An Equality Matters report found that cable news outlets were lacking in their coverage of the reemergence of Uganda's proposed “Kill the Gays” bill - a measure that would put LGBT Ugandans at risk of suffering the death penalty.
During the December 5 edition of MSNBC's NOW with Alex Wagner, Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kenedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, warned that major media outlets weren't drawing enough attention to international human rights abuses, including Uganda's proposed anti-homosexuality bill:
KENNEDY: I think there is a tremendous amount of compassion and concern by ordinary Americans. I hate to say this on this TV show, but you're actually covering those issues. And a lot of places just aren't to the extent that they used to. So I think that's part of the problem.
Kennedy was right.
Since Uganda's Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga vowed in late October to bring the anti-gay law to a vote, cable news networks have spent just over 15 minutes covering the issue. Significantly more time was devoted to covering “Gangnam Style,” a Korean pop song that went viral this summer:
Kennedy was also correct in noting the decline in coverage of Uganda's anti-gay bill in the years since it was first introduced. In 2010, when the “Kill the Gays” bill seemed near to becoming a reality in Uganda, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow ran multiple segments spotlighting the measure, noting its ties to prominent American evangelical leaders (and politicians) and grilling its supporters over their anti-gay extremism.
MSNBC spent less than five minutes discussing the bill over the course of two segments (including Kennedy's mention on NOW).
Fox News fared even worse, failing to mention the “Kill the Gays” bill even once over the course of the study.
Cable news networks could have easily picked up any of the several angles in covering the potential passage of Uganda's anti-homosexuality law. In November, Speaker Kadaga pledged to pass the law as a "Christmas Gift" to the measure's supporters. There's been significant confusion and misreporting over the measure's death penalty provision, as well as the scope of who could be targeted under the law. The U.S. State Department has warned Uganda about the measure, causing a rift between the countries.
And then, of course, there are the bill's ties to prominent members of the U.S. religious right. One such member is Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council (FRC), who in last month tweeted in support of the “Kill the Gays” bill, writing:
Perkins has previously denied supporting Uganda's “Kill the Gays” measure, while also claiming the FRC does not sanction other attempts to criminalize homosexuality. He's also a regular guest on all three cable news networks.
To see the full Equality Matters report, click here.