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Bills in Oklahoma and Kansas would allow adoption and foster care agencies to deny placement with prospective LGBTQ parents, among others
Major national broadcast and cable TV news shows failed to talk about the deliberations over anti-LGBTQ bills in Oklahoma and Kansas that passed through their state legislatures on May 3 and in the early hours of May 4, respectively. The two bills, which would allow adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against prospective LGBTQ parents, will be the latest successes in the right’s strategy to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people; if enacted, they will be the only anti-LGBTQ legislation to succeed thus far during the 2018 state legislative sessions.
The bills in Oklahoma and Kansas, which are awaiting signatures from their respective governors, would allow adoption and foster care agencies to reject prospective parents “who don’t fit their religious beliefs,” such as LGBTQ people, single people, divorcees, interfaith couples, and non-Christians. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has not signaled whether she will sign the legislation into law, but Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has supported the state’s measure, and his administration testified in favor of the bill. The bills mark the most recent successful push by the Christian far-right to advocate for religious exemptions that make LGBTQ people second-class citizens.
Between March 1 and May 2, the day before the two bills passed (Kansas’ passed in the early hours of May 4), there was no national broadcast or cable TV news coverage of the bills. Media Matters reviewed cable and broadcast news for mentions of the bills and found that not a single network -- including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, Fox Broadcasting Co., and NBC News -- covered them at all.
Media Matters also reviewed top national print media outlets -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as the Associated Press and Reuters newswires -- and found eight separate news reports in print and online mentioning one or both of the bills. The Associated Press reported on the two bills in seven different articles, all of which were reprinted in other news outlets. Only The Washington Post produced any other original reporting about the bills, mentioning them in passing in a report about the failure of other state bills to pass this year. Both The Wall Street Journal and USA Today failed to mention the bills in any news reports, and Reuters did not pick up the story either.
Anti-LGBTQ adoption and foster care bills are often characterized as so-called “religious freedom” bills, but they are really ways to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people that limit the pool of homes for children in need of families. Research also shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the U.S. foster care system, and under bills like those passed in Oklahoma and Kansas, LGBTQ children in foster care could end up served by agencies that discriminate against LGBTQ people. These efforts are part of a broader state-level strategy by the Christian far-right and are supported and influenced by anti-LGBTQ hate groups, like Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). In addition to the push for state-level legislation, the religious right’s influence on the Trump administration is apparent in the discriminatory policies and guidance that have been introduced in nearly every federal agency, including in the departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Defense, and Education.
The two bills follow several other attempts to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people in adoption and foster care at the state level. Georgia and Colorado introduced similar bills this year that both failed, and last year, anti-LGBTQ adoption and foster care laws were adopted in Alabama, South Dakota, and Texas. A sweeping anti-LGBTQ religious exemptions law written by ADF went into effect in Mississippi in 2017; it included provisions allowing child welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people. According to The Associated Press, before Oklahoma and Kansas passed their measures, “seven states … passed laws allowing faith-based adoption agencies some degree of protection if they refuse to place children with same-sex couples.” In addition to state-level advocacy, anti-LGBTQ groups have renewed calls for Congress to take up the issue at the national level.
This year has seen what NBC News called a “striking shift from recent years” in that the approximately 120 anti-LGBTQ bills proposed in states all failed to pass their legislatures until the Kansas and Oklahoma measures. But that means the bills have major national significance, so national media should have been paying attention prior to their passage. April reports on other anti-LGBTQ bills failing across the country acknowledged that these two bills were major focuses of LGBTQ advocates.
Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of broadcast TV newscasts on ABC News, CBS News, Fox Broadcasting Co., and NBC News appearing between March 1 and May 2, which was the day before the bills passed (Kansas’ bill passed in the early hours of May 4), for mentions of the words or variations of the words “adoption,” “foster care,” “child welfare,” “SB 1140,” “religion,” “faith-based,” “Adoption Protection Act” occurring within 30 words of the terms or variations of the terms “Oklahoma,” “Kansas,” “same-sex,” “LGBT,” “gay,” “discriminate,” or “non-christian.” We also searched SnapStream for the same words and variations of words appearing on cable TV networks CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between March 1 and May 2.
Media Matters also searched Nexis for mentions of the same words or variations of words appearing in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press, and Reuters between March 1 and May 2. Additionally, we searched Factiva for mentions of the same words or variations of words appearing in The Wall Street Journal between March 1 and May 2. Media Matters also performed site searches for The New York Times, Los Angeles, The Washington Post, and USA Today for reprints of Associate Press coverage of the bills between March 1 and May 2. Media Matters did not include op-eds, columns, or editorials in this analysis.
Additional research by Rebecca Damante and Brennan Suen.
Charts and graphics by Sarah Wasko.
On Friday, April 13, President Donald Trump announced joint cruise missile strikes with the U.K. and France against several Syrian chemical weapons facilities in retaliation for an apparent April 7 chlorine gas attack in Douma, Syria. Over the weekend, the Sunday morning political talk shows had plenty to discuss about the airstrikes, but not much to say about the ongoing plight of Syrian refugees.
On Sunday, CNN’s State of the Union, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and ABC’s This Week all failed to mention Syrian refugees while discussing the airstrikes. The only mention of Syrian refugees on any of the Sunday morning political talk shows was on Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, when host Chris Wallace asked UN Ambassador Nikki Haley just one question about them.
A few other Sunday morning programs on cable news channels did better in discussing concerns about refugees: There were segments on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and New Day Sunday, which played (albeit briefly) a clip of earlier commentary from a Syrian chemical attack survivor. The Sunday edition of Fox & Friends Weekend also featured two passing mentions of the refugees across its four-hour broadcast; in both instances, the guests brought up the subject unprompted.
On MSNBC however, AM Joy did two segments concerning Syrian refugees, including this excellent example of how media should discuss the subject, particularly in light of American military action that is likely to displace more people:
JOY REID (HOST): So, a truly humanitarian approach would be to welcome refugees to a democratic country that has the resources to protect and shelter them from the dangers they're trying to escape, yeah? Instead, the Trump administration says it initiated airstrikes as a symbol of support and solidarity for Syrians after the chemical attacks orchestrated by the Syrian president. But with only 11 Syrian refugees accepted into the United States this year -- not 1,100; 11 -- the Trump administration's concern for the Syrian people rings rather hollow.
Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of the word “refugee” on Sunday morning political talk and/or news shows on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Broadcasting Co., CBS, NBC, and ABC between 06:00 and 12:00.
More than half of all coverage was about two specific cases, and most coverage of LGBTQ victims failed to mention the growing trend
A Media Matters analysis of broadcast and cable news found that networks discussed anti-LGBTQ violence and homicides only 22 times for less than 40 minutes across seven channels in 2017, even though it was the deadliest year in hate violence against the community since at least 2012. The majority of the coverage was about two specific stories and came on just four days, and the networks rarely noted the trend of increasing anti-LGBTQ violence nationwide in their coverage.
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Broadcast TV news neglected many critical climate change stories in 2017 while devoting most of its climate coverage to President Donald Trump. Seventy-nine percent of climate change coverage on the major corporate broadcast TV networks last year focused on statements or actions by the Trump administration, with heavy attention given to the president's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement and to whether he accepts that human-caused climate change is a scientific reality. But the networks undercovered or ignored the ways that climate change had real-life impacts on people, the economy, national security, and the year’s extreme weather events -- a major oversight in a year when weather disasters killed hundreds of Americans, displaced hundreds of thousands more, and cost the economy in excess of $300 billion.
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While discussing Trump’s immigration proposal, only ABC’s This Week spoke with those directly impacted by it
In discussions about President Donald Trump’s proposed immigration framework, ABC’s This Week was the only Sunday show that spoke to immigrants directly impacted by it. CNN’s State of the Union, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, CBS’ Face the Nation, and NBC’s Meet the Press only invited elected officials, members of the administration, and political pundits to discuss the issue.
Trump’s proposal to lawmakers involves granting a path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants including those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, undocumented immigrants who would’ve qualified for the protections but didn’t sign up for the program, and others newly eligible. In addition, the plan calls for $25 billion for a border wall and other border security, eliminates the diversity visa lottery, enables the administration to increase its deportation capacities, and radically rolls back family-based immigration, which would sharply cut legal immigration. The proposal has been criticized for its ties to white nationalist ideology.
Only ABC’s This Week spoke to immigrants and DACA recipients who would be directly impacted by the plan:
When it comes to immigration coverage, media have a history of ignoring the voices of those affected the most by immigration policies. In September, only a day after Trump rescinded DACA, less than 10 percent of guests invited to discuss the policy on cable news networks were DACA recipients. Networks have often helped mainstream anti-immigrant extremism by inviting on members of nativist groups and normalizing pejorative nativist buzzwords.
As Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, told CNN’s Brian Stelter on the January 28 edition of Reliable Sources, the way audiences learn about “people outside of our own communities is through the media.” As a matter of good journalism, networks should make an effort to elevate voices less heard, especially in a conversation as important as immigration policy.
Fox News aired the phrase “secret society” over 100 times over two days, then went silent after reports showed the text was a joke
On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace displayed a shocking lack of self-awareness when he asked his guest, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), if “Republicans hurt their credibility on real issues of bias when they make such a big deal about secret societies and palace coups?” referring to the GOP hyping a text message between two FBI employees referencing a "secret society." Wallace ignored Fox News’ role in hyping the texts, airing the term "secret society" over 100 times on Fox News over the course of two days, before stopping abruptly after it was reported the “secret society” reference was likely a joke.
On January 22, Gowdy appeared on Fox News' The Story with Martha MacCallum along with Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX), where he announced that a text message between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page contained the line, “Perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society.” According to a Media Matters analysis, Fox proceeded to air the phrase "secret society" over 100 times over the next two days. Then, on January 24, ABC News noted that the message "may have been made in jest," reporting that the full text message read: "Are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society." The next day, Fox hosts, anchors, and guests stopped mentioning the phrase "secret society" almost entirely, with only a few quick mentions on some of the evening shows.
From the January 28 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): WALLACE: I want to ask you one last question, we're running out of time here. There's clearly some troubling evidence and clearly the Strzok-Page memos [texts] are deeply troubling, and, you know, go to it in investigating that. There also have been some issues of potential hype by Republicans, and I want to give you an example. This week Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) brought up the issue of a secret society inside the Justice Department. Here he is.
WALLACE: Don't Republicans hurt their credibility on real issues of bias when they make such a big deal about secret societies and palace coups?
REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): Yes. Republicans are the best I've ever seen at taking good facts and overstating them and therefore changing the narrative. I don't know what they meant by secret society. I didn't use the phrase. It is fair to ask them. But if it were a joke, Chris, then was it also a joke to mention the insurance policy? Was also a joke to talk about impeachment the morning after President Trump won? Was it also a joke to say I have no interest in participating in an investigation if he is going to be cleared. There's a pattern, and Republicans are better served by letting the texts speak for themselves. I have no idea what they meant by that. I don't know if it was a joke or not. It's not my job to figure it out. These two witnesses need to come in and tell us what they meant by it and everything they else said over the course of 18 months, Republicans would be well served, let the texts speak for themselves. Let the jury make up their mind and quit engaging in hyperbole, which we seem to do a lot.
The longest mention was a meager 20 seconds on NBC’s Meet The Press. Other shows were worse.
The day after the start of the second annual series of Women’s Marches all over the world, the major Sunday political talk shows were nearly silent on the historic protests, only briefly mentioning the topic across all five shows.
On January 20 and 21, one year after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, hundreds of thousands of protesters turned out in hundreds of marches and other events in the U.S. and worldwide to unite to support women’s rights. The protests emphasized encouraging women to engage in the political process and expressing shared disdain for the oppressive policies of the Trump administration. According to Politico, there were an estimated 600,000 attendees at the Los Angeles march alone. One of the March’s main events, called #PowerToThePolls, took place in Las Vegas, NV, on January 21 and aimed to register one million voters.The Women’s March described the effort as targeting “swing states to register new voters, engage impacted communities, harness our collective energy to advocate for policies and candidates that reflect our values, and collaborate with our partners to elect more women and progressives candidates to office.”
Despite the worldwide impact of the marches, the major Sunday political talk shows -- which include CNN’s State of the Union, ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday -- were nearly silent on the topic. These shows often set the tone and priorities for media coverage for the rest of the week.
On ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos briefly acknowledged the “Women’s Marches in hundreds of cities all across the country” in his opening monologue, and later in the show, panelist Karen Finney mentioned “all the people who were marching in the streets yesterday.” No one responded directly to her comments about the marches. On CBS’ Face The Nation, conservative outlet The Federalist’s publisher Ben Domenech noted the “pro-life March For Life that happens every year, followed by the Women’s March on the other side” while discussing Trump’s first year in office.
The only significant discussion, defined as a back-and-forth exchange between two or more people, of the weekend’s marches was on NBC’s Meet the Press, where panelists remarked on the event in a meager 20-second exchange. Host Chuck Todd also mentioned the “hundreds of thousands of women march[ing] across the country protesting the president, many with an eye towards more women winning office this November” in his opening monologue.
Disney deal, FCC action will make the conservative mogul an even more potent force in U.S. media
Rupert Murdoch, the 86-year-old conservative mogul who heads Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, is attempting to reshape his sprawling media empire in a way that could vastly expand his role in U.S. political life.
Murdoch’s greatest asset in that endeavor is President Donald Trump, whom Murdoch has cultivated by serving as his informal adviser and giving him fawning coverage through his news outlets. That effort now appears to be bearing fruit.
Yesterday, the White House publicly signed off on a deal that would allow Murdoch to refocus his holdings on news programming, while Trump’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a step that would allow Murdoch to dramatically expand those holdings.
Together, those steps could lead to a future where Fox’s pro-Trump commentary is piped into local broadcast news stations across the country.
Over the last 65 years, Murdoch turned a newspaper he inherited from his father into a news and entertainment goliath on four continents, with his News Corp and 21st Century Fox companies controlling substantial holdings in newspapers, publishing, and television and film production and distribution.
But Murdoch’s efforts at expansion have been stymied in recent years, while rival media companies consolidated and new threats arose from technology companies. Most recently, British regulators wary of Fox’s news practices stalled Murdoch’s bid to purchase the European broadcaster Sky PLC due to pressure from media experts and advocates, including Media Matters and Avaaz, placing in jeopardy a deal he has sought for years.
With his buying options restricted, Murdoch chose to sell instead. On Wednesday morning, The Walt Disney Co. announced a $52.4 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets, including its prized movie studio and television production arm, regional sports networks, cable channels FX and National Geographic, and its stakes in Hulu and Sky, among others. The move is a shocking retreat from the entertainment world, where Murdoch has been a major player for decades.
But Murdoch would retain the news companies that have helped make him a fixture in U.S. politics -- Fox Broadcasting network, its local broadcast televisions stations, Fox News, and Fox Business -- which, along with Fox Sports, will be spun off into a new company.
“The new Fox will draw upon the powerful live news and sports businesses of Fox, as well as the strength of our Broadcast network,” Murdoch said in a statement. He will also come away with a sizable cash hoard and what he’s said is a $2 billion annual cash flow, which will allow for dramatic expansion of that company, if the deal goes through.
Analysts say the corporate megamerger is similar to AT&T’s proposed acquisition of CNN corporate parent Time Warner, which Trump savaged on the campaign trail and the Justice Department has sued to block.
But Trump loves Fox News’ often sycophantic coverage of his administration and hates CNN’s more critical reporting, and so his view of this deal seems very different. Trump reportedly called Murdoch for assurance that he wasn’t planning to sell Fox, and yesterday White House press secretary Sarah Sanders publicly lauded the deal.
These shockingly inappropriate moves suggest that the administration may apply different standards to proposed mergers based on whether the president approves of the companies involved.
Reports suggest that he plans to purchase more local television stations and use Fox News to provide them with programming. This will require additional help that the Trump administration seems eager to provide.
Murdoch currently owns 28 television stations in 17 markets, including several of the nation’s largest, but was constrained from further purchases by the FCC regulations intended to preserve competition in media ownership. Murdoch has raged against the commission’s limitations for decades.
But Trump’s pick for FCC chair, Ajit Pai, has moved quickly to strip away the regulations holding moguls like Murdoch in check. In party-line votes this year, the Republican commissioners have eliminated several restrictions preventing further media consolidation.
And yesterday, the FCC voted to review the cap that currently prevents a single company from reaching more than 39 percent of U.S. television households.
If the cap is raised or eliminated altogether, Murdoch would be able to snap up television broadcast stations -- perhaps by purchasing ownership chains like Gannett or Hearst -- and drastically expand his reach.
But what will those new stations air? Fox’s stations currently benefit from programming provided by its scripted television production arm, 20th Century Fox TV. With that company sold to Disney, Fox stations will need to find a new, cheaper source of programming.
One way to do that, analysts suggest, will be to take advantage of Murdoch’s news companies, beaming Fox News content onto the broadcast airwaves.
“They obviously have a strong news product which they haven’t really cross pollinated with their broadcast network that much,” Katz Media Group’s Stacey Schulman told Variety. “In light of that and the fact that they’re losing a big content library and production arm, you might see more news production coming from the Fox News side showing up on the network.”
Increasing the scale of the broadcast network company would have financial benefits for Murdoch. But buying more stations in crucial swing states would also give him more political power, allowing him, in turn, to continue to pay back the Trump administration for its deregulatory zeal.
Murdoch’s stations already use Fox News' personalities to push its conservative viewpoint to some extent. The company’s reshaping -- and potential expansion -- will dramatically drive up the demand for that content.
Fox’s model could come to resemble that of Sinclair Broadcast Group, the conservative network of stations owned by the conservative mogul David Smith and his family, with must-run news packages pushing right-wing views produced by a central news programming office and sent out to stations across the country.
The next few years could see a battle for dominance between two right-wing billionaires who use their news apparatuses to promote their conservative politics, overlapping with a presidential re-election campaign featuring the man who made their expansions possible.
In his weekly “power player of the week” segment, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace presented a glowing profile of former Breitbart writer Ben Shapiro without acknowledging Shapiro’s history of bigotry, extremism, and misinformation.
On the December 10 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace lauded Shapiro’s “special brand of combative conservatism,” and noted that his “militant conservative views” sometimes “spur protests.” What Wallace failed to tell his viewers is that Shapiro has a long track record of promoting racism, sexism, and extremism. In addition to Shapiro’s bigotry, he also has a penchant for misinformation,.
Shapiro frequently expresses anti-Muslim and racist views, once tweeting that “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage.” He is quick to downplay police brutality, arguing that, “if you don’t commit a crime, you’re not going to be arrested for it,” and has claimed that income inequality between races in the United States “has nothing to do with race and everything to do with culture.”
It is not the first time that Wallace has ignored the obvious failings of his weekly “power players,” nor is it the first time that media outlets have failed to hold Shapiro accountable for his hateful and dangerous views. Just last month, The New York Times published a flattering portrait of Shapiro, referring to him as “the cool kid’s philosopher.” From the December 10 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday:
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): If you've ever wondered who will eventually succeed Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity as the voice of conservative opinion, it may just be Ben Shapiro. Who's that? Here's our power player of the week.
BEN SHAPIRO: In a free country, it is up to you to succeed or fail on your own merits. So, get off your ass and do it.
WALLACE: Yes, Ben Shapiro talks fast. But then for most of his 33 years, he’s been a man in a hurry.
SHAPIRO: I’m Ben Shapiro. This is The Ben Shapiro Show.
WALLACE: He’s the host of the most listened to conservative podcast in the country.
SHAPIRO: I do like that that Trump does have a rotating series of about 10 insults that just keeps going around and around.
WALLACE: He’s the editor of The Daily Wire, which gets 100 million pageviews a month. And he’s a big presence on college campuses, where his militant conservative views spur protests.
SHAPIRO: You’re not a man if you think you’re a man.
WALLACE: This exchange with a 22-year-old college student over transgender identity has attracted 47 million views on Facebook.
SHAPIRO: Why can’t you identify as 60? What is the problem with you identifying as 60?
SHAPIRO: You’re right. Age is significantly less important than gender. You can’t magically change your gender. You can’t magically change your sex. You can’t magically change your age.
WALLACE: At the University of Utah, he listed what he calls the hierarchy of victimhood in America.
SHAPIRO: So, there’s LGBTQ, and then black folks. Then there’s Hispanic folks. And then women. And then Jews. And then Asians. And then way down at the bottom, white, straight males. Right? Those are the people who are at the very bottom. And then their opinions do not matter at all.
WALLACE: Shapiro has been called the voice of conservative millennials. How are conservative millennials different from conservative baby boomers?
SHAPIRO: By the time a lot of conservatives hit baby boomer age, there's a mentality that’s set in that they're always losing and that every choice, every political choice particularly, is a lesser of two evils choice. If you’re conservative millennial, I think that you tend to be a little bit more idealistic, just as younger people are generally.
WALLACE: While he applauds some of President Trump’s policies, he says the tweets are needlessly divisive and turn off his generation.
SHAPIRO: Young people in the United States dramatically dislike this administration and they dramatically dislike the Republican Party. And it is President Trump’s responsibility, for conservatives anyway, to fix that. And sitting there on Twitter and retweeting Britain First is not going to do that.
WALLACE: Shapiro worked for Breitbart in the campaign, but quit when he said it was turning into a Trump propaganda arm. As for Steve Bannon:
SHAPIRO: I think that Steve is very interested in being perceived as powerful, as being perceived as a mover and shaker. But I don’t think he’s nearly as much of a mover and shaker as he wants to be seen as.
WALLACE: As we said, Shapiro has always moved fast. At age five, he dressed for Halloween as John Adams. By age 17, he wrote a nationally syndicated political column.
SHAPIRO: I skipped a couple of grades. I was a virtuosic violinist. I actually, when I went to college, thought that I was going to double major in genetic science and music. So, I was always pretty driven.
SHAPIRO: Things that I hate.
WALLACE: And his only plan now is to keep pushing his special brand of combative conservatism.
SHAPIRO: Sometimes the best way to get a message across is to just speak bluntly. And so, I'm not going there to deliberately offend people. I'm saying things that I think are true with precisely the amount of verve I think necessary to convey the message.
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