Conservative news outlets are hyping a minor website change to suggest that the FBI is distancing itself from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) - a group that monitors hate speech and violence - in response to criticism from anti-gay organizations. But the FBI has issued a statement debunking that narrative and continues to publicly touts its partnership with SPLC on its website.
On March 26, Washington Examiner reporter Paul Bedard asserted that the FBI was ending its relationship with SPLC, noting that a link to the group had been scrubbed from the FBI's Hate Crime "resources" page and calling it a "significant rejection of the influential legal group":
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled several Washington, D.C.-based family organizations as "hate groups" for favoring traditional marriage, has been dumped as a "resource" on the FBI's Hate Crime Web page, a significant rejection of the influential legal group.
The Web page scrubbing, which also included eliminating the Anti-Defamation League, was not announced and came in the last month after 15 family groups pressed Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey to stop endorsing a group -- SPLC -- that inspired a recent case of domestic terrorism at the Family Research Council.
The FBI had no comment and offered no explanation for its decision to end their website's relationship with the two groups, leaving just four federal links as hate crime "resources." The SPLC had no comment.
Newspaper coverage of the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood lawsuits downplayed the possibility that the Supreme Court could expand the concept of corporate personhood when ruling on the cases, which examine whether for-profit businesses can deny employees health insurance coverage for birth control based on the owners' personal religious beliefs. Only 3 out of 24 articles on the case in five major U.S. newspapers mentioned the potential unpopular expansion of corporate rights in the headline or first sentence.
Experts have repeatedly debunked the myth that transgender non-discrimination laws give sexual predators access to women's restrooms, but that hasn't stopped conservative media outlets from promoting fake news stories to fear monger about trans-inclusive bathrooms.
For as long as the transgender community has fought for protection from discrimination in public spaces, conservatives have peddled the myth that sexual predators will exploit non-discrimination laws to sneak into women's restrooms.
That fear has been an extremely effective tool for scaring people into voting against even basic protections for transgender people, which is why conservatives routinely use the phrase "bathroom bill" to describe laws prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations. When conservative media outlets attack non-discrimination laws for transgender people, they almost exclusively focus on bathroom and locker room facilities.
But that fear is baseless - completely unsupported by years of evidence from states that already have non-discrimination laws on the books. In a new Media Matters report, experts from twelve states - including law enforcement officials, state human rights workers, and sexual assault victims advocates - debunk the myth that non-discrimination laws have any relation to incidents of sexual assault or harassment in public restrooms:
Experts in 12 states -- including law enforcement officials, government employees, and advocates for victims of sexual assault -- have debunked the right-wing myth that sexual predators will exploit transgender non-discrimination laws to sneak into women's restrooms, calling the myth baseless and "beyond specious."
Vox.com editor-in-chief Ezra Klein issued a statement explaining his decision to hire Brandon Ambrosino, a writer who has been criticized for peddling misinformation about LGBT people and acting as an apologist for anti-gay discrimination. Klein promised that Ambrosino's work would "receive a lot of editing and a lot of guidance," iterating Vox's commitment to properly covering LGBT issues.
The forthcoming news and policy site came under criticism from journalists and LGBT activists after announcing on March 12 that it had hired Ambrosino, a gay writer notorious for his "click-bait contrarianism," including his claim that being gay is a choice and that gay activists are bigoted against opponents of LGBT equality.
Klein defended his decision to hire Ambrosino in an interview with The American Prospect, claiming the hire would help bring ideological diversity to Vox.
In a March 14 post on Facebook, Klein further explained Ambrosino's hiring, stating that Ambrosino's writing will be closely edited and monitored and pledging that Vox would not engage in "frontal assaults on causes we believe in and people we admire":
Over the past 48 hours I've spoken to a lot folks in the LGBT community to better understand the strong, negative reaction to my hiring of Brandon Ambrosino. People felt Brandon had made his name writing sloppy pieces that were empathetic towards homophobes but relentlessly critical of the gay community. They believe we were sending a signal about Vox's approach to LGBT issues: Contrarian clickbait at the expense of the struggle and discrimination that LGBT men and women face every day.
That was never our intention. Our approach to LGBT stories will be the same as our approach to all other issues: We want people to read us because we do the best job tracking and explaining the news, not because we do the best job shocking people. We want to inform our readers -- not annoy them. Our kind of clickbait tends towards beautiful data visualizations, not frontal assaults on causes we believe in and people we admire.
Brandon isn't our LGBT correspondent. He's not even the only LGBT employee of Vox.com. He is a young writer who we think has talent who's going to receive a lot of editing and a lot of guidance.
Brandon applied for the news-writing fellowship, a one-year position focused on helping inexperienced writers develop aggregation and reportorial skills. Contrary to some garbled reports, before hiring Brandon I read a lot of his previous work. Brandon's past writing was often quite pointed and personal, and not a fit for Vox -- and I told him so. The writing fellowship requires a very different approach.
But something that often happens to young freelance writers on the Internet is that they end up writing reams of their most controversial opinions before they ever get a chance to do basic reporting or benefit from a routine relationship with an editor. So as part of Brandon's writing test, I asked him to do eight news articles and two explainers -- more than 5,000 words of original content, in all. He needed more editing, training and direction. But he showed himself a strong, fast writer who really wanted to learn. And that training is what the fellowship is there for.
I could've, and should've, handled this hire a lot better. But I would ask people to give Brandon a chance. He'll be held to the same high standards as all Vox.com employees, and I believe he'll meet them. [emphasis added]
Fox News criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio over his decision not to march in the city's St. Patrick's Day Parade due to the parade's refusal to allow LGBT groups to participate.
On February 2, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would not be attending the city's St. Patrick's Day Parade due to its long-standing policy banning LGBT groups from participating in the parade:
"I am not planning on marching in the parade," Mayor de Blasio said at a City Hall press conference on Tuesday.
"I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city, but I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade," he added.
On February 6 and 7, several Fox News personalities attacked de Blasio for his decision, accusing him of being a "religious bigot" and disrespecting Irish Catholics who oppose homosexuality:
The attack on de Blasio echoes comments Bill O'Reilly made in 2006, when he criticized then New York City Councilwoman Christine Quinn's decision not to appear in the parade. O'Reilly made a similar argument at the time, arguing that allowing LGBT groups to participate in the parade would be akin to "walk[ing] into a church ... with 'I'm Queer' on your shirt" because St. Patrick's Day is a celebration of "a saint." O'Reilly also worried that gay people would be "intruding on a parade where little children are... watching."
Fox's reaction to de Blasio's abstention from the parade aligns with the network's record of giving anti-gay discrimination a free pass by conflating homophobia with Christianity.
Vox.com editor-in-chief Ezra Klein defended his decision to hire anti-gay apologist Brandon Ambrosino as a writing fellow but admitted he had not reviewed Ambrosino's body of problematic LGBT commentary before hiring him.
On March 12, the forthcoming news and policy site Vox.com announced that it had hired Brandon Ambrosino -- a gay man who has earned a reputation for defending homophobes and peddling misinformation about LGBT people -- as a writing fellow. The announcement was met with widespread condemnation from LGBT activists and writers who called his hiring an "embarrassment" and a "major mistake."
Klein responded to the criticism in an interview with The American Prospect's Gabriel Arana published March 13. Klein said that he had only read the pieces in question after criticism against Abrosino's hiring mounted, and that while he lacks "the context and the background to perfectly or authoritatively judge this debate," he believes his new hire lacks "an iota of homophobia":
In an interview on Wednesday evening, Klein told me he hadn't read the pieces that had kicked up so much dust before bringing Ambrosino on, but did so once he began facing criticism for the hire. "I don't want to pretend that I have the context and the background to perfectly or authoritatively judge this debate," Klein said. "But when I read his pieces, I didn't come away with the impression that he holds an iota of homophobia." "Homophobia"--which activists too often use as shorthand to describe anti-gay views that don't necessarily stem from fear--may be the wrong word for it. But even a cursory read through Ambrosino's writings should raise red flags. Klein, though, seems mystified by the blowback. He acknowledges that's he is new to the process of staffing an enterprise like Vox. "I gotta be honest," he said. "With a lot of this stuff, I'm trying to figure out what success means." [emphasis added]
Laura Ingraham attempted to tie a drag show fundraiser on a US military base to the problem of sexual assault in the military, suggesting that the drag show was part of an effort to "further sexualize" life on military bases.
On March 1, the Okinawa chapter of OutServe-SLDN held a fundraising event featuring six servicemembers - gay, lesbian, and heterosexual - lip syncing in drag. The event was a major success for the group, selling 400 tickets and receiving a warm reception by attendees.
The event has predictably drawn outrage from conservative commentators, including radio host Laura Ingraham. During the March 5 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show, Ingraham criticized the military for allowing "lewd" events like drag shows and questioned whether such events might anger "the Muslim world."
When a caller raised the issue of sexual assault in the military, Ingraham used the opportunity to suggest that military sexual assault might somehow be tied to attempts to "further sexualize bases":
INGRAHAM: Is it counterproductive to efforts to curb sexual assault on military bases to further sexualize the atmosphere on these bases? Is there any relation between the two issues? These are things we should talk about. It's not about demonizing anyone. I don't want to demonize any group of people. But this is a military. It is a fighting force. ... Above all else that is what they are charged with doing. And there's a military code of conduct that is different from civilian life. And they separate themselves from civilian life for a reason, because you need that discipline and you need that code and you need that respect for authority to hold it together on the battlefield. If you don't have that, if all the lines dissolve away, then we are less effective as a military force. That is a fact.
Ingraham isn't alone in suggesting that the drag show fundraiser is somehow related to military sexual assault. Far-right website WorldNetDaily, in an article about the fundraiser, similarly cited levels of male-on-male sexual assaults and tied them to broader acceptance of gay people in the military.
Following criticism over insensitive comments about Facebook's new gender options, Fox News host Clayton Morris gave a heartfelt apology to the intersex community, stating that he regretted his "stupid" remarks.
During the February 14 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Clayton Morris joined a number of his Fox News colleagues in mocking Facebook's decision to offer its users a variety of new terms to identify their gender, including "transgender" and "cisgender."
Following a brief mention of Facebook's announcement, Morris joked that he had changed his gender identification to "intersex," describing people who are born with a physical anatomy that does not appear to fit typical definitions of male or female:
During the March 1 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, Morris and his fellow co-hosts Anna Kooiman and Mike Jerrick discussed a high school considering making all of its graduation gowns one color in order to be inclusive of all students. Though the segment was framed by a chyron that asked "Over-Sensitive Society?", Morris quickly shifted gears to make an impassioned plea for understanding of transgender and intersex people (emphasis added):
MORRIS: There are millions of Americans and children who are born with the sexual organs who are not there or are not fully developed and therefore don't define themselves by a particular gender. I mean, that's a fact. It's not as black and white as we would like to make it. Just pick whatever color gown you want. Imagine being a parent and your daughter is born a specific way where her sexual organs are not developed. Then as a parent you have to be sensitive to the fact that your daughter doesn't identify with a particular gender.
KOOIMAN: And we've done news stories too about bathrooms and some schools, middle schools and high schools, considering having unisex bathrooms, so that these people who fit into this category won't have to pick the boys or the girls. But then you think about these young teenagers who are going through puberty, if you're a mom or a dad, do you want your daughter in the bathroom with a boy, potentially?
JERRICK: My goodness, are we overthinking this? It's just the color of a garment.
MORRIS: Just put yourself in the shoes of those children, though, who have to deal with that. Look, I made a pretty ignorant statement a few weeks ago, we were talking about the Facebook story where they added the bunch of different gender-identifying things. And I made sort of an offhanded comment and I regretted it later because now, 'Wait a second. There are people who are actually dealing with this and I'm an idiot for saying something stupid like that.' So before you open your mouth, just think about it a little bit.
Morris' comments are extremely uncharacteristic for Fox News, which has never missed an opportunity to mock and demean people with different gender identities. Morris demonstrated a degree of empathy and willingness to accept criticism rarely seen on his network. He deserves to be commended, and his colleagues who have yet to apologize could do a lot of good by following his lead.
MSNBC and CNN both shined a spotlight on the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the extreme anti-gay group behind Arizona's recent effort to allow businesses to refuse service to gay customers. The networks' decisions to profile ADF stand in stark contrast to a broader media tendency to ignore anti-gay group's records of extremism.
In the same week that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer chose to veto SB 1062, a measure that would have expanded protections for businesses refusing service to gay customers, both CNN and MSNBC ran segments profiling ADF, which drafted the law along with the Center for Arizona policy.
During the February 25 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper noted the similarities between the talking points used by proponents of SB 1062 and similar measures in other states, tracing their shared "genetic code" back to ADF. Though Cooper invited ADF to participate in the segment, the group declined: