Report: Fox News Downplays Stories About Anti-LGBT Bullying, Suicide
October 31, 2011 9:27 am ET by Carlos Maza
It’s no secret that Fox News has a habit of injecting its anti-LGBT bias into its supposedly straight news coverage. Whether it’s criticizing same-sex parents, fear mongering about marriage equality, or making crass jokes about transgender people, Fox makes its anti-LGBT viewpoint known whenever possible.
Fox’s bias, however, is also evidenced by what stories the network chooses not to cover.
Previous reports have found that Fox consistently ignores news stories that don’t fit into its anti-LGBT narrative. The network largely underreported the beginning of same-sex weddings in New York, as well as the certification of the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. When it was discovered that Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) husband was involved with “ex-gay” therapy, Fox barely made a peep.
Now, a new Equality Matters analysis has found that Fox virtually ignored the recent suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, a gay teenager who took his own life last month after experiencing intense bullying from his peers. In the two weeks following Rodemeyer’s death, Fox mentioned the story just once, while discussing proposed new anti-bullying legislation in New York. During the same period, CNN and MSNBC extensively covered both Rodemeyer’s death and the ongoing problem of anti-LGBT bullying in America.
Fox’s failure to acknowledge Rodemeyer’s death is symptomatic of the network’s broader conservative agenda when it comes to covering anti-LGBT bullying.
For months, Fox has been criticizing and condemning efforts to reduce anti-LGBT bullying, depicting them as radical and unnecessary. In May, Fox devoted three separate segments in two days to attacking a gender diversity lesson being taught in a California public school. Over the past several months, the network has spent segment after segment misinforming about California’s FAIR Education Act, which would require public schools to teach students about the historical contributions of LGBT Americans. And in the weeks leading up to Rodemeyer’s death, Fox ran five segments attacking New Jersey’s new anti-bullying law for allegedly being too expansive.
At the same time that it’s been fighting against anti-bullying efforts and ignoring a gay teen’s suicide, Fox has been promoting news stories that depict anti-gay groups and individuals as victims. In September and October, Fox has run at least nine segments lamenting Vanderbilt University’s non-discrimination policy, which prohibits religious groups from excluding LGBT students from leadership positions. The network has also conducted softball interviews with Rosie Marie Belforti, a town clerk in New York state who refuses to sign same-sex marriage licenses, and a Texas student who was temporarily suspended after voicing his opposition to homosexuality in class.
There’s a legitimate debate to be had about the risks of over-sensationalizing stories about bullying-related suicide in the media. Nevertheless, it’s clear that Fox’s approach – ignoring real bullying stories while attacking anti-bullying efforts – is aimed at making the problem of anti-LGBT bullying seem exaggerated and trivial.
This kind of one-sided reporting plays directly into the hands of anti-gay groups, which work tirelessly to stand in the way of creating safe environments for LGBT students. As a report from People for the American Way recently noted:
Ignoring the clear signs of bullying directed towards gay and gay-perceived students does more than perpetuate the problem and lend undeserved credibility to Religious Right attacks on LGBT people and their allies. It undermines the creation of safe and welcoming schools, and puts the well-being and the very lives of American students at risk. [emphasis added]
Once again, Fox has demonstrated its willingness to abandon its “fair and balanced” slogan in order to toe the far-right line. This time, it’s some of the most vulnerable people who will likely suffer as a result.
To see the full Equality Matters report, click here.