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Home arrow News arrow National News arrow news arrow REPORT: Fox News Downplays LGBT Teen Suicide, Bullying
REPORT: Fox News Downplays LGBT Teen Suicide, Bullying PDF Print E-mail
Oct 31, 2011 at 01:48 PM

The research report: http://equalitymatters.org/factcheck/201110310002

The blog post: http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201110310003

THE RESEARCH REPORT:

While Fox News consistently rails against efforts to reduce anti-LGBT bullying, the network is virtually silent when it comes to actually reporting on cases of bullying-related suicide. According to an Equality Matters analysis, Fox largely underreported the recent suicide of a bullied gay teen in New York. While CNN and MSNBC have made efforts to combat and cover the growing problem of anti-LGBT bullying, Fox has instead chosen to promote stories that reinforce right-wing talking points.

Analysis: Fox News Underreported Suicide Of LGBT Teen

Fox Almost Completely Ignored The Suicide Of An LGBT Teen. According to an Equality Matters analysis*, Fox News almost completely ignored the September 18 suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, a bullied gay teen from New York. In the two weeks following Rodemeyer's death, CNN mentioned the story nine times, and MSNBC mentioned the story five times. Fox mentioned it just once, while discussing proposed anti-bullying legislation in New York. Fox never mentioned Rodemeyer by name.

CNN, MSNBC Have Extensively Covered Anti-LGBT Bullying

CNN, Anderson Cooper Have Been Active In Raising Awareness About Anti-LGBT Bullying. CNN has been actively involved in raising awareness about the problem of anti-LGBT bullying, covering the issue extensively over the past several months.

  • CNN Launched A "Stop Bullying: Speak Up" Page. CNN launched a "Stop Bullying: Speak Up" page to serve as a resource about school bullying, including anti-LGBT bullying. [CNN.com, accessed 10/24/11]
  • Time Warner, Facebook Launch Anti-Bullying App. Time Warner, CNN's parent company, worked with Facebook to launch a "multiplatform campaign" against bullying, including an app that "will allow users to make a commitment to stop bullying and recruit others to join the cause." [CNN.com, 7/13/11]
  • CNN Hosted A "Town Hall" Conversation On Bullying. CNN hosted and aired a special "Town Hall" meeting on bullying at Rutgers University. The special featured interviews with a number of bullied students, as well as experts on school bullying. [Daily Targum10/10/11]
  • CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Commissioned Study On Schoolyard Bullying. CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 commissioned a study on schoolyard bullying and reported on the study's results during a week of episodes dedicated to the topic. [CNN, 10/12/11]
  • CNN's Anderson Cooper Extensively Covered LGBT Teen Suicide. CNN's Anderson Cooper was active in Rodemeyer's death. Cooper interviewed Rodemeyer's family, documenting the harassment targeted at Jamey even after his funeral. [CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, 9/21/11 via TV Eyes, 9/27/11]

MSNBC, Thomas Roberts Devoted Multiple Segments To Anti-LGBT Bullying. MSNBC devoted several segments to the problem of anti-LGBT bullying in September.

  • MSNBC Invited Kathleen Sebelius To Discuss Anti-Bullying Efforts. As part of its "Education Nation" series, MSNBC invited Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss government anti-bullying efforts. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live, via Equality Matters9/26/11]
  • Thomas Roberts Covered Rodemeyer's Story. MSNBC host Thomas Roberts spent several segments to discussing the Rodemeyer's death. In the days following the suicide, Roberts interviewed Nadin Khoury, a student activists working to stop school bullying. Roberts also interviewed TV host Steve Wilkos, who discussed the problem of cyber-bullying and anonymous harassment. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live, via TV Eyes, 9/27/11, 9/26/11]

Fox Criticizes Anti-Bullying Efforts, Promotes Anti-Gay Narratives

Fox's Routinely Criticizes Anti-Bullying Efforts. Fox has a history of criticizing anti-bullying efforts as overreaching and unnecessary.

  • Fox Ran Five Segments In September Attacking New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Law. According to an Equality Matters analysis**, Fox News devoted five segments in the month of September to criticizing New Jersey's new anti-bullying law for allegedly being too expansive.
  • Fox Ran Multiple Segments Attacking California Gender Diversity Lessons. Fox News ran multiple segments criticizing a California public school for introducing students to lessons on gender diversity. One Fox guest objected to the lesson by stating: "Bullying is such an excuse because kids do not bully each other based on gender." [Equality Matters5/27/11]
  • Fox Repeatedly Attacked California's FAIR Education Act. Fox News repeatedly attacked California's FAIR Education Act, which requires public schools to recognize the contributions of LGBT historical figures. Fox guests called LGBT history lessons "irrelevant" "propaganda." [Equality Matters7/15/11]

Fox Promoted Stories That Depicted Anti-Gay Groups And Individuals As Victims. Fox News promotes stories that depict anti-gay groups and individuals as victims of alleged intimidation and bullying by gays and lesbians.

  • Fox Ran Nine Segments On Vanderbilt's Non-Discrimination Policy. According to an Equality Matters analysis***, Fox News was the only major network to criticize Vanderbilt University's non-discrimination policy, which prohibits religious groups from excluding LGBT students. Fox ran six segments about the university's policy between September and October.
  • Fox Interviewed A Texas Student Who Was Suspended After Stating That Homosexuality Is Wrong. [Fox News, America's News HQ, via Equality Matters10/4/11]
  • Fox Interviewed Anti-Gay New York Town Clerk. Fox interviewed Rose Marie Belforti, a New York town clerk who refused to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples because of her religious beliefs. [Fox News, Happening Now, via Equality Matters9/29/11]

*Equality Matters searched news transcripts provided by TV Eyes and Nexis for the terms "Jamie," "Jamey," and "gay, suicide" between September 18 and October 1.

**Equality Matters searched news transcripts provided by TV Eyes and Nexis for the terms "bully," "bullying" and "gay, suicide" between September 1 and October 20.

***Equality Matters searched news transcripts provided by TV Eyes and Nexis for the terms "Vanderbilt" between September 1 and October 20.

THE BLOG POST:

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 lea ding 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 depictanti-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 h is 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.


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