Fox News' love/hate relationship with its gay “friends”

It's no secret that Fox News doesn't live up to its “fair and balanced” slogan, especially when one considers its coverage of the LGBT community. In fact, much of its coverage is openly antagonistic and downright homophobic. On issue after issue of importance, the network, its hosts, anchors, contributors, and guests offer up lies, misinformation, and right-wing spin that only further stigmatizes the gay and lesbian community.

The worst examples of Fox News coverage on LGBT issues can be found after the jump.

A review of Fox News' employment practices however, reveals a network at odds with its own homophobic public image. The dichotomy reminds me a bit of the recently outed state legislator with the staunchly anti-gay voting record.

Republican California State Senator Roy Ashburn was arrested for driving under the influence after reportedly leaving a Sacramento gay bar with an unidentified male passenger. Several days after circumstances surrounding his arrest and personal life spread in the media, Ashburn announced that he was gay and that he would continue to vote against the LGBT community because that's what the constituents from his conservative district would want.

Perhaps Fox News really is taking a page from Ashburn. Just as the California legislator has quietly acknowledged the fact that he's a gay man, News Corp. (and by extension Fox News) has quietly been offering workplace protections and benefits to its gay and lesbian employees.

According to an examination of the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) employer database, News Corp. (Fox News' parent company) has had a policy protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation since at least 2005 and has offered health care benefits to same-sex partners since at least 1999. Time Warner (CNN's parent company) and General Electric (NBC/MSNBC's parent company) offer not only these basic protections to gay and lesbian employees, they appear to go even further.

The HRC's Corporate Equality Index rates Time Warner and General Electric with 100 percent and 80 percent, respectively, while News Corp. has yet to complete the survey that HRC uses to establish its index. News Corp. would give us a better understanding of how it treats LGBT employees on a variety of other important issues by completing the survey, but the media company does deserve credit for at least offering some very basic protections and benefits for gay and lesbian employees.

Lack of a Corporate Equality Index rating notwithstanding, News Corp. has taken its support for LGBT employees a step further by sponsoring the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) which describes itself on its website as “an organization of journalists, media professionals, educators and students working from within the news industry to foster fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues.” In fact, the program from the organization's annual conference last fall in Montréal included an ad from News Corp. stating: “The networks of Fox News honor NLGJA for its commitment to fair and balanced reporting. From your friends at Fox News Channel, Fox Business, News Corporation.”

Reached for comment over email, NLGJA managing director Michael Tune said, “We try to have as expansive a network as possible in order to reach into every newsroom to accomplish our mission. News Corp. is a major employer of journalists nationwide, and NLGJA has had a very open and supportive dialog with them over the years regarding fair and accurate coverage of the LGBT community.”

Tune added, “NLGJA's Rapid Response Task Force was created to respond to coverage of the LGBT community that is not fair and accurate. When we reach out to a news provider, it is often with the help of our member employees or other contacts within a company.” He continued, “Often the relationship we have built with a company through its support of NLGJA makes it easier to work together.”

I sought out Fox News' Brian Lewis, executive vice president of corporate communications, and Irena Briganti, senior vice president of media relations, last week for comment on the conflict between the network's public posturing against LGBT equality and its support for LGBT employees, but I've not yet received a response.

Just as Sen. Ashburn plans to continue his history of voting against the LGBT community to appease the homophobic conservative district he serves, News Corp. (and by extension Fox News) shows no signs of pulling back on the homophobic red meat it has fed its public -- the conservative audience that drives its ratings.

That ultimately is what's truly sad about News Corp.'s relationship with its LGBT “friends.” The media company gives its employees decent protections and benefits while making the lives of the very same employees more difficult in the long-run by broadcasting homophobia and misinformation that harden anti-LGBT views and slow the movement for full equality under the law.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell:


Hate Crimes:

Homophobia/General Attacks

Smearing Jennings

Boosting Miss California