News Corp.’s Two-Faced Treatment Of The LGBT Community
September 28, 2011 10:04 am ET by Carlos Maza
It makes sense to assume that News Corp. – Fox News’ parent company – isn't exactly a friend of the LGBT community. For years, Fox News has been a reliable source of anti-LGBT misinformation and animosity: promoting right-wing talking points, hosting the leaders of anti-gay hate groups, and refusing to cover stories that reflect positively on the LGBT community.
Over the past few years, however, News Corp. has also been working to position itself as an ally to the LGBT community. The company has been a longtime supporter of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and is launching a magazine on Thursday aimed at celebrating (and capitalizing off of) the advent of marriage equality in New York. While Fox panders to the homophobia of its conservative audience, News Corp. continues look for opportunities to tap into the LGBT market.
In reality, News Corp.’s two-faced approach to dealing with the LGBT people – using Fox News to smear and attack them while simultaneously profiting off of appearing LGBT-friendly – is representative of the company’s broader strategy when dealing with issues typically scorned by right-wing conservatives.
News Corp.’s Support For “Fair And Balanced” LGBT Reporting
For the past several years, News Corp. has supported the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA), which describes itself as “an organization of journalists, media professionals, educators and students working from within the news industry to foster fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues.” Last year, NLGJA managing director Michael Tune wrote an email to Media Matters explaining his organization’s relationship with Fox’s parent company:
We try to have as expansive a network as possible in order to reach into every newsroom to accomplish our mission. News Corp. is a major employer of journalists nationwide, and NLGJA has had a very open and supportive dialog with them over the years regarding fair and accurate coverage of the LGBT community.
In fact, News Corp. proudly sponsors the NLGJA’s annual LGBT Media Summit. In 2009, Media Matters acquired a copy of the summit's program, which included a one-page ad explicitly mentioning the Fox News network:
This August, Equality Matters found that News Corp. had once again taken out a full-page ad in the summit’s program, though any mention of the Fox News network had been scrubbed:
News Corp.’s support for the NLGJA has not gone unnoticed by anti-gay groups. In 1999, the conservative Accuracy in Media criticized Fox for sponsoring the NLGJA’s conference, writing:
Media organizations which underwrote the convention included NBC News, Times Inc., Turner Broadcasting, Knight-Ridder, the Washington Post and Fox News Network. That’s right – Fox News. This is supposed to be a conservative network.
In 2006, Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, demanded that Fox News make a $10,000 donation to an anti-gay group in order to match its support for the NLGJA and prove that it isn’t “taking sides in the Culture War.”
In the substance of its rhetoric, however, Fox News’ position in the ‘culture war’ is crystal clear. For years, Fox News has been the go-to news network for anti-LGBT misinformation, stigmatization, and hate. In the past several months alone, Fox has:
- Attacked a California elementary school’s gender diversity lessons
- Downplayed Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) ties to “ex-gay” therapy (even calling her husband a “victim of [an] undercover sting op”)
- Stoked fears about California’s FAIR Education Act
- Largely ignored the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
- Manufactured a horror story out of a school’s summer reading list, which included books that depicted gay sex
- Misrepresented a bill to protect transgender Californians from employment discrimination
- Promoted the bogus link between homosexuality and pedophilia
- Suggested that a German politician’s political evolution was due to her “sex change”
- Turned a drag show in the UK into an international news story
- Mocked the use of gender-neutral passports in Australia
- Criticized Sesame Street for a supposed LGBT-friendly “assault” on America’s “moral foundation”
- Subsidized the work of anti-LGBT pseudoscientist Dr. Keith Ablow, who helped trigger a meltdown of a J. Crew advertisement and launched a transphobic tirade against Chaz Bono
- Consistently invited anti-gay hate group leaders on national television
Fox executives aren’t exactly oblivious to where they stand with the gay community, either. A recent Rolling Stone article revealed that Fox chairman Roger Ailes had “bombproof glass” installed in his office, in part to protect him from “those gays.”
News Corp.’s sponsorship of the NLGJA may be a novel way to attract LGBT-friendly advertisers, but it does little to make up for Fox News’ ongoing campaign against the LGBT community. News Corp. claims to support “fair and balanced reporting” on LGBT issues, but when it comes to Fox, it rarely practices what it preaches.
Opposing Marriage Equality, Releasing A Gay Wedding Magazine
On the issue of marriage equality, News Corps.’s attempts to walk the line are even more striking.
Over the past several months, a number of anti-gay groups have complained about Fox News’ relative neutrality in the same-sex marriage debate. Maggie Gallagher, former chairwoman of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), criticized Fox for its silence following New York’s decision to embrace marriage equality:
[T]here is little “echo” effect. Conservative networks, not just liberal networks, have been shut down on this. Fox News doesn’t cover it. Even talk-show hosts who are with us hesitate to speak — why? Every one has a different reason, but it’s always a reason not to speak.
Fox’s silence may have something to do with the fact that, for months, News Corp. has been preparing for the launch of “Wedding Pride,” a magazine aimed at catering to newlywed gay and lesbian couples in New York. The magazine, which will have a starting distribution of 35,000, is scheduled to launch this Thursday:
[via Wedding Pride’s Facebook page, accessed 9/26/11]
According to Gay City News, the magazine will provide News Corp. with thousands of dollars of ad revenue:
CNG Publications, a unit of the Community Newspaper Group, which is owned by News Corporation, is selling ad space in “Wedding Pride” at prices ranging from $850 for a quarter page ad to $5,400 for the first spread, or the first page after the cover.
The magazine has already provoked the ire of anti-gay activists like LaBarbera, who called it an example that Fox is "promoting bad morality.”
It’s also drawn the outrage of some in the gay community who’ve pointed to News Corp.'s long history of opposing marriage equality. Less than two weeks before the New York Senate voted to adopt marriage equality the New York Post – also owned by News Corp. – published an editorial opposing the bill:
[I]f we had a vote, it would be no.
Marriage as an institution has fallen on hard times in recent years. But that's no excuse for weakening it further.
The editorial even cited the writings of NOM's Chairman Emeritus, Prof. Robert George.
Long before announcing its formal opposition to same-sex marriage, the New York Post was acting as a reliable source of anti-LGBT animus. In recent years, the News Corp. publication has come under intense criticism for its transphobia, opposition to same-sex parenting, and tendency to treat same-sex relationships as jokes.
News Corp.’s opposition to marriage equality comes straight from the top. In 2006, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch made his position clear:
As for gay marriage: "I believe it is wrong. I'm considered homophobic and crazy about these things and old fashioned. But I think that the family - father, mother, children - is fundamental to our civilisation."
Nationally, Fox News has been doing its part to carry out Murdoch’s message.
Fox’s Bill O’Reilly has compared same-sex marriage to a person marrying a duck, a turtle, and a dolphin. O’Reilly and Glenn Beck have both used Fox to promote the argument that marriage equality will pave the road to polygamy. And earlier this year, O’Reilly referred to marriage equality as a “secular left cause.”
When the Obama administration announced in February that it would no longer be defending the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Fox was quick to accuse Obama of failing to do his job and refusing to enforce the law.
When a U.S. immigration judge decided to halt the separation of a same-sex bi-national couple under DOMA, Fox Nation’s headline read “Judge Won’t Deport Venezuelan Man Because He’s Gay?”
And, when a U.S. law firm withdrew its offer to defend DOMA in federal court, Fox’s Glenn Beck criticized the firm for caving to pro-equality “bullies” and compared Paul Clement, the attorney who left his firm to continue defending DOMA, to several American civil rights heroes.
On television and in print, News Corp. remains complicit with the promotion of anti-equality talking points, even as it prepares to profit from the advancement of that equality.
News Corp.’s History Of Internal Inconsistency
News Corp.’s two-faced approach to dealing with controversial political issues isn’t limited to LGBT equality. When it comes to climate change and immigration reform, the company has found itself straddling between Fox’s right-wing talking points and Murdoch’s moderate – if not progressive – personal agenda.
News Corp. consistently cashes in on both sides of the fight against climate change. In 2007, Murdoch announced a new climate initiative for News Corp., pledging to reduce the company’s carbon footprint and motivate audiences to alter their environmentally destructive behavior.
Murdoch and his son James have both worked to depict themselves as environmentally-savvy businessmen, understanding that a pro-environment image is a good way to attract potential advertisers.
At the same time, Fox News has done more than any other major news outlet in the U.S. to promote misinformation about climate change. Last year, Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon issued a directive ordering his network’s journalists to actively raise doubts about widely accepted climate science. Fox has relied on ExxonMobil to sponsor a number of its products, including the “Planet Earth” section of FoxNews.com.
News Corp.’s relationship with immigration reform and the Latino community has been similar. Murdoch has revealed himself to be a strong supporter of immigration reform, including a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S.:
"We're just going to keep the pressure on the congressmen," Murdoch said. "I think we can show to the public the benefits of having migrants and the jobs that go with them."
Fox also launched Fox News Latino last year, looking to tap into the growing population (and market) of Hispanics in America.
On Fox News, however, the tone has been very different. Fox has a long history of promoting anti-immigrant rhetoric, misinformation, and fear mongering, including ginning up horror stories about “anchor babies” and repeatedly referring to undocumented immigrants as “illegals.” Although Fox employees tend to clean up their act when Murdoch’s around, the network’s anti-immigrant viewpoint is painfully obvious.
In both of these cases, as in the case of LGBT equality, News Corp. has demonstrated its willingness to play both sides of an issue if doing so is likely to enhance its bottom line.
In an effort to tap into LGBT-friendly markets and advertisers, News Corp. has once again put itself in the uncomfortable position of having to balance two wildly incompatible ideological positions: capitalizing on new markets by promoting equality through wedding magazines and conference sponsorships, and appeasing its conservative audience by fighting against LGBT equality through its news channels, newspapers and websites.
If News Corp. was actually interested in supporting LGBT equality, it would take responsibility for the dehumanizing and disparaging ways that Fox News depicts members of the LGBT community. Until that happens, however, it’s hard to see its olive branches as anything other than profit-driven and disingenuous.