights groups and praise from conservative activists. The May 2016 guidance -- jointly issued by the education and justice departments under President Barack Obama -- clarified school administrators’ obligation to ensure that “all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex,” which included allowing equitable access to restrooms and lockers rooms.” [Media Matters, 5/13/16; CNN, 2/23/17]

SPLC Designates Family Research Council And Alliance Defending Freedom As Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups 

The Southern Poverty Law Center Tracks Domestic Hate Groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describes itself as “the premier U.S. non-profit organization monitoring the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists.” The SPLC defines a hate group as a group that has “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 7/11/16, accessed 7/10/16]

SPLC Identifies Alliance Defending Freedom And Family Research Council As “Extremist” Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups. SPLC designates anti-LGBTQ organizations as “hate groups” when they engage in inflammatory, hateful name-calling, spread malicious lies and misinformation, or support the criminalization of LGBTQ people -- not because of biblical or conservative beliefs. The Alliance Defending Freedom and Family Research Council are the most prominent among the 52 active anti-LGBTQ hate groups in the United States and have been extensively profiled due to their long-standing extremism. Other anti-LGBTQ groups include the American Family Association, Westboro Baptist Church, Liberty Counsel, and the Traditional Values Coalition. [Media Matters, 2/16/17, Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/17/16, accessed 2/22/17, accessed 2/22/17]

Major Print Outlets Quoted Leaders From An Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group Without Properly Identifying It

NY Times, USA Today Failed To Label Family Research Council As A Hate Group. In articles about Trump’s revocation of protections for transgender students, The New York Times and USA Today both quoted Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), without identifying the group as a hate group. Neither the Times nor USA Today offered any description of the Family Research Council, and both papers failed to mention the group’s long-standing history of anti-LGBTQ extremism. [The New York Times, 2/22/17; USA Today, 2/22/17]

Wash. Post, AP Failed To Label Alliance Defending Freedom As A Hate Group. In coverage of the policy change, neither The Washington Post nor The Associated Press properly identified the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as a hate group. The Post labeled ADF as a “Christian legal organization,” and the AP identified it as a “conservative legal group” -- both failing to acknowledge the group's well-documented body of anti-LGBTQ work. [The Washington Post, 2/22/17; The Associated Press, 2/22/17]

Reuters Did Not Quote Any Hate Groups. In its two articles covering the policy change, Reuters did not quote any hate groups. [Reuters, 2/21/17, 2/22/17]

Print Outlets Have Long Failed To Accurately Label Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups

NY Times Failed To Identify SPLC’s Major Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups Over A Two-Year Period. From June 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016, The New York Times mentioned four out of the five profiled anti-LGBTQ hate groups that Media Matters surveyed (Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association, and Westboro Baptist Church) a total of 60 times, and it never clearly defined any of them as a current hate group. The paper most frequently labeled these hate groups as “conservative” (18 times or 30 percent of the total) or gave them no descriptor at all (14 times or 23 percent of the total). One Times article in our analysis used the hate group designation for an anti-LGBTQ group, but it also included a quote from the group, the World Congress of Families, denouncing the label. [Media Matters, 7/18/16, 7/18/16]

Wash. Post Frequently Failed to Label Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups As Such Or Explain Their Extremism. During the same two-year period of analysis, The Washington Post mentioned anti-LGBTQ hate groups 74 times, labeling them as hate groups six times (8 percent of the total). Most of the time (27 times or 37 percent of the total), the Post provided no context for the group. When it did label such groups, the paper was most likely (eight times or 11 percent of the total) to label the groups as “conservative” or contextualize them by mentioning their legal work (such as with Liberty Counsel, which represents the Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling). [Media Matters, 7/18/16]

Newspapers Ignored Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group’s Role In Supporting Trump’s Candidacy. Leading up to Trump’s address to the Values Voter Summit, an event hosted by FRC, the five highest circulated newspapers in the country failed to cover the fact that a presidential candidate was preparing to speak at a conference hosted by a hate group, alongside many anti-LGBTQ extremist leaders. When The New York Times and The Washington Post finally reported on the speaking engagement, neither mentioned FRC’s anti-LGBTQ hate group designation. [Media Matters, 9/9/16]

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