2019’s worst anti-LGBTQ meltdowns
Media Matters looks back at six of the year’s worst anti-LGBTQ tantrums, including tirades about a gay rat wedding and transgender penguins
Gay rats, trans penguins, tops and bottoms, oh my! Right-wing media outlets have never shied away from attacking LGBTQ people by spreading bigotry and misinformation -- but in 2019, the right-wing outrage was often just plain ridiculous.
Here is Media Matters’ roundup of 2019’s most outlandish right-wing media meltdowns about LGBTQ people:
1. OANN’s Liz Wheeler: “Don’t let the transgender penguins fool you”
Liz Wheeler, host at the Trump propagandist TV news channel One America News Network (OANN), claimed in September that what she called “transgender penguins” at the Sea Life London Aquarium could lead to the destruction of gender, traditional marriage, and “the family unit.” She argued that the destruction of family would force people to rely on the government for support, which she claimed is the “goal of liberals in the first place.”
Wheeler was responding to the London aquarium’s decision not to gender a baby penguin as male or female. The penguin chick was being raised by a same-sex penguin couple, Marama and Rocky. Wheeler regularly spreads hateful anti-trans rhetoric during her OANN show The Tipping Point.
2. American Family Radio’s Bryan Fischer: “One is called the bottom. The other is called the top. ... Neither of them is going to make it into the eternal kingdom.”
Bryan Fischer, who hosts a show on the extreme anti-LGBTQ group American Family Association’s radio network, showed off his knowledge of LGBTQ slang when he claimed that neither the tops nor the bottoms in the “homosexual community” are “going to make it into the eternal kingdom.”
Fischer is the host of Focal Point on AFA’s American Family Radio network, which regularly broadcasts hate about the LGBTQ community to its nearly 200 stations and affiliates across 35 states. Fischer has built his career around demeaning LGBTQ people and has claimed that gays were responsible for the Nazi Party, that “gay sex is a form of domestic terrorism,” and that there is a “profound connection … between homosexuality and pedophilia.”
3. Laura Ingraham’s guest promoted a book that says homosexuality is “rooted in perverted practices which defy nature and bring ill health”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham featured Arthur Schaper of anti-LGBTQ group MassResistance during an episode of her show, in which he promoted his group's book The Health Hazards of Homosexuality. The book makes a number of hateful and false claims about LGBTQ people, including claiming that “homosexuality is a mental health disorder,” that it “is really about sodomy,” and that it “is rooted in perverted practices which defy nature and bring ill health.”
The segment was about Drag Queen Story Hour, a national program in which drag queens read children’s books to kids to promote diversity and creativity and which has been the subject of many right-wing media attacks. During the segment, Schaper claimed that drag queens’ alleged “adult illicit entertainment” will lead to “pole dancer story hour” and “porn actor story hour” for children.
MassResistance’s leadership has compared LGBTQ people fighting for their rights to the Nazi propaganda machine, has said pro-LGBTQ policies are similar to Jim Crow segregation laws, and has called homosexuality “repulsive.” Ingraham has a cozy relationship with anti-LGBTQ groups and regullarly allows them to push misinformation during her primetime show.
4. Sebastian Gorka: “I think that whole trans thing started with Teletubbies”
Sebastian Gorka, a right-wing radio host and former deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, claimed that the “whole trans thing started with Teletubbies,” adding, “Remember? One of them wore a tutu.”
In March, Gorka declined to renew his contributor contract with Fox News to instead focus on his radio show. Gorka has since claimed that the U.S. Women's soccer team wants “to destroy everything that is wholesome in our country and in our Judeo-Christian civilization” and that LGBTQ characters are “going to destroy Star Wars.”
5. CBN’s Pat Robertson: If we pass the Equality Act, the “land will vomit you out”
Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson claimed that the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal civil rights protections, would bring about the end of the nation.
During a broadcast of The 700 Club in May, he said that if the bill was passed, it would “bring the judgment of God on this nation and “the land will vomit you out.”He added, “God will say, ‘I’ve had it with America. If you do this kind of stuff, I’m going to get rid of you as a nation.’”
In March, Robertson also claimed that LGBTQ people exist “in our country because we've lost sight of God.” He has also compared the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to declare the federal ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional to the destroyed biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, in which “God did something pretty drastic.” CBN is a well-established conservative evangelical media empire whose hosts and guests regularly traffic in anti-LGBTQ bigotry.
6. Outrage over a gay rat wedding
The season 22 premiere of PBS’ animated series Arthur featured the marriage between Mr. Ratburn and his aardvark husband Patrick, and right-wing media freaked out over their gay rat wedding.
Right-wing media outlets and evangelical leaders were outraged by the episode. A post at LifeSiteNews claimed that the episode “marks another victory by LGBT activists to insert homosexual ‘representation’ into beloved children's shows.” Gorka claimed that it was part of “a war for our culture.” Franklin Graham, a leading figure in the evangelical right, asked, “Why should our government be financing programming that promotes behavior the Bible says is sinful?”
In response to the wedding episode, AFA’s One Million Moms launched a boycott and petition urging PBS to cancel the episode.
Following this outrage, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) wrote an op-ed for right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation’s website, The Daily Signal, announcing he would reintroduce a bill to cut all of PBS’ federal funding. Alabama Public Television (APT) refused to air the episode, explaining that “parents trust that their children can watch APT without their supervision.”
This was not the first time anti-LGBTQ groups attacked PBS for including LGBTQ characters in its programming. In 2005, PBS pulled an episode of Postcards From Buster, an Arthur spinoff, that included lesbian moms. At the time, anti-LGBTQ groups like AFA and Focus on the Family criticized the episode, and then-Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings threatened to cut PBS’ funding over it, claiming that “many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode.”
Correction (1/2/20): This piece originally included the wrong state for Rep. Doug Lamborn; he represents Colorado’s 5th Congressional District.