HRC Blog

Group Examines Fox News’ Record of Transphobic Coverage

Post submitted by David McCabe, HRC Digital Media Intern

Yesterday, HRC’s Chief Foundation Officer, Jeff Krehely, weighed in on EqualityMatters' examination of Fox News’ record of mocking and disrespectfully covering the transgender community.

“Coverage that portrays transgender people in a negative light is not news, but propaganda that further stigmatizes a community which faces horrific violence and discrimination at alarming rates,” he told the website. “Negative and inaccurate depictions of transgender people in the media are not only unethical, they are dangerous.”

The network’s record of transphobic coverage includes the consistent belittling of transgender individuals by some of their most prolific on-air hosts. In January, Bill O’Reilly misgendered and mocked the appearance of a transgender inmate who had sued the State of Massachusetts after she was denied access to necessary gender reassignment surgery in an exchange with Megyn Kelly. A year ago, he made deeply offensive statements while covering a story about parents who were helping their transgender son live openly as a boy.

“This is disturbing, I think,” O’Reilly said. “Does it rise to child abuse?”

Dr. Keith Ablow, an on-air commentator who is a member of Fox’s “medical A-team,” discouraged parents from letting their children watch episodes of Dancing With the Stars featuring Chaz Bono because supporting transgender individuals was “very nearly insane.” In another column, he repeatedly misgendered Bono.

This dehumanizing attitude is not confined to the company’s television channel. EqualityMatters has repeatedly documented the ugly and transphobic statements of Ted Starnes, a reporter for Fox’s radio network. At the beginning of this month, Starnes went into a rage on Twitter over the fact that the winner of the Miss USA competition had expressed her support for transgender beauty pageant contestants. He also recently referred to a transgender woman as a “burly man wearing a dress.”

“Media misinformation about trans people dangerously permits disrespectful and sometimes violent treatment of trans people. Perhaps worse, though, is that Fox News intentionally misinforms people on issues like trans health care and employment, playing to prejudices they know are outdated,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in a statement to EqualityMatters. “Fox News cements transphobia among the public and, in turn, stalls progress for a community struggling for basic acceptance.”

HRC continues to advocate for policy changes that would benefit the transgender community. In 2009, we modified the criteria for our Corporate Equality Index that required businesses to eliminate “transgender exclusions” from their healthcare coverage and provide coverage for medically necessary transition care – including surgical procedures. By the 2013, CEI 287 major businesses offered this coverage, up from 49 in 2009. We continue to advocate for both a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and an executive order that would ban anti-trans workplace discrimination for federal contractors. HRC has also contributed to on-the-ground efforts in states considering trans-inclusive anti-discrimination legislation, including currently in New York.

Still, in spite of all of the progress the transgender community has made in recent years, Fox’s anti-trans coverage causes great harm to gender non-conforming individuals. By belittling transgender identities in a major public forum, they are helping to contribute to a culture that already subjects transgender individuals to frequent discrimination and, often, violence.

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