The Associated Press violated its own guidelines for how to refer to transgender people in a report on a transgender man who was shot and killed by police in Arizona.
Kayden Clarke was shot and killed by police who were responding to a suicide call in his Mesa, AZ, home on February 4.
In a February 6 article, "Woman killed by Phoenix-area police had popular online video," the Associated Press violated its own guidelines for writing about transgender people, which state that transgender people should be identified by their preferred pronouns. Instead, the article repeatedly misgendered Clarke, calling him "she," even while acknowledging that Clarke was "hoping to transition from female to male and was known to friends as Kayden Clarke:"
Police in a Phoenix suburb shot and killed a knife-wielding woman whose struggles with Asperger's syndrome went viral last year when she posted an online video showing her service dog comforting her.
Two officers responding to a report of a suicidal woman were carrying stun guns but fired their weapons because they felt threatened as Danielle Jacobs, 24, lunged at them with a 12-inch kitchen knife in her home Thursday, Mesa Detective Esteban Flores said.
"They had a lethal weapon coming at them," Flores said Friday. "They were threatened."
Although police used her legal name, the Arizona Republic reported Friday night that she was hoping to transition from female to male and was known to friends as Kayden Clarke.
[Heather Allen, founder of HALO Animal Rescue] said she called police Thursday to ask that they check on Jacobs after the 24-year-old sent a suicidal email that morning asking that someone care for her dog, Sampson.
Allen questioned whether it was necessary to shoot Jacobs.
"I wasn't there, so I don't know how she was behaving," Allen said. "I wish they had been able to use non-lethal restraint, if they could have used a Taser or a beanbag gun.
"She didn't have a gun. She had a knife," Allen said. "It just seems to me there could have been a better way."
One of the officers responding to the call was retrieving a bean bag gun when the shooting occurred, Flores said. Two officers stayed in the apartment, including one who had training in crisis intervention to deal with such situations.
CNN, The Washington Post, and People all correctly identified Clarke as male in their reports on the shooting. (CNN had published an earlier article that misgendered Clarke but has since noted that the article was published before the outlet realized Clarke was transgender.)
Despite its clear guidelines requiring reporters to identify transgender people using their preferred names and pronouns, the Associated Press has recently misgendered transgender people in multiple reports.
The Boston Globe editorial board called out "irrational objections" to a Massachusetts bill that would provide non-discrimination protections for transgender people, debunking the right-wing myth that these protections would endanger women and children.
A Massachusetts bill that would extend non-discrimination protections for transgender people to places of public accommodation has stalled in the state legislature since last year. Opponents of the bill have centered the debate on the anti-LGBT myth that protections for transgender people will allow sexual predators to pretend to be transgender so they can sneak into bathrooms and commit sexual assault.
In a February 8 editorial, the Boston Globe editorial board voiced its support for the bill, citing empirical evidence from other states and cities with transgender non-discrimination protections to refute the right-wing bathroom predator myth. The board also noted that transgender people are the ones more likely to be in danger when using the bathroom (emphasis added):
Everyone deserves the right to use public bathrooms with impunity. This would seem obvious, but if you are a transgender person, access to public spaces -- including bathrooms and locker rooms -- is not a given. A bill to protect the rights of transgender individuals to public spaces has hit headwinds in the Legislature, where it sits in committee, so far a victim of unwarranted fears, and a lack of support from Governor Charlie Baker.
The bill would ban discrimination against transgender people in parks, restaurants, libraries, and other public accommodations. It also affirms their right to use public restrooms, dressing rooms, and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. It follows the successful passage of a 2011 law that prevents transgender discrimination in the workplace, housing, and public education. Under current law, an employer can not discriminate against a transgender person in hiring, but that same establishment could deny service, or access to a bathroom.
Many in the transgender community have felt the negative effects of these loopholes. Brandon Adams, 14, of Framingham, spoke in support of the bill at a hearing last fall. When he was transitioning from a girl to a boy, he asked to use the boy's bathroom in his school, which denied his request. Brandon then avoided using the bathroom while at school, thus drinking less water, and eventually feeling dizzy and dehydrated.
Despite soaring support (the majority of the state's congressional delegation, nearly 200 businesses and organizations, and the local professional sports teams), irrational objections to the measure remain. Critics have concerns about women and children. Republican Representative Marc Lombardo called the bill "a recipe for disaster," and told the State House News Service he's afraid high school boys could suddenly say they're transgender only in order to gain access to the girls' locker room.
But no such incident has been recorded in any of the 18 other states and 200 communities nationwide where similar protections have been enacted. Research has shown that the true danger is to transgender individuals, who are more likely to face discrimination, which could lead to physical and mental health issues. In fact, Attorney General Maura Healey said her office received seven complaints last year from transgender people who have faced discrimination in public places.
In his new book set to be released this February, Fox News contributor and prominent conservative media figure Erick Erickson will explain how the "leftist-homosexual mafia" is waging a "war on Christians."
On February 22, Erickson will release his new book You Will Be Made To Care: The War on Faith, Family And Your Freedom To Believe, co-authored with Christian blogger Bill Blankschaen. The book explores how "religious liberty is under attack in America." According to its website, the book will teach readers (emphasis added):
- How lawyers are raking in millions through politically correct lawsuits against religious groups that don't affirm homosexuality as "normal"
- How there is nowhere to hide: no matter how small your bed and breakfast, or your wedding chapel, or your flower shop--the leftist-homosexual mafia will shut you down if you don't share their beliefs
- How Christian clergy will be forced to perform gay weddings or see their churches forced into bankruptcy
The book will likely be a rundown of the right's greatest horror stories in the bogus "war" on Christians led by the "leftist-homosexual mafia." These stories tend to be misrepresented cases of business owners who violate non-discrimination laws by refusing to serve LGBT people, or long debunked myths about marriage equality's impact on "religious liberty."
These examples of "Christian persecution" are essential to the right-wing campaign for "religious freedom" laws that seek to create broad legal protections for businesses that discriminate against LGBT people. They also give conservatives cause to oppose basic non-discrimination protections for LGBT people under the guise of protecting "religious liberty."
In the past, Erickson has referred to the LGBT community as terrorists, suggested that businesses serving gay couples are "aiding and abetting sin," and predicted that the arrest of Kim Davis could lead to "another civil war."
In one of the last rallies before the Iowa caucuses, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) allowed right-wing radio hosts, Glenn Beck, Michael Berry,and Steve Deace, to introduce him, despite their records of espousing extreme rhetoric.
Cruz's rally featured seven speakers including anti-gay activists like CEO of The Family Leader Bob Vander Plaats and Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson as well as Iowa's Rep. Steve King (R). However, it was the presence of radio hosts Glenn Beck, Michael Berry, and Steve Deace which best illustrated the divisive nature of Cruz's platform.
Beck, once of Fox News fame and now a television and radio host on The Blaze, previously caused controversy due to his claim that President Obama is a "racist" with "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture." The host has been criticized in the past for his use of Nazi imagery, his history of violent rhetoric and for making outlandish claims like blaming President Obama for the November terrorist attack in Paris. Beck announced his endorsement of Cruz in January, making Cruz the first candidate he has officially endorsed in his broadcast career.
Iowa based radio host Steve Deace began supporting Cruz early in this election cycle and endorsed Cruz in August, saying he has a "commitment to our principals." Since his endorsement Deace has written at least 24 articles trumpeting Cruz, advised the candidate before debates, and appeared in a lengthy campaign ad for Cruz.
Deace's brand of extremism centers around a plethora of anti-gay ideas. Deace coined the phrase "rainbow jihad" to describe advocates for LGBT rights -- a phrase which Cruz paraphrased claiming "the jihad ... going after people of faith who respect the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman." Deace's extreme views have led him to write about a hypothetical conversation with Jesus in which he claims to show Obama is not a Christian and an article which suggested divorce could make children gay. Deace has recently pushed the conspiracy theory that Obama may not leave the White House when his term is up in January 2017.
Rounding out Cruz's radio host speakers was Michael Berry, a supporter of Cruz's senate bid and "friend for over ten years." Much of Berry's show revolves around stoking the flames of racial tension. The host often undermines the intentions behind the Black Lives Matter movement, claiming "black lives matter, just not to black people" and that white people don't kill people the way black people do. Comedian Chuck Knipp, a frequent guest of Berry's, performs in blackface as "Shirley Q. Liquor" to mock racial stereotypes of black people.
Most egregious is Berry's weekly segment dedicated to mocking victims of gun violence in Chicago. Every Monday the host reads the "butcher bill," reciting the names of those shot while mocking their names and the circumstances in which they were wounded or killed. Berry has claimed that the segment is sponsored by Black Lives Matter.
Jacksonville is set to be the next major battleground for LGBT equality as the city council considers extending non-discrimination protections to include LGBT people. Here's what the media should know about the groups and activists leading the fight against LGBT equality in Jacksonville.
As the largest US city that has never enacted protections for LGBT people, Jacksonville is considering updating its Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) to include non-discrimination protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation in areas like housing, employment, and public accommodations.
Anti-LGBT activists leading the fight against expanding Jacksonville's HRO falsely claim that adding LGBT protections would allow sexual predators to enter women's restrooms, a bogus talking point that was used to defeat similar protections in Houston in 2015.
Here's what the media should know about the loudest critics of expanding Jacksonville's HRO:
Liberty Counsel has been active in opposing LGBT rights in Jacksonville since 2012, when Liberty Counsel attorney Roger Gannam helped organize opposition that led to the Jacksonville City Council rejecting LGBT non-discrimination protections. Gannam appeared at all three recent town hall meetings on the HRO, where he claimed that LGBT people don't need any further protections because they are already afforded the protection to marry. Gannam also authored a column in The Florida Times Union where he repeated the bogus claim that non-discrimination protections for transgender people will cause "male predators" to enter women's restrooms. The group has also opposed the HRO on their website, where founder Mat Staver assured his audience that "Liberty Counsel attorneys are actively supporting religious freedom in the Jacksonville area."
Staver has previously called LGBT History Month a "sexual assault on our children," repeatedly warned that the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage would trigger a revolution and civil war, and claimed non-discrimination protections for LGBT people will result in the "death of some individuals."
Pastor Kenneth Adkins leads a group of black pastors who oppose the expanded HRO and are calling for a referendum on the measure. In December, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry selected Adkins as one of six panelists chosen for a "community conversation" about HRO. Adkins has also vocally opposed the HRO expansion on Twitter with graphic and inflammatory images:
In other tweets, Adkins has said that the definition of the expanded HRO is "Giving Civil Rights to men who engage in Anal Sex with each other," called City Council Member Tommy Hazouri the "anti-Christ" for supporting the HRO, and photoshopped Hazouri's face onto pornographic images:
Hazouri has said he is considering taking legal action against Adkins for the graphic images.
Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC) has been opposing LGBT equality in Florida since 2004. FFPC president John Stemberger actively opposed expanding the Jacksonville HRO in 2012, including by testifying against it before the city council. FFPC has already started a petition against the HRO, and the group's action arm (Florida Family Action) has built a website called "Defend Jax Families" to oppose the HRO. The website has a page titled "No Men In Women's Bathrooms" that calls transgender women "gender-confused men" and features the same graphics used by an anti-LGBT group that opposed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.
Stemberger has previously called same-sex parents "objectively inferior" to married heterosexual parents, predicted that accepting gay Scouts would "literally destroy" the Boy Scouts, and declared that public policy should be guided by "scripture." In 2013, he launched an anti-gay alternative to the Boy Scouts due to his fear that accepting gay Scouts would lead to sexual abuse.
Major news outlets reporting on Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) newest endorser are leaving out that endorser's background as an extreme anti-gay hate group leader with ties to white supremacist groups.
Tony Perkins is the evangelical right wing activist credited with consolidating evangelical support behind Cruz in a December meeting of religious conservatives. Perkins has now formally announced his endorsement of the Texas senator, calling him "a constitutional conservative who will fight for faith, family and freedom" during a January 26 interview on Fox News' The Kelly File.
Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council (FRC), which is designated as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center based on the group's propagation of falsehoods about LGBT people, as well as Perkins' own history of inflammatory comments. Perkins has called pedophilia a "homosexual problem," equated being gay with drug use and adultery, accused gay people of trying to "recruit" children, and compared gay rights advocates to terrorists.
In addition to his anti-gay extremism, the Southern Poverty Law Center has detailed Perkins' ties to white supremacist groups:
In 1996, while managing the U.S. Senate campaign of Woody Jenkins against Mary Landrieu, Perkins paid $82,500 to use the mailing list of former Ku Klux Klan leader and state Rep. David Duke. The campaign was fined $3,000 for filing false disclosure forms in a bid to hide the payment to Duke. Perkins has stated he did not know about the mailing list's connection to Duke.
Perkins served as a state representative for eight years, starting in 1998. On May 17, 2001, he gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist group that has described black people as a "retrograde species of humanity." Perkins who addressed the group while standing in front of a Confederate flag, claimed not to know the group's ideology at the time, even though it had been widely publicized in Louisiana and the nation.
But while reporting on Perkins' endorsement, media outlets failed to provide any information about Perkins' anti-LGBT extremism and white supremacist ties. Time, The Associated Press, and NPR all described Perkins as president of FRC without reporting the group's hate group designation. CNN and Reuters both characterized Perkins as an influential Christian leader. Politico did note that Perkins has "been vocal as an activist against LGBT causes," but didn't further detail Perkins' anti-gay extremism.
Perkins has previously used GOP primary coverage to rise to prominence in national media outlets who failed to hold him accountable for his views while allowing him to position himself as a spokesperson for social conservative and evangelical voters.
The NY Daily News correctly identified the anti-LGBT legal organization behind the nationwide effort to deny transgender students equal access to school facilities, noting the group's history of defending laws that would criminalize homosexuality.
In a January 12 article laying out the debate over transgender student rights, NY Daily News reporter Sarah Goodyear identified Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as the anti-LGBT legal organization behind the national movement to pass "bathroom bills" - policies that would deny transgender students access to facilities that align with their gender identity.
While other media outlets have failed to expose ADF's extremism when reporting on the organization's "religious freedom" work, Goodyear noted ADF's prior international work to defend laws that criminalized homosexuality:
Palatine, Gloucester and other districts around the country, those opposed to the policy of personal choice in accommodations for transgender kids have received their talking points from a deep-pocketed organization called the Alliance Defending Freedom, which describes itself as "an alliance-building legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith."
You may not have heard of ADF, but chances are you're familiar with some of its work, which includes litigation in several cases regarding the right to refuse services such as photography, wedding cakes and catering venues to same-sex couples who are getting married.
The Arizona-based ADF spent $39 million in 2013 -- and has been on the forefront of defending anti-sodomy laws in the United States as well as in nations such as Belize, where members of the LGBT community are routinely stigmatized and terrorized. The organization fought the Boy Scouts' decision to allow gay scouts, and has been a major force behind the efforts in states around the country to pass "religious freedom" acts that attempt to legitimize refusal of services to LGBT citizens.
In December 2014, ADF sent an email to districts around the country arguing that there was no legal basis for the OCR guidelines and advising that they should feel free not to comply. The group has offered its legal services pro bono to any school district that wants to fight the guidelines, and has followed up with specific communications to districts that are considering transgender accommodations policies or have adopted them, such as the Le Roy Central School District near Rochester, N.Y. The ADF's letters include the warning that "Granting Students Access to Opposite-Sex Changing Areas Could Subject Schools to Tort Liability" for violating students' and parents' rights.
Opponents of Jacksonville's LGBT-inclusive Equal Rights Ordinance warn that non-discrimination protections threaten women's safety in public restrooms. But experts -- including law enforcement officials, government employees, and advocates for sexual assault victims -- from 10 different Florida cities and counties with similar non-discrimination ordinances debunk the "bathroom predator" myth, citing empirical evidence and experience working with sexual assault victims.
The Seattle Times uncritically aired the lie that Washington state's non-discrimination protections for transgender people could threaten public safety in women's restrooms, failing to mention that the talking point has been disproven by similar laws across the country.
On December 26, the Washington State Human Rights Commission implemented a new regulation clarifying the state's 2006 non-discrimination law, which prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The regulation has caused uproar amongst anti-LGBT activists, who falsely claim the law will allow sexual predators to sneak into women's restrooms by pretending to be transgender.
Advocates for victims of sexual assault, law enforcement and government officials, a Pulitzer-prize winning columnist, and experts in 15 states with similar laws have all debunked that talking point, calling it "beyond specious."
But in a January 9 article detailing the recent debate over the regulations, Seattle Times reporter Nina Shapiro quoted anti-LGBT activist Joseph Backholm, who called the policy "just a big welcome mat" for sexual predators. Shapiro also quoted a sexual assault survivor who expressed concerns, but failed to mention that 200 cities and 17 states with non-discrimination protections for transgender people have had no issues with a "bathroom predator:"
The debate erupted even before the Human Rights Commission wrote its rule. In April, an inquiry from a transgender member led the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties to allow access to locker rooms according to gender identity, according to Bob Ecklund, the organization's president and chief executive officer.
Triller Haver was then the organization's communications director. Both her parents had also held senior positions at the Y. "That was home," she said.
But as she read over the talking points she was expected to espouse, she found herself at odds with her employer. The abuse she says she suffered as a child, from a relative, made her especially nervous about who had access to open areas where women and girls, including her 5-year-old daughter, are naked.
"Part of what my abuser liked to do was to watch me in the shower," she said. Just using the Y's shower at all, she said, is "an act of healing."
She worried not only about seeing a transgender woman who hadn't surgically transitioned, but also about being watched by a predator exploiting the Y's policy. She cited press reports of a man in Toronto, which has a similar law to Washington's, posing as transgender to gain access to women's homeless shelters, where he attacked two women.
She claims that when she raised questions about the policy, she was fired. (Ecklund said he could not comment on employee matters.)
Such fears have also been rallying calls for those opposed to the state regulation. "The reality is there are sex predators," said Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. "This is just a big welcome mat."
That's especially true, he argued, since transgender advocates discourage asking people questions about why they are in a particular restroom or locker room. "You can't say, 'Oh, you're 6-feet-5-inches, 270 pounds and you have a beard, therefore you're a man,' " Backholm said.
Journalists covering the 2016 GOP primary have an opportunity to expose the extreme hate group leader who just became the face of Ted Cruz's evangelical supporters.
In a secret December 2015 meeting of top national social conservative activists, Ted Cruz won the support of a group influential evangelical Christians leaders, reported as a "major boost" for Cruz's presidential campaign. The man credited with consolidating support behind Cruz at the meeting is Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC).
As the driving force behind Cruz's consolidation of evangelical support, it's likely Perkins will become a go-to commentator for media outlets covering the GOP primary. During the 2012 primary -- during which Perkins backed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum -- CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all welcomed Perkins as a near-constant source of campaign commentary.
Perkins' cable news appearances for the 2016 primary cycle have already started, with a January 5 appearance on CNN's OutFront to discuss Ted Cruz's faith and Donald Trump's questioning of Cruz's citizenship:
Given the likelihood than Perkins will once again become a sought-after guest in GOP primary and election coverage, here's what news outlets should know about Cruz's extreme evangelical hype man:
In 2010, FRC was listed as an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center thanks to its propagation of known falsehoods about LGBT people as well as Perkins' history of making inflammatory comments about the LGBT community. Perkins has equated being gay with drug use and adultery, accused gay people of trying to "recruit" children, and compared gay advocates to terrorists.
FRC's "hate group" label is almost never mentioned by news networks that choose to treat the group like a seriously policy organization on national television. During the 2012 GOP primary, when Perkins was a regular fixture on cable news, he was never identified as a "hate group" leader. Since then, media figures that have identified Perkins as a hate group leader have faced criticism from FRC and its allies.
In addition to spreading falsehoods about LGBT people, FRC has a history of making apocalyptic warnings about government policies that advance LGBT equality.
Some examples of FRC's shoddy policy analysis include claiming that striking down same-sex marriage bans would lead to a full-scale revolution, that the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy would bring back the draft and risk millions of lives, and that hate crime laws respond to a "phony 'crisis.'"
Perkins also regularly spreads known lies about LGBT people. He's repeated the widely debunked myth that pedophilia is "a homosexual problem," promoted the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called "reparative therapy," and falsely claimed that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than those raised by opposite-sex couples.
Mainstream media outlets regularly invite Perkins to speak on behalf of Christians and religious voters, but Perkins' brand of anti-LGBT extremism represents a far right fringe of American Christianity. In fact, a majority a US Christians now believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society.
Christian audiences have previously protested networks that give Perkins a platform. In 2012, the progressive Christian group Faithful America launched petitions asking CNN and MSNBC to stop allowing Perkins to "speak on behalf of American's Christians," generating tens of thousands of signatures.
As the face of Ted Cruz's support from religious conservatives, Perkins is poised to become another regular fixture in cable news' 2016 coverage. If that happens, it'll be those networks' responsibility to properly identify the anti-gay extremist they're putting on air.
A segment on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor ridiculed New York City's Human Rights Law protecting transgender New Yorkers by mocking the transgender community and ignoring the need for anti-discrimination protections.
Fox host Bill O'Reilly invited Fox Business host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery and contributor Katie Pavlich to discuss New York City's Human Rights Law which "expands the scope" of existing anti-discrimination protections that "prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and housing" and "discriminatory harassment" by law enforcement. The law protects citizens from "landlords, employers and businesses" intentionally misgendering a person in an attempt to denigrate them. It also affords employees with health plans "benefits for gender-affirming care or failing to accommodate people undergoing gender transition, such as medical appointments" from their health insurance.
O'Reilly and his panel ignored protections granted by the law and instead focused their discussion on arguing that the law would hurt employers, claiming that their employees would want to be "Horatio" one day and "Sheila" the next day in order to file "frivolous lawsuits." O'Reilly also mocked the guidelines for protecting New Yorkers who are not transgender but "transvestites like in Rocky Horror Picture Show." From the January 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): So explain this to me. So you got a transgendered person. This is work place, right?
LISA KENNEDY MONTGOMERY: It's actually -- it goes beyond the workplace.
O'REILLY: It does? It goes everywhere. So you are in a McDonald's and there is a transgendered and you are serving them and if you say hey, sir, or, what?
KENNEDY: Yes. If you address someone by a pronoun that they don't want --
O'REILLY: Do they tell you before they order the Big Mac and fries?
KENNEDY: Let's just deal with the work place. If someone works at McDonald's and they're transitioning to become a woman and they want to be called madam or Sheila, you have to address them -
O'REILLY: So they're behind the counter. We are talking about a McDonald's employee? They tell the management I used to be -- I used to be Horatio but now I'm Sheila and you are to call me Sheila or I'm going to sue you?
KENNEDY: Yes. And then if you report them to the human rights commission here in New York City, you could be fined $125,000. However, if you were found to have committed that offense and several others like forcing someone to wear a dress who wants to become a man or forcing a woman to wear a necktie, you can be fined up to $250,000.
O'REILLY: So if there is a dress code, say you are in a department store and person comes in, in a dress but last week was in a tie and jacket like this, you can't say anything?
KENNEDY: No. You can't say anything. You cannot force them to. If you are an employer and if you have a strict dress code...
O'REILLY: So they can dress, even if they are not transgendered. What if they are a transvestite? Like in Rocky Horror Picture show?
KENNEDY: It doesn't have to be someone who has undergone surgery.
O'REILLY: Someone who just on Thursday they want to be Sheila?
KENNEDY: Gender norms, yes. The language is so broad.
During the December 15 Republican primary debate, influential right-wing Iowa radio host Steve Deace sent out a tweet to his twenty thousand followers attacking Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. "Wow ... Fiorina goes full vagina right away," Deace wrote, a statement he would quickly retract and apologize for after receiving significant backlash on Twitter. As the tweet ricocheted across the internet, eventually landing on Fox News, Deace furiously responded to criticism of his tweet and attempted to de-link himself from the presidential candidate he has endorsed - Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) -- saying it was "intellectually dishonest" to associate the two.
Yet, Cruz's recent surge in Iowa polls can be credited to few people more than Deace. The host and the senator have formed a close relationship that started well before Deace's early endorsement of Cruz in August. Cruz's successful attempt to win over evangelicals like Deace has solidified the Senator's position on the fringe of the right-wing, as their relationship has helped drive Cruz to the top of the polls in Iowa.
Steve Deace is one of the busiest anti-establishment conservatives. His radio show apparently outgrew its provider, USA Radio Networks, and was re-launched under the Salem Media Group, a leading Christian media organization that "operates 117 local radio stations, with 72 stations in the top 25 media markets." Deace also contributes to several conservative blogs, most notably Townhall.com and Conservative Review, and authors a column for The Washington Times. Deace's location in Iowa has also given him opportunities to appear in mainstream outlets like MSNBC and NPR as a voice for Iowa conservatives and allowed him to become a Politico Caucus "insider."
Deace's August endorsement of Cruz was one of the earliest among media figures and was aimed at giving the freshman senator a jumpstart ahead of the February Iowa caucus. "History has proven the first foe that must be defeated is the feckless Republican Party establishment," Deace said in his endorsement. As Deace's reputation has grown, so too has the value of his endorsement.
It is difficult to find another media figure providing similar coverage and promotion for one candidate like Deace is doing for Cruz. With such an influential position and unwavering support for his candidate, Deace's work across all platforms has become a crucial machine for supporting Cruz and Deace himself has proven to be a loyal defender when the candidate is criticized.
Laying out his reasons for choosing Cruz, Deace has appeared in a three minute campaign ad in which Deace says Cruz is a "principled candidate" that will ignite the passion of the conservative base and avoid the weak turnout blamed for "establishment" candidate losses of recent history
Deace has also helped the campaign by appearing at campaign office openings like one at Cruz's Iowa headquarters where he was introduced as "part of the campaign," as Cruz looked on. Before officially endorsing Cruz, Deace had been questioned via Twitter by Des Moines Register reporter Jason Noble about his advising role on the Cruz campaign. While Deace denied working for the senator at the time, he told the conservative National Review that Cruz had been asking for his help since 2013. Deace was also "part of the Cruz debate team" during the October Republican debate.
Since January 2015, Deace has written at least 24 articles trumpeting Cruz across the various outlets to which he contributes, most of which include an attack against other Republican candidates and Cruz remains a constant topic of conversation on Deace's radio show. As the host said at the time, "it's only fitting" that Ted Cruz was the first guest of his re-launched Steve Deace Show on the Salem radio network. During the interview, Deace used the campaign's own language in describing Cruz's tax plan, calling it "simple and fair" while prompting the Senator to pitch his plan.
Deace has also heavily engaged in Cruz support on social media, sending over one hundred tweets mentioning Cruz this year as well as longer Facebook posts in support of the candidate. The host often uses social media to defend Cruz against critics and advocate for the Texas Senator's brand of anti-establishment rhetoric.
Deace's endorsement was a major prize for Cruz as the radio host is often credited with helping former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee secure an upset caucus win during the 2008 presidential primaries. With connections throughout the evangelical community, and a special relationship with "king maker" Bob Vander Plaats - leader of the anti-abortion, anti-gay Family Leader - ABC News named Deace part of the "trifecta of key Iowa endorsements" along with Vander Plaats and Republican Iowa Rep. Steve King.
Cruz has gone all out to woo evangelical leaders like Deace and Vander Plaats. Cruz has made multiple appearances at Vander Plaats' Family Leadership Summit, an event heavily supported and promoted by Deace who called it the "biggest pre-election event prior to the 2016 Iowa caucuses." In 2013, Cruz and his father were featured speakers, and the Senator continued his appearances at the summit in 2014 and 2015 along with many other Republican candidates.
Cruz's effort to win over Iowa's evangelicals has led him to mimic their rhetoric, often using similar phrasing as Deace when discussing social issues, especially women's rights and LGBT issues. Deace has claimed that the "Democrats have trotted out their phony-baloney 'war-on-women' meme" when defending conservative attacks on everything from issues of equal pay to abortion rights and praised Cruz for "taking a page - literally - out of my book" by flipping the narrative to say the war on women is actually being waged by Democrats:
Taking a page - literally - out of my book Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again, Cruz perfectly demonstrated the Fifth Commandment of my "10 Commandments of Political Warfare."
The Fifth Commandment reads: "Reverse the premise of your opponent's argument and use it against him."
And that's just what Cruz did recently at a women's forum in South Carolina, one of the most important states on the GOP presidential primary calendar (I'm sure that's not a coincidence, by the way). Cruz accused President Obama of waging a war on women:
"For the last six years under President Obama, 3.7 million have entered poverty. Under President Obama, the median income for women has dropped by $733. You want to talk about a war on women? That's a war on women. We're here today because we're concerned about the future for our kids and our grandkids. Right now for the first time in our nation's history, most Americans don't think their kids will have a better life than them--76 percent of Americans right now think their kids will have a worse life than they do. That has never been true in the history of our country."
On LGBT issues, the two also have parallel views and use strikingly similar language. Deace has lashed out at advancements in LGBT rights such as the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision to allow marriage equality in every state as well as positive media coverage of Caitlyn Jenner's transition and accompanying trans issues. Deace also coined the phrase "rainbow jihad" to describe advocates for LGBT equality:
What I have dubbed "the Rainbow Jihad" is a carefully coordinated cultural hijacking decades in the making. Like a parasite that long exists in a body but doesn't manifest itself until the host is at its weakest, it has been unleashed by the Left because they believe they have successfully eroded our Judeo-Christian foundation. The Rainbow Jihad is much more than an attempt to promote a behavior Western Civilization cast aside as barbaric centuries ago. It is the lethal scimitar malevolently wielded by progressives in the cultural battlefield for one existential purpose.
As Right Wing Watch first reported, Cruz used similar language during a panel discussion on religious freedom. "Look at the jihad being waged right now...going after people of faith who respect the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman." The discussion, which also featured former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), was hosted by Steve Deace.
Deace's radio reach, amplified by his print contributions and his stature in Iowa make him a sought after pundit on mainstream media outlets. He is often hosted by shows looking to get an "insider view" of what Iowans are thinking before the caucuses. However, his dedication to Cruz has disturbingly turned these appearances into free opportunities to pump Cruz as a candidate and to attack his opponents, often without proper disclosure of his role in the Cruz campaign. During interviews on stations like MSNBC, Deace has used the cover of conservative insider to promote Cruz even when the discussion is ostensibly about other candidates. Similarly, USA Today asked Deace to provide post-debate analysis after September's Republican debate, which led Deace to list Cruz as one of the debate's top performers.
While Deace's impact on the presidential race will likely wane after the Iowa caucuses, his influence has already left a lasting remark on Cruz, who has used Deace's ideas and endorsement to help build his platform. Despite Deace's best efforts to maintain appropriate distance from Cruz, it's clear that Deace and Cruz are linked in many ways, making Deace's comments and ideas as both a quasi-surrogate and "insider" pundit all the more important as the Iowa Caucus looms.
Just months after the Supreme Court made the historic decision to legalize same-sex marriage, the LGBT community experienced its most stunning defeat at the ballot box since California's Proposition 8.
Voters in Houston, Texas, voted to repeal the city's non-discrimination protections for LGBT people after months of local news coverage suggesting that those protections might embolden sexual predators to sneak into public restrooms. The defeat is a testament to the power local TV news stations have to poison public opinion in the next major battle over LGBT equality.
While most of the country was celebrating the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage, activists in Houston were fighting to protect the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a city ordinance that prohibited discrimination on the basis of fifteen characteristics in areas like housing, employment, and public accommodations. HERO's protections for gay and transgender Houstonians earned the ire of conservatives, who succeeded in putting the measure up for a public repeal vote after months of lobbying and legal maneuvering.
HERO's opponents organized their opposition around the false claim that prohibiting discrimination against trans people would allow male sexual predators to sneak into women's restrooms by claiming to be women.
That talking point was debunked by experts across the city, state, and country -- there's no evidence that laws like HERO motivate sexual predators to commit crimes -- but that didn't stop opponents from making it the center of their negative ads.
And on Election Day, it appeared to pay off -- HERO was repealed by a wide margin, handing local and national LGBT groups a major defeat.
Many factors have been blamed for HERO's demise, including ineffective messaging and a lack of diversity in the local LGBT campaign. But shoddy coverage of the ordinance by local television news stations undoubtedly played a significant role in getting voters to turn against the ordinance. Reporters endlessly referenced the "bathroom predator" talking point without debunking it, essentially giving free airtime to HERO's opponents. Segments on HERO were riddled with generic B-roll footage of bathroom signs, often without context or explanation. By November, many Houstonians only understood HERO as a "bathroom ordinance" and not as a broad non-discrimination ordinance -- exactly what opponents were apparently hoping for.
One local news station -- Fox 26 Houston -- stood out in its unique and aggressive peddling of the "bathroom predator" myth. The Fox affiliate made bathroom concerns a central focus of its HERO coverage, uncritically echoing opponents' talking points in segment after segment. Though the station never formally opposed HERO, its coverage was aimed at ginning up concerns about the ordinance's scope. One particularly cringeworthy segment interviewed local parents concerned about whether HERO would endanger their children, failing to mention that similar laws across the country have never posed a threat to children's safety.
In fact, when Fox 26 finally did fact-check a HERO ad, it was to incorrectly criticize supporters of the law for comparing HERO to other non-discrimination laws in Texas. Just weeks before Election Day, Fox 26 devoted an entire segment to pointing out that Texas cities like Plano and San Antonio exclude bathrooms from their non-discrimination laws -- the implication being that HERO's bathroom protections are radical or unprecedented. What Fox 26 failed to mention was that major Texas cities, including Dallas and Austin, have had bathroom-inclusive transgender non-discrimination laws for years and have never experienced issues with bathroom safety.
That kind of dishonest reporting was likely part of the reason that Jared Woodfill, one of the leaders of the anti-HERO campaign, regularly included clips of Fox 26's reporting in his messages to supporters.
Fox 26's adoption of anti-HERO talking points was outside the bounds of good journalism, but it's emblematic of a larger problem with local news coverage of fights over trans-inclusive non-discrimination laws -- the failure to treat lies like lies.
Opponents of LGBT equality know, now more than ever, that they can turn public opinion against non-discrimination laws if they fixate on bathroom fearmongering. Local reporters feel compelled to present audiences with both sides of a controversy, even if that means repeating claims that are baseless or disproven. The result can be a toxic mix, with news outlets becoming megaphones for anti-LGBT groups, creating a public square that is so saturated with horror stories and misinformation that audiences are unable to separate fact from fiction. It's the reason pro-LGBT ordinances are so regularly defeated at the ballot box -- even well-funded and organized LGBT groups struggle to persuade voters in environments where fear-based ads are guiding media coverage. In Houston, a broad non-discrimination ordinance became known as a "bathroom bill" -- not because it was true, but because anti-LGBT groups had taken control of the local media's story-telling.
But this cycle of misinformation isn't inevitable. Journalism should be about more than merely repeating both sides of a factual dispute -- it should be about actively resolving those disputes through investigative reporting. The Houston Chronicle's Pulitzer-prize winning columnist, Lisa Falkenberg, for example, did her own investigation into the "bathroom predator" horror story, interviewing experts in cities with similar laws on the books and concluding that HERO's opponents were peddling an "urban myth."
The next major battles in the fight for LGBT equality will likely be fought outside the view of national media, with cities across the country following the Houston example and debating their own HERO-like non-discrimination policies. After HERO's defeat, the "bathroom predator" myth will undoubtedly continue to be a central part of efforts to roll back non-discrimination protections for LGBT people. Whether local reporters choose to debunk or lazily repeat anti-LGBT groups' talking points will have a major impact on how Americans understand and value those protections.
Right-wing media spent much of 2015 lashing out at celebrities. From seething over celebrities who spoke out against sexism and pay inequality in Hollywood and supported the Black Lives Matter movement, to objectifying female bodies, bashing the Pope, and telling an actress to "deport herself," Media Matters looks back at some of conservative media's most outrageous temper tantrums of 2015:
For over a decade, gay rights opponents peddled a set of myths and fearmongering tactics to try to sway voters against marriage equality and basic rights for gay people. Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, anti-LGBT organizations have started recycling the same bogus scare tactics to target the new bogeyman of the LGBT rights movement -- the transgender community.
The "slippery slope" argument has been one of the most popular arguments used by opponents of LGBT equality, aimed at making even basic protections for LGBT people appear dangerous.
In debates over sexual orientation non-discrimination laws, opponents warned that prohibiting discrimination against gay people would begin a slippery slope towards protecting pedophilia and bestiality.
Similarly, in the debate over marriage equality, anti-gay activists predicted that allowing same-sex couples to marry would cause a slippery slope to legalized polygamy, bestiality, incest, and pedophilia.
That idea persisted even after gay couples had been legally wedding in Massachusetts for over a decade without opening "a Pandora's box." Immediately following the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision in June 2015, anti-gay advocates continued to argue that marriage equality would undermine the legal limits on who could get married.
Now that the debate over marriage equality has died down, the "transgender slippery slope" argument is emerging in debates over protections for trans people. Opponents suggest that allowing transgender people to define their gender identity would open the floodgates, with people claiming to be a cat, a flower, or a Cocker Spaniel. Fox News and other conservative media outlets have deemed non-discrimination protections for transgender people a "slippery slope." As one prominent anti-LGBT group declared, accommodating transgender people is "not a slippery slope, but a trap door to sexual nihilism."
Opponents of legal protections for gay people have also warned that these protections threaten religious liberty -- specifically the religious liberty of Christians who oppose homosexuality. One of the most commonly cited myths in the fight against marriage equality was the idea that legalizing same-sex marriage would cause churches or pastors to be forced to marry gay couples, despite clear religious exemptions in marriage equality legislation. Anti-LGBT groups like the National Organization for Marriage, Alliance Defending Freedom , and Family Research Council (FRC) hyped claims that pastors and churches were in danger of being forced to perform same-sex marriages.
Despite the obvious constitutional protections for churches and ministers, both conservative and mainstream media outlets parroted religious liberty talking points, even years after states began legalizing same-sex marriage without issue.
Baseless concerns about religious liberty are now playing a major part in debates about accommodations for transgender people. In March, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed that a broad "religious freedom" law was needed to protect churches from being forced to build gender neutral bathrooms. In the same vein, the anti-LGBT legal organization leading the fight against accommodating transgender students claimed that these protections somehow violate the "religious liberty" of other students. And in November, an anti-gay hate-group successfully canceled a school reading of the trans-supportive picture book "I Am Jazz," with the claim that reading the book would "undermin[e] the religious free exercise" of teachers and students.
Opponents of gay equality used to be wildly effective at invoking concerns about the safety of children to argue against basic protections for gay people.
For decades, the myth that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia than straight men has been a central right-wing talking point. Anti-LGBT organizations frequently employed the talking point to argue against marriage equality, allowing gay parents to adopt children, and even accepting gay Boy Scout troop leaders.
Though the pedophilia talking point has fallen out of favor with mainstream anti-gay groups, fearmongering about children's well-being remains a central focus of anti-gay politics. Opponents of gay equality regularly cite pseudoscience to falsely argue that the children of gay parents fare less well than the children of straight parents. Others warn that prohibiting anti-gay discrimination would cause gay people to have "inappropriate" jobs like school teachers.
Child-focused fearmongering has been incredibly effective in anti-LGBT politics. In a 2012 report, Political Research Associates noted that the "harm to kids" theme had a "clear, negative impact on how voters felt about same-sex marriage." Even people who generally support LGBT equality become anxious when opponents warn about potential harm to children.
Which helps explain why anti-LGBT groups are using nearly identical talking points in attacks on transgender equality. In cities and states across the country, opponents of non-discrimination protections for transgender people have adopted the myth that these protections would be exploited by sexual predators looking to enter women's bathrooms and commit sexual assault -- especially against young girls. Government experts, advocates for sexual assault victims, and law enforcement officials have debunked that talking point, but it continues to dominate debates about transgender equality.
In November, opponents of transgender equality in Houston, Texas successfully demonstrated how horror stories about children's safety can impact public and media discussions about trans non-discrimination. The city's broad non-discrimination law was repealed following a public misinformation campaign that relied heavily on an ad picturing a man following a young girl into a public bathroom stall:
The transgender community continues to face astronomical rates of harassment and discrimination at work, in school, in public places, and even from law enforcement. While public attitudes about same-sex marriage and acceptance of homosexuality shifted considerably over the past decade, acceptance of transgender people has lagged behind. Given that only 16 percent of Americans personally know someone who is transgender, it's still common for anti-LGBT groups to spread myths about the transgender community with impunity.
But these myths aren't new -- and journalists should recognize that the talking points being used to attack transgender equality are the same bogus, recycled attacks that anti-LGBT groups have been peddling against gay people for years.