Diversity & Discrimination | Page 2 | Media Matters for America

Diversity & Discrimination

Issues ››› Diversity & Discrimination
  • Video: There's a housing discrimination crisis in America -- and coverage of the issue should reflect that

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    The Fair Housing Act was passed 50 years ago, but housing discrimination is still rampant, and media coverage of the issue is overly focused on President Donald Trump’s history of racism and discrimination in this arena. While his past is notable, it’s important for mainstream outlets to inform viewers about the widespread and complicated nature of housing discrimination by interviewing victims and highlighting fair housing research.

    The Fair Housing Act was supposed to protect the right to fair housing for all people. And yet the act is not fulfilling its goals, with unprecedented attacks from the Trump administration and continued discrimination by banks, lenders, landlords, and/or developers, against Black and Latinx people, the poor, the formerly incarcerated, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and single women who are looking to rent or buy a home. There were 28,181 reported complaints of housing discrimination in 2016, but according to the National Fair Housing Alliance, housing discrimination is seriously underreported. The organization estimates that there are actually over 4 million cases of housing discrimination each year in America.

    Mainstream television coverage of housing discrimination has been overly focused on Trump's personal history with discrimination. Mainstream news outlets are right to warn viewers about his history of racism and discrimination against Black people. However, mainstream outlets such as MSNBC and CNN should follow the lead of PBS and Democracy Now and use these opportunities to inform viewers about the issue, including by interviewing victims of housing discrimination and highlighting important fair housing research.

  • Justice Department’s new “Religious Liberty Task Force” highlights the agency's troubling ties to Alliance Defending Freedom

    Alliance Defending Freedom is one of the most powerful and extreme anti-LGBTQ groups in the country

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a Department of Justice (DOJ) task force to enforce “religious liberty” rules that make it easier to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and others under the guise of “religious freedom." Such discrimination is a major part of the mission of anti-LGBTQ legal powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and the announcement was followed by a panel that included a major ADF client and was moderated by an ADF staff alumna. Coupled with ADF's involvement in the announcement, the new task force demonstrates the influence of the group's extreme anti-LGBTQ views on the administration.

    On July 30, Sessions launched a new “Religious Liberty Task Force” that would enforce discriminatory religious exemptions guidance that the DOJ released in October 2017. (Sessions had worked with ADF on the guidance before its release.) Religious exemptions policies, such as those the DOJ released, allow people and businesses to be exempt from nondiscrimination laws and policies by citing a burden on their religious beliefs. People have frequently used the exemptions to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and others.

    ADF was one of the first to break the news of the July 30 “Religious Liberty Summit” in which the task force was announced, noting that the event would feature a panel including the group’s client Jack Phillips, a Christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple and who took his case to the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commision. ADF’s news release, however, did not mention that the panel’s moderator, DOJ media affairs specialist Kerri Kupec, worked at ADF for four years before joining DOJ in January. During his remarks, Sessions said that the DOJ had “been holding listening sessions” with “religious groups across America,” which ADF has acknowledged it has been involved with in the past. Extreme anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel has already praised the announcement of the task force.

    The Trump-Pence administration has shown a coziness with extreme anti-LGBTQ groups and with ADF, in particular. Sessions’ DOJ issued an unusual brief on behalf of Phillips before oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop, and ADF alumni and allies have been hired by various agencies and nominated for federal judgeships. As Media Matters’ recently released research book details, ADF holds dozens of extreme anti-LGBTQ positions on nearly every every aspect of life, including supporting laws that would punish sodomy by imprisonment, writing in favor of Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda” law, and advocating against efforts to protect LGBTQ youth from the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy. The group is in many ways the most influential group working to roll back LGBTQ equality in the country, frequently targeting basic protections for transgender students and pushing religious exemptions policies.

    The “Religious Liberty Task Force” is yet another example of a cabinet-level agency devoting significant resources to make it easier to discriminate against LGBTQ people. In January, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new division to enforce laws protecting “health care workers who express religious objections to performing abortions and certain other procedures,” including providing medical services to transgender and other LGBTQ people. ADF had previously called on HHS to rescind several LGBTQ-inclusive protections it categorized as infringing on the “religious freedom” of religious organizations and other medical providers, and it praised the division’s creation. When groups like ADF have a seat at the table with the upper echelons of our federal government, discriminatory policies such as these come as no surprise.

    To learn more about the anti-LGBTQ positions of ADF, check out Media Matters’ interactive research book, “The extremism of anti-LGBTQ powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom.”

  • Right-wing conspiracy theorist Ximena Barreto finally leaves HHS after outlets document her toxic rhetoric

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters
     

    Ximena Barreto, a right-wing commentator with a history of pushing conspiracy theories and bigoted rhetoric, has finally resigned from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

    Barreto joined HHS in December 2017 as a deputy communications director. Media Matters first reported on April 9 that Barreto (who also goes by the surname Barreto-Rice) frequently made toxic remarks as a conservative pundit. She promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, claimed that “African-Americans are way more racist than white people,” and labeled Islam “a fucking cult” that has “no place” in the United States, among other remarks.

    Here is a video from Media Matters’ John Kerr of some of her worst remarks:

    Hours after Media Matters’ report, HHS issued a statement saying Barreto “has been placed on administrative leave while the matter is reviewed.”

    Media Matters originally found out about Barreto’s federal employment because ProPublica added her name to Trump Town, its database of Trump administration political appointees.

    CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, Chris Massie, and Nathan McDermott reported on April 13 that Barreto “shared an image in 2017 that said ‘our forefathers would have hung’ Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason,” “repeatedly used the hashtag #BanIslam and twice shared conspiracy theories about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich,” among other conspiracy theories.

    The Trump administration decided to allow Barreto back to work in early May but said she would “not to return to the public affairs department and will serve in a different role where she will work to complete several projects.”

    On June 21, Mediaite’s Caleb Ecarma reported that Barreto attacked CNN for purportedly conducting a “smear campaign” against her (CNN did not smear Barreto). Mediaite also “conducted an extensive review of her social media posts and found that the HHS appointee pushed the baseless Pizzagate conspiracy theory even more than previously reported,” finding that she tweeted variations of the conspiracy theory “at least 17 times.”

    On June 22, CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reported that a copy of Barreto’s resume -- which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request -- showed that “she listed her previous conspiratorial work on her resume as a qualification for the communication position.”

    Politico’s Dan Diamond reported on July 27 that she “was escorted from Health and Human Services Department headquarters Friday, according to an individual with knowledge of the situation. Barreto resigned, the individual said.”

    There are numerous other people who have served in the Trump administration and have pushed toxic conspiracy theories and/or bigoted rhetoric.

  • NY Times theater critic’s apology for misgendering a nonbinary character underscores the need for intentional writing about the trans community

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & BRIANNA JANUARY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters 

    One of The New York Times’ top theater critics had to apologize after his review of the Broadway musical Head Over Heels purposefully misgendered a nonbinary character played by a trans actress, demonstrating the need for journalists and writers to better understand how to cover these communities.

    Ben Brantley, the Timeslongtime co-chief theater critic, wrote a review of the new musical, which is based on the music of The Go-Go’s and which features “the first trans woman actress to create a principal role on Broadway.” The groundbreaking role, Pythio, is currently being played by former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Peppermint, and the character identifies as nonbinary and uses the pronoun “they.” According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, nonbinary people “don’t neatly fit into the categories of ‘man’ or ‘woman,’ or ‘male’ or ‘female.’” In his review, Brantley unnecessarily mocked the character’s preferred pronouns, writing that another character found “himself strangely drawn to her -- I mean them”:

    These assorted role reversals are overseen by the wise oracle Pythio (Peppermint, a contestant on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” described in the program as “the first transgender woman to create a principal role” on Broadway). Pythio identifies as “nonbinary plural.” Dametas (Tom Alan Robbins), the King’s viceroy and father of Mopsa, finds himself strangely drawn to her — I mean them. 

    LGBTQ advocates and journalists criticized Brantley’s language and successfully called on the Times to make changes to the piece:

    Following criticism of the review, Brantley issued an apology and edited the report to remove the offensive language:

    Bentley’s review and subsequent apology demonstrate the need for writers and journalists to be intentional in the way they cover the trans and gender-nonconforming community. The Associated Press Stylebook has recommended the use of “they” when referring to nonbinary people as a best practice for journalists for more than a year, and LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD has written that misgendering in reports can cause the community to see “a part of themselves erased and devalued.” This kind of reporting stigmatizes an already marginalized community and can have negative impacts on its members' self-confidence and mental health. The community experiences disproportionately high levels of discrimination and violence, and homicides against trans folks spiked in 2017.

    This is the second time in a little over a month that the Times came under fire for publishing anti-LGBTQ content. On June 25, the paper published a homophobic cartoon video and accompanying opinion piece depicting President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in a same-sex relationship and featuring an extended scene of their tongues intertwining while riding a unicorn through rainbows. The video drew criticism for mocking same-sex relationships and making LGBTQ people the punchline of a joke. Unlike with Bentley’s review, the Times defended the cartoon and claimed that the filmmaker “would have used the same format to satirize Trump’s infatuation with another politician, regardless of sexuality or gender.”

  • Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes and a men's rights activist spent an entire show attacking Black women

    Tommy Sotomayor is a men’s rights activist with a record of making anti-Semitic comments, including on David Duke’s show

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Gavin McInnes, the founder of the violent, fraternal men-only organization Proud Boys, devoted the July 16 episode of his CRTV show Get Off My Lawn to criticizing Black women, starting with Beyoncé. McInnes, whose misogyny is well-documented, also brought on Black men’s rights activist Tommy Sotomayor to avoid sounding “too white” in his critique. Sotomayor has built an online punditry career by bashing Black women and Jewish people.

    McInnes kicked off the discussion by falsely claiming that the targeted harassment campaign that far-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos led on Twitter against actress Leslie Jones was evidence of “Black women potentially being “double protected” in America. According to McInnes, the fact that Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter as a consequence showed that the platform was being deferential to Jones because she’s Black and a woman. McInnes’ revisionist history conveniently ignores the fact that Black women tend to be targets of online harassment at higher rates than white social media users.

    Sotomayor, whose real name is Thomas Jerome Harris, has built his internet presence around making inflammatory attacks against women, the Black community, and Jewish people. Sotomayor once said that then-President Barack Obama “shouldn’t try to ban guns, he should ban niggas.” The video was embraced and amplified by then-CNN pundit Harry Houck, who has a long history of repeatedly suggesting African-Americans are prone to criminality and are to blame for the police violence of which they are victims. Sotomayor also once referred to Black Lives Matter protesters as the “retarded kids in the class.” He hosted former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke on now-deleted YouTube livestreams, and appeared on Duke’s podcast to discuss “the destruction of the black community due to the cultural pollution that is being spewed out by the Jewish media elite.” One of Sotomayor’s discussions with Duke was even featured on the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.

    Sotomayor is also a recognized men’s rights activist whose anti-feminist punditry has been amplified by the misogynistic website A Voice For Men. In a since-deleted YouTube video, Sotomayor once took issue with a toilet paper ad that gave a “poignant salute” to single mothers on Father’s Day, claiming it showed that Hollywood was taking “aim, just like everyone else, at the American male.” An archived page of several of his now-deleted videos shows pejorative language and critical commentary about Black people.

    On his website, Sotomayor lists a number of YouTube channels as his own. He once explained that he has many channels because YouTube users keep flagging his content and “every video I put up, they take it down.” Sotomayor’s comment demonstrates just another way extremists circumvent YouTube’s weak attempts at dealing with hate speech.

    On McInnes’ Get Off My Lawn, Sotomayor enthusiastically enabled McInnes as he bashed Black women, agreeing with him that they are prone to violence and calling them “irresponsible being[s]” who are raising children with “100 percent autonomy” and making them violent as well.

    In an attempt to demonize Black mothers, Sotomayor shared an anecdote of a woman who had put a “sew-in weave” in her child’s hair, claiming “a normal person, a white woman” called his show saying that if she had “bleached” her 4-year-old’s hair, the school would’ve sent child protective services to her house. “It goes back to, again, no father,” Sotomayor claimed. “If a father’s there, he’s not even going to let his child dress up in this whore’s outfit.”

    Sotomayor also complained that President Donald Trump hasn’t done enough in terms of “cutting off the welfare,” claiming it is financially incentivizing people to have “children … in bad situations.” He bizarrely suggested that aiding single mothers and “all these rape cases that are coming up” were evidence of the way men are being mistreated in America.

    TOMMY SOTOMAYOR: I promise you, if you take away the financial benefit from having children -- it’s the same thing with all of these rape cases that are coming up and I know I’m opening up a different can of worms -- but when you see how men are being treated in the United States, there’s no wonder why Bruce Jenner decided to put on a dress and tuck his wang.

    This is not the first time Sotomayor has been a willing participant in the online crusades of far-right white men to victim-blame Blacks or attack women. During a guest appearance on “intellectual dark webrenegade Dave Rubin’s YouTube show in April 2017, Sotomayor blamed single mothers for not picking “the correct person to have the kid with” and complained that “the only person that’s being held responsible is the guy.” He said he was bothered by the fact men could be held responsible to help financially with the kids they had with women who claim, “It’s my body. I can do what I want to with it. But once I do it, I need help.” Rubin, a dramatically unsuccessful comedian, joined Sotomayor in complaining about the double standards that limit white comedians from making jokes about anything “remotely politically incorrect.”

    Sotomayor also joined one of YouTube’s professional misogynists, Stefan Molyneux, for some “man talk.” Molyneux has built a reputation out of bemoaning feminism and complaining about the plight of men (and promoting eugenics and scientific racism). During the discussion, Sotomayor complained that a man on trial for killing his wife couldn’t say “she was verbally abusive to me” as a defense but that “there are women who’ve gotten away” by saying the same thing.

    Sotomayor and the far-right media personalities he's joining are enjoying mutually beneficial relationships: Sotomayor gets additional venues to spread his hateful rhetoric, and the white men he's collaborating with get cover as they push racist and misogynist attacks on their shows.