CNN's Piers Morgan viciously lashed out at critics who accused him of sensationalizing an interview with transgender activist Janet Mock, making a number of personal attacks against transgender activists and dismissing his critics as hysterical, dishonest, and "stupid." His over-the-top reaction to criticism highlights that even LGBT-friendly journalists can do serious damage when they ignore the voices and concerns of LGBT people.
Following a February 4 interview with Mock about her new memoir Redefining Realness, Morgan was criticized for his overemphasis on Mock's body, physical appearance, and romantic relationships with men. Throughout the segment, on-screen text described Mock as being "a boy until age 18."
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Mock accused Morgan of "trying to do info-tainment" and criticized him for sensationalizing transgender people while avoiding a substantive discussion about her book - a sentiment that was echoed by many critics. Mock didn't accuse Morgan of being transphobic - rather, she challenged him for asking the same kinds of questions that are repeatedly used to objectify transgender people's bodies.
Morgan spent the next day lashing out at Mock and her supporters on Twitter, describing himself as an ardent supporter of transgender equality. That night, Morgan invited Mock back on his show for an interview during which he repeatedly played the victim, talked over Mock, and refused to apologize for his comments:
Following the interview, Morgan hosted a panel discussion between three cisgender people, two of whom ridiculed Mock for criticizing Morgan's actions.
The entire incident demonstrates that even well-intentioned journalists can do serious harm when they react defensively rather than listen to criticism from marginalized groups. Morgan's behavior illustrates exactly how journalists - and especially self-identified LGBT allies - should not behave when being criticized for problematic coverage of LGBT issues:
After being criticized by a transgender activist for being disrespectful toward transgender people, CNN's Piers Morgan allowed two panelists to make a series of transphobic remarks and attack the activist's character with impunity.
Morgan came under fire after a February 4 interview with transgender activist Janet Mock, who recently published her memoir, Redefining Realness. During the interview, Morgan fixated on the physical aspects of Mock's identity as a transgender woman and CNN included an on-screen description stating that Mock "[w]as a boy until age 18." Mock criticized Morgan for sensationalizing transgender people and misgendering her, prompting Morgan to lash out against her on Twitter, calling her "shameful" and a "coward."
On January 5, after a follow-up interview with Mock, Morgan invited a panel of three cisgender people to discuss the controversy. Two of the panelists -- CNN political contributor Amy Holmes and conservative commentator Ben Ferguson -- made a number of transphobic remarks and attacks on Mock's character, none of which Morgan corrected:
On Fox News, an Orthodox rabbi condemned the stars of A&E's Duck Dynasty for conflating anti-gay bigotry with religion, stating that "gay bashing is not religion." His comments made for an awkward moment on Fox, a network that has repeatedly tried to use Christianity and religious belief as a blank check for blatant homophobia.
During the February 4 edition of Fox's The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson asked her "faith panel" to discuss a new church curriculum to be released by the family from A&E's Duck Dynasty, which was recently embroiled in controversy over homophobic comments made by patriarch Phil Robertson.
Instead of talking about the new Bible curriculum, Orthodox rabbi Shmuley Boteach criticized the Robertson family for having done "tremendous damage to religion" by conflating homophobia with religious belief:
BOTEACH: They've done tremendous damage to religion. We have to stop making religion in America about bashing gays. They have to just forswear that stupid comment about comparing homosexuality to bestiality. See, the problem in America is that we overlook all the heterosexual guys who are raping women 1 in 5 on the campus. We saw this terrible statistic that in Alaska-
BOTEACH: Bashing gays is not religion. What is religion is family dinners and combating the divorce rate.
No network more badly needs to heed Boteach's advice than Fox News, which regularly uses Christianity and religion to give anti-gay rhetoric a free pass. In the wake of the Duck Dynasty star's anti-gay comments, Fox News employees rushed to defend Robertson, describing his homophobia as "old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values." Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes called Robertson's critics "anti-Christian haters."
Excusing anti-gay extremism as religious belief has been a favorite Fox pastime since before the Duck Dynasty controversy, though. The network has described some of the country's most notorious and extreme anti-gay hate groups as nothing more than Christian organizations. Fox regularly depicts non-discrimination efforts to protect LGBT people as attacks on faith and Christianity. Even when directly confronted with anti-gay hate speech used by religious conservatives, Fox prefers to label bigotry as nothing more than part of a "Christian world view."
Rabbi Boteach is right to criticize the Duck Dynasty family for using religion to justify homophobia, but it's the anti-gay apologists at Fox News who've helped blur the line between sincere religious belief and toxic anti-gay rhetoric.
Fox News has been all but silent in reporting on major human rights crises facing gays and lesbians in Uganda, Nigeria, and India over the past few weeks, continuing the network's pattern of turning a blind eye to significant international stories about the LGBT community.
Before becoming a prominent Fox News personality, Sean Hannity was fired from a local radio show for peddling a number of extremely disparaging smears about gay people, including the myth that gay men are prone to disease because they consume each other's feces during sex.
In his new book The Loudest Voice in the Room, New York magazine journalist Gabriel Sherman describes the start of Sean Hannity's career as a conservative radio personality, beginning with an hour-long morning call-in show at KCSB, the UC Santa Barbara college station. The short-lived show was canceled in 1989 after Hannity made a number of extreme anti-gay remarks during a segment featuring Gene Antonio, author of the book The AIDS Cover-up? The Real and Alarming Facts About AIDS. According to Sherman:
In April 1989, Hannity invited the virulent anti-gay activist Gene Antonio on the air to promote his already widely discredited book, The AIDS Cover-up? The Real and Alarming Facts About AIDS. A Lutheran minister without scientific training, Antonio peddled paranoid fictions about the epidemic. He wrote that the virus could be transmitted by sneezes and mosquito bites and that the Centers for Disease Control and the American Medical Association conspired to cover up the "truth."
At the opening of his hour-long interview, Hannity said: "I'm sick and tired of the media and the homosexual community preventing us from getting the true, accurate information about AIDS in this day." He went on to describe The AIDS Cover-up? as an "excellent book" that was "so full of facts" and added, "if you want the real truth about this deadly, deadly disease, he's not afraid to say what the homosexuals don't want you to hear." He gave his audience Antonio's mailing address, where they could order "autographed copies" and write to find out about "places where homosexuals can go for help if they want to change." [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 239]
Gay rights groups called for a boycott of the station following the segment, eventually convincing the station's management to take Hannity off the air in June for violating the school's non-discrimination policy.
Hannity, with the help of the Santa Babara and Los Angeles chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, launched a "free speech campaign" against the station and pressured the university to agree to reinstate his program. When the university refused to double the length and duration of his show, however, Hannity declined to return to as the program's host.
Though Hannity repeatedly denied being a homophobe during the interview, audio from the segment captures the current Fox News personality making a number of extremely disparaging and bigoted comments about the gay community and the spread of the AIDS virus.
For years, cable news networks have turned to Evangelical Texas pastor Robert Jeffress to provide a social conservative's perspective on issues ranging from marriage equality to the to the "War on Christmas." But while the pastor's congeniality has earned him favor with media outlets, his history of extreme anti-gay and Islamophobic rhetoric should raise questions about his legitimacy as a mainstream media commentator.
Long before he was making appearances on America's most watched cable news shows, Robert Jeffress was acting as the young pastor of the First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls. Despite his Evangelical background, Jeffress' early ministry work wasn't defined by fire-and-brimstone-type condemnations of homosexuality. In 1998, however, Jeffress made his first public foray into the culture war. According to D Magazine's Michael J. Mooney:
He had just finished preparing a portion of a sermon titled "We Cannot Condone What God Has Condemned" when a member of his church came to him one morning with two books from the Wichita Falls public library. The books, Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy's Roommate, are both about children raised by gay couples, and the latter features an illustration of two men in a bed together.
He thought about those books. And when he was preaching his message that Sunday, something welled up inside of him. The words just came out. "I'm gonna take my stand right here!" he said. "I'm not gonna return these books!"
Jeffress went on to spearhead an effort to remove the books from the Wichita Falls public library - an effort that earned him national attention as the City Council and ACLU became involved in the dispute. A judge eventually ruled that it was unconstitutional to exclude the books from the library, but the incident helped propel Jeffress' popularity among Evangelicals, and his congregation expanded as a result.
In 2007, Jeffress became the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, where his national profile continued to grow. In March of 2013, the church opened a new $130 million church campus - completing the "largest Protestant church building campaign in modern history."
Fox News' resident anti-LGBT pop psychologist Keith Ablow boldly declared that "marriage died in 2013," badly misreading a recent court decision in Utah to blame same-sex marriage supporters for turning marriage into "the Wild West."
In a December 31 column for FoxNews.com, Ablow congratulated himself for predicting that the legalization of same-sex marriage would result in the legalization of polygamous marriages, citing a recent decision by U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups striking down part of Utah's anti-polygamy statute. Marriage, Ablow argued, has become "the Wild West," with incestuous marriages being the next frontier in the fight for marriage equality:
More than a year ago, when states began to legalize gay marriage, I argued that polygamy would be the natural result. If love between humans of legal age is the only condition required to have the state issue a marriage license, then it is irrational to assert that two men or two women can have such feelings for one another, while three women and a man, or two men and a woman, cannot.
Well, now U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups has found parts of Utah's anti-bigamy law unconstitutional. His ruling comes in a case brought by Kody Brown and his four wives, who are featured in the reality TV show, "Sister Wives."
I believe the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold that finding, if Utah challenges it.
As I predicted, this will officially make marriage the Wild West, in which groups of people can assert that they are married and should have all the benefits of that status, including family health plans and the right to file taxes as married people.
It will also, eventually, lead to test cases in which a few unusual sisters and brothers insist that they can marry, because they are in love and promise not to procreate, but, instead, to use donor eggs or sperm.
Marriage is over.
It was always at least a little funny that a huge percentage of people swore to stay together until death, then divorced and remarried.
But, now, it is, officially, judicially, a joke.
If two men can marry, and three men can marry, and five women and a man can marry, and three men and two women can marry, then marriage has no meaning.
Fox News host Geraldo Rivera defended Alec Baldwin's use of an anti-gay epithet against a photographer, claiming that calling somebody a "cocksucking faggot" isn't actually a homophobic slur.
During the December 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity criticized A&E for its decision to place Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson on indefinite hiatus following anti-gay remarks Robertson made during an interview with GQ.
Rivera compared Robertson's critics to the "fundamentalist gay activists" who criticized Alec Baldwin, who lost his show on MSNBC amid controversy after being recorded allegedly calling a photographer a "cocksucking faggot."
When panelist Rachel Sklar pointed out that Baldwin has a "history of making these homophobic slurs," Rivera shot back, stating that Baldwin's comments didn't constitute a "homophobic slur" because such comments were "commonplace" when he was growing up:
SKLAR: When I heard about what Alec Baldwin - Alec Baldwin had a history of making these homophobic slurs.
RIVERA: That wasn't a homophobic slur.
SKLAR: Okay --
RIVERA: I mean if you grew up where we grew up --
SKYLAR: And yet he is no longer on the network, right?
RIVERA: Sean, Baldwin and I all grew up within ten miles of each other and when we were growing up, in my year especially, those comments were commonplace.
SKLAR: Things have changed, Geraldo.
RIVERA: You have to give people some slack.
Earlier in the day, on Fox & Friends, Rivera criticized A&E's decision to suspend Robertson as "political correctness that's gotten malignant."
At what point will Fox News stop conflating anti-gay bigotry and Christian religious belief?
Phil Robertson, one of the stars of A&E's Duck Dynasty, has been put on indefinite hiatus by the network following criticism of a number of anti-gay and racist remarks he made in an interview with GQ. In the interview, Robertson refers to homosexuality as a "sin," comparing it to bestiality and calling gay sex illogical:
"It seems like, to me, a vagina--as a man--would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me.I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."
"Everything is blurred on what's right and what's wrong," he says. "Sin becomes fine."
What, in your mind, is sinful?
"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men," he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: "Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers--they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."
In the aftermath of his anti-gay comments, several Fox News employees have rushed to Robertson's defense, depicting him as a run-of-the-mill Christian who espoused mainstream Christian theology. Host Sean Hannity described Robertson's comments as "old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values." Fox reporter Todd Starnes claimed his comments reflected "the teachings of the Bible." And Fox Business' Dennis Kneale claimed Robertson had just "stated his religious beliefs."
But not everyone at Fox News is so quick to accept Robertson's anti-gay comments as what they believe to be basic Christian dogma. During the December 18 edition of Hannity, Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. seemed hesitant to describe Robertson's remarks as "religious," saying, "I wouldn't accept that that's a religious view":
Fox News employees are rushing to defend Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson after A&E placed him on indefinite hiatus for making anti-gay remarks in which he called homosexuality a sin, illogical, and akin to bestiality.