Here's how the press got fooled into thinking Trump would be a pro-LGBTQ president. Have they learned the lesson yet?

2016 was a disaster when it came to accurate reporting on LGBTQ issues. 2020 might be worse.

Welcome to Too Long; Don’t Tweet, a new project where I take Twitter threads the probably should have been articles, and turn them into blogs. If you follow me on Twitter (@ParkerMolloy), you probably know what’s in store. I’ll try not to send out more than 1 or 2 e-mails a week with updates.

For the most part, I won’t be changing a whole lot in terms of formatting from Twitter to blog. As my tweets auto-delete after a set period of time, though, I figured that this would be a decent way to create a somewhat more permanent home for threads I think are noteworthy.


June 21, 2019:

For #PrideMonth, I wrote about how the press failed LGBTQ Americans in their rush to label Trump as "pro-LGBTQ" or somehow less extreme than his opponents.

Trump got a lot of credit for saying he’d “protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” But this wasn’t actually any kind of statement of “support for gay rights.”

Trump only referenced "protecting" LGBTQ people in the context of "protecting" from immigrants/Muslims. It was awful, xenophobic bait. Pair that with the fact that the GOP's party platform was virulently anti-LGBTQ, and the pundit reactions were just... offensively incorrect.

Trump came out in favor of a bill that would have legalized discrimination against LGBTQ people nationwide in December 2015. Remarkably, that was left out of virtually every article and segment about his views on LGBTQ rights.

In January 2016, he was asked whether or not he'd appoint judges with the intention of overturning the marriage equality decision: "I would strongly consider that, yes." The following month, he said evangelicals could "trust" him on the issue.

Trump was asked for his views on a North Carolina law during an appearance on the Today show. While he first said he thought the law wasn't a great idea because boycotts were hurting the state, he flipped on that opinion the same day and later offered his full support.

There was a sense that there was no way to know where Trump stood. That was wrong. He said 1.) he'd be open to adding judges to overturn the marriage ruling, 2.) he was OK w/ states banning trans people from bathrooms, said he's fine with banning trans people from the military.

Meanwhile, TIME magazine posted a video titled "Everything President Trump Has Said About The LGBTQ Community."And despite the word "Everything" in there, NONE of these aforementioned examples were included. That's terrible, irresponsible journalism.

When Trump said that he might kick trans people out of the military, no network or cable national broadcast ever mentioned it at all. His endorsement of the anti-LGBTQ First Amendment Defense Act was only mentioned once the entire campaign on TV. 

One pet peeve of mine is that there are still major, national news outlets that say “LGBT rights” when they mean any reference to LGBTQ people in any capacity.

Another failure of the press was only looking at the superficial. Some things (sending tweets or proclaiming June LGBT Pride month) are *extremely* superficial. They're nice, but no replacement for policy. Being able to tolerate the existence of LGBTQ people doesn't = pro-LGBTQ

Ask anyone to point to something pro-LGBTQ that Trump has done, and the response is always either "Well, he appointed a gay person to a position here or there" or "Not sure if you knew this, but he launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality."

And... about that...

Yes, there are more than 70 countries worldwide where it's illegal to be gay. Yes, that is terrible. Yes, the US should use leverage to get those countries to improve their human rights records.

Obviously.

But... what, exactly IS this grand campaign to decriminalize being gay in other countries? Details are hard to come by, unfortunately. And at first, it didn't seem that Trump was aware that this was even something in consideration.

And very little of it added up. The administration has been ignoring the horrors happening in Chechnya, and the state department hasn't bothered to fill the vacant Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons role (which you'd think would be worth having here).

Whatever the case, it's odd there hasn't been more information about this campaign published. That is, if it's an actual campaign to accomplish something and not a "Be Best" type front. But people have pointed to this and said, "But see? Obama didn't do this. Trump did." And...

Well, first, credit where credit is due. This was a really good speech about the importance of getting the US involved in advocating for LGBT+ rights on a global level. Good on the Secretary of State for delivering it at the UN.

... in 2011.

But yes, this was also an Obama administration goal, in other words.

And that continued on for years with... varying levels of success (yes, sometimes extremely unsuccessful).

Even earlier than that, in 2009, the Obama administration did push for language in an appropriations bill that would allow the State Dept. to start tracking which countries make it illegal to be gay. It wasn't (yet) even suggesting advocacy for changes to those laws.

Guess who threw an absolute fit because he believed that saying that being gay shouldn't be a crime was "at odds with the majority of the American people?"

Mike Pence

And just last year Mick Mulvaney (who is currently Trump's chief of staff) gave a speech where he called the Obama administration's efforts to persuade countries to decriminalize being gay "religious persecution."

Unfortunately, journalists rarely ever put this in perspective when writing about this supposed campaign that is supposedly new and different from past efforts. Again, another failure of the press in how it reports on LGBTQ issues.

40% of 2016 voters said LGBTQ issues were "very important" in deciding who they'd choose that November. By not accurately informing audiences what Trump's positions on LGBTQ issues actually were, they failed those audiences *and* LGBTQ people nationwide.

And this is a message for journalists who might have downplayed LGBTQ issues in 2016 or promoted Trump as progressive on the issue:

What are you going to do in 2020 to make sure that doesn't happen again? What have you changed? What will you change? These policies matter.

I'm not very hopeful, though. Many of the journalists who covered 2016 have flatly refused to consider that they did anything but an exemplary job. I want to point to a piece I really, truly... to this day... don't understand its purpose.

It overlooks his policy positions (you know, the things that would indicate whether or not he was more "accepting" than others). Instead, the piece points to 11-year-old blog posts saying "congrats" to Elton John and a 16-year-old anti-discrimination idea. Annotated:

2nd half of the annotation:

What was frustrating was that there were people responding to the author of the piece trying to give her additional context. She never responded. These were all good-faith criticisms. These went ignored.

I've tried tweeting about this article to her, as well, but no luck.

Even months later, she'd share this piece, which included just... a *lot* of omissions. She brushed off criticism. "This was a historical piece," and that it was meant to just show the facts.

But it didn't. I really wish I could understand the thought process on this piece.

Thanks for sticking along for the ride on this one. I'm happy with how this piece turned out. Thanks for reading, and be sure to share it if you're so inclined.