Robert Morrow is the co-author of the forthcoming book The Clintons' War on Women with former top Donald Trump aide Roger Stone. Morrow has wished death on Hillary Clinton and been visited by the Secret Service; posted bizarre sexual writings about the former secretary of state; called Chelsea Clinton a "slut" and imagined how she would "have sex one day" with Bill Clinton; posted about "niggers" and "pro-faggot JUDICIAL ACTIVISM"; and claimed the Bush and Clinton families were involved in murders. Stone also has a disreputable history: he formed an anti-Clinton group called "C.U.N.T." and called Chelsea a "total bitch."
Iowa based radio host Steve Deace said Kentucky country clerk Kim Davis is comparable to civil rights icon Rosa Parks because, like Parks, who famously refused to give up her bus seat for a white person, Davis is refusing to obey a Supreme Court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Deace, an influential, nationally syndicated radio personality popular with Christian conservatives, tweeted the comparison between Davis and Parks on September 2 while promoting his afternoon radio show. The host, who has endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for president, also took to Facebook to criticize GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina for calling on Davis to do her job and issue marriage licenses to all couples who apply.
Deace's last show at USA Radio Network will air September 17 after the host said the station was "no longer able to meet the requirements of growing/managing" his show. USA Radio Network did not respond to Media Matters' request for comment about the split between Deace and the network.
From the September 2 edition of USA Radio Network's Steve Deace Show:
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Fox News used an on-screen graphic reading "Gender Bender," to highlight protests against a transgender student's use of the girls' locker room at her high school, and emphasized the protesters' claims that she "is still physically a male." Right-wing media have consistently spread myths about transgender-inclusive bathrooms that experts and school districts have debunked. From the September 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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In its reporting on the fatal shooting of two journalists in Virginia, CNN repeatedly and needlessly mentioned the shooter's history of registering gay porn websites as evidence that he was unstable and disturbed.
On August 27, CNN reported that Vester Flanagan II, the man who shot and killed two journalists on live television in Virginia, had set up domain names for several gay porn websites between 2007 and 2008.
CNN made no attempt to explain how the domain names could even be related to the shooting. The domain names were purchased years before Flanagan began working at WDBJ, the station that also employed the journalists he killed. And Flanagan openly identified as gay, so his sexual orientation was already public knowledge.
But throughout the day on August 27, CNN repeated its report about the websites Flanagan registered. During The Lead with Jake Tapper, CNN correspondent Drew Griffin called the report "just another disturbing twist" in the story of the shooting:
At the start of The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer teased the report while on-screen text blared the headline, "HISTORY OF INSTABILITY."
It was CNN's Don Lemon who finally challenged his network's report during an interview with Blitzer, saying, "I don't really see the relevance of it." He added, "I don't want to gay shame him. There's nothing wrong with being gay":
Injecting details about Flanagan's unrelated sexual history in reports about the shooting has the effect of associating homosexuality with deviancy, mental instability, and violence in the minds of viewers.
The practice of linking gay sexuality with violent or murderous acts isn't new or accidental. American media have a long, dark history of depicting gay sexuality as intrinsically violent and dangerous, especially when it comes to stories about brutal killings. And associating homosexuality with mental instability is a favorite right-wing tactic.
It's not surprising that fringe conservatives are suggesting that Flanagan's homosexuality is somehow linked to his decision to murder two people.
Without an explanation of how Flanagan's sexual interests are relevant to this week's brutal shooting, CNN reinforced a right-wing trope about homosexuality and violence without adding to its substantive reporting on the shooting.
The Houston Chronicle thoroughly debunked a popular myth being peddled by opponents of the Houston Equal rights Ordinance (HERO). Other Houston news outlets, which have been uncritically repeating the false talking point for months, should follow the Chronicle's lead.
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, is a broad non-discrimination ordinance that was passed by Houston's City Council in 2014. HERO prohibits discrimination in areas like housing, employment, and city contracts on the basis of 15 characteristics, including race, sex, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Anti-LGBT conservatives in Houston have fought to repeal the ordinance, successfully lobbying to put HERO up for a public vote on Houston's November ballot.
Since the start of the debate over HERO, Houston media outlets have made a consistent habit of uncritically repeating right-wing misinformation about the ordinance, including peddling the widely-debunked myth that HERO would allow sexual predators to sneak into women's restrooms by pretending to be transgender - a bogus talking point championed by HERO's opponents.
In an August 25 column, The Houston Chronicle's Lisa Falkenberg did what other local news outlets have failed to do - investigated and debunked the bogus "bathroom bill" claim:
The so-called HERO ordinance, which will appear on the November ballot, really has little to do with potty time. It's about protecting people against discrimination in employment, housing and other sectors. It protects gay and transgender people, but also bans discrimination based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status. So why are we talking about bathrooms? Because one small aspect of it would let transgender people use the bathroom of their choice.
That means a transgender woman who may wear dresses and makeup can use the women's restroom, rather than turning heads at the urinals. A transgender man who may sport lumberjack attire and a burly beard can use the men's restroom. It's really quite simple. It's about reducing drama, not creating it. As one transgender activist explains in a popular Twitter hashtag, #wejustneedtopee.
This simple accommodation has become the bogeyman's best weapon. Critics suggest it will lead to men dressing up as women to assault women and girls in bathrooms.
As Richard Carlbom with the pro-ordinance Houston Unites campaign told the Chronicle: "Nothing in the equal rights ordinance changes the fact that it is - and always will be - illegal to enter a restroom to harm or harass other people."
If this ordinance posed a real danger, opponents wouldn't have to find some future parent to feign fear of becoming a victim "one day." They could surely find a real victim in one of the other cities that passed anti-discrimination ordinances decades ago.
In 1997, the city of Cambridge became one of the first jurisdictions in Massachusetts to amend its human rights ordinance to include gender identity and expression, police spokesman Jeremy Warnick said Tuesday.
He sent me the full testimony of police Superintendent Christopher Burke before the state House in 2011, advocating for a statewide bill for transgender equal rights.
Burke, speaking "as a member of the law enforcement community, husband, father and citizen," testified that the bill would not harm women and children. He said there had been no incidents or issues regarding people abusing the Cambridge ordinance.
Massachusetts passed the law. Houstonians should do the same.
Even if you insist on voting against it, pick another reason. Maybe you don't want to condone a transgender lifestyle. Maybe you believe protections for some groups are already extended by federal law, and you don't want a local ordinance that could offer relief more quickly and less expensively for your fellow Houstonians.
But don't vote against the ordinance because of urban myths about sexual predators in bathrooms. Sexual predators exist. But if they wanted to attack you in a public bathroom, they wouldn't need a city ordinance to do it.
With some basic investigative reporting, The Houston Chronicle effectively debunked the "bathroom bill" claim as a baseless myth meant to scare and mislead Houstonians. Other Houston news outlets should do the same and give Houstonians the facts about HERO.
When you hear of a media outlet peddling debunked and misleading research in order to argue against providing transgender people with important medical care, you probably don't think of The New York Times.
But that's exactly what happened in the August 23 Sunday edition of the paper. In an op-ed titled, "How Changeable Is Gender?" Richard Friedman, a Times contributing opinion writer and professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, grossly misrepresented empirical research in order to raise doubts about gender-affirming medical treatment for transgender people, including transgender youth.
The post was quickly debunked by Think Progress' Zack Ford and Vox's German Lopez, who criticized -- among other things -- Friedman's conflation of gender identity and gender expression, his misreading of empirical data, and his dismissal of evidence showing the benefits of gender-affirming treatment.
The errors in Friedman's research aren't minor -- his op-ed is based on a series of blatant oversights that undermine his conclusions. But as of Wednesday morning, The New York Times has failed to issue a correction or clarification to the op-ed. As Lopez noted, the New York Times' decision to publish "error-ridden articles like Friedman's" will likely make it harder for trans people to find supportive home and medical environments.
The Times declined to comment on criticism of Friedman's op-ed.
Unfortunately, this isn't an isolated incident for the Times, which has come under increased scrutiny in recent months for its willingness to publish misleading and harmful commentary about the transgender community.
In July, the Times published an op-ed titled "What Makes A Woman?" in response to Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover photo. The piece, written by journalist Elinor Burkett, was a trainwreck of harmful and offensive stereotypes about transgender women and essentially suggested that trans women haven't earned the right to be seen as 'real' women. The op-ed, which also framed trans equality as a threat to feminist politics, was condemned for peddling offensive and outdated tropes about transgender women.
Despite the criticism, the Times rejected a rebuttal column by Meredith Talusan, a transgender writer and advocate. Talusan self-published her response, writing, "I find the way The Times keeps centering white cisgender women's perspectives on Jenner deeply disturbing."
"[A]rguing for my existence feels par for the course this week as The New York Times has already sparked a situation where I and other trans women have been constantly put in the position of having to debate our humanity," she added.
And then there's the Times' bizarre defense of research suggesting that some transgender women are actually just men who are sexually aroused by the idea of being a woman, sometimes referred to as "autogynephilia."
In April, the Times published a glowing review of Galileo's Middle Finger, a book written by bioethicist Alice Dreger. Dreger is notorious for defending the widely disputed and controversial research of psychologist J. Michael Bailey, who helped popularize the idea that many trans women are actually men acting out sexual fetishes. But rather than lay out the criticisms of "autogynephilia" research, the Times' David Dobbs lauded Bailey and Dreger's work, describing them as truth-tellers facing down "enraged" transgender activists.
This notion enraged advocates who insisted that transsexuality came invariably from an unavoidable mind-body mismatch -- a mistake of nature -- and never from a variation in taste, which some might consider an indulgence. These advocates sought not only to refute Bailey but to ruin him. When Dreger defended him, they targeted her too.
In the end, as Dreger tells it, she and Bailey won a rough victory. When Dreger's book-length paper on the issue was written up warmly in The Times, formerly gun-shy allies were encouraged to speak out.
The Dreger fiasco reveals why the Times' missteps in transgender coverage are so potentially devastating: when the paper publishes something about the transgender community, people pay attention.
That's because, unlike the fringe right-wing media outlets that publish transphobic pseudoscience on a regular basis, the Times has a reputation for positive and affirming coverage of the transgender community. The paper has worked to avoid misgendering transgender news subjects, elevated the issue of violence against transgender women, published thoughtful editorials about the fight for transgender equality, and given transgender people an opportunity to tell and share their own stories. This week, a reader viewing Burkett's "What Makes A Woman?" on the paper's website likely saw an ad for a TimesTalk event featuring transgender actress Laverne Cox at the top of the page.
It's that juxtaposition -- positive transgender coverage alongside damaging and misleading commentary -- that troubles advocates for the transgender community. When The New York Times publishes content that suggests trans children shouldn't be affirmed, trans women aren't 'real' women, or trans people are secretly sexual fetishists, it has more of an impact than any extreme right-wing media outlet could hope to have. It lends the paper's tremendous credibility to discredited and problematic myths about trans people. Harmful content makes up a fraction of the Times' total transgender coverage, but it's that rarity that makes the misinformation so pernicious.
And, in the case of Friedman's most recent op-ed, it could end up doing real damage to the most vulnerable members of the transgender community.
Image at top via Flickr user Alec Perkins using a Creative Commons License.
From the August 25 edition of MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts:
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A disturbing spike in the number of documented murders of transgender women of color has garnered attention from national media outlets, but cable news networks continue to ignore the epidemic of violence facing the transgender community.
2015 has seen a disturbing spike in the number of recorded murders of transgender people, and especially transgender women of color, in the U.S. Though the trans community has historically been disproportionately targeted by violence, the murders of seven trans women of color in just the first two months of 2015 alarmed groups like the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which warned of an "epidemic of violence" against trans women.
That epidemic accelerated in July and August: at least five transgender women were killed between July 27 and August 15 alone. The murders got the attention of major national news outlets, including The New York Times and Time magazine. On ABC's Good Morning America, transgender actress Laverne Cox declared a "state of emergency" in the transgender community.
During the August 23 edition of MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry, guest host Janet Mock dedicated the end of the program to reading the names and telling the stories of the 17 trans women murder this year:
It's the second time Mock, herself a trans woman, has used her platform at MSNBC to elevate the issue of transphobic violence.
But beyond Mock's powerful MHP segments, and despite growing national attention, national cable news outlets have largely ignored the alarming spike in murders of trans women of color. Between July 27 and August 21, neither CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC aired a segment drawing attention to the murders:
The only real mentions of the murder of transgender women came in August on CNN and MSNBC, from guests like Alicia Garza and Elle Hearns, Black Lives Matter activists who have elevated and centered violence against transgender women of color as part of their work.
Cable news' silence on the murder of trans women mirrors the findings of a report in April that found that cable, broadcast, and Spanish-language national news networks had similarly ignored the murders of trans women of color.
The sidelining of violence against trans women of color isn't a symptom of cable news networks' broader unwillingness to discuss transgender issues. In the same time period, CNN and MSNBC covered Caitlyn Jenner's documentary series, the Obama administration's appointment of the first transgender White House staffer, and charges brought against Chelsea Manning in military prison. Even Fox News (disparagingly) covered stories about a transgender prison inmate and newly expanded gender identification options at the University of California.
Ignoring these murders has a real impact on the way that viewers come to know and understand the basic realities of what it means to live as a transgender woman of color in America today. It sends a message about which lives are newsworthy - Caitlyn Jenner's, Chelsea Manning's - and which lives aren't worth mourning. Coupled with the problem of media misgendering in local news reports about the deaths of trans women, this kind of erasure deeply distorts the public's understanding of the problem of transphobic violence.
Media Matters used Nexis and IQMedia to search CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between July 27 and August 21, 2015 for the terms "transgender," "trans," "transsexual," "cross-dress!," "transphob!," "gender identity," "Tamara AND Dominguez," "Elisha AND Walker," "Kandis AND Capri," "Amber AND Monroe," "Schade AND Schuler."
Media Matters tracked significant discussions of the recent murders of transgender women. "Significant discussion" was defined as at least two speakers in the segment talking about the topic to one another. Reruns, passing mentions, and teases for upcoming segments were excluded. Discussions after midnight but before the beginning of the next day's news cycle were excluded.
Houston voters will decide in November whether the city's Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which bans discrimination based on a number of characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity, is repealed or stays on the books. Hispanic media reporting on the ordinance should note a few important points in order to avoid reinforcing falsehoods about the measure.
Transgender homicide victims are frequently misgendered in local media reports about their deaths. Though some news outlets may be motivated by transphobia and bias, others -- like The Kansas City Star -- have justified the practice of misgendering transgender people by using shoddy appeals to journalistic integrity.
On August 15, Tamara Dominguez became one of the latest transgender woman of color to be murdered in the United States when she was repeatedly run over by an SUV. According to local reports, the Kansas City Police Department identified Dominguez using both her birth name and her preferred name, Tamara.
The Kansas City Star identified Dominguez as a "man" in its initial report on the murder - violating GLAAD and Associated Press guidelines and contributing to the widespread problem of misgendering transgender victims of violence in local news reports. In response to criticism from the LGBT community, The Kansas City Star eventually removed the problematic language from its report.
On August 18, Kansas City Star's Public Editor Derek Donovan published a defense of his paper's initial report, which exemplifies the problematic ways that local media outlets can justify the practice of misgendering transgender victims of violence.
Central to Donovan's defense is his argument that news outlets can't know with certainty if a victim of violence is transgender, especially when the victim is deceased:
Police directly told the reporter they did not know whether Dominguez identified as male or female. And as the victim is deceased, it's now impossible to get a firsthand answer to that question.
KCTV interviewed the victim's friend, who used female pronouns. The Star didn't have that (as of this writing at least). I've spoken to the newsroom, and they're following through on the story.
But as Donovan notes, other local media outlets, including KSHB and KCTV, reached out to Dominguez's social circle, including her roommate, to confirm her identity. Other reporters have used social media to confirm victims' gender identities. In other words, when faced with a question about how a subject identified, they did actual reporting rather than just making a snap judgment about Dominguez's gender identity.
That kind of reporting is important beyond merely respecting the victim. Ignoring a victim's gender identity can hamper police investigations, and it makes it harder for the public to understand the nature and frequency of violence against transgender people.
Donovan also argues that gender identity isn't always clearly defined, so journalists' attempts to define a victim's gender identity would require them to make a "journalistically unsound" assumption:
[T]here are also people who fall somewhere else along a continuum. Some identify as both genders simultaneously -- or even neither. Some identify as female but have male alter-aliases, and vice versa. Some continue to identify as their birth gender while cross-dressing. Sometimes even those closest to these people don't know exactly how to answer the intensely personal questions of gender identiy. [sic]
The police report was succinct, identifying the victim as Jesus -- the only legal name known, according to police, and noting the alias. It would have been premature, and ultimately journalistically unsound to make any assumption.
It's important that Donovan acknowledges the fluidity of gender expression and identity, especially for people who identify as non-binary. But that isn't an excuse for intentionally ignoring a news subject's gender presentation and preemptively choosing "male" over "female." According to Donovan, the police could not tell his paper "whether Dominguez identified as male or female," so when the Kansas City Star called Dominguez a "man," it made a "journalistically unsound" assumption about her gender identity, too. Rather than respecting gender fluidity as Donovan suggested they should have, they failed to determine how the victim would want to be identified, substituting a news subject's chosen identity with a reporter's own assumptions and biases, based apparently on nothing more than the name "Jesus."
Donovan claims that identifying Dominguez as a woman would ignore "basic reality," distinguishing her gender identity from her "legal identity":
And it's wrong to ignore a basic reality: This issue is inherently confusing and tricky. Legal identities do matter, both in trans people's lives and in reporting the news. Despite what one may glean from the always black/white world of Twitter, trans activists speak at great length about the murky details of names, passports, and birth certificates that are serious issues trans people deal with -- financial and social barriers to changing one's legal identification, for example. Pretending they don't exist is absurd.
It is true that it's often difficult for transgender people to have their gender identities legally recognized.
But that isn't an argument for refusing to acknowledge the way they prefer to be identified, especially after their deaths. The legitimacy of a transgender person's identity isn't contingent on a passport or birth certificate.
News outlets don't ask for legal documents when they talk about cisgender people. Reporters don't ask for passports or birth certificates to verify the names and identities of cisgender news subjects. Forcing transgender people to legally prove their identities before being taken seriously isn't tied to a widely-accepted journalistic norm, and it trivializes trans people by reinforcing the idea that trans identities shouldn't be taken seriously.
Donovan concludes by explaining that properly identifying transgender victims of violence can be difficult, even for reporters who make an effort to reach out to the victim's loved ones:
You could argue the story shouldn't have run at all until this detail was known, via an interview with a family member or someone who can be verified as a friend of Dominguez. And no, self-proclaimed "friends" in social media don't count. Dominguez does not appear to have had a public social media presence under the name Tamara or Jesus -- both rather common names, complicating matters.
[A]ctivism is too often hijacked by loud, irresponsible voices, even from people who mean well. I've heard from some today criticizing The Star for being behind on this story, yet ironically using terminology that transgender people generally consider offensive. It's impossible for everyone to be on the same page.
It's a sentiment that's been echoed by other journalists -- determining someone's gender identity can be burdensome, especially when law enforcement misgenders a victim in initial press releases. In local news environments that prioritize quick, breaking news reports, stopping to investigate a victim's gender identity is a lot to ask. And journalists don't want to incorrectly identify someone as transgender if they aren't sure.
In those cases, the solution is to avoid using gendered terminology to describe the victim, as several outlets did in their reports of Dominguez's death. Using gender-neutral descriptors, and then amending reports once the victim's gender identity is confirmed, allows local media outlets to avoid making harmful or lazy assumptions in their coverage.
2015's unprecedented streak of homicides of transgender women has brought renewed attention to the problem of misgendering in news media. But journalists have been grappling with how to identify trans people, and specially trans victims of violence, for years. As the trans community continues to gain visibility, ethical journalism will require that reporters let go of their excuses and do the necessary work of figuring out how to accurately and responsibly identify trans people from the very first draft of any article.
From the August 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the August 14 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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Houston voters are a few months away from deciding whether to keep or repeal the city's non-discrimination law. But local television news broadcasts are helping spread misinformation about the measure by uncritically adopting opponents' framing and talking points, essentially giving free airtime to critics of the law.
Enacted in early 2014, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) prohibits discrimination in areas like housing, employment, and city contracts on the basis of 15 characteristics, including race, sex, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
In July, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that HERO must either be repealed or put up for a public vote, setting the stage for a ballot fight in November.
But in the two weeks since the court's decision, local broadcast news stations in Houston have peddled misinformation about the ordinance and failed to give voters the whole picture.
According to a Media Matters analysis, Houston affiliates for ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC have routinely depicted HERO as an LGBT non-discrimination law, ignoring HERO's broad protections for other groups: This omission means that a significant part of the story isn't being reported: since HERO was enacted, the majority of complaints filed involved race, sex, and age discrimination. Yet the measure's sexual orientation and gender identity protections, which accounted for less than 5 percent of reported discrimination cases, dominated local news coverage.
Local TV coverage also uncritically repeated the widely-debunked myth that HERO would allow sexual predators to sneak into women's restrooms by pretending to be transgender - a bogus talking point championed by HERO's opponents. Houston's Fox and CBS affiliates included B-roll footage (scene setting video shown during a news report) of bathroom signs in over half of their HERO segments:
Pairing footage of bathrooms with stories on HERO is bad journalism, plain and simple. It reinforces the false implication that HERO is a "bathroom bill," rather than a basic non-discrimination measure similar to laws that already exist in over 19 states and 180 cities and municipalities. This type of skewed coverage is essentially free advertising for HERO opponents, who have a record of successfully defeating non-discrimination protections for LGBT people by fearmongering about women's restrooms.
Local news outlets in Houston have been contributing to misinformation about HERO since 2014, uncritically repeating opponents' attacks on the measure and lending credibility to the bathroom myth. Fox 26 has been especially irresponsible in its HERO coverage, making the bathroom horror story central to its reporting.
It's not surprising, then, that voters Houston have a wildly distorted understanding of what HERO actually does. As Rice University Political Science Chair Mark Jones noted on Houston's NBC affiliate KPRC, Houston voters are "focused in on the bathroom issue," but otherwise people "really don't know" what the content of HERO actually is:
Houstonians should be able to count on their local TV news stations to help them make an informed decision about whether to keep or repeal HERO this November. By uncritically repeating critics' talking points and omitting crucial information about who has actually benefitted the most from the protections HERO affords, these stations are failing their viewers. In the more than two months remaining before the vote, journalists at Houston's local TV stations still have a chance to balance out their coverage and give Houstonians the whole story about what's at stake.
Television news stations in Houston have misrepresented the city's Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which will be up for public repeal in November. Media outlets have uncritically parroted myths about the ordinance's protections for transgender people and failed to tell viewers that HERO prohibits discrimination on the basis of a wide range of characteristics, including sex, race, and religion.