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  • Alliance Defending Freedom turned to Tucker Carlson to announce it's working to prevent trans athletes from competing

    ADF leaders know they can count on Fox as a friendly outlet to misrepresent the group's anti-trans cases

    Blog ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News host Tucker Carlson hosted extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and its client Selina Soule, a high school athlete in Connecticut, during a segment in which ADF revealed that it has filed a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education on behalf of Soule and other students who object to competing against trans athletes.

    ADF’s decision to file a Title IX complaint is particularly troubling given that the organization has allies throughout the federal government, including within the Department of Education. The group’s former director of litigation projects, Thomas W. Stack, worked for ADF for two years before becoming a senior attorney at the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), the office that “evaluates, investigates, and resolves complaints alleging sex discrimination.” Records indicate that Stack has previously been assigned to investigate complaints filed with OCR.

    Soule has been interviewed on both Fox & Friends and The Ingraham Angle last February, and she was highlighted on right-wing sites including The Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal. Soule’s mother, Bianca Stanescu, also recently participated in a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation advocating against transgender athletes. Heritage has hosted several panels advocating against transgender rights this year.

    ADF has repeatedly used Fox News to promote its cases and policy positions; the Carlson interview was at least the sixth ADF appearance on Fox this year. The reality is that Fox is the perfect place for groups like ADF to introduce their anti-LGBTQ work, because its standards for LGBTQ coverage are out of step with standard journalistic practices. The network frequently hosts anti-LGBTQ guests who work for or are associated with extreme groups, including Heritage Foundation, MassResistance, and Liberty Counsel. Fox hosts allow these guests to push extreme rhetoric and sometimes mirror their language. “Straight news” host Shannon Bream has repeatedly misgendered trans people in coverage, recently calling a trans women a “biological male who now identifies as a woman,” and Fox reporter Greg Palkot misgendered Chelsea Manning. Additionally, reporter Carley Shimkus incorrectly identified Olympic champion Caster Semenya as trans, feeding into the network’s fearmonger tactics about trans athletes.

    Opinion hosts Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson also consistently demonize the LGBTQ community. In just the past week, Ingraham made headlines when her guest promoted an extreme book called The Health Hazards of Homosexuality, and Carlson lied that trans women detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have it “much better” than “ many American citizens.” In attempting to stoke resentment against trans detainees among his white nationalist base, Carlson ignored the deaths of two trans women in ICE custody as well as countless reports of abuse in those facilities.

    During the June 17 segment, Carlson and ADF lawyer Christiana Holcomb repeatedly misgendered transgender girls as “males” and “biological males.” From Tucker Carlson Tonight:

    CHRISTIANA HOLCOMB (ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM): So girls like Selina should never be forced to be spectators in their own sports. But unfortunately, that is exactly what’s taking place when you allow biological males to compete in sports that have been set aside and specifically designed for women like Selina. Title IX was designed to ensure that girls have a fair shake at athletics and are not denied the opportunity to participate at the highest levels of competition. So Alliance Defending Freedom, on behalf of Selina and a couple of other brave female athletes, has filed or is in the process of filing a Title IX complaint asking the Department of Education to step in, to investigate, and to restore a level playing field for Selina.

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): I mean, Selina, do other girls on your team feel the way that you do, that opportunities are being taken from you by biological males?

    SELINA SOULE (STUDENT ATHLETE): Yes. No one in the state of Connecticut is happy about this. But no one is -- no one has enough courage to speak up. And I haven't been the only one affected by this. There have been countless other female athletes in the state of Connecticut as well as my entire indoor track team. We missed out on winning the state open championship because of the team that the transgender athlete was [INAUDIBLE].

    HOLCOMB: And Tucker, to underscore inequity here, I want to highlight the fact one of these male athletes now holds 10 records inside the state of Connecticut that were once held by 10 individual girls and were established over the course of about a 20-year period. So it's fundamentally unfair to allow biological males to step into women sports and, frankly, dominate them and take away opportunities, not just to medal, but to be at the podium, to advance to the next level of competition, and even compete for scholarships for young women like Selina.

    TUCKER: Well, it’s grotesque and insane, and it hurts women and girls. And the very people who claim to be defending the women and girls are abetting this or making it possible.

  • After two trans migrant women died in ICE detention, Tucker Carlson says trans detainees are treated better than American citizens

    Carlson promoted ICE propaganda and said detention facilities for trans migrants are “worth it for the amenities alone” even though LGBTQ people are being abused and dying in ICE custody

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX PATERSON


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson lied to his viewers about the conditions facing transgender migrants detained at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, asserting: “Life for transgender illegal aliens is actually much better than it is for many American citizens.” In fact, LGBTQ migrants, including asylum seekers, face alarming rates of abuse, solitary confinement, and sexual assault in ICE facilities, and two trans migrants -- Johana Medina Leon and Roxana Hernandez -- have died while in ICE custody in just over a year.

    During the June 14 segment, Carlson discussed living conditions in ICE’s single dedicated housing unit for trans women at Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico. The agency recently touted the facility on social media, but many advocates have called ICE’s posts “propaganda” and noted dismal conditions for LGBTQ migrants detained by the agency. A May 2018 analysis by the Center for American Progress found that LGBTQ immigrants are “97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other detainees,” and “1 in 8 transgender people detained in FY 2017 were placed in solitary confinement,” which “is considered a form of torture by the United Nations.”

    Carlson's use of ICE propaganda to complain that some trans detainees have access to their basic needs was a blatant attempt to whitewash ICE’s violation of human and civil rights. Carlson painted a false picture of life for queer and trans migrants detaineed in ICE facilities to stoke resentment against them, continuing his efforts to scapegoat immigrants for supposed national crises.

    From the June 14 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): In real life, there’s nothing right wing about this administration's social policy -- maybe unfortunately. For example, did you know that ICE, right now, maintains a special housing unit for transgender illegal aliens? Hard to believe, but it's true. We know it's true because ICE has been bragging about it recently. The agency even sponsors classes to help transgender migrants appear more feminine. 

    Giving fashion tips to men who dress like women who snuck into our country illegally is a priority for the federal bureaucracy. They are happy to spend your money -- a lot of your money -- doing it. Meanwhile, for American citizens, things get steadily worse: Life expectancy declines, half a million people sleep on the streets every night, heroin addicts line the sidewalks of our once-great cities. But at least the federal government can pay for a specialized detention center for transgender migrants in New Mexico. And that's not all. Thirty million Americans don't have health insurance, and millions more pay way more than they can afford for health insurance. But transgender migrants don't have to worry about that at all. According to ICE’s latest press release, they get all the free health care they want. That includes mental health services and dental. Can you afford dental insurance? If not, you might want to seek asylum. It could be worth it for the amenities alone. Transgender migrants in New Mexico have televisions and microwaves. There’s an indoor basketball court and a library. In their free time, they sing opera. For real.

    Life for transgender illegal aliens is actually much better than it is for many American citizens. It’s not really surprising. You can you tell who our government really cares about, and it's not you.

    Carlson failed to note any of the potentially lethal abuse, harassment, and denial of health care that LGBTQ migrants -- particularly trans women -- face while detained in ICE facilities, or the deaths of two trans women in ICE custody.

    Roxana Hernandez died in May 2018 after reportedly spending five days of detention in an “ice box” -- “facilities notorious for their freezing temperatures,” according to The Guardian. Other detainees said that Hernandez received “no medical evaluation or treatment, until she was gravely ill” despite having a preexisting medical condition. The Transgender Law Center has filed a wrongful death claim against the Cibola County Correctional center -- the same facility which Carlson decried -- maintaining that she “did not receive necessary medical care and medication” while being held there.

    On June 1, after falling ill at New Mexico’s Otero County Processing Center, Johana Medina Leon also died in ICE custody. According to The Washington Post, another trans woman at the same facility reported being sick and not receiving “adequate medical attention,” and an advocate “said he learned that Leon was not feeling well and that others had requested that she be given intravenous fluids but that staff said they couldn’t administer that kind of treatment.” Medina Leon was one of three migrants to die while in ICE detention in the span of three days. In March, the ACLU called for an investigation into Otero County Processing Center’s detention conditions after 12 gay and transgender detainees reported “sexual harassment, withheld medications and dehumanizing treatment by guards.”

    Moreover, the alarming rates of abuse and death LGBTQ migrants face while in ICE custody reflect the anti-LGBTQ agenda of newly appointed acting Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli has campaigned for the criminalization of sodomy and said that the “homosexual agenda … brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul.”

  • Family Research Council celebrates Pride Month by spreading vile misinformation and hate about the LGBTQ community

    FRC’s Peter Sprigg suggested that mental illness among some LGBTQ people is evidence that they are not “natural,” said HIV is "a direct result" of gay sex, and promoted the debunked practice of conversion therapy

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX PATERSON


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Extreme anti-LBGTQ group Family Research Council regularly traffics in extreme language, but it recently published a post by Peter Sprigg about LGBTQ Pride Month, which was particularly vile even by its own standards. In the blog, Sprigg said gay men should not be proud because HIV is "a direct result of that sexual behavior" and that mental illness in the LGBTQ community is evidence its members are not "natural."

    Sprigg, a senior fellow at FRC, has called for homosexuality to be criminalized and has said, “I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe that homosexuality is destructive to society.” Sprigg has pushed his anti-LGBTQ views internationally at the global summit of World Congress of Families (WCF), where he “argued that transgender identity is unscientific,” according to Right Wing Watch. The WCF is an international coalition of anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ groups led by former National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown, and it promotes extreme right-wing policies around the world under the guise of protecting the “natural family.”

    Domestically, Sprigg has given public comment at a committee meeting urging the Food and Drug Administration’s to uphold its policy banning men who have sex with men from donating blood, advocated to the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee against nondiscrimination protections for transgender people, and testified before state legislatures in Vermont, Hawaii, and New Hampshire against protections for LBGTQ youth from conversion therapy. Moreover, Sprigg’s boss, FRC President Tony Perkins, was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to be a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

    Sprigg also writes articles spreading anti-LGBTQ misinformation across several right-wing platforms, including The Daily Signal, Washington Examiner, and The Christian Post. Right-wing and evangelical media, in turn, quote Sprigg as an expert on conversion therapy and the health needs of transgender people even though he is not a medical professional.

    In an article posted on June 11, Sprigg railed against the LGBTQ community under the deceitfully reasoned headline “Should Christians Recognize ‘LGBT Pride?’” Anti-LGBTQ organizations often try to pit religious rights against LGBTQ equality in a fallacious “God vs. Gay” dichotomy, though the majority of religious groups think homosexuality “should be accepted,” according to Pew Research. Here are some of the worst anti-LGBTQ comments that Sprigg pushed in the FRC blog post:

    • "The high rates of mental illness that accompany such feelings is strong evidence against the idea that homosexual and transgender feelings are ‘natural.’”

    • "Men who have sex with men, in particular, have high rates of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases as a direct result of that sexual behavior—so is it something to be ‘proud’ of?”

    • "To accept ‘LGBT Pride’ is to accept the assertion that these feelings are a normal and natural variant of human sexuality.”

    • "Some individuals who identify as transgender ask surgeons to mutilate or remove otherwise healthy body parts—often with serious long-term consequences—in order to make their bodies resemble more closely their desired sex. Is this something to be proud of?”

    • "To endorse ‘LGBT Pride’ is to endorse all three—to affirm that LGBT feelings are normal and natural (which is untrue), that LGBT behaviors are harmless or even admirable (also untrue), and that their LGBT ‘identity’ is innate (untrue as well).”

    • "Homosexual activists and their allies in the states have even been invading the privacy of the relationship between mental health providers and their clients, by passing laws to prohibit sexual orientation change efforts, or SOCE (which critics refer to as ‘conversion therapy’) with minors.”

    • "The former tennis star and self-identified lesbian Martina Navratilova said, ‘Catholic clergy has been a lot more dangerous to kids than LGBT’ (apparently without irony, since there is reason to believe that most of the Catholic priests who have molested children are themselves homosexual).”

  • Laura Ingraham hosts extreme anti-LGBTQ guest who promotes book The Health Hazards of Homosexuality

    MassResistance's Arthur Schaper also compared "Drag Queen Story Hour" to "porn actor story hour"

    Blog ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham hosted a panel on her show featuring Arthur Schaper of extreme anti-LGBTQ group MassResistance in which he promoted his group’s book The Health Hazards of Homosexuality. Schaper also called drag queens “adult illicit entertainment” and compared events where drag queens read to children to “pole dancer story hour” and “porn actor story hour.”

    MassResistance’s leadership has compared LGBTQ people fighting for their rights to the Nazi propaganda machine, has said pro-LGBTQ policies are similar to Jim Crow laws, and has called homosexuality “repulsive.” The group’s book The Health Hazards of Homosexuality -- which has been “promoted and sold” at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit -- claims homosexuality is “a mental health disorder,” is “really about sodomy,” and is “rooted in perverted practices which defy nature and bring ill health.” The group made news in 2017 when it kicked off its "Countering the LGBT Agenda" conference with an interpretive rainbow flag dance.

    The Fox segment comes only a day after Ingraham dedicated an entire podcast episode to extreme anti-trans rhetoric. In it, the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue said “Drag Queen Story Hour” is an attempt to sexualize children, and Ingraham claimed that teaching kids about gender identity “is about lowering the age of consent.” Ingraham has a history of hosting anti-LGBTQ guests and allowing them to push anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and misinformation.

    During the June 13 episode, Schaper called being LGBTQ “deviance” and “perverse and destructive lifestyles,” and flashed his group’s book at the end of the segment. From The Ingraham Angle:

    ARTHUR SCHAPER (MASSRESISTANCE): My name is Arthur Schaper. I’m the organization director for MassResistance. We are the international pro-family group that makes the difference. We have had parents contacting us all over the country about these perverse programs. I mean the bottom line is this: You have adult homosexual men, adult entertainers, going into a public library reading to children. I mean, that alone should not only be setting off alarms, but people should be, you know, demanding this to be canceled even before it starts. OK, we're talking -- we’re not talking about diversity here. We’re talking about deviance. We’re talking about perverse and destructive lifestyles being animated or advertised to children as if it's normal. I mean, you can just look at the website itself --

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Wait, wait. Hold on, Arthur. Are you saying that gay people can't read to kids ever? I mean, we're talking about a very specific issue with drag queens --

    SCHAPER: OK. We’re talking about --

    INGRAHAM: Right, that's what we're talking about here. So, try to keep it focused on that issue.

    SCHAPER:  We're talking about drag entertainment here, drag entertainment. This is adult illicit entertainment to put it mildly. And we’re having these entertainers reading to children? Why don’t we -- why stop there? Why not have pole dancer story hour? How about having porn actor story hour? And this is just nonsensical. This is what you want children being -- experiencing?

  • 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

  • The hate, lies, and misinformation of Laura Ingraham

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET & REBECCA MARTIN

    Laura Ingraham has a long history of spreading hate speech, from her prime-time Fox News show, former radio show, and, now, new podcast. Ingraham has made scores of racist and anti-immigrant statements, including echoing white supremacists. On numerous occasions, she has propagated the popular white nationalist “replacement theory,” wherein non-white citizens “replace” white citizens. More recently, Ingraham came under fire for defending white nationalist Paul Nehlen. In the past, advertisers have fled from her show after Ingraham mocked a Parkland school shooting survivor and when she attacked the concept of diversity, saying, “Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people, and they are changes that none of us ever voted for, and most of us don't like.”

  • Nearly all TV news networks failed to cover the Trump-Pence administration’s recent attacks on the LGBTQ community

    Recently proposed and finalized rules would codify discrimination against LGBTQ people in health care, housing, and adoption and foster care

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX PATERSON


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In the span of three days, new reports revealed several proposed or potential rules coming from the Trump-Pence administration that would allow discrimination against LGBTQ people -- particularly trans folks -- in housing, health care, and adoption and foster care. But in the week that followed, from May 22 to May 31, nearly all cable and broadcast TV news channels failed to cover these attacks on the LGBTQ community. Broadcast networks ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, as well as cable network MSNBC, did not mention the discriminatory rules at all, while CNN and Fox News covered them for a total of less than 11 minutes across 8 segments.

    The Trump-Pence administration is releasing discriminatory anti-LGBTQ proposals in housing, health care, and adoption and foster care

    Between May 22 and 24, news outlets reported on several rules coming out of the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services (HHS) that would harm LGBTQ people, with a disproportionate impact on the trans community:

    • On May 22, HUD proposed a new rule that would allow “federally funded [homeless] shelters to deny people admission on religious grounds or force transgender women to share bathrooms and sleeping quarters with men,” according to The Washington Post.
    • On May 24, HHS proposed a rule that would allow health care workers citing religious beliefs to discriminate against and deny care to LGBTQ patients.
    • Later on May 24, Axios reported that the Trump-Pence administration’s HHS plans to propose a new rule that would make it easier for federally funded adoption and foster care agencies to refuse to work with LGBTQ prospective parents, among others, fulfilling a promise President Donald Trump made during this year’s National Prayer Breakfast.

    Broadcast and cable news discussed the proposed rules for less than 11 minutes across 8 segments

    Between May 22 and May 31, broadcast TV news networks ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX and cable news network MSNBC did not mention the proposed anti-LGBTQ rules at all. CNN spent 7.5 minutes covering the topics, and Fox News reported on them for roughly 3.5 minutes.

    CNN discussed the topics over the span of six segments, including during an interview with trans actor D’Lo about an advertisement featuring a father showing his transgender son how to shave. That segment was the only relevant coverage during the time period to feature an LGBTQ guest. Fox News covered the topics over two segments. One was an interview with HUD Secretary Ben Carson, in which he misleadingly framed the discriminatory rule as “being fair to everybody.”

    Print and digital media reported on all the three rules and contextualized the administration’s anti-LGBTQ agenda

    The failure of several broadcast and cable TV networks to report on the discriminatory rules was not reflected in print and digital media.

    Trans writer Katelyn Burns wrote two op-eds contextualizing the recent anti-LGBTQ attacks as part of Trump’s all-out assault on the transgender community. In Teen Vogue, she outlined how these policies could trigger suicidal ideation in trans youth, encourage unsupportive parents, and prevent young people from accessing medically necessary care. In The Washington Post, Burns called HHS’ proposed rule “the cruelest thing the Trump administration has done to trans people,” writing:

    For me, as a transgender person, this administration’s constant targeting of us is terrifying. It seems that there’s little they won’t do to making transitioning and living a dignified life as a transgender person impossible. Trump and his administration are clearly prioritizing the desires of religious conservatives who would like to see my existence rubbed out of society, and they’ve come this far so quickly with barely a blip of resistance.

    Digital outlets such as BuzzFeed, The Daily Beast, and HuffPost also covered the rules, citing LGBTQ advocates and contextualizing the administration’s moves as part of a wider strategy to undermine LGBTQ equality across the country.

    These attacks have been championed by extreme anti-LGBTQ groups and will further marginalize already vulnerable people

    The Trump-Pence administration’s anti-LGBTQ policies have been fueled by influential right-wing organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), both of which have allies and alumni serving in positions across the federal government. For example, the right-wing HHS Office for Civil Rights, which is led by Roger Severino, is responsible for both the anti-LGBTQ health care rule and the reported upcoming adoption and foster care rule. Severino formerly served as the director of Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society. Heritage has a long history of anti-LGBTQ advocacy and has increasingly targeted transgender people. Severino has made a career out of advocating against LGBTQ rights and was behind several other anti-LGBTQ actions from HHS. Severino’s newly announced principal advisor, Matt Bowman, is an anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ advocate who has worked in HHS positions since 2017. He formerly worked with ADF for more than a decade.

    Ultimately, these latest attacks affect transgender people in areas in which they are already more likely to experience discrimination and hardships. HUD’s proposed rule to give federally funded homeless shelters a license to discriminate against transgender people will only further marginalize an already vulnerable community that faces alarming rates of homelessness. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), “one in five transgender individuals have experienced homelessness,” and up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

    The reported HHS rule to allow agencies to deny children adoption and foster care placements with same-sex couples will only limit opportunities for the more than 400,000 children currently in foster care. Despite the planned HHS rule, there is a robust body of evidence that shows children of same-sex couples fare no worse than other children.

    Further, the HHS rule to gut nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is one of the administration’s most damaging attacks on the transgender community. Transgender patients already face denial of health care and discrimination in health care settings, and National Geographic has reported that transgender “people have disproportionately high rates of illness and death—in part due to widespread reluctance to seek out emergency treatment and even routine checkups over concerns about the quality of care.” Additionally, NCTE’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey reported that among respondents, “one-third (33%) of those who saw a health care provider had at least one negative experience related to being transgender” in the previous year.

    Media has a responsibility to report on these devastating attacks against the LGBTQ community

    The insufficient reporting on cable and broadcast TV news about the recent attacks on the LGBTQ community plays into the Trump-Pence administration’s strategy of minimizing press coverage of extreme policies coming from federal agencies. The administration released one of the rules ahead of a holiday weekend, which decreased public awareness of the issues -- an approach it has also taken to bury climate change research.

    Moreover, media’s obsession with Trump’s tweets allow extreme anti-LGBTQ figures to push discriminatory policies with little notice. Reporting on the new HHS rule, Reuters’ Yasmeen Abutaleb and Joseph Tanfani wrote:

    One of the benefits of Trump’s Twitter approach is it creates headlines, and that’s what it’s intended to do, and underneath those headlines, everyone else in the administration can go about peacefully doing their job,” said David McIntosh, president of the conservative Club for Growth and a longtime Pence friend. HHS has “released several very important, significant regulations that changed the nature of Obamacare, of healthcare, with very little coverage in the press.

    Though cable and broadcast TV news spent little time covering the administration’s latest anti-LGBTQ rules, there is no mistaking that these decisions will have sweeping impacts on queer and trans people. Media outlets have a responsibility to properly cover the administration’s attacks on LGBTQ rights and to educate their audiences on the detrimental impacts these proposed rules will have on an already vulnerable community. Unfortunately, TV news failed both the queer community and their audience by barely reporting on the Trump-Pence administration’s latest anti-LGBTQ attacks.

    Methodology

    From May 24 to May 31, the week following the announcement of the proposed anti-LGBTQ rules, Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of broadcast and cable TV newscasts on ABC News, CBS News, CNN, and NBC News -- as well as the 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. programming on Fox News and MSNBC -- for mentions of the words or variations of the words “LGBT,” “gay,” “transgender,” “gender identity,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “sexual orientation.” We also searched SnapStream for the same words appearing with the terms "child welfare," “reassignment,” “abortion,” “housing,” “shelter,” “adoption,” “foster care,” “Health and Human Services,” “Housing and Urban Development,” “HHS,” or “HUD” appearing on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC for the same timeframe, as daytime coverage for MSNBC and Fox News is not available on Nexis.

    Additional research by Brianna January.

  • Arizona news station uncritically gives Alliance Defending Freedom a platform to promote its anti-LGBTQ arguments

    Arizona's 12 News KPNX has featured ADF in coverage and whitewashed its anti-LGBTQ record several times in the past

    Blog ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Arizona TV outlet 12 News KPNX hosted a lawyer from extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and uncritically reiterated the group's talking points, such as referring to a trans boy as a “biological girl,” without providing context on the group's anti-LGBTQ history. The interview with ADF senior counsel John Bursch was part of the outlet’s reporting about the U.S. Supreme Court declining to hear ADF’s case against a Pennsylvania school’s trans-inclusive accommodations policy, and it underscored the outlet’s history of sympathetic coverage of ADF.

    There are several other instances in which 12 News KPNX has failed to inform its audience of ADF's extremism. In coverage about ADF’s label as an anti-LGBTQ “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the outlet described ADF only as “mostly against gay marriage” despite dozens of other extreme positions the group takes against LGBTQ rights. In one segment about ADF’s court case against Phoenix’s LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance, 12 News KPNX gave significant airtime to ADF’s clients but did not host any pro-LGBTQ guests to push back; the segment did not even acknowledge ADF’s role in the case or other similar cases. Another segment on the case also featured no pro-LGBTQ guests, though the reporter said the outlet had reached out to the City of Phoenix and hadn’t received a response.

    During a May 28 segment about a Pennsylvania school’s trans-inclusive accommodations policy, reporter Michael Doudna dubiously said that both ADF and LGBTQ advocates “want to protect all students” despite the fact that ADF was arguing that trans students should not be able to access facilities that align with their gender identity. (ADF has packaged its work in this area as something that would help “all students” in the past.) Doudna’s language about trans people also mirrored ADF when he referred to a trans boy as a “biological girl.” He failed to note ADF’s extensive history against transgender student rights or the negative impact that non-inclusive bathroom policies have on transgender students.

    From the May 28 edition of KPNX’s 12 News at 6pm:

    MICHAEL DOUDNA (REPORTER): Both sides of the argument want to -- they want the same thing: They want to protect all students. But how they get there is really the clash.

    DOUDNA: There is no state law that tackles the debate between gender identity, biology, and facilities in school, which transgender rights advocates like Angela Hughey say can leave students out.

    [START CLIP]

    ANGELA HUGHEY (ONE COMMUNITY): You want to make sure that every student has the equal opportunity to thrive.

    [END CLIP]

    DOUDNA: But that’s just one side.

    [START CLIP]

    JOHN BURSCH (ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM): Anytime the Supreme Court declines to take your case, you’re disappointed.

    [END CLIP]

    DOUDNA: Attorney John Bursch from Alliance Defending Freedom also says the Supreme Court missed out on a chance to help students by not striking down the policy allowing a biological girl to be in the boy’s locker room.

    [START CLIP]

    BURSCH: So I think history will show that this was a misguided attempt to help someone at the expense of other people.

    [END CLIP]

    DOUDNA: The non-ruling is just the latest development in the battle over transgender bathrooms in schools, and with no statewide law, the issue here in Arizona is up for debate.

    [START CLIP]

    BURSCH: We can find compromises that work for everybody, but simply violating everyone’s privacy was not the way to do that.

    [END CLIP]

  • Anti-LGBTQ powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom had more than 100 allies in influential government positions in 2018

    ADF allies had positions of influence in Congress, federal agencies, state and federal courts, city and state governments, and local school boards — and we only know a fraction of its network

    Blog ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    This is the second part of a two-part investigation into ADF's network of allies in the government. Read the first part here and click here for Media Matters’ database of more than 100 ADF allied attorneys, Blackstone Legal Fellows, and current and former staff who held a government position in 2018.

    In 2018, extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) had allies in more than 100 positions throughout local, state, and federal government, according to a Media Matters analysis of a fraction of its network of thousands of lawyers.

    ADF allies in government have positions in multiple federal agencies, the U.S. Congress, state legislatures, school boards, city councils, and even federal courts. For years, ADF said it would work to “reclaim our nation’s judicial system” and advance its right-wing, anti-LGBTQ legal agenda through its staff and allies, including a vast allied attorney network, its Blackstone Legal Fellowship, and other training programs for conservative Christians interested or working in the legal profession.

    ADF has a troubling lack of transparency about its network of attorneys, which is particularly concerning given that so many of its allies hold influential positions in the government. To shed some light on ADF’s government influence, Media Matters has identified over 100 former ADF employees, allied attorneys, or participants in its Blackstone Legal Fellowship who held government positions in 2018. They likely represent only a fraction of the total number, as ADF claims to have thousands of allies in its networks whose associations with the group are difficult or impossible to track down.

    Media Matters determined each individual’s ADF affiliation based on news reporting, ADF’s website and press releases, archived ADF newsletters, self-reporting on LinkedIn or in professional bios, university materials and pamphlets, and other publicly available sources. This research also benefited from the Rewire.News database of over 100 ADF Blackstone Legal Fellowship alumni. Media Matters has previously identified over 50 ADF alumni who served as government officials in 2017, and in February, we reported nearly 300 allied attorneys that ADF identified in dozens of press releases and other posts on its website.

    ADF has allies working in state or local government positions in more than 25 different states and across the federal government, including the judiciary. Below is a selection of notable ADF allies from our database who hold several types of positions in government.

    ADF allies in federal agencies

    The Trump-Pence administration has enacted many of its worst anti-LGBTQ policies through federal agencies. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services has implemented policies making it easier for health care workers to refuse care to LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs; the Department of Defense has barred transgender service members from serving; and the Department of Education has rolled back guidance protecting transgender students, just to name a few. All of these departments employ ADF allies who may be able to affect and interpret LGBTQ-related policy changes.

    Several ADF allies have notable positions in federal agencies:

    • Kerri Kupec, former ADF legal counsel and director of communications, serves as director of the Office of Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Justice, where she has defended the Trump-Pence administration’s policy of prohibiting transgender people from serving in the military. While at ADF, Kupec praised the current administration for rescinding the Obama administration’s guidance for trans-inclusive school facilities. Kupec held several positions in the DOJ Office of Public Affairs before becoming its director. She also served as a White House spokesperson helping with confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. During that time, the White House briefed ADF President Michael Farris with private information about the FBI investigation into reports that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted professor Christine Blasey Ford while they were in high school.

    • Former ADF senior legal counsel Matt Bowman currently works as deputy general counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services, which has notably been employing prominent right-wing religious activists under the Trump-Pence administration. The department started a conscience and religious freedom division and recently finalized a “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care” rule, both of which make it easier for health care providers to deny services to LGBTQ people, among others. In fact, Bowman reportedly helped craft HHS regulations rolling back the Obama administration’s mandate requiring health insurance plans to cover birth control under the Affordable Care Act. While at ADF, Bowman represented the anti-abortion group March for Life in a 2014 lawsuit against the Obama-era mandate. Also during that time, Bowman wrote an op-ed arguing that the Obama administration’s LGBTQ-inclusive HHS regulations posed an “urgent threat against the rights of many Christian and pro-life institutions and individuals regarding their beliefs about the sanctity of human life and sexuality.”

    ADF allies in federal and state courts

    The Trump-Pence administration has nominated at least seven ADF allies for federal judgeships, and several federal courts include ADF allies as law clerks. ADF-affiliated judges are part of the Trump administration’s broader effort to “reshape the American judicial system” by filling the courts with conservative judges.

    Five federal judicial nominees with ties to ADF have been confirmed under the Trump-Pence administration:

    • Allison Jones Rushing was confirmed to the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in March 2019 even after LGBTQ and civil rights groups highlighted her previous internship with ADF. In her Senate Judiciary Committee nomination questionnaire, Rushing also noted her participation in speaking engagements for ADF as recently as 2017.

    • Allied attorney Kyle Duncan on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Prior to his judicial appointment, Duncan was involved in several LGBTQ-related cases, including “defending Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage” and representing a Virginia school board in its case against a transgender high school student who wanted access to facilities that aligned with his gender identity.

    • Former Blackstone fellow Joseph Toth serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. His presence could impact LGBTQ veterans -- particularly transgender veterans who already face difficulty accessing necessary medical benefits -- now that the Trump-Pence administration has recently implemented its ban on transgender service members.

    • Allied attorney Michael Joseph Juneau serves on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana after being confirmed in 2018.

    • Jeremy Kernodle serves as a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas after he was confirmed in 2018. Kernodle identified himself as an ADF allied attorney during the confirmation process but later asserted that he was not aware of his listing as an allied attorney until he began preparing for his nomination.

    The 2017 federal judicial nomination of ADF allied attorney Jeff Mateer was withdrawn after some of his extreme anti-LGBTQ comments were uncovered. He remains the first assistant attorney general in Texas. ADF allied attorney and former ADF senior counsel Thomas Marcelle is still awaiting Senate confirmation after his January re-nomination.

    Outside of federal courts, there are also at least two state Supreme Court justices with ADF connections:

    • Nels Peterson completed the Blackstone Legal Fellowship in 2002 and now serves as a Georgia Supreme Court justice after being appointed in 2017.

    • Blackstone Legal Fellow Brian Hagedorn was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in April after previously serving on the state’s Court of Appeals. Hagedorn has an extensive history of anti-LGBTQ positions, such as arguing that “the idea that homosexual behavior is different than bestiality as a constitutional matter is unjustifiable. There is no right in our Constitution to have sex with whoever or whatever you want in the privacy of your own home (or barn).”

    ADF allies are representatives in Congress and state legislatures

    According to Freedom for All Americans, more than 150 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures in 2018. ADF has played a direct role in shaping anti-LGBTQ legislation at the state level, including creating and distributing anti-LGBTQ model policies such as its “Student Physical Privacy Policy.” In 2017, legislatures in at least eight states introduced policies resembling that model. ADF also helped write, promote, and justify a discriminatory law in Mississippi that gives religious organizations, businesses, and individuals broad license to legally discriminate against LGBTQ people.

    There were at least seven ADF-affiliated lawmakers in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures in 2018:

    • In Congress, allied attorney and former ADF lawyer Mike Johnson represents the 4th District of Louisiana in the U.S. House of Representatives. Johnson was previously a state representative and sponsored a religious exemptions bill that would have made it easier to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

    • Arizona's J.D. Mesnard is concurrently working as both a state senator and a regional director for ADF’s Church Alliance. As part of the Church Alliance, Mesnard has to agree to ADF’s statement of faith which includes rejecting transgender people, same-sex relations, and sex outside of marriage. Prior to becoming a state senator in 2019, Mesnard served as a state representative for eight years, including two years as speaker of the House. While speaker, Mesnard released a workplace harassment policy for the state House that did not include protections for LGBTQ representatives.

    • Former senior counsel and allied attorney Steve O’Ban serves as a Washington state senator, a position he has held since 2013. ADF’s website noted that his time on staff there overlapped for several years with his time as a legislator. As a state senator, O’Ban voted against a bill protecting LGBTQ youth from the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy. In 2016, while both serving as a state senator and working for ADF, O’Ban sued the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of a school district that did not want to implement trans-inclusive facilities. He also argued in favor of suspending the Iowa Civil Rights Act for including protections based on gender identity.

    • ADF allied attorney Matt Shea has served as Washington state representative for over a decade, and he touts his ties to ADF in both his campaign and government biographies. Shea is also a co-founder of the Washington Family Foundation, which is an anti-LGBTQ organization that later merged with the Family Policy Institute of Washington. The group is affiliated with the Family Policy Alliance and extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council. During his 2018 reelection campaign, Shea acknowledged that “he had distributed a four-page manifesto titled ‘Biblical Basis for War,’” which included violent language about people who flout “biblical law,” stating, “If they do not yield - kill all males.” It also condemned abortion and same-sex marriage. As a state representative, Shea has voted against multiple bills promoting LGBTQ equality, and he sponsored several anti-LGBTQ bills, including one defining marriage as between a man and a woman and another that would limit access for transgender people to facilities consistent with their gender identity. His extreme views expand beyond anti-LGBTQ rhetoric; Shea also has a history of working with anti-Muslim and militia groups.

    • Former Illinois state Rep. Peter Breen, Louisiana state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, and former Missouri state Rep. Kevin Corlew are some of the other state lawmakers connected to ADF.

    ADF allies are state attorneys general and solicitors general, and they are in state attorneys general offices

    The mandate of a state attorney general varies by state, but they are generally considered the state’s top legal official and “advise and represent their legislature and state agencies and act as the ‘People’s Lawyer’ for the citizens.”

    ADF has at least two allied attorneys serving as state attorneys general:

    • Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson has been tied to ADF for more than two decades, attending its first training program in 1997 and ultimately providing ADF with more than 10,000 hours of pro bono service. Notably, Clarkson served as local counsel alongside ADF in an ongoing case in Alaska regarding a women’s homeless shelter that denied entry to a transgender woman. He withdrew from the case the day after being appointed to his current position. As attorney general, Clarkson has broad powers to advise the governor and represent the state in legal matters, “including the furnishing of written legal opinions to the governor, the legislature, and all state officers and departments,” which can include supporting and defending anti-LGBTQ bills. In a 2019 interview with Clarkson, ADF wrote that he "remains committed to ADF ideals" as attorney general.

    • Montana Attorney General Timothy Fox is also an ADF allied attorney. Fox worked alongside ADF as local counsel on behalf of a church that was accused of violating state election law after congregants signed petitions for an amendment to the state constitution limiting the definition of marriage between a man and woman. Fox has used his office to fight against LGBTQ rights such as same-sex marriage and trans-inclusive facilities.

    Many states appoint solicitors general to oversee “the appellate operation in state attorney general offices.” State solicitors general can oversee the “preparation of legal opinions and appellate litigation,” determine whether the state should write or join amicus briefs, and even argue before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of their state, as ADF ally and Montana Solicitor General Dale Schowengerdt has done.

    ADF affiliates served as solicitors general in Montana and Nevada in 2018:

    In addition to these positions, ADF affiliates also staff attorneys general offices in states across the country, including Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Nevada, and Texas. In fact, there are four ADF affiliates in both the Arizona and Texas attorneys general offices:

    • ADF allies Evan Daniels, Joseph La Rue, Angelina Nguyen, and Esther Winne all work in Arizona’s attorney general office. The office has submitted briefs in support of ADF clients Jack Phillips, Breanna Koski, and Joanna Duka in cases working to overturn LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policies.

    • ADF allies David Hacker, Heather Hacker, Jeff Mateer, and Austin Nimocks all worked in Texas’ attorney general office in 2018, though Nimocks has since left. Additionally, ADF Blackstone Fellow Ryan Bangert moved from the Missouri attorney general office to the Texas attorney general office in January 2019. The office has supported Texas’ anti-LGBTQ “bathroom bill,” which would have required transgender people in the state “to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities” that do not align with their gender identity. It also joined 10 other states in suing the Obama administration over guidelines protecting trans students, and it filed legal briefs in support of the Trump-Pence administration’s discriminatory position against trans-inclusive bathroom policies. The office also submitted an amicus brief in support of ADF’s client Phillips alongside Arizona and several other states.

    Additional research by Brennan Suen and Rebecca Damante.

  • Alliance Defending Freedom has an extremely shady network of thousands of attorneys

    ADF’s network of allied attorneys and Blackstone Legal Fellows affects policy at all levels of government

    Blog ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (5/20/19): On May 20, Media Matters published the second installment of this two-part investigation into ADF's network of allies in the government. The additional report includes a database of more than 100 ADF allied attorneys, Blackstone Legal Fellows, and current and former staff who held government positions at the local, state, and federal levels in 2018. The full database can be found here

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is stunningly opaque about its large network of affiliated lawyers, what positions of influence they hold, and what beliefs they must agree to in order to be officially tied to the group.

    ADF's lack of transparency is multifaceted. For one, many members in its network do not publicize their relationship with the organization. Additionally, on several occasions, ADF has claimed affiliations with individual attorneys or officials who have disputed their ties, or removed references to affiliations with individual attorneys or officials following reports that exposed those connections.

    Through its Blackstone Legal Fellowship and allied attorney program, the number of ADF affiliated lawyers could be as high as 5,000 -- and many of those attorneys also have influential positions in government, ranging from local school boards to federal agencies. This legal network is one of the key tools in ADF’s arsenal that allows it to affect policies that impact LGBTQ people across the country, but journalists and the public have very little information about it.

    ADF is one of the most powerful anti-LGBTQ groups in the country

    ADF is one of the largest and most influential anti-LGBTQ groups in the world, and it takes extreme positions on nearly every aspect of LGBTQ equality. The group has supported Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda” law, defended the discredited and dangerous practice of conversion therapy, advocated against adoption and foster care by LGBTQ people, and supported policies that ban trans people from using facilities that align with their gender identity, as well as dozens of other positions that are dangerous to LGBTQ people.

    ADF uses its revenue of more than $50 million per year to advance its mission of “advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family” through direct litigation, grant funding for other cases, and legal training programs. Since its founding in 1994, ADF has played a role in over 50 Supreme Court decisions, including cases regarding abortion and LGBTQ issues.

    In the last few years, ADF has been involved in several high profile court cases in which it argued in favor of legal discrimination against LGBTQ people. Last June, the Supreme Court narrowly ruled in favor of ADF client Jack Phillips, a baker who refused to serve a gay couple, in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case. The Supreme Court has taken on another ADF case for its upcoming term, R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which could determine whether civil rights protections in employment extend to LGBTQ employees.

    ADF has influence through the large network of lawyers who have completed its Blackstone Legal Fellowship

    Outside of its own staff and litigation, ADF seeks to influence the legal landscape by providing funding and training opportunities to create a large network of lawyers sympathetic to ADF’s mission. ADF’s Blackstone Legal Fellowship has been around since 2000, and the group reports that it “has trained more than 2,100 law students from more than 225 law schools in 21 different countries.” ADF has written that the program seeks to train Christian law students “who will rise to positions of influence as legal scholars, litigators, judges, and perhaps even Supreme Court justices.”

    The Blackstone fellowship is a nine-week summer program that includes three weeks of training seminars and six weeks in legal internships, including in government entities. ADF says that “those selected to become ‘Fellows’” at the end of the program “receive ongoing training, resources, and support through an international community,” and the group boasts that its alumni “are serving on law reviews, securing clerkships, joining major firms, working in the government and nonprofit sectors, and accepting positions in academia and the judiciary.”

    ADF spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on its fellowship program; in 2019, expenses per person include $6,300 in scholarship funding, several flights, lodging, and weeks of meals for its interns. But as a result, the organization reaps the benefits of fostering a large network of potentially influential conservative lawyers at the onset of their careers. ADF has additional training programs for young legal professionals or students and recent graduates “on a path to future leadership in law, government, business, and public policy.”

    ADF also has a network of more than 3,300 allied attorneys

    In addition to its training programs for law students and new attorneys, ADF has created what it calls a “powerful global network” of over 3,300 “allied attorneys.” Attorneys in the network receive opportunities for funding, access to ADF’s legal resources, and additional training programs; in return, allied attorneys provide pro bono service to ADF, such as litigation, amicus briefs, media work, “legal services to churches & religious non-profits,” and “research assistance, legal advice, and drafting of bills for legislators, policy makers, administrative agencies, etc. relating to religious liberty, sanctity of life, and marriage & family.”

    ADF can activate these allied attorneys when it learns about LGBTQ-related events to quickly get involved in cases down to the local level. In turn, these attorneys can also alert ADF to LGBTQ-related matters in their localities and bring the force of a national group to their backyards. ADF has written that it “depends upon its network of attorneys and others to bring appropriate matters to our attention.”

    ADF notes that its allied attorneys must agree to a statement of faith as part of their application. In the past, ADF’s FAQ page about the program linked directly to an 11-point statement on its website that opposes trans identities and same-sex marriage and lumps in “homosexual behavior” and “acting upon any disagreement with one’s biological sex” with bestiality and incest as “forms of sexual immorality” that are “sinful and offensive to God.” However, after a detailed report on the program and its influence by Sarah Posner in The Nation, ADF said that allied attorneys “do not have to agree to the same statement of faith as employees” and removed links to the statement.

    ADF specifically encourages government attorneys to join the allied attorney program. On its FAQ, ADF notes that government attorneys who are “prohibited from doing private pro bono litigation” can instead provide ADF with “legal research, educational presentations, or other types of work related to Alliance Defending Freedom mission areas.”

    Between its allied attorneys and Blackstone fellows, ADF has a network of legal allies that reach across the globe and hold an unknown number of U.S. government positions.

    ADF operates with an extreme lack of transparency about its training programs and allied attorneys

    ADF is extremely opaque about its programs and has worked to keep details about them from the public, such as removing mentions of its allied attorneys’ statement of faith after The Nation’s investigation. It also does not release a comprehensive list of people who participate in its programs, and many of its participants and alumni do not publicly identify their relationship with ADF. A noncomprehensive Media Matters review of allied attorneys mentioned on ADF’s website found only 300 of its reported 3,300 members, many of whom were mentioned on pages that are now archived. Additionally, it is unclear whether allied attorneys remain counted in the network for life, or whether the 3,300 number includes former allied attorneys, some of whom could have cut their official ties with the group with no public record. The number of allied attorneys could thus be larger than the 3,300 claimed by ADF.

    Additionally, it seems that some participants in these programs are unaware of their status as allied attorneys or may have avoided publicizing it during judicial nomination processes. For example, confirmed federal Judge Jeremy Kernodle submitted answers to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary during his nomination stating that he served as an allied attorney with ADF on a 2017 case. But in a later questionnaire, he asserted that he “did not apply or request to be an ‘allied attorney’ with ADF” and first “discovered that ADF had listed [him] as an ‘allied attorney’” when he began preparing responses to the questionnaire for his nomination. Kernodle continued that he only worked with ADF on one case and was “not certain when” he first became an allied attorney.

    Another now-confirmed federal judge, Kyle Duncan, reported participating in several speaking engagements for ADF but did not report his status as an allied attorney in his nomination questionnaire or in follow-up questions to the Senate Judiciary Committee. ADF, however, previously documented his affiliation as an allied attorney while Duncan served in the Louisiana Department of Justice.

    Other reporting discrepancies further underscore the opacity surrounding ADF’s networks. Posner’s report in The Nation identified Noel Francisco, the Trump-Pence administration's solicitor general, as an ADF allied attorney, citing two different ADF press releases explicitly stating that Francisco is one of “more than 3,000 private attorneys allied with ADF.” After publication, however, ADF “contacted The Nation, claiming that Francisco has never been an allied attorney.” According to the attached editor’s note, ADF called the press releases “our mistake” and claimed that its “media dept. got it wrong.” ADF promptly rewrote its press releases but did not issue corrections on either of them.

    In another instance, Media Matters identified an attorney at a major law firm as an allied attorney based on another ADF press release, but his law firm reached out to say that was incorrect and due to a typo in the ADF press release that named him as such.

    Though ADF makes it clear that government employees can join its allied attorney program, it does not publicly specify which positions might make participants ineligible to remain in the network. However, it does appear that judges may have to cut ties with the group. For example, after Jamie Anderson was appointed as a county judge in Minnesota, ADF wrote that she will “no longer participate as an Allied Attorney for obvious reasons.” Additionally, Steve Christopher’s LinkedIn profile says that he stopped being an ADF allied attorney in March 2013, the same month he became a judge in Hardin County, Ohio.

    Understanding ADF’s influential and opaque network is key to knowing how it shapes anti-LGBTQ policy

    Between its Blackstone Legal Fellowship and allied attorney program, ADF’s network could include more than 5,000 lawyers. A 2017 Media Matters review of just a few hundred of those attorneys found that at least 55 had government positions, and the number in 2018 was at least twice that.

    In addition to its role in promoting anti-LGBTQ policies through the courts, ADF also directly shapes legislation at the state level, such as anti-trans “bathroom bills” and sweeping religious exemptions laws that make it easier to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Its allies sit in federal agencies and on federal courts, among other influential places, and have countless ways to affect policy. Many journalists do not have the information they need to draw the connections between these decision makers and the national group driving much of the anti-LGBTQ policies in the country.

    In Wisconsin, journalists and advocates have published several articles about a state Supreme Court justice-elect who received thousands of dollars for speeches to ADF and was a Blackstone Legal Fellow. Journalists, policymakers, and the public need to know about ADF’s network of allies in government in order to ask them how these associations affect their decision making and whether they stand by the extreme anti-LGBTQ beliefs of the group. Understanding ADF’s programs and network is crucial to knowing the full scope of its influence on LGBTQ-related policies at every level of governance.

    This is the first part of a two-part investigation into ADF's network of allies in the government.

    Additional research by Brennan Suen