Arizona TV outlet 12 News KPNX hosted a lawyer from extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and uncritically reiterated the group's talking points, such as referring to a trans boy as a “biological girl,” without providing context on the group's anti-LGBTQ history. The interview with ADF senior counsel John Bursch was part of the outlet’s reporting about the U.S. Supreme Court declining to hear ADF’s case against a Pennsylvania school’s trans-inclusive accommodations policy, and it underscored the outlet’s history of sympathetic coverage of ADF.
There are several other instances in which 12 News KPNX has failed to inform its audience of ADF's extremism. In coverage about ADF’s label as an anti-LGBTQ “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the outlet described ADF only as “mostly against gay marriage” despite dozens of other extreme positions the group takes against LGBTQ rights. In one segment about ADF’s court case against Phoenix’s LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance, 12 News KPNX gave significant airtime to ADF’s clients but did not host any pro-LGBTQ guests to push back; the segment did not even acknowledge ADF’s role in the case or other similar cases. Another segment on the case also featured no pro-LGBTQ guests, though the reporter said the outlet had reached out to the City of Phoenix and hadn’t received a response.
During a May 28 segment about a Pennsylvania school’s trans-inclusive accommodations policy, reporter Michael Doudna dubiously said that both ADF and LGBTQ advocates “want to protect all students” despite the fact that ADF was arguing that trans students should not be able to access facilities that align with their gender identity. (ADF has packaged its work in this area as something that would help “all students” in the past.) Doudna’s language about trans people also mirrored ADF when he referred to a trans boy as a “biological girl.” He failed to note ADF’s extensive history against transgender student rights or the negative impact that non-inclusive bathroom policies have on transgender students.
From the May 28 edition of KPNX’s 12 News at 6pm:
MICHAEL DOUDNA (REPORTER): Both sides of the argument want to -- they want the same thing: They want to protect all students. But how they get there is really the clash.
DOUDNA: There is no state law that tackles the debate between gender identity, biology, and facilities in school, which transgender rights advocates like Angela Hughey say can leave students out.
ANGELA HUGHEY (ONE COMMUNITY): You want to make sure that every student has the equal opportunity to thrive.
DOUDNA: But that’s just one side.
JOHN BURSCH (ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM): Anytime the Supreme Court declines to take your case, you’re disappointed.
DOUDNA: Attorney John Bursch from Alliance Defending Freedom also says the Supreme Court missed out on a chance to help students by not striking down the policy allowing a biological girl to be in the boy’s locker room.
BURSCH: So I think history will show that this was a misguided attempt to help someone at the expense of other people.
DOUDNA: The non-ruling is just the latest development in the battle over transgender bathrooms in schools, and with no statewide law, the issue here in Arizona is up for debate.
BURSCH: We can find compromises that work for everybody, but simply violating everyone’s privacy was not the way to do that.