Mainstream media ignores new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson’s history of anti-LGBTQ extremism

Rep. Johnson (R-LA) opposes same-sex marriage equality and worked with the anti-LGBTQ organization Alliance Defending Freedom for years

Rep. Mike Johnson

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Several mainstream media outlets ignored the anti-LGBTQ history of Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), the new Speaker of the House. Johnson was the fourth member up for the role, after Reps. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Tom Emmer (R-MN) all failed to secure it following the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) more than 20 days ago.

Johnson is a four-term representative and constitutional lawyer who worked to overturn the results of the 2020 election by leading an amicus brief in a Texas lawsuit that would have delayed the electoral vote in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. He also voted not to certify the election results in Congress.

Johnson has a long history of anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion extremism, including working as senior legal counsel for the extreme anti-LGBTQ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom. (The group was formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund.) 

Since entering Congress, Johnson has introduced a federal version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which would eliminate federal funding for libraries, schools, and other organizations that discussed aspects of gay and trans identities. In July, he argued against parents having access to gender-affirming care for their children, falsely claiming it constituted “abuse and physical harm.” As a member of the Louisiana legislature, he introduced a bill that could have permitted de facto discrimination against gay couples, including allowing landlords to deny rental applications or employers to fire someone in a same-sex relationship. A recent CNN report reveals that Johnson wrote op-eds in which he called homosexuality a “inherently unnatural” and “dangerous lifestyle,” and called for the criminalization of gay sex.

Johnson has also co-sponsored a bill that would ban abortion nationwide and sued Kentucky for religious discrimination on behalf of Ark Encounter, a creationist theme park. But major U.S. news outlets largely ignored Johnson’s record of anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion positions following his nomination as the GOP House speaker-designate.

Here's a rundown of mainstream media coverage leading up to today's vote:

  • At least two stories in The Wall Street Journal failed to mention Johnson’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election or his anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion positions, instead noting obliquely that he is “known for conservative stances on cultural issues and spending.” A podcast from the Journal also failed to include any of that information.
  • One article from The New York Times also failed to include any of those details.
  • Another Times piece included Johnson’s role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election. The piece referred to him twice as a “social conservative,” and informed readers that he had “sponsored legislation that would effectively bar the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity at any institution serving children younger than 10 that receives federal funds.” The story didn’t mention Johnson’s anti-abortion positions or his anti-same-sex marriage stance, but did mention Emmer’s support for marriage equality.
  • An Associated Press article mentioned Johnson’s work to reverse the 2020 election but didn’t include his anti-LGBTQ or anti-abortion stances. Instead, AP characterized Johnson as “deeply religious … with a fiery belief system.” Another AP article included Emmer’s support for federal same-sex marriage equality, but failed to mention Johnson’s opposition to it.
  • One Washington Post story mentioned Johnson’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, but failed to mention his opposition to marriage equality. The story did mention Emmer’s vote to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and therefore enshrine federal marriage rights for same-sex couples. The Post referred to Johnson as having a “staunchly conservative streak” but didn’t make his anti-LGBTQ positions explicit.
  • A Washington Post analysis and listicle both mentioned Johnson’s role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election as well as his anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion stances.
  • A USA Today story noted that Johnson didn’t vote to certify the 2020 election but failed to mention his authoring of the Texas amicus brief or his anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ positions.

Mainstream outlets have focused much of their attention on the backroom drama engulfing the House Republican Caucus. That’s understandable enough, but it’s a disservice to readers to exclude Johnson’s well-documented history of pushing extreme anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion policies and laws.