The week between Christmas and New Year’s tends to be a somewhat quiet news cycle, as people celebrate and rest through the holidays. But the conservative audience’s hunger for outrage demands feeding, leaving right-wing media desperate for scraps as several outlets harped on a singular tweet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to manufacture a scandal over LGBTQ-inclusive education policies.
On December 27, the Twitter account for the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health promoted a document titled “LGBTQ Inclusivity in Schools: A Self-Assessment Tool.” Published in October 2020, it is a voluntary guide for school administrators, educators and health staff to scope out their own strengths and weaknesses in serving their LGBTQ students.
Several right-wing outlets took offense to this message, consistent with the ongoing conservative campaign to demonize LGBTQ students, teachers, and allies. An article from Blaze Media took a swipe at the CDC’s role in promoting the assessment, with language that echoed harmful and debunked social contagion rhetoric suggesting youth are being pressured by their peers into becoming transgender.
“As its name suggests, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tasked with preventing the spread of diseases,” the December 29, 2022 article noted. “One CDC division is, however, working to help facilitate the spread of LGBT activists' radical social agenda in schools.”
All too eager to dogpile over a single tweet promoting the two-year-old guide, a few right-wing outlets incorrectly reported the document as new.
The Daily Wire’s December 31 article was headlined “CDC Promotes New Tool To Increase Schools’ Acceptance Of Gender Ideology,” while PJ Media’s December 30 headline warned of “The CDC's Radical Plans for Your Children.” While both outlets were incorrect about the timing of the document, PJ Media made perhaps the most egregious error by outright claiming the guidance was “released mere days after Christmas.”
The outlet also went on to say the tool was really for “assessing how brainwashed educators are by the transgender cult.”
The Published Reporter, a South Florida-based outlet known for having its Facebook ads about the “Plandemic” documentary removed, repeatedly called the guidance a “new tool” developed by the Biden administration, despite the document being published before the 2020 election.
Worse yet, American Greatness combined its vagueness about the original publication date with doubt about whether the CDC’s guidance is really optional, playing into the idea that the guide’s inclusive policy suggestions could soon be federally enforced — a notion with little to stand on if the original publication date of the document was explained.
Citing Breitbart, the article claimed the CDC “has been forcing teachers across the country to follow certain guidelines demonstrating their commitment to ‘LGBTQ inclusivity’ in their classroom instructions.”
The Breitbart article used the same fearmongering tactic, saying, “While the CDC says the guide is not mandatory at a national level, it appears entirely possible that a school administrator could make it mandatory for their school.”
Right-wing organizations are picking up on this false narrative, too.
The Herzog Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to “the development of quality Christ-centered K-12 education,” published an article on January 4 titled “CDC announces new disease: conservatism.” The piece, which also incorrectly dated the document, bemoaned that the guidance did not align with the CDC’s goal of eradicating disease, “unless the disease in question is conservative values. In that case, the CDC is certainly doing its part to eradicate it.”
Moms for Liberty is a conservative “parental rights” group that has been behind campaigns against LGBTQ representation and so-called critical race theory in schools. On Twitter, the group also attacked the CDC guidance:
Conservative pundits involved with the ongoing anti-LGBTQ online hate campaign are stoking the fire of this as well, with James Lindsay questioning the CDC’s interest in inclusivity.
Anti-LGBTQ account “Libs of TikTok” also honed in on the guidance.