Author Page | Page 4 | Media Matters for America

Erin Fitzgerald

Author ››› Erin Fitzgerald
  • “Sheer Bullying”: Right-Wing Media Lash Out At Justice Department For Suing North Carolina Over “Discriminatory” Anti-LGBT Law

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN, ERIN FITZGERALD & BOBBY LEWIS

    Conservative media lashed out at the Department of Justice for filing a lawsuit stating that North Carolina’s anti-LGBT “bathroom bill,” which bans people from using public restrooms that do not correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificates, is “discriminatory.” Right-wing media claim the department is “playing dangerous games with our constitutional republic” and that the lawsuit is "designed to make the gay mafia seem as the victims of discriminatory injustice that just doesn’t exist."

  • Fox News Falsely Suggests Planned Parenthood Is Swapping "Sex Changes" For "Baby Body Parts"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Fox News is arguing that Planned Parenthood’s newest venture is helping “transgender patients with sex changes,” which the FoxNews.com article says will help fill budget gaps caused by the health care provider no longer accepting reimbursements for fetal tissue donations. But Planned Parenthood has offered trans-inclusive health care services, according to well-established guidelines, well before the organization discontinued fetal tissue reimbursement.  

    Planned Parenthood has "found a new niche that could prove nearly as controversial as providing abortions" -- helping transgender people through the "sex-change process," says a May 5 FoxNews.com article. The article also claims that since Planned Parenthood has stopped "selling baby body parts for money," the “gender reassignment process may enable the organization to make up the lost cash."  The false allegations of fetal tissue profiteering that Fox News is referring to have been repeatedly debunked.

    But Planned Parenthood offering medical care to transgender people is not “new.” Standards of care for providing transition-related services have been on the books for almost 50 years and are supported by major medical associations, such as the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association. Trans people use Planned Parenthood as a means to access a diverse range of culturally competent medical services, such as reproductive health care, STD screenings, pap smears, cancer screenings, and even sometimes hormone treatments. Planned Parenthood provides one aspect of many that go along with transition-related care.

    The author is correct about one thing -- both hormone therapy services and facilitation of fetal tissue donation account for a negligible amount of Planned Parenthood’s resources each year. Currently, less than 1 percent of the organization’s health centers even facilitate donations for fetal tissue research. Hormone therapy services also account for less than 1 percent of the 9.5 million services that are performed each year, according to the latest annual report.

    The article relies solely on the opinion of hate group spokesperson Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, who is not a medical professional. Sprigg predicts severe backlash from patients experiencing transition regret, which -- much like so-called “post-abortion syndrome” -- is a conservative myth debunked by scientific evidence. More from the Fox article:

    But Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, told FoxNews.com the most severe backlash may not come from Americans who find the practice “bizarre,” but rather down the road “from clients who recognize this was not in their best interest.”

    [...]

    “This illustrates how Planned Parenthood, rather than providing specific services, is kind of the central clearinghouse for the sexual revolution in all respects. And that’s come to include having sex without the consequence of pregnancy and also the freedom to change one’s sex if you choose.”

     
  • A Comprehensive Guide To The Debunked “Bathroom Predator” Myth

    Here’s The Evidence Refuting The Myth About Trans-Inclusive Bathrooms 

    ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Conservatives have long peddled the myth that sexual predators will exploit nondiscrimination laws to sneak into women's restrooms by pretending to be transgender. The “bathroom predator” myth has been repeatedly debunked -- by experts and government officials in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and school administrators in 23 school districts and four universities. Despite overwhelming evidence, many media outlets continue to uncritically repeat the debunked myth peddled by anti-LGBT groups.

  • USA Today Gives Anti-LGBT Hate Group A Platform To Attack Target's Inclusive Bathroom Policy

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    USA Today featured an op-ed by the president of anti-LGBT hate group American Family Association (AFA), who attacked Target's LGBT nondiscrimination policy for restrooms by peddling the widely debunked "bathroom predator" myth. USA Today failed to identify AFA as a recognized hate group to its readers.

    On May 2, USA Today published an op-ed by AFA President Tim Wildmon, titled "Why you should boycott Target," which was written in response to the editorial board’s opposition to laws that “perpetuate the myth that transgender people are predators.” AFA is the group responsible for launching a boycott against Target over the store's policy of allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. In the column, Wildmon criticized Target's nondiscrimination policy, peddling the widely debunked myth that there is “potential danger” when men are able to access the women’s room:

    For the entirety of its history until recently, Target had bathrooms and fitting rooms designated for men and for women.

    Why? Why the distinction by Target and every other retailer in every civilized country?

    The answers are twofold and quite simple. First, the vast majority of people are uncomfortable using the bathroom while a stranger of the opposite sex is present. Second, most people understand the potential danger inherent in allowing men access to women and children in a private setting — where harassment, voyeurism or even abuse can occur.

    Wildmon also questioned the motives of transgender people, saying that they only want to "make a point" by using a restroom that aligns with their gender identity:

    Of course, there is a simple solution to this controversy for Target. Gender-specific facilities (men’s bathrooms/fitting rooms, women’s bathrooms/fitting rooms) would be maintained, and a single-occupancy, unisex option would be provided for the transgendered community. As someone has recently noted, a transgendered man, for example, who walks past a unisex restroom in order to enter the woman’s bathroom is not primarily interested in relieving himself. He wants to make a point.

    Like many other media outlets reporting on the Target boycott, USA Today failed to identify AFA as a hate group to its readers, even while giving the group a national platform. The AFA has been designated an anti-LGBT “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to its history of anti-gay extremism, including blaming gay men for the Holocaust, supporting criminalization of gay sex, and asserting that being gay is a “poor and dangerous choice."

  • Wall Street Journal Columnist Defends “Curt Schilling The Science Guy”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    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.

     
  • Breitbart News Uses Anti-Transgender Slur To Defend Curt Schilling

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Breitbart News used an anti-trans slur in an article about former ESPN analyst Curt Schilling and his controversial social media post.

    Breitbart News contributor and anti-gay hate group leader Austin Ruse used the word “tranny” in an April 20 article about Schilling’s controversial social media post. This isn’t the first time Breitbart News or Ruse has used the slur when covering the transgender community. Ruse also highlighted Schilling’s follow-up blog post and the ensuing backlash:

    On a later comment, Schilling said, “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”

    Predictably, the Big Tranny Hate Machine quickly pounced. Jay Brown of the anti-Christian Human Rights Campaign said Schilling’s “public and derogatory attack on transgender people was extremely troubling.” He said comments like Schillings constitute “ugly propaganda” and would be dangerous for men in dresses. Brown also insisted that transsexuals are baseball fans.

     

  • Debate Moderators Still Haven't Asked Democrats A Single Question About LGBT Equality

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Throughout the nine Democratic primary debates, not a single moderator has asked a question about LGBT equality, despite the wave of anti-LGBT bills and laws being considered in statehouses across the country.

    On April 14, CNN hosted the ninth Democratic primary debate in Brooklyn. The debate's moderators failed to ask a single question related to the fight over legal protections for the LGBT community. Questions from moderators about LGBT equality have been similarly absent in the last eight Democratic debates.

    The lack of time given to talking about LGBT rights is particularly notable because 2016 has been a year with an unprecedented level of anti-LGBT legislation in state and local government. Most recently North Carolina and Mississippi have passed extreme anti-LGBT legislation that has been met with fierce backlash and public outcry.

    A report by the Human Rights Campaign tracking anti-LGBT state legislation in 2016 counted:

    ●More than 175 anti-LGBT bills in 32 states so far this year

    ●44 bills that were intentionally targeted at transgender people

    ●23 of these bills specifically targeting transgender children

    Many of these measures are aimed at eliminating nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, regulating transgender people's access to public bathrooms, and creating broad "religious freedom" protections for business that want to refuse service to same-sex couples.

    By contrast, Republican candidates were asked several questions related to LGBT issues, including their thoughts on Kim Davis and working with a gay-friendly corporate board. Most notably, Fox News moderator Brett Baier asked Gov. John Kasich if “gay marriage dissenters had rights.”

    Both remaining Democratic candidates have brought up LGBT issues unprompted during the debates. In all, Clinton mentioned the LGBT community five times, three times generally and twice in relation to discrimination faced by the LGBT community. Sanders brought up LGBT rights only once and in connection to the wave of recent anti-LGBT bills signed into law. Months ago during an Iowa town hall, a student asked Martin O’Malley what he would do ensure “full federal LGBT equality.”

    Methodology: Media Matters searched transcripts of all nine Democratic primary debates (10/13/15, 11/14/15, 12/19/15, 1/17/16, 2/4/16,2/11/16, 3/6/16,3/9/16, 4/14/16) provided by the Washington Post for the search terms “LGBT,” "gay," “lesbian,” “bisexual,” "transgender," "sexual orientation," and "gender identity."

  • Media Document The Economic Cost Of North Carolina’s Anti-LGBTQ Law

    Republican North Carolina Officials Defend Discriminatory Law Despite Increasing Economic Consequences

    ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    North Carolina’s Republican administration is still defending its anti-LGBTQ law House Bill 2 (HB 2), even as media outlets continue to document the economic harm the law has done to the state, including via backlash from the business community and potential loss of federal funds. 

  • CNN Invites Hate Group Spokesperson to Debate Mississippi's Extreme Anti-LGBT Law

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    CNN hosted a spokesperson from a notorious anti-LGBT hate group during a discussion of an anti-LGBT bill under consideration in Mississippi, giving him a national platform to peddle misinformation about the purpose and impact of the bill.

    On the April 1 edition of CNN's New Day, guest host Don Lemon interviewed Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council (FRC) to discuss Mississippi's HB 1523 -- which is being referred to as the "most sweeping anti-LGBT legislation in the U.S." and which would establish a legal defense for discrimination against LGBT people in a number of settings.

    FRC has been designated as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group has a history of making wild and inflammatory attacks on LGBT people while masquerading as a serious policy organization in the media. Sprigg has called for recriminalizing gay sex in the U.S. and suggested that LGBT people should be "export[ed]" from the country. CNN failed to identify Sprigg as a hate group spokesperson, and Sprigg took advantage of the national platform to spread misinformation about the bill and its potential impacts.

    CNN has been criticized for hosting an FRC representative in the past. In 2013, just minutes after the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), CNN hosted Tony Perkins -- president of FRC -- to peddle lies about the decision's impact on religious liberties. In response, more than 32,000 people signed a petition asking CNN to stop hosting the hate group leader.

    Media outlets routinely invite anti-LGBT hate groups to comment on federal policies, state laws, and Supreme Court cases, needlessly exposing audiences to misinformation while failing to hold those groups accountable for their track records of dishonesty and inflammatory rhetoric. If a media outlet thinks it necessary to host a hate group with a history of misinformation in a report or segment, it should at the very least properly identify the group as anti-LGBT extremists.

  • How Charlotte Media Are Helping Anti-LGBT Advocates Attack The City's Non-Discrimination Ordinance

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY & ERIN FITZGERALD

    Local TV news outlets in Charlotte, NC, have helped spread misinformation about a local, LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance by uncritically parroting the myth that sexual predators will pretend to be transgender in order to sneak into women's bathrooms.

    On February 22, the Charlotte City Council voted to expand the city's existing nondiscrimination ordinance to include "marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, [and] gender expression." The ordinance prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, like restaurants and stores; passenger vehicles for hire, like taxis; and with government contractors. The changes go into effect April 1, but GOP legislators in NC have vowed to repeal the measure when the state's General Assembly resumes on April 25.

    Opponents of the ordinance have peddled the widely-debunked horror story that the ordinance's nondiscrimination protections for transgender people would allow male sexual predators to sneak into women's restrooms and commit sexual assault. Experts including law enforcement officials and victims' rights advocates in localities with similar laws on the books have debunked the "bathroom predator" myth, calling it "beyond specious."

    In their reporting on the debate over the ordinance, television news stations in Charlotte uncritically parroted the "bathroom predator" myth. A Media Matters study found that local Charlotte affiliates for CBS, ABC, NBC, the CW, and FOX frequently repeated the "bathroom predator" talking point without debunking the myth:

     

    A February 22 report from NBC affiliate WCNC illustrates the type of reporting that allows anti-LGBT activists claims about bathroom predators to dominate coverage, with a large portion of the segment focused on restroom access and no critical debunk of the myth:

    WCNC described the ordinance's protections for the transgender as "allow[ing] people to use any public restroom they choose regardless of their sex." This type of misleading language was common throughout coverage -- outlets used variations of "any bathroom they want" to falsely suggest the ordinance allows for people to pick and choose bathrooms on a whim.

    These descriptions aren't just inaccurate -- they help anti-LGBT activists reinforce the "bathroom predator" talking point by suggesting the ordinance would create a free-for-all in public bathrooms. 

    With North Carolina GOP legislators intent on overturning the ordinance this April, the "bathroom predator" myth isn't going away anytime soon. In the coming weeks, Charlotte TV outlets have a chance to follow journalistic best practices in covering LGBT nondiscrimination protections and tell audiences the truth about opponents' bathroom horror stories.