February 25, 2015 9:40 am ET by Rachel Percelay
Fox News and CNN ignored the passage of a major anti-LGBT law in Arkansas. Will cable news outlets keep silent as conservatives push for similar legislation across the country?
On February 23, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) allowed Arkansas SB 202 to become law. The law prohibits cities and counties from adopting non-discrimination protections that are stronger than those adopted by the state government, effectively banning local protections for LGBT Arkansans in housing, employment, and public accommodations. According to an Equality Matters analysis, since it was first filed in the state senate on February 2, SB 202 has received no coverage from either Fox News or CNN:
By contrast, on the February 19 edition of MSNBC's The Rundown With José Díaz-Balart, Díaz-Balart noted the lack of national attention on SB 202 and detailed the anti-LGBT nature of the new law:
Díaz-Balart compared Arkansas bill to Arizona's SB 1062, another anti-LGBT bill that garnered extensive headlines last year. Both CNN and Fox News comprehensively covered the debate over Arizona's legislation - CNN repeatedly profiled the anti-gay group behind the measure and grilled supporters of the bill about its impact on LGBT customers. Some Fox figures even objected to the legislation, calling it "profoundly unconstitutional" and "potentially dangerous." But according to an Equality Matters analysis, both Fox and CNN ignored the passage of Arkansas' anti-LGBT law.
The deceptiveness used by SB 202's supporters was ripe for media exposure. As Díaz-Balart noted, the law is entitled the "Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act," with a declared purpose of improving intrastate commerce by creating "uniform nondiscrimination laws and obligations." Yet as Associate Press Correspondent Andrew DeMillo explained, not a single employer has cited a lack of uniformity as a business deterrent - in fact, Wal-Mart, one of the state's largest employers, released a statement opposing the new law. The measure won praise from the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council, whose president Tony Perkins lauded it as a "victory" and a "roadmap for other states."
This isn't the first time Fox and CNN have completely ignored passage of a major piece of anti-gay legislation - last year, just two months after the spotlighted debate over Arizona's bill, Fox and CNN overlooked a similar anti-LGBT license-to-discriminate law in Mississippi. The Arkansas law is only the first of several "commerce improvement" bills cropping up across the nation - West Virginia and Texas have both introduced identical legislation seeking to ban local LGBT protections. Fox and CNN can either watch these upcoming battles in silence, or educate their viewers about the dangerous consequences of pro-discrimination statutes..
Equality Matters searched TV Eyes for Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC between February 1 and February 24, using the terms "Arkansas AND LGBT" "Arkansas AND gay," "Arkansas AND Discrimination," "Arkansas AND Senate Bill 202," "Arkansas AND Hutchinson," "Arkansas AND sexual orientation," "Arkansas AND "gender identity," and "Arkansas AND SB 202." Reruns and teases for upcoming segments were excluded.