Fox News’ Chris Wallace failed to ask a single question about LGBTQ issues during the first presidential debate -- despite the Trump-Pence administration’s series of policies and positions that harm LGBTQ people. This continues a trend of debate moderators failing to generate substantive discussion about LGBTQ issues among presidential candidates.
Meaningful debates about LGBTQ issues were largely absent during the 11 Democratic primary debates, with only three out of 1,208 total questions addressing LGBTQ issues. Moreover, in 2016, presidential and vice presidential debate moderators did not ask candidates about their LGBTQ policy positions.
The Trump-Pence administration has waged a relentless crusade against LGBTQ people -- including their ability to serve in the military, access health care and housing, and be out at work. But as last night’s debate displayed, cable news -- and particularly Fox News -- is once again looking the other way.
Fox News’ has failed to cover important LGBTQ issues and has demonized trans people
Wallace is a part of Fox News’ so-called “news”-side team, which despite its name regularly promotes dangerous misinformation and works as a right-wing propaganda apparatus for the Trump White House. The network has falsely portrayed the administration as friendly to the LGBTQ community, and it has a record of downplaying the administration’s anti-LGBTQ actions and ignoring issues facing LGBTQ people.
Over three days in May 2019, reports revealed several Trump-Pence administration rules that would allow discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing, health care, and adoption and foster care. But in the week that followed, from May 22 to May 31, Fox News reported on the anti-LGBTQ rules for only over three minutes across two segments. The bulk of that coverage was during a misleading interview with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson in which he lied that the discriminatory housing rule was “being fair to everybody.” CNN spent over seven minutes covering the reported rules across six segments, including in an interview with trans actor D’Lo.
Fox News also covered this year’s historic Supreme Court ruling that protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination for only 15 minutes on June 15, the day it was decided. In comparison, MSNBC covered the decision for 2 hours and 3 minutes and CNN covered it for 43 minutes.
Additionally, Fox News has consistently undercovered anti-trans violence. This summer, from June 1 through August 31, the network completely failed to report on the topic -- despite a record high spike in murders of trans people in the U.S. During that same time period, MSNBC reported on the topic for 22 minutes while CNN covered it for 5 minutes. In a rare mention of anti-trans violence in January, Tucker Carlson denied the high rates and falsely claimed that people are safer in the “relatively affluent transgender community” than the general population. This is part of a pattern; when the network does report on the LGBTQ community, it regularly features anti-LGBTQ advocates and spreads misinformation about queer and trans people.
The remaining debates give journalists an opportunity to press candidates on how they plan to address LGBTQ issues in the coming term. The October 7 vice presidential debate moderated by USA Today’s Susan Page will also be a notable opportunity to examine Vice President Mike Pence’s well-documented record of opposing LGBTQ rights.