artistic rendering of trans pride flag enveloped at the edges by a sea of red

Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

In 2023, most mainstream TV news coverage of anti-trans violence hit an all-time low. Fox News’ attacks on victims hit an all-time high.

Issues with the quality of most mainstream reporting persisted while Fox News mocked the victims of fatal violence and denied hate crime statistics

Coverage of fatal violence against trans and gender-nonconforming people on CNN, MSNBC, and national broadcast networks fell to new lows in 2023, with these networks providing a combined total of just 29 minutes of reporting on the topic throughout the year. 

This decrease in coverage coincided with an increase in antagonistic narratives about anti-trans violence on Fox News, which covered the issue for nearly 23 minutes by attacking victims and denying the extent of violence trans people in America face. 

MSNBC, CNN, and broadcast networks also continued to struggle with quality in their reporting on the issue, as the networks used one highly publicized death — the killing of Black trans man Banko Brown — to push fear of retail theft in urban centers. And no network gave trans people of color an opportunity to discuss the violence facing their community in 2023. 

In years past, this study has looked only at segments dedicated to discussing fatal anti-trans violence; this year it also takes into account passing mentions and teasers for upcoming segments as part of total coverage time counted. 

When looking exclusively at full news segments focused on fatal anti-trans violence, combined coverage from MSNBC, CNN, and cable and broadcast networks reached a new low of 24 minutes, down from a previous low of 41 minutes for those networks in 2021 — even as trans people faced an unprecedented legislative onslaught targeting their rights to health care, equal participation in sports, and public bathroom access. 

  • Top trends in anti-trans violence coverage on broadcast and cable TV news in 2023

    • MSNBC, CNN and broadcast networks discussed fatal violence against trans people in 2023 for just over 29 minutes, in just 9 segments and 6 mentions. This included 4 segments from CNN and 6 mentions from MSNBC, as well as 5 segments from the major broadcast networks, which are CBS, ABC, and NBC. 
    • The majority of coverage from MSNBC, CNN, and broadcast networks — around 24 minutes — focused on the death of Banko Brown, a Black trans man killed by a security guard in San Francisco, California. Every network, other than Fox News, that covered Brown’s death ran segments using the story to push a since-debunked narrative around petty retail theft in big cities.
    • The greatest decline in coverage came from MSNBC, which went from a previous low in coverage of 29 minutes split between 9 segments in 2021 to 0 segments  discussing fatal violence against trans people killed in 2023. When taking into account passing mentions during discussion otherwise not focusing on anti-trans violence, the network’s coverage amounted to less than 5 minutes over the course of the entire year. 
    • Across the three national broadcast networks NBC News, ABC News, and CBS News, the issue of fatal violence against trans people in 2023 was discussed for under 11 minutes combined. This is less time than was spent by one show on Fox News — Jesse Watters Primetime — attacking and mocking the death of a victim of anti-trans violence.  
    • Fox News dedicated just under 23 minutes to the topic, including 4 segments and 4 mentions. 
    • The most-discussed issue related to fatal violence against trans people on Fox News in 2023 was the police killing of Tortuguita, an environmental activist shot in Georgia during the protests against the “Cop City” development, which the network spent more than 15 minutes discussing. The majority of that coverage came from two segments on Jesse Watters Primetime, during which the host and guest host mocked the activist’s death and pushed unsubstantiated claims that the activist fired on police. 
    • Even though half of all trans people murdered are Black trans women, no network had a trans person of color on to speak about the violence faced by their community in 2023.
  • 35 trans or gender-nonconforming people were murdered in the U.S. in 2023. Black trans women remain the most at risk of violence.

  • At least 35 trans and gender-nonconforming people were victims of fatal violence in 2023. The Human Rights Campaign reports 32 victims, with an additional 3 victims identified by Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. Nearly half of the victims were Black trans women, and more than 80% were people of color or Latine.  

    Trans people are often misgendered and deadnamed in the media after their deaths, a trend that complicates the task of gathering crime data on violence against the trans community. Because of this, it’s possible that lists attempting to identify victims of anti-trans violence undercount the actual figures.

    Below are the names of the trans or gender-nonconforming people who we know were killed through violent means in 2023.

  • Jasmine “Star” Mack, KC Johnson, Unique Banks, Zachee Imanitwitaho, Maria Jose Rivera Rivera, Chashay Ashanti Henderson, Tortuguita, Ta'Siyah Woodland, Ashley Burton, Koko Da Doll, Banko Brown, Ashia Davis, Chanell Perez Ortiz, Jacob Williamson, Camdyn Rider, DéVonnie J’Rae Johnson, Thomas “Tom-Tom” Robertson, Alexa Alex Andreevna Sokova, Bre’Asai Bankz, YOKO, Luis Ángel Díaz Castro, Chyna Long, Sherlyn Marjorie, A’nee Johnson, Dominic Dupree, Lisa Love, London Price, LaKendra Andrews, Ome Gandhi, Amiri Reid, Kejuan Richardson, Jean Butchart, Savannah Ryan Williams, Meghan Riley Lewis, and Amber Minor

  • HRC’s list does not include victims who “may have died by other means than violent acts by another individual,” but the organization is calling for further investigations into the deaths of at least three other trans people killed in the U.S. last year not included in either list. 

    Although the number of fatal acts of violence has decreased since 2022, according to the HRC, hate crimes based on gender identity have increased by nearly 33% since 2022. A KFF-Washington Post survey released last year similarly found that 1 in 4 trans people reported being “physically attacked because of their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.” In addition to those listed, hundreds of trans people were killed outside the U.S. last year, including 100 in Brazil and 52 in Mexico. 

    Trans people, especially trans women of color, are also at risk of death as the result of a lack of access to essential resources like adequate nutrition, housing, and emergency shelter — deaths that disproportionately affect trans people, but that are not recorded as violence against members of the community.

  • Fox News coverage of fatal violence against trans people rose dramatically, but the network maligned victims and denied the extent of violence against trans people

  • Prior to 2023, Fox News regularly provided the least amount of coverage on fatal violence against trans people of any cable network. When the issue has been discussed on the network, coverage is frequently antagonistic against the victims. For instance, its lone segment on the issue in 2020 came from a monologue by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson in which he denied the epidemic of violence against trans people and falsely claimed that “transgender people are, on average, safer than your typical American.” 

    In 2023, Fox News spent just under 23 minutes on the subject, more time than CNN, MSNBC, or any national broadcast network. However, the character of the coverage has remained vitriolic against the victims. The majority of the network’s coverage of fatal violence against trans people in 2023, including the two longest segments on the issue from any network, centered on maligning Tortuguita. 

    Tortuguita was a nonbinary environmental activist involved in the protests against a planned police training center near Atlanta, Georgia, who was fatally shot 57 times by police during a police raid on a protest camp on January 18, 2023. Despite multiple autopsies showing that their arms were raised and that they had not fired on police, and though the county medical examiner ruled the case a homicide, no police officers were charged in the activist’s death. 

    Tortuguita’s death was initially mentioned on Fox News on the January 23 edition of Gutfeld, when host Greg Gutfeld mockingly said they were shot “even before police asked for pronouns.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the January 23, 2023, edition of Fox News' Gutfeld!

  • In November, after White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre acknowledged Transgender Day of Remembrance, an observance meant to memorialize killed trans people, Fox News’ Jesse Watters Primetime ran segments focused on the fact that the statistic included Tortuguita. 

    During a November 21 segment, Watters spent nearly 10 minutes mocking and attacking the dead activist. The host claimed Tortuguita shot at police, villainized them as a “trantifa treehugger who shot a cop,” and misgendered them repeatedly. He then hosted Jaimee Michell from the anti-LGBTQ group Gays Against Groomers, who joined Watters in mocking Trans Day of Remembrance and those killed.

  • Video file

    Citation From the November 21, 2023, edition of Fox News' Jesse Watters Primetime

    JAIMEE MICHELL (GUEST): I think what happened was they probably saw how low of a number it was of trans people whose lives were ended or they ended their own lives and they saw it was such a low number and they didn't want to do any research to make sure everybody, you know, was okay and a solid person. They just ran with it to make it seem like it was something more than it really was. So no, but you know these kind of people are right up the White House's alleys and the left in general. These are their heroes and if [they] were alive I'm sure [they] would have gotten some form of medal or commemoration in another way. 

    JESSE WATTERS (HOST): Yeah, if [they] were alive maybe Biden would hang a medal around [their] neck in a ceremony at the White House and then walk out in the middle of it like he likes to do. What is interesting, Jaimee, is we've had this information for almost 48 hours. I mean, Binder put out a release with the names [of trans people killed] yesterday. It was Trans Day of Remembrance yesterday. Nobody else in the mainstream media thought to see who these people we were supposed to honor were? What does that say?

    MICHELL: Yeah, you're not supposed to do that. You just take everything they present at face value and these are obviously the best people in the world, no questions asked. But I think it's silly that we even have this Trans Day of Remembrance. I mean, as you were saying, we want to honor and remember all lives and I don't remember the White House really doing that for many other groups of people that are deserving of the same recognition and respect and honor. I think it's also funny that, you know, I don't know if you know this but 28 people per year are killed by lightning strikes and I don't see the White House going around with a lightning strike day of remembrance. Maybe they should add that next year.

  • The next night, Kayleigh McEnany guest-hosted Watters’ show and followed a similar formula, calling Tortuguita a “cop-shooting terrorist,” mocking the activist’s death, and dubiously asserting that they fired on police before bringing on former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who repeated the claims. 

    McEnany also falsely suggested that trans people are less likely to face violent victimization than their cis counterparts. A study from UCLA’s Williams Institute showed trans people are over four times more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than cis people. Moreover, many reports of violence against the trans community likely undercount the actual number. According to Human Rights Campaign, “data collection is often incomplete or unreliable when it comes to violent and fatal crimes against the trans community. Some victims’ deaths may go unreported or misreported, while other victims may not be identified as trans or gender non-conforming.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the November 22, 2023, edition of Fox News' Jesse Watters Primetime

  • These two segments alone added up to nearly 15 minutes, more time spent on all coverage of fatal violence against trans people than any other network. These were also the only segments on either cable or broadcast television news to mention Trans Day of Remembrance last year.

    Other coverage by Fox News in 2023 included commentary questioning the legitimacy of hate crime statistics, downplaying the role of anti-trans rhetoric in fueling violence, and criticizing policies intended to prevent the misgendering and deadnaming of killed trans people.    

  • MSNBC and CNN doubled down on an already-poor track record of covering fatal violence against trans people

  • graph showing coverage on cable networks
  • In total, CNN and MSNBC spent less than 19 minutes discussing fatal violence against trans people in 2023. Between the two, CNN spent the most time on the subject, discussing the issue for 14 minutes, with 4 segments and 2 mentions.

    The most-discussed subject in CNN’s coverage was the death of Banko Brown. Brown, a Black trans man living in San Francisco, was killed by a Walgreens security guard for allegedly attempting to steal $14 in snacks. The city’s district attorney declined to press charges despite community outrage and calls for justice from civil rights advocates from the Black and LGBTQ communities. 

    CNN covered Brown’s killing for just under 14 minutes across 4 segments, almost all of its coverage from the year. During a segment on the May 16 edition of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, the show used the story to fearmonger about retail theft in major urban centers, airing clips from an interview with a San Francisco business owner lamenting the closure of local businesses due to alleged retail theft. 

    Right-wing media outlets like Fox News have used such rhetoric to fearmonger about crime in liberal cities, helping to form a negative and largely inaccurate public understanding of local crime statistics. This coverage has in some cases spread to outlets beyond the right-wing, which have pushed similar inflammatory narratives, and has been followed by a push for harsher penalties for low-level and non-violent offenses from both Democratic and Republican politicians.

  • Video file

    Citation From the May 16, 2023, edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360

  • CNN also referenced acts of violence against the trans community during a segment about O’Shae Sibley’s murder, a Black cis man stabbed while voguing at a Brooklyn gas station. 

    MSNBC spent the least amount of time on coverage of trans people killed in 2023 out of the three cable networks, discussing it for less than 5 minutes across 4 mentions, and airing no segments devoted to the topic. The network had no coverage of the killing of Banko Brown. MSNBC, which has consistently been the cable network with the most amount of coverage of any cable network discussing fatal violence against trans people, saw a dramatic decline in coverage last year, with its previous low in 2021 amounting to 29 minutes, more than any other cable or broadcast network at the time. 

    Although MSNBC dedicated no segments to the issue, the network made one worthwhile mention of fatal violence against the trans community during discussion of a speech by Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union, whose daughter Zaya is trans, at the NAACP Image Awards on The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell. Guest host Jonathan Capeheart briefly discussed Wade and Union’s call for the Black community to support Black members of the LGBTQ community, in particular Black trans women, who Capeheart noted are more likely to be murdered than their cisgender peers. 

  • Video file

    Citation From the March 3, 2023, edition of MSNBC's The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell

  • Only one openly trans person appeared in coverage that mentioned fatal violence against the trans community in 2023. Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr mentioned that anti-trans legislation can fuel violence against trans people during an April 26 appearance on MSNBC’s The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell

  • Video file

    Citation From the April 26, 2023, edition of MSNBC's The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell

  • Broadcast networks continued to provide minimal coverage of fatal violence against trans people in 2023, with some coverage of Banko Brown’s death that fearmongered about crime

  • bar graph showing broadcast news coverage of fatal anti-trans violence in 2023
  • In total, national broadcast networks spent just under 11 minutes discussing the killing of trans people in 2023 across 5 segments. CBS spent the most amount of time discussing the killing of trans people of any broadcast network, discussing it for over 6 minutes across 3 segments. ABC spent the next most time discussing the issue, devoting just over 4 minutes across 2 segments to fatal anti-trans violence. According to our findings, NBC News is the only national TV news network to devote no time at all to discussing fatal violence against trans people in 2023.

    The only issue discussed among broadcast networks in relation to fatal anti-trans violence in 2023 was the death of Brown, to which ABC and CBS dedicated 5 segments in total. As with CNN, both ABC and CBS aired segments about Brown’s death to fearmonger about retail theft in San Francisco and other large cities. 

    The May 17 edition of CBS Evening News described the killing of Brown as the “latest incident in a city blinded by images of shoplifting and petty theft” and preceded an interview with Brown’s grieving father by asserting that shoplifting was “a consistent issue” in San Francisco and other large cities. 

  • Video file

    Citation From the May 17, 2023, edition of CBS Evening News

  • The May 17 edition of ABC’s Good Morning America likewise mentioned the closure of local businesses in a segment on Brown’s death.

  • pie chart showing cable and broadcast coverage of fatal anti-trans violence by topic
  • In television news coverage of fatal violence against trans people, those with the most to lose continue to have the smallest platform

  • National cable and broadcast networks have regularly failed to adequately meet the rising tide of anti-trans hate and violence in the U.S. When at least 45 trans people were victims of fatal violence in 2020, national TV news networks covered their stories for less than an hour in total. After that number rose the following year to an all-time high of 59 trans people killed, coverage inversely started to decline.

    Last year saw an all-time low in coverage by most mainstream cable and broadcast networks, made worse by Fox News’ increasingly bold mockery of the deaths of trans people. The woeful state of coverage creates an environment in which those with established prejudice against trans people have the greatest say in how their deaths are reported on television, while those most victimized by anti-trans violence — Black trans women — are given no major platform to speak on the violence their community faces.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the Kinetiq video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC and all original episodes of  ABC’s Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and This Week; CBS’ Mornings, Evening News, and Face the Nation; and NBC’s Today, Nightly News, and Meet the Press for any variations of any of the terms “transgender,” “trans,” “anti trans,” “gender identity,” “nonbinary,” or “gender nonconforming,” within 50 words of any variations of any of the terms “murder,” “kill,” “shot,” “stabbed,” “dead,” “death,” “die,” or “homicide” from January 1, 2023, through December 31, 2023. We also searched for the names of the 35 transgender and gender-nonconforming people who were victims of fatal violence in 2023 as reported by the Human Rights Campaign and Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund.  

    Finally, we searched transcripts in the Nexis database for all of the above terms and names; however, this double-check was limited to news shows airing between 5 p.m. and midnight on Fox News and MSNBC. We were able to search all cable news transcripts for CNN and all broadcast news transcripts for ABC, CBS, and NBC.

    We timed segments, mentions, and teasers about anti-trans violence. We defined segments as instances when anti-trans violence was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of anti-trans violence. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed anti-trans violence with one another. Mentions were defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment on another topic mentioned anti-trans violence without another speaker engaging with the comment. Teasers were defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about anti-trans violence scheduled to air later in the broadcast. 

    We then reviewed all identified segments, mentions, and teasers for whether they included mentions of specific acts of violence against trans people, the name of a trans person who was victim to violence, a trans guest, or context connecting the anti-trans violence to the larger national trend of increasing violence directed at trans people. We also noted whether a trans person was the first to broach the topic of anti-trans violence in 2023. We rounded all times to the nearest minute.