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  • Laura Ingraham dedicated a podcast episode to extreme anti-trans rhetoric and misinformation

    Ingraham said teaching about gender identity "is about lowering the age of consent," and her guests called LGBTQ people "mentally ill" and compared Drag Queen Story Hour to NAMBLA

    Blog ››› ››› BRIANNA JANUARY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Correction (6/14/19): The graphic accompanying this piece originally had an image of Phil Donahue rather than Bill Donohue. Phil Donahue was not featured in this podcast.

    Fox News’ Laura Ingraham dedicated an entire podcast to transgender issues and gender identity, and in it she and several guests used extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric -- including saying advocates are trying to lower the age of consent for children -- and misinformed her audience about trans people.

    Ingraham has pushed anti-trans misinformation and opposed trans folks for years on her podcast, radio show, and her Fox News show The Ingraham Angle. For example, she has suggested people would wear diapers rather than share bathrooms with transgender people and said she wouldn’t let her daughter use trans-inclusive restrooms by herself.

    Here are some of the worst anti-LGBTQ lies and comments that Ingraham and her guests pushed on the June 12 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show Podcast:

    Ingraham’s guest Bill Donohue of the Catholic League compared “Drag Queen Story Hour” to NAMBLA and said it’s an attempt to sexualize children. In discussing “Drag Queen Story Hour” events at public libraries, Donohue brought up the North American Man Boy Love Association, claiming that NAMBLA -- which he said “believes ‘if he’s 8, he’s too late’” -- organizes at public libraries, so it’s is “not a great leap” from the Drag Queen Story Hour events. He also referred to trans youth -- and teaching young people about gender identity -- as “an assault on nature and on nature’s God.” Oponents of LGBTQ inclusion have worked for years to smear LGBTQ people by associating them with pedophiles. In fact, right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ groups have regularly circulated the myth that the LGBTQ community is accepting pedophilia into the community and expanding the acronym to “LGBTP.”

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): There's a piece in National Review by Madeleine Kearns about this little boy, and the title is “‘Desmond Is Amazing’ Needs Saving,” about this little boy and what's happened to our youth, their innocence -- before puberty, even, trying to change kids’ understanding of just -- or, you know, basic concepts, or sexualize them and destroy their innocence. What's happening here?

    BILL DONOHUE (PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE): Well, this is child abuse. Let's call it for what it is, and the people behind this -- I want to make it clear -- the average gay person is probably no more interested in this than the average straight person.

    And you know, I haven't got enough gays in this country, if they lined up single file, to pull this kind of eroticization of our society together. No, you couldn't do it without the help of an awful lot of straight people.

    Almost all of them are straight people. They may be guided by gay activists, and there’s a difference between a gay activist and a person who’s not an activist, obviously, and those are the ones that I'm talking about. But this is an attempt, basically it’s an assault on nature and on nature’s God.

    ...

    INGRAHAM: Well, I think when you look at this new, you know, again -- contrived controversy, and it started as a group of activists in San Francisco in 2015, who decided “How do we sell this gender fluidity concept, and get publicity, and grow this movement?” They grow it by starting this Drag Queen Story Hour organization in San Francisco in 2015, happens to coincide with the rise of Donald Trump.

    They start this organization, and then they export it across the United States, and get all these liberal reporters to write pieces about these intolerant Christian conservatives and Catholic groups who are expressing outrage that even the public libraries are turning into these little political and social transformation instruments.

    DONOHUE: Well, a number of years ago, I wrote about the public libraries hosting NAMBLA -- that's right, the North American Man Boy Love Association, which believes “If he's 8, he's too late.”

    And they're organized with one purpose, to sexually molest little boys and girls, mostly boys. And they are -- they organize and meet for the purpose of molesting kids in public libraries, at public expense, and defended by the American Civil Liberties Union. So, it's not -- it's not a great leap.

    Ingraham echoed Donohue and claimed that teaching kids about gender identity “is about lowering the age of consent” and preventing people from saying that “children can’t have sexual intercourse.”

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): They need the kids, though, don’t they? They need the kids. Without indoctrinating children on a whole variety of issues, whether it’s abortion, or any of these other issues. Without that, the movement kind of dies out. So, they need the kids. They need to turn the kids into their own little community organizers, activists, across the board on a whole host of issues, and this is just one of the more, I think, potentially destructive issues, which is trying to get little children sexualized. So, they become sexual beings, and I think a lot of this is geared toward lowering the age of consent for children, too.

    In other words, if you can change your gender and say, I’m changing my gender at age 7, why couldn’t you say -- well, who are you to say children can’t have sexual intercourse? You see what I’m saying? Like, if you can as a child make a decision that would lead to perhaps permanently altering your existence as, you know, as someone who can reproduce or your body, or -- if that’s the case, then why can’t you do what you want with your body? Including have sex.

    Ingraham and Donohue said that being gay and being transgender are no longer classified as mental illnesses because of “pressure politics.” Donohue also claimed being transgender is a mental illness and called trans issues a “perverse understanding of sexuality.” Ingraham has previously said that "the Hollywood deal" is why "transgenderism" is no longer "called a mental condition." Major medical organizations such as the World Health Association, American Psychiatric Association, and American Psychological Association do not consider being gay or trans a mental illness and support full equality for LGBTQ people.

    BILL DONOHUE (PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE): They’re trying to teach these kids that a boy can become a girl. And so Sally can become Sam, and Sam can become Sally. As Dr. [Paul] McHugh’s pointed out, as you mentioned him before, these people are mentally ill. That is his considered judgement after dealing with this for decades. And we ought to treat these people, treat them as human beings for the maladies that they suffer from and not try to proselytize on this. And then when people rightly object as parents -- that I don’t want my kid subjected to this indoctrination, this kind of perverse understanding of sexuality -- then we’re called intolerant. Yet they’re the ones trying to shove their radical secular agenda down the throats of people.

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Yeah, I’m looking at the American Psychiatric Diagnostic Manual -- the DSM, it’s called -- and they have the diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria and transexualism, gender identity disorder, and so forth. There’s been a lot of political pressure put on the psychiatric community to destigmatize these, you know, these what they called maladies. And to say this is not -- no, this is not a condition. This is not a psychiatric condition. This is just a state of being. So they’re under pressure and have been.

    ...

    DONOHUE: This actually began around 1970. It was 1973, the American Psychological Association decided that homosexuality was not a mental illness. And that's fine if they want to come to that conclusion based on scientific evidence. But starting three years before that around 1970, gay activists showed up at the convention, the American Psychological Association, every year to indimidate, and call them Nazis, and got the home phone numbers and addresses. This was all pressure politics coming from the left. There was no scientific evidence to suggest that they should change the diagnostic statistical manual whatsoever. And they did so. They caved in out of intimidation. This has pretty well been recounted. And now of course you’ve got the psychiatric community on board as well.

    Another of Ingraham's guests, Walt Heyer, lied that “between three and 15 years after they transition, sometimes 20 years,” transgender people “regret it deeply.” In fact, while a small number of trans folks detransition, widespread “transition regret” is an exaggeration, and the vast majority of trans people remain trans. Additionally, the steps that trans or gender-nonconforming youth take to transition are largely reversable in the rare event that the child determines they are not trans, and the mental health benefits of gender-affirming interventions “usually outweigh the risks.” Narratives about detransitioning are often pushed by right-wing and evangelical media to undermine the affirmation and inclusion of trans folks. Right-wing media and extreme anti-LGBTQ groups have also pushed the myth that trans identity is a social contagion, influenced by peer groups and media.

    Heyer identifies as “a former transgender” and holds extreme, discredited views about LGBTQ people. He is frequently featured in right-wing media to undermine the existence of trans people and oppose affirming care for them. Furthermore, extreme anti-LGBTQ groups often highlight Heyer as part of their anti-trans advocacy, using his existence to suggest that transgender people can simply quit being trans.

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): There really seems to be a building consensus solidified in the popular culture and the mainstream media that these types of quote “reassignment surgeries and gender blockers” for children, that they’re fine, no problem, and it’s just a logical choice for kids who are, who, you know, feel like they’re not in the right bodies. What is your experience, and how can you inform us with it?

    WALT HEYER (GUEST): Yeah. Working with the people, Laura -- thanks for having me on. Working with the people who have been through this of all ages, what we find is that somewhere between three and 15 years after they transition, sometimes 20 years, they find that it’s not what they thought it was going to be. They regret it deeply. They found that their body has been transformed beyond repair. They become even more deeply depressed after than they were before.

    And, so what we’re really dealing with, Laura, is what we call a social contagion. This is exploding, as you pointed out, only because other people are doing it.

    Ingraham invoked right-wing psychiatrist Paul McHugh and cited his quote calling trans people “counterfeits or impersonators.” McHugh, a Johns Hopkins University professor, has peddled anti-trans myths and junk science for years after derailing a pioneering gender identity program at his university due to extreme views about LGBTQ people. Additionally, his fellow colleagues at Hopkins have disavowed one of his reports, saying that it “mischaracterizes the current state of the science on sexuality and gender.”

    Nevertheless, evangelical and right-wing media and extreme anti-LGBTQ groups rely heavily on McHugh as a “leading researcher.”

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Paul McHugh, who is the leading researcher at Johns Hopkins on, and has been for decades, on this gender fluidity movement, the medical research behind it. Sex reassignment, this idea of sex reassignment, it doesn’t work. It’s impossible to reassign someone’s sex physically, and attempting to do so doesn’t produce good outcomes psychosocially.

    But McHugh is the distinguished service professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, and he said, “Transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men. All, including people like Bruce Jenner, become feminized men or masculinized women, counterfeits, or impersonators of the sex with which they quote, ‘idenitify.’ In that lies their problematic future.” And that’s where you get the psychological problems.

    DONOHUE: You know, I have a chapter called “Sex Equality” in the new book called Common Sense Catholicism, and I address this issue.

    INGRAHAM: Oh, great.

    DONOHUE: And in fact, I mention Jenner, and I said, “He can’t menstruate.” OK, can people get that through their head? He can’t menstruate. He will never be a woman. He will always be a male. You can’t change your chromosomal makeup. I mean, this is madness on stilts.

    Additional research by Kayla Gogarty

  • Fox host downplays student debt crisis by dismissing Warren’s plan to cancel debt as “buying votes”

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox Business’ Stuart Varney attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) proposal to provide debt relief to over 42 million student borrowers and to make public college free, characterizing it as nothing more than a vote buying scheme. But the student debt crisis is a major problem for the U.S. economy, with tens of millions of defaults expected in the next few years.

    During the April 23 edition of Fox & Friends, Varney first correctly explained that Warren’s proposal would provide debt relief for about 42 million Americans, wiping out up to $50,000 of debt for most student borrowers, and would make public colleges tuition-free. But he quickly claimed that the proposal is “buying votes with other people’s money” and complained that the plan would be funded by taxing America’s wealthiest millionaires and billionaires. Varney concluded by mocking Warren and her plan: “It’s buying votes. ‘Vote for me, millennials, and look what I can do for you.’”

    Varney failed to acknowledge the severity of the student debt problem. As CNBC’s report on Warren’s proposal explained, “By 2023, nearly 40% of borrowers are expected to default on their student loans, an event that only increases their debt and devastates their credit.” And student debt disproportionately harms students of historically Black colleges and universities: According to The Wall Street Journal, students of these schools have 32% higher median debt load than students from other public universities.

    Warren wrote that her proposal to forgive student debt and make public college free would “substantially increase wealth for Black and Latinx families and reduce both the Black-White and Latinx-White wealth gaps.” And NPR explained the obvious economic benefits of reducing so much debt: “Federal agencies have calculated in the past that the current $1.5 trillion of outstanding student loans could be impacting consumer spending and demand for mortgages — so canceling many of those loans could indeed goose the economy.”

    Varney, who has said he is among the top 1% of income earners, has a long history of dismissing the struggles of Americans who are not rich. In 2011, he said that many poor people “have things. What they lack is the richness of spirit.”

    Varney has also attacked many Democratic proposals and policies that would provide relief and an even playing field for lower income families. In April 2018, Varney said that now-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ job guarantee plan was “a vote-buying operation.” In October 2015, Varney said that multiple policy proposals from Democratic presidential candidates, including paid family leave and health care for all children, were just their attempts at “buying votes.” And before that, during the Obama administration, Varney repeatedly characterized the federal government’s efforts to ensure that people who qualified for benefits had access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, as Democratic plots to “buy votes.”

  • Media outlets somehow make Trump the savior of Special Olympics funding that his budget aimed to cut in the first place

    Sloppy headlines and tweets that simply quote the president without context are just good PR for Trump

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Trump administration last week made a particularly cruel show of defunding the Special Olympics program in its annual proposed budget -- a largely symbolic gesture that was nonetheless indicative of the administration’s wholesale disregard for people with disabilities. After Secretary of Education Betsy Devos made a series of inept attempts to defend or address the proposed cut amid mounting public pressure, President Donald Trump finally walked back his administration’s line, saying he would change the proposal. In reporting Trump’s remarks, sloppy headlines, tweets, and cable news chyrons that simply quoted the president inherently gave him credit where absolutely none was due. It's part of a larger pattern in which context-free framing can undermine the substance of otherwise good reporting, reducing complex stories to overly simplistic headlines or lead sentences that ultimately mislead the public. 

    What happened? 

    Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appeared twice before Congress last week to discuss her department’s proposed budget for the 2020 fiscal year, and she faced tough questions about a proposed $17.6 million cut that would eliminate federal funding for the Special Olympics.

    Presidential administrations typically release a proposed annual budget every year as a recommendation and a way to indicate policy priorities -- the federal budget is ultimately under the purview of Congress alone, which can take the presidential proposal under advisement. Indeed, Politico noted that the administration had proposed defunding the Special Olympics in its last two budgets as well. As s.e. smith wrote for Vox, the proposed cut illustrated the underlying threat to people with disabilities that the administration poses -- and distracts from other proposed budget cuts and previous administration activities that could harm students with disabilities and limit their access to quality public education.

    DeVos faced strong pressure to reconsider the budget line, both in the hearings and from media, and was asked clarifying questions about the reasons for the defunding proposal. She struggled to defend the decision, completely and awkwardly ignoring questions from at least one CNN reporter and engaging in the Trump administration’s signature deflection tactic of attacking the media instead. Meanwhile, a Trump campaign spokesperson pivoted to bizarrely attacking Democrats’ support for abortion.

    Eventually, after multiple days of negative public attention, Trump reversed his administration’s long-held position on cutting the funding. The president told reporters last Thursday that he had “overridden” his own administration and had “authorized a funding of the Special Olympics,” saying that he had “heard about it this morning.” At best, this means Trump had no idea what his own administration was up to until reporters and members of Congress pointed it out. At worst, Trump was well aware of the cut and didn’t care about it until he looked bad publicly -- and was willing to throw DeVos under the bus to fix things.

    This episode showcased, once again, not just the Trump inner circle’s signature moral repugnancy but also its overwhelming ineptitude.

    How was it framed by some in media? 

    After Trump abruptly announced the proposed budget change, some blue-checkmarked reporters and media figures immediately started tweeting his breaking news quotes for impact and virality -- a common industry-wide practice. The unintentional effect was a series of tweets that together reframed the news story positively for Trump.

    Rather than making clear that Trump was reversing his own proposed budget, which does not determine actual funding levels regardless, the tweets portrayed Trump as the savior of the program -- a hero willing to fight his own bureaucracy to protect what he cared about. It amounted to passively spreading misinformation.

    And news organizations also piled on.

    Some headlines and cable news chyrons followed the same pattern: they either quoted the president with no context on the shameless pivot or actively framed him as heroically bucking bureaucracy.

    [The Hill, 3/28/19]

    [USA Today, 3/28/19]

    [CNN, 3/28/19]

    [Time, 3/28/19]

    [CNN, The Lead, 3/28/19]

    [MSNBC, Deadline: White House, 3/28/19]

    Surely not all context about the issue can fit in a headline or a tweet. But a few extra words can go a long way in better serving news audiences; some news organizations were able to do it just fine.

    Every tweet, headline, push notification, and chyron counts. Even if context is provided in subsequent reporting, or in different chyrons or an accompanying discussion, that is not enough. The essential framing has to be right.

    Media have a responsibility to serve an audience that we know is trying to catch up on the news by glancing at the TV screens (maybe in public, with the sound off, even) and scrolling quickly through tweets, push notifications, or headlines. Reporters covering this should distill what’s most relevant and accurate to a busy, distracted public that’s relying on them. Otherwise, they’re doing the work of the president’s communications shop.