Right-wing media have spent the last several weeks engaging in a modern smear campaign of homophobia and transphobia, targeting both elementary school teachers and The Walt Disney Co. with baseless accusations of “grooming” – and far-right cable outlet One America News Network has been particularly toxic.
Driven in part by “Don’t Say Gay” laws in states like Florida, and the opposition those laws have inspired, voices on OAN have called teachers and LGBTQ people “child predators” with a perverted desire to “groom” children using support from schools, businesses, and the federal government. OAN has even attacked individual teachers for “grooming” kids, suggesting that even mentioning LGBTQ identities in the classroom is pedophilic behavior.
Some guests claim that this imagined “grooming” epidemic is proof society should not just resist transgender identity, but also homosexuality – otherwise the United States could fall to the leftist agenda of a Marxist “gender revolution.”
Right-wing media has poisoned the American electorate with lies and bigotry for decades, sometimes with fatal results. The recent intensification of OAN’s hatred is part of a wider, years-long push throughout right-wing media to falsely accuse LGBTQ people and their supporters of “grooming” children. The very lives of LGBTQ people, including children who may need to learn the terms for the complex emotions they feel, are at best pawns in a game of attention-seeking from conservative outlets like OAN. At worst, the network’s extreme bigotry features calls to violence, putting people’s lives in danger and suggesting the far-right figures behind this latest anti-LGBTQ campaign actually want us eliminated from society.
OAN attacks schools with accusations of pedophilia for teaching about gender and sex
OAN hosts and guests falsely suggest that schools across America are filled with pedophile teachers who want to sexually exploit children by teaching them about LGBTQ people, particularly transgender identity.
Regular OAN guest Rogan O’Handley claimed that leftists “want to be able to talk about sex with your kindergarten children,” implying that a goal of this “grooming” is to sexually assault kids, in a March 9 segment defending Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.
OAN then pivoted to accusing a summer camp counselor of “promot[ing] sex work” with a video teaching young children about masturbation. Host Stephanie Hamill said to keep your children “far, far, far away from her,” and O’Handley called her an example of “actual child predators trying to cover themselves in the flag of LGBT equality, that are actually just using it to exploit their perversions and to talk about this stuff. … That person should be investigated. That type of activity should be criminal. It is, I believe. And it should be prosecuted.”
“There’s an agenda against our children, and it will be stopped,” he added.
OAN has specifically attacked several teachers, as well as schools in general, along similar lines -- suggesting that they’re pedophiles who are trying to assault children or “recruit” them into an LGBTQ identity.
- Frequent OAN guest Terry Schilling claimed on April 4 that schools are full of “people who actually want to talk to children about sex” by “subverting the will of parents” and secretly “recruiting” kids into an LGBTQ identity. “These people are abusing our kids. They’re grooming them. That’s the perfect word for this. And we really need to take back the reins of our education system.” Schilling later said that “we’re going to have to start sending the federal government after them once we take power.” OAN host Kara McKinney concurred, because “the LGBTQ, when they teach this in school … really, it’s a Trojan horse for pedophilia.”
- Appearing the next day on OAN’s Tipping Point, right-wing author Lee Smith said: “We see what's happening in schools. How teachers are promoting sexuality. They're grooming children. This is what's happening.” He added, “These are the regime’s idols. These are the good things the regime promotes,” calling it “a campaign of desecration.”
- On April 11, Real America host Dan Ball accused teachers of “recruiting students to actually form private gay and trans clubs in schools, without parents noticing,” in order to indoctrinate children. Per Ball’s own supposed evidence, these nefarious clubs are just gay-straight alliances, a concept that is over 30 years old.
- Ball misleadingly presented excerpts from a young adult book about sex, gender identity, and menstruation which was intended for high schoolers as “promoting and showing … oral sex to young kids.” His guest, a right-wing activist credited as a “New York mother,” called this “critical sex theory” and complained that “we don’t know what’s going on” in gay-straight alliances.
- Later in the interview, Ball accused liberals of “pushing and grooming” kids. The OAN host hyped an imagined conflict between members of the “LGB community” -- deliberately erasing trans people -- “that are our age and older,” versus “the new, more radicalized, LGBTQA1+, whatever all these number-letters are,” who “want to almost indoctrinate and push and get them, … even if the kids aren’t even leaning or questioning their gender, it’s now they are pushing them to it so they feel like they’ve got more people in their club.” Ball’s guest agreed and attempted to show her tolerance by suggesting that the only appropriate “place and time” to be transgender is in a New York City nightclub.
- On April 4, OAN’s McKinney called a gay elementary school teacher coming out to his class “not only an abdication of duty, it's the very definition of grooming,” and warned that “it’s happening in your children's schools on a massive scale, and it's an organized effort.”
- OAN cited the extremely anti-LGBTQ “Libs of TikTok” account to attack a trans teacher for telling his class that doctors “guess” newborn babies’ genders; OAN host Stephanie Hamill said she’s “not sure how anyone could support teachers confusing children like this.” Her guest, a right-wing activist protesting Disney, suggested that the teacher is a pedophile, threatening that “the moment you mess with my kids, it is game on. … I don’t know why the radical left is obsessed with talking to four-year-old kindergarteners about sex. It is deranged. It is perverted. It is disgusting. And we have to start rising up” against “this grooming culture” that is “happening all across America.”
- On April 11, OAN attacked another trans teacher for opposing a “Don’t Say Gay” bill and arguing that “3-year-olds are old enough to learn about gender & sex.” Hamill asked, “Who in their right mind would allow teachers like that one around our kids? No matter how young or old they may be, school is not the place for kids to learn about gender identity and sexual orientation from their teachers.” Her guest, a Turning Point USA troll, compared being trans to identifying as a dinosaur or choosing to buy a yellow car.
OAN defends “Don’t Say Gay” law with a war on Disney
A large part of OAN’s latest violent freakout against LGBTQ people centers on defenses of Florida’s recent “Don’t Say Gay” law and attacks against the law’s opponents, like Disney.
Faced with considerable public pressure around passage of the legislation, including a walkout by its employees, Disney announced that it did not support the law and would attempt to fight it in court. In response, OAN host Dan Ball used his April 1 show to baselessly accuse a Disney executive of abusing her children.
After complaining that he will no longer hear “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages” at Disney theme parks, Ball eventually turned to a leaked video of a Disney executive saying that she is proud of her pansexual and transgender children.
“What’s the odds she’s got both in her family,” Ball asked. “When did you start pushing that onto your kids?”
Ball’s guest, a founder of conservative group Moms for America, compared transgender identity to throwing her granddaughter off a roof because she said she feels like a butterfly, declaring, “We just have to get back to the common sense.”
OAN has also played host to other offensive claims surrounding the Florida law. After Hamill said on April 12, “We’ve really got to appreciate [Republican Gov. Ron] DeSantis, he’s unstoppable,” a Turning Point USA contributor predicted that Disney could publish “open child pornography,” unless viewers decide that “now is the time to draw the line,” as DeSantis did.
“We can no longer be afraid of getting canceled and called a domestic terrorist and a white supremacist, they’re already calling all of us that” he said. “So we have to push back and start telling these people no, because they’re going after children and a line has to be drawn in the sand.”
That same day, OAN also promoted a right-wing activist’s anti-“grooming” protests against Disneyland and granted him a platform to denounce Disney as “perverted” and “disgusting” for “pushing this woke ideology, shoving it down people’s throats.”
“They crossed a line when they fought to sexualize our children in school,” he added.” I mean, it’s way across the line, and now they’re going to suffer.”
Meanwhile, OAN’s news hours plainly reported that Disney “continues to expose young children to sexual ideas.”
OAN lets the mask slip into unabashed homophobia and transphobia
Some voices on the network go even further, making absolutely clear that they do not want to stop at banning even the mention of LGBTQ people in schools.
In one appearance, anti-trans activist Terry Schilling began by praising an anti-trans bill in Alabama and falsely suggesting that hormone therapy for trans youth is as dangerous as “kids taking any other types of drugs.” Schilling then claimed that the overall “agenda” from “our elites” is to “eliminate private spaces for women” and “upend American society and confuse us at our most basic level, as children,” in favor of a Marxist “gender revolution.” He concluded: “These people want to target those same kids and confuse them about their sexuality and their gender. It’s not just evil, it’s criminal, and we need to start really going after these people and really punishing them.”
On the March 12 edition of OAN’s Sunday show, Weekly Briefing, regular panelist Derrick Hollie complained that “what used to be normal is not the norm anymore. So it’s not normal for you to be a straight, heterosexual man. And if you speak out against that, then you are, again, labeled as some kind of extremist. Even as a Black man, now I’m a Black extremist, if I’m against homosexuality. I’m just not with that; you’re never going to make me be with it. And so we need to be able to stand up in– at least for what we believe in, and I'm never going to bow down to that kind of nonsense. Ever.”
One of the network’s most visible personalities, OAN reporter and host Chanel Rion declared on April 9 that “trans activists pushing gender mutilation on children are aiding and abetting in crimes against humanity. And if the trans movement is about normalizing child mutilation, the trans movement belongs in the eternal flames of hell.”
“Don’t be fooled by their wordplay,” Rion continued. “Their true motive isn’t about protecting the gender identities of children. This is about satisfying their own warped perversions, and if you want to take it a layer deeper, it’s about canceling reproduction. This is population control – sterilize your children, abort your babies, discourage nuclear families, and encourage non-reproducing unions. Don’t let them get away with this."
OAN’s shameless calls to violence, bathed in exterminationist rhetoric and paranoid conspiracy theories, signal that the network harbors an uncontainable hatred for all LGBTQ people. And OAN’s choice to broadcast such vitriol, including the occasional violent threat, puts people at risk of actual violence and hate crimes nationwide.