As the Boy Scouts prepare to vote on whether to change the organization's ban on openly gay members, news outlets should resist the urge to let anti-gay activists frame the debate around concerns about pedophilia and sexual abuse.
On May 23, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) will vote on a proposal that would rescind the organization's ban on openly gay scouts but maintain a ban on gay adults serving in leadership positions.
The "compromise" proposal is clearly meant to assuage right-wing fears that openly gay scout leaders might engage in pedophilia - a fear that was given plenty of airtime in February when the BSA first considered changing its policy:
But the compromise proposal hasn't silenced anti-gay groups like the American Family Association (AFA) and Family Research Council (FRC), which continue to warn that allowing gay people into the BSA would increase the risk of inappropriate sexual behavior and sexual abuse. OnMyHonor.net, one of the groups leading the effort against the compromise proposal, lists sexual abuse as one of its primary concerns about accepting gay scouts (emphasis in original):
Based upon personal and candid conversations with BSA officials at the highest levels, the BSA is fully aware that this proposed resolution will absolutely increase the risk of boy-on-boy sexual contact in Scouting... Enacting this resolution will result in more ugly litigation and will further the public scandal to the BSA, not to mention the tragedy of countless boys who will experience sexual, physical and psychological abuse.
The "gays are pedophiles" talking point, of course, has been widely debunked by child welfare experts and has no basis in reality. Even the BSA acknowledges that the threat of sexual abuse by gay members is a myth, stating:
[T]he BSA makes no connection between the sexual abuse or victimization of a child and homosexuality. The BSA takes strong exception to this assertion. Some of the nation's leading experts reinforce this position.
The BSA has stringent polices that protect the safety and privacy of youth and adult members and has always worked to ensure that it is a supportive and safe environment for young people.
But this consensus from child welfare experts apparently wasn't enough to stop mainstream media outlets from obsessively debating the homosexuality-pedophilia connection in February. On Fox News, for example, discussions of pedophilia tainted more than two-thirds of the network's coverage of the Boy Scouts' ban:
When the BSA votes on its compromise proposal, media outlets should refuse to allow anti-gay activists - many of whom have histories of extreme anti-gay commentary - to hijack their coverage in order to peddle damaging and discredited smears about gay people.
Fox News chose to ignore the historic passage of marriage equality in Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota, opting instead to promote a handful of asinine horror stories about same-sex marriage.
Fox News viewers are likely unaware that three states - Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota -voted to legalize same-sex marriage over the past three weeks. That's because Fox News spent a total of one minute covering the stories, according to an Equality Matters analysis:
While CNN and MSNBC both covered the developments, Fox News made only three mentions of the passage of marriage equality in Rhode Island, entirely ignoring the new law in Delaware.
Fox News spent one minute covering the historic legalization of same-sex marriage in Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota over the past several weeks. According to an Equality Matters analysis, the network completely ignored the passage of marriage equality legislation in Delaware and made only passing mentions of Rhode Island and Minnesota's new marriage laws.
The crew at Fox & Friends can't handle the fact that government documents are beginning to acknowledge same-sex couples, blaming the "P.C. Police" for new, gay-inclusive language on federal student aid forms.
In April, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it would be making minor changes to the language used on its Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to recognize families headed by same-sex couples, including replacing the terms "Mother/Stepmother" and "Father/Stepfather" with the terms "Parent 1 (father/mother/stepparent)" and "Parent 2 (father/mother/stepparent)."
During the May 10 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy criticized the change, warning that "the P.C. police are loose in the federal government":
As the Fox & Friends crew struggled to think of reasons to criticize the language change - like co-host Gretchen Carlson's concern that parents will "start fighting over which one is 1 and which one is 2" -- Fox's chyron displayed several headlines suggesting that the new language somehow punished heterosexual parents:
Later in the show, the Fox & Friends crew returned to the subject, again displaying a "P.C. police" graphic and airing viewer complaints about the language change, including one comment that a couple is "now having a domestic dispute" because they can't agree on which parent should be deemed "#1":
In reality, the minor change in FAFSA language is a "fair, effective, and efficient" way to reduce bias that discriminates against students raised in same-sex households who seek financial aid to fund their college education. Fox's outrage over such a common sense change is just the latest example of the network's inability (or unwillingness) to accept and recognize same-sex relationships.
Breitbart.com is promoting the theory that Hitler was secretly gay, playing into one of the most extreme and damaging anti-gay smears in right-wing politics: that gay men were responsible for the Holocaust.
In a May 9 post, Breitbart.com touted "new evidence" that Hitler was gay, citing a Washington Examiner article that highlighted notes taken from interviews with several of Hitler's doctors. The "evidence" of Hitler's alleged homosexuality includes the claims that Hitler took female hormones and did not sleep in the same bedroom as his girlfriend and eventual wife, Eva Braun:
There is new evidence that Adolph Hitler was gay. Doctors who treated Hitler were interviewed by the U.S. Army after World War II, and the notes from those interviews have now been made public.
Army interrogator Herman Merl, who was a medical technician who interviewed Hitler's doctors, Karl Brandt and Hitler's primary physician, Theodor Morell, wrote "Homosex" in the space provided for Hitler's sexuality. The doctors told Merl that Hitler did not sleep with girlfriend Eva Braun in her bedroom, and he himself received female hormones. Merl wrote, "Eva Braun = separate rooms" and "female hormone - injection 50,000 units." He added, "His sexual life and intercourse with Eva Braun was told to me."
The theory that Hitler was secretly gay isn't new in right-wing circles - anti-gay extremists like Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association have been making similar claims for years. In fact, the "Hitler was gay" claim is part of a broader anti-gay smear which posits that gay men were responsible for the Holocaust and that Hitler intentionally sought out homosexuals for his "inner circle" because their "unusual brutality" made them well-suited to carry out mass genocide.
That myth has been widely debunked, of course, and the reality is that gay people were the victims, not the perpetrators, of the Holocaust.
Breitbart.com's post, with its blaring headline and ominous picture, continues a long tradition in right-wing media of grasping at straws to suggest some link between homosexuality and one of worst human rights atrocities in history.
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones went on a rambling, transphobic rant during his radio show, warning that protecting the rights of transgender people will cause them to start "vomiting and crapping all over the place."
During the April 30 edition of his radio show, Jones launched a screed against the "globalist mafia," which he blamed for efforts to reduce discrimination against transgender people. After claiming that he isn't bothered by transgender people - but that their "fake rights" don't exist - Jones warned that "transvestites" would "throw up all over the walls" in public bathrooms. He continued by peddling a number of outrageous, damaging stereotypes about transgender people:
JONES: They're saying in high schools, in junior highs now, they're going to have - men can decide to be in the women's bathroom if they want. You're like 'well big deal, that's their gender.' It's all about these fake rights that don't exist versus my basic liberty being taken. It's not that I'm against people that think they're a woman or a man or whatever. I don't even care. Give me a break. It's not even on my radar screen. I could care less. I care about people.
I dealt at Access TV with a famous Austin transvestite, who died a few years ago, who they're talking about building a statue to, going in the bathroom, men and women, and vomiting all over the walls when they would do whatever they were doing in there. I mean, I'm talking about several transvestites cramming their way into the men's bathroom, the women's bathroom. You'd go in there to comb your hair before you went on air, there they were. And they finally got thrown out of there because of it and said it was because of discrimination because they were transvestites. No. It was because whatever they were injecting in there made them throw up all over - I mean imagine every week throw up all over the walls. And then I had an office by this guy. The bad luck is I had an office where we would look down, turned out he lived around the block, and I would have to watch him every day in the cheerleader outfit, through my office window, on the air, doing deals and stuff in cars and stumbling around everywhere. And then I'm not a trendy because I don't bow down. I had to go in there store, there was a grocery store next door... you know with crap dripping down his leg, stinking. And I'm supposed to just go 'oh, you're a trendy with rotten teeth hanging out of your head, and a weird bald head, you're in a dress. Here, here, here, here, please, please more diarrhea running down your leg.
I don't want my daughters growing up in a country where some transvestite comes walking into the thing hopped out of their brain on drugs vomiting and crapping all over the place. [emphasis added]
Fox News largely underreported the news of the first openly gay male athlete in major American sports, while one Fox News contributor resorted to mocking the player's decision to publicly identify as gay.
On April 29, NBA center Jason Collins became the first professional athlete in a major American sport to come out as gay, writing in a story for Sports Illustrated:
I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.
The announcement was a major development in the sports community following months of debate and speculation about if and when a male professional athlete in one of the major American sports would identify as gay.
Despite the significance of Collins' announcement, Fox News barely covered the story, dedicating less than ten minutes on April 29 to the story - significantly less time than coverage on CNN (48 minutes) and MSNBC (29 minutes) - according to a Media Matters analysis:
Fox's underreporting wasn't limited to its on-air coverage. While most major news websites prominently displayed Collins' announcement on their home page, the story barely earned a hyperlink on FoxNews.com:
Never one to miss an opportunity to attack LGBT Americans, Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes mocked Collins' announcement, tweeting "the NBA is turning into GLEE":
*Media Matters searched news transcripts provided by Snapstream for the terms "gay" and "Collins" on April 29. Reruns and teases for upcoming segments were excluded.
After years of denigrating LGBT people and mocking marriage equality, Fox Nation is suddenly expressing concern that new gun control legislation might discriminate against same-sex couples.
In an April 12 Daily Caller article, Mike Piccione criticized new gun control legislation that would prohibit the transfer of firearms between unwed partners without a background check, arguing that the measure "sharply limits rights of gay gun owners":
Gay couples living in states that do not recognize their marriage will now be unable to transfer firearm ownership to their partners without undergoing a background check, should federal gun legislation recently proposed by Democratic Sen. Harry Reid become law.
According to the "Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013," which was introduced in the Senate this week, only couples in a government-sanctioned relationships will be allowed to privately transfer ownership of their firearms without first having to pass the federal background check.
Gay gun owners who want to transfer a gun to a partner, however, must first physically turn their guns in to an entity holding a federal firearms license so that a background check can be performed on the partner. The checks are conducted by the FBI's National Instant Background Check System.
Fox Nation promoted the article, asking "Does Democrats' Gun Bill Discriminate Against Gays?":
While it appears to be true that, under the proposed legislation, same-sex couples would not be allowed to transfer gun ownership between spouses without a background check, it's hard to take Fox Nation's concern about LGBT equality seriously.
Fox Nation has a history of demonizing LGBT equality, including attacking President Obama for calling on the U.N. to protect victims of LGBT violence. It previously criticized an immigration judge for halting the deportation of a gay man who is married to an American citizen, and when Obama announced his support for marriage equality last May, Fox Nation warned, "OBAMA FLIP FLOPS, DECLARES WAR ON MARRIAGE."
The Daily Caller's sudden support for LGBT equality seems no more sincere. The publication typically concerns itself with LGBT issues only when they can be used as an excuse to advocate for anti-gay causes and politicians. Earlier this month, the Daily Caller's Jim Treacher suggested that marriage equality might lead to fathers marrying their sons for tax purposes.
Right-wing media outlets are criticizing the Washington attorney general for enforcing non-discrimination laws against a florist who refused to offer her services for a same-sex wedding.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit on April 9 against Arlene's Flowers and Gifts, a florist that refused to supply flowers for the wedding of a same-sex couple due to her religious beliefs. According to the lawsuit, the florist violated the state's Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation.
Right-wing media outlets have jumped on the story, touting it as evidence of the gay community's hostility towards religious freedom.
American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer cited the incident as an example of "homofascism":
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes criticized an email from a U.S. Army officer condemning anti-gay hate speech, suggesting that the email was a sign of "the end of days" and warning his audience that "your military is being turned against you."
In an April 9 article for Fox News Radio, Starnes reported that an email from Lt. Col. Jack Rich instructed subordinates to be on the lookout for behaviors that are "inconsistent with Army Values," including showing support for a number of "hate groups" operating in the U.S.
The email included a list of anti-gay groups like the Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA), stating:
The religious right in America has employed a variety of strategies in its efforts to beat back the increasingly confident gay rights movement. One of those has been defamation. Many of its leaders have engaged in the crudest type of name-calling, describing LGBT people as "perverts" with "filthy habits" who seek to snatch the children of straight parents and "convert" them to gay sex. They have disseminated disparaging "facts" about gays that are simply untrue assertions that are remarkably reminiscent of the way white intellectuals and scientists once wrote about the "bestial" black man and his supposedly threatening sexuality.
Rich's depiction of the hate speech stemming from the anti-gay movement is entirely accurate. Both FRC and AFA have been listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to their long histories of defaming LGBT people, including peddling the myth allowing for openly gay soldiers would cause a spike in sexual assaults and HIV infections in the military.
Starnes - who acts as Fox News' resident mouthpiece for anti-gay hate groups - chose to depict the email as an assault on Christianity, interviewing several employees of FRC who, not surprisingly, condemned the email:
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox News he was disturbed by the contents of the email.
"It's very disturbing to see where the Obama Administration is taking the military and using it as a laboratory for social experimentation -- and also as an instrument to fundamentally change the culture," he said. "The message is very clear - if you are a Christian who believes in the Bible, who believes in transcendent truth, there is no place for you in the military."