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Wall Street Journal columnist and editorial board member William McGurn defended recently fired ESPN analyst Curt Schilling by supporting Schilling's baseless use of “science” to justify denying transgender people access to the restrooms that align with their gender identity.
In an April 25 opinion piece for his "Main Street" column McGurn, former chief speechwriter for George W. Bush, compared Schilling, who was recently fired for posting an anti-transgender meme on social media, to astronomer and scientist Galileo.
Schilling had responded to his firing by offering shoddy "scientific" claims on his WordPress blog to justify denying transgender people access to restrooms that align with their gender identity. In his column, McGurn falsely asserted that Schilling’s position on sex and gender determination is based in science, which “progressive dogma” refuses to acknowledge:
But let us also note the irony. Mr. Schilling’s main contention—“a man is a man no matter what they call themselves”—is supported by DNA and those pesky X and Y chromosomes. In short, in this fight between science and authority, Mr. Schilling is in the amusing position of being the Galileo, with ESPN filling in for the Holy Office.
Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist in chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital, puts it this way: “Curt Schilling is of course correct with the science in saying that claiming to be a woman when you have the chromosomal and anatomical structures of a man does not make you such. You’re still a man no matter what you think or how you dress.”
It’s an interesting detail that has gone largely unaddressed since Mr. Schilling delivered his knuckleball. Nor is it hard to see why. For it contradicts the dominant narrative in which Democrats take their positions from a clear-eyed look at the science while Republicans are blinded by their religious, social and economic orthodoxies.
McGurn ignored the documented biological differences in the brain structures of people who are transgender, the variance in factors that influence sex and gender determination, and the opinion of every major medical organization, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, which support providing transition-related care to transgender individuals. He also quoted Paul McHugh, a conservative psychiatrist notorious for his anti-transgender position and for peddling junk science, to further support Schilling.
This isn’t the first time that The Wall Street Journal has run questionable anti-LGBT opinion pieces. In June 2014, McHugh himself penned a Wall Street Journal commentary lamenting the growing attention to transgender rights in public policy and the media, warning that these developments signal a troubling trend toward affirming transgender identities rather than treating them as "confusions" and illnesses. Several organizations spoke out against the outlet for publishing this misinformation, including GLAAD, the national LGBT media advocacy organization.
The American Family Association Has Been Designated An Anti-LGBT “Hate Group” By The SPLC
Major news outlets have largely failed to identify the American Family Association (AFA) -- the group organizing a boycott of Target over its transgender inclusive restroom policy -- as an anti-LGBT "hate group," often only referring to the group as a "Christian" or "conservative" organization.
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Fox News "Medical A Team" member Dr. Keith Ablow speculated wildly about medical care for transgender children, proposing his own harmful treatments that go against scientific evidence and professional standards from mainstream medical associations.
In a rant where he compared being transgender to pretending to be 65 to get Medicare, Ablow proposed injecting transgender children with hormones corresponding to their gender assigned at birth to “go with nature” and make them “feel more comfortable.” Ablow’s proposed “treatment” is his own extreme variation of discredited ex-gay “conversion therapy” which falsely claims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Ablow’s suggestion is reminiscent of 1940’s era “treatments” where lesbians were forced to submit to estrogen injections and men were given testosterone to “cure” them of being gay. These type of “reparative therapy” practices have been rejected for decades by all mainstream medical associations.
While Ablow has a history of attacking transgender children with extreme, inaccurate claims, experts contradict his talking points. The American Psychological Association has stated that it is "not helpful to force [a transgender child] to act in a more gender-conforming way." Family rejection of transgender youth has been linked to a series of negative health consequences.
From the April 25 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Target, you know the big store? Now the target of some controversy after joining the so-called bathroom bill debate, saying, quote, "Inclusivity is a core belief at Target and we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity."
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): But many customers are taking issue with that. Nearly 500,000 people have signed a petition to boycott Target. Fox News medical A-team psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow joins us now with his take on the issue. Good morning Dr. Ablow.
KEITH ABLOW: Good morning, how are you guys?
EARHARDT: We're great, thank you. What is your take on this?
ABLOW: Well, here's the bottom line. The reason that the bathroom bill is center stage in the presidential campaign and now in a national boycott of Target [[of]] that's up to about 500,000 people is because it represents more than bathrooms. We're not just talking about who is going to use which restroom. We're talking about whether closely held opinion of an individual will be allowed to overcome scientific data and history. Right, so if you believe that you are of one gender, but your DNA and your physical appearance and your physical anatomy are evidence that you are of another gender, and there's that conflict, then if we allow people culturally to dictate terms in our culture, then we also by extension may be in a position where we allow people to say that they're 65 when they're 45 and get Medicare, allow people to get tattooed head-to-foot and say I'm a black person. Now would that be offensive to black people, if that person got affirmative action preferences at school? I think it might. Why? Because there's history. There's culture, there's reality. This is the leading edge. Some would argue, I might, of an unraveling of our culture and perhaps our ability to plan for the future as a species.
DOOCY: So you're suggesting that people can select their gender, they could select their race, they could select their age. How do we get to this place?
ABLOW: We got to this place because we care about people. We don't want to hurt people's feelings. OK, I understand that. We're also too politically correct. But look, there's not a lot of scientific evidence that it's better to approach transgender youth with the opposite hormone because we inject them with massive doses of testosterone if they're female to say look we'll make you more comfortable with your chosen gender. You know, we don't even explore, should it be more estrogen? Should we go with nature and say maybe we'll make you more female, you'll feel more comfortable? There aren't these explorations. We don't treat with psychiatric medicines by and large to say maybe this is a bit of a fixed and false belief. Not different than if you thought you were black person when you are caucasian. The science isn't even there. So if we have a draft, God forbid, and we're trying to save our nation, are we really prepared for 18-year-olds and 20-year-olds to assert that they are really more like 12-year-olds? They feel it. They're immature. Their whole families have said look, much too immature to be drafted. That's where we're headed. Do we want to head there?
Meet the Press host Chuck Todd and panelists on his NBC show cited Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s claim that he opposes anti-LGBT “bathroom bills” as evidence that Trump is moderating his views as he looks toward the general election. But at no point was it mentioned that Trump backpedaled later, saying that states should decide whether to enact “bathroom bills” that discriminate against their LGBT residents.
“Bathroom bills” -- legislation that often aims to ban transgender people from public restrooms that do not correspond with the gender on their birth certificate -- are increasingly in the news as 44 bills in 16 different states targeting transgender people have been introduced as of February 2016. An anti-LGBT “bathroom bill” in North Carolina, HB 2, has come under particular scrutiny.
Trump commented on North Carolina’s law during an April 21 appearance on NBC’s Today, apparently opposing the law by stating, “there have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble. … . Leave it the way it is.” But he reversed himself during an appearance on Fox News’ Hannity later that day, stating, “I think that local communities and states should make the decision.” In Trump’s new view, states would be within their rights to pass discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation.
Media coverage which cites Trump’s first position on “bathroom bills” while omitting his later comment comes as Trump tries to convince the media that he will be more “presidential” throughout the rest of his presidential campaign.
NBC's Meet the Press seemed to fall for Trump’s ploy, with Todd referencing Trump’s first answer to NBC to ask, “Is Trump pivoting to a general election?”
During a panel discussion of Trump’s comment to NBC, Republican strategist and NBC News political analyst Nicole Wallace said, “Trump’s answer made so much sense, and I think what is also on the line in this cycle is the power and the saliency of social issues, and I think if Trump wins it delivers a massive blow to the idea that you have to be up and down on social issues to be the Republican nominee.”
Robert Costa, a reporter for The Washington Post, added, “Trump’s answer tells us a lot about how he would be in a general election, this is someone who has not climbed the ladder, forming relationships with social conservatives along the way.”
Costa went on to claim of Trump, “he has relationships with all kinds of people, he’s not just someone who surrounds himself with Republicans and conservatives, and that actually strangely worries Democrats, that he would be appealing to moderates.”
Wallace ended the segment by saying, “Trump’s answer got him a lot of credit with a lot of people,” with Todd agreeing, “It did.”
During the segment an on-screen graphic read, “Trump Campaign: More Accepting On ‘Bathroom Laws’.”
At no point was there mention that Trump had amended his stance to favor allowing states to pass discriminatory anti-LGBT laws or that Trump has for months said that as president he would sign into law the First Amendment Defense Act, a piece of Republican-sponsored legislation that would nullify existing federal LGBT protections and allow anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors.
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Trump’s Support For State-Sponsored Anti-LGBT Laws Does Not Make Him LGBT Friendly
In a segment discussing North Carolina's discriminatory anti-LGBT "bathroom bill" legislation, NBC's Hallie Jackson claimed that Donald Trump "is considered one of the more LGBT-friendly Republican candidates." Jackson’s misleading description of Trump as LGBT friendly comes as the Republican front-runner attempts to re-brand himself as a more moderate candidate heading into the general election and ignores Trump’s long-standing position as an opponent of marriage equality.
While Jackson described Trump as “one of the more LGBT friendly Republican candidates,” a closer look finds his stance in line with supporters of the law. During an April 21 interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity, Trump said "local communities and states" should be able pass discriminatory legislation barring transgender people from using a bathroom associated with the gender they identify with. Trump’s stance that states should be allowed to pass these discriminatory laws is in line with North Carolina’s passing of the state-sponsored anti-LGBT law:
HALLIE JACKSON: Ted Cruz, in a new online video, taking aim at Donald Trump's criticism of a transgender bathroom ban in North Carolina.
TED CRUZ: This is not a reasonable debate over public policy. This is political correctness run amok.
JACKSON: Cruz, using Trump's comments to try to boost his own conservative credentials, while hitting his rivals with a new online polling showing 64 percent of Republicans support the ban. But some of Trump's backers aren't bothered by it.
JACKSON: A top Trump aide, dismissing Cruz's criticism, telling NBC News the senator is simply trying to stay relevant. Trump himself, not backing down.
DONALD TRUMP: Local communities and states should make the decision. And I feel very strongly about that.
JACKSON: While Trump is considered one of the more LGBT-friendly Republican candidates, he hasn't talked much about those issues on the campaign trail. Not a typical part of his stump speech, and not mentioned tonight at his rally here in Delaware.
Jackson's NBC Nightly News report ignores Trump's history of bigoted and extreme positions on LGBT issues, including his support for the anti-LGBT "First Amendment Defense Act," Trump's promise to "strongly consider" appointing Supreme Court justices to overturn its recent ruling in support of marriage equality, and his previous support for Kim Davis, a Kentucky County clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Furthermore, the NBC segment plays into comments made by Trump’s new campaign manager, Paul Manafort. During an April 21 meeting of Republican leaders, Manafort attempted to assure those assembled that Trump’s outrageous rhetoric was the candidate simply “projecting an image” and that “the image is going to change.”
In a departure from the misinformation and false balance that typically dominate coverage of anti-LGBT legislation, several outlets have begun modeling best practices in reporting on anti-LGBT “bathroom bills” by highlighting the harmful impacts the laws have on transgender people.
Thus far in 2016, at least 16 different states have considered an unprecedented 44 bills targeting transgender people. Like the high-profile law (HB 2) recently passed in North Carolina, many of these bills aim to ban transgender people from public restrooms that do not correspond with the gender on their birth certificate.
In reporting on laws regulating transgender people’s access to restrooms, media outlets have frequently failed to debunk the anti-LGBT “bathroom predator” myth peddled by proponents of the law. The talking point claims that permitting transgender people to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity would open the door for predatory men to sexually assault women and children in public bathrooms. Although the “bathroom predator” myth has been repeatedly refuted by law enforcement experts, government officials, and women's safety advocates in cities and states across the country, journalists have uncritically parroted the talking point, providing free airtime to anti-LGBT activists. Outlets also often neglect to mention the high levels of discrimination and sexual assault experienced by transgender people.
But in a move toward more responsible journalism, national media outlets have started to actively highlight the harmful impact “bathroom bills” have on transgender people.
In an April 18 article on North Carolina’s anti-transgender law, The Washington Post reported on research that found “the public health impact” of discriminatory bills “may be severe” for transgender people. Reporters Soshana Goldberg and Andrew Reynolds extrapolated from research and data estimates to calculate the impact of proposed or adopted “bathroom bills” in six different states, predicting that “should these bills all pass, we can expect between 7,600 and 17,101 more youth suicide attempts in these six states.”
Samantha Allen, for The Daily Beast, reported March 17 that suicide rates rise among transgender teens when they are forced to use bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate. On April 20, about a month after North Carolina passed its “bathroom bill,” Allen reported that calls to a crisis call line for transgender people called Trans Lifeline had nearly doubled.
Colin Campbell at the The Charlotte Observer reported statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute: “41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide at some point in their lives – compared to just 4.6 percent of the general population.”
Covering anti-transgender legislation in ways that accurately reflect effects on the LGBT community isn’t just good journalism; it also gives voice to a population that has been traditionally disempowered in the media. With four states -- Illinois, Kansas, South Carolina and Tennessee -- pushing for anti-transgender bills, media outlets have the opportunity to follow the examples set by The Washington Post, The Daily Beast and The Charlotte Observer to shift coverage away from debunked myths and focus on the consequences of anti-LGBT legislation.
Earlier this week, ESPN fired baseball commentator Curt Schilling following criticism he received after sharing an offensive image attacking transgender people on Facebook, affirming that media is increasingly refusing to accept discriminatory language from staff.
In response to the backlash, Schilling wrote on his blog that those who have spoken out were "just dying to be offended" so they "can create some sort of faux cause to rally behind." Schilling has a history of posting crass messages online and was previously suspended after posting an image that compared Muslims to Nazis. Former ESPN ombudsmen previously described how Schilling would post “hurtful” messages which reflected on ESPN because "Curt Schilling is representing ESPN."
Schilling’s termination this week reflects a larger wave among media companies, who are acting after media figures' comments create a backlash which reflect poorly upon companies that employ them. In March, Univision fired a TV host who used racially inflammatory comments on its network. CNN and MSNBC have banned Roger Stone from appearing on air after his sexist and racist tweets were revealed.
The New York Times' Richard Sandomir positively highlights ESPN’s decision to fire Curt Schilling for violating the company's corporate policy and noted that this type of language is hurtful and unnecessary:
When [Schilling] shared the message on social media earlier this week, he did not seem to grasp that he had implicitly endorsed it, especially after he added a comment about which public restrooms are appropriate for men and which are not. He is a public figure with a well-developed online profile as a political conservative and Second Amendment supporter who, by the way, was a terrific pitcher over a 20-season career. His propensity for living on the third rail of social media was at odds with ESPN’s internal policy that cautions its workers to be prudent.
But by Wednesday, ESPN had had enough of him and fired him from his job as an analyst on “Monday Night Baseball.” He had been sent there from his previous, more prestigious position on Sunday night games, for retweeting a message last summer about extreme Muslims and Nazis, which earned him a monthlong suspension.
In firing him, ESPN shed itself of a nuisance who did not, or could not, follow corporate policy and could not grasp that passing around an anti-transgender message digitally might affect people who are finding their way to new gender identities. Crass words and visuals hurt.
We are in a moment when tolerance exists side-by-side with intolerance. Same-sex marriage is widely accepted, but North Carolina enacts its bathroom law. Advocacy groups like the You Can Play Project and Athlete Ally fight homophobia in sports, yet players still utter anti-gay slurs in the heat of the moment — and after the sweat dries, they say their spontaneous exhortations do not represent who they are.
But, of course, the language of bias is as hurtful as it is unnecessary.
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The host of the National Rifle Association's radio show drew a false parallel between being LGBT and being a gun enthusiast while discussing a controversy involving a college professor.
The NRA has a lengthy history of comparing the treatment of gun owners to the treatment of people with immutable characteristics, including drawing false parallels between legal regulations on guns and Jim Crow-style laws that discriminated on the basis of race.
Cam Edwards, the host of the NRA's radio show Cam & Company, compared gun owners to LGBT people while discussing an April 18 opinion piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In the piece, an anonymous college professor grappled with mixed feelings and asked for advice after being asked to write a letter of recommendation to a teacher-credent
I lay all of this out here now because I don’t know what to do about the recommendation.
It’s so complicated. On one side are all of my ideas about supporting students, honoring their individuality and their journeys, creating a safe space for them (and myself), not taking things out of context, not overinterpreting. On the other side are my memories of growing up in a situation where guns, people, and bullets had to be rigorously kept apart, lest they find each other in a tragic moment of instability.
Edwards responded to the opinion piece by attacking the anonymous professor and drawing a false comparison between gun owners and LGBT people, claiming during the April 19 broadcast of his show, "Now imagine this piece written but instead of a gun owner, they’re talking about, I don’t know, any other group out there. ... Member of the LGBT community. A transgendered [sic] student. Any other identifying factor":
CAM EDWARDS (HOST): Now imagine this piece written, but instead of a gun owner, we're talking about, I don’t know, any other group out there. Vegetarian. Member of the LGBT community. A transgendered [sic] student. Any other identifying factor -- I don’t want to help this person because I don’t agree with them. Well this professor is in for a world of controversy, aren’t they? Probably have students demanding to know who this professor really is. Professor would probably worried about being dismissed from her job for being so intolerant. But when it comes to a woman who wants to own a firearm for self defense, nah it's OK for this professor to try to treat that student like dirt. As long as the student is not aware of it, mind you.
Edwards and the NRA have a well-established track record of comparing conditions placed on gun ownership to the experience of racial discrimination. In June 2013, Edwards compared gun owners in Colorado to victims of “segregation” following Colorado's adoption of stronger gun laws after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and Aurora movie theater shooting. Edwards has also claimed that a requirement that Colorado students who own guns on campus must live in a designated dorm means "we are back to segregation now."
A July 2014 commentary video from the NRA compared modern gun regulations to “Jim Crow laws,” claiming current gun laws are “equally as unconstitutional” as laws that codified racial discrimination.
And in January 2013, former NRA president Marion Hammer compared Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) then-proposed ban on assault weapons to racial discrimination, claiming on the NRA's radio show, "Well, you know, banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago. But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It's just bad politics."
The NRA is now expanding this inaccurate and offensive comparison to the LGBT community.
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