Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

CBS News Lets Hate Group Hijack LGBT Debate

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | April 21, 2010 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Politics
Tags: Andrea Lafferty, CBS Entertainment, CBS News, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, Traditional Values Coalition, TVC

CBS News has allowed an anti-gay hate group, on the watch list of the Southern Poverty Law Center, hijack the debate over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. We must act to let CBS News know that this is wrong. CBS News first posted this hateful screed on its blog on Friday, and has followed up aggressively with similar coverage on its television website. The CBS Evening News may be next. Would CBS let Aryan Nation define the debate on anti-discrimination law?

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is a bill to prohibit job discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill has had little coverage in the mainstream media, having been kept out of the spotlight in favor of other, sexier issues, such as marriage equality and Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal.

Now that it is moving towards a vote in Congress, the mainstream media is taking some time to focus on ENDA. CBS News is the first major media outlet to discuss the bill. Rather than fairly discussing the merits of protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from workplace discrimination and harassment, CBS News has allowed a known hate group to define the debate.

By failing to vet its sources, and allowing a known hate group to steer the debate towards bizarre allegations that have little to do with the merits of the issue, CBS News has failed as a journalistic enterprise.

Call CBSNews.com Editor-in-Chief Dan Farber at 212-975-4321 to let him know that CBS News shouldn't let the Traditional Values Coaltion, a known hate group on the Southern Poverty Center's watch list, define the debate on the job discrimination bill, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Have them on, by all means, but CBS News should not frame the debate about a job discrimination bill under the heading "Debate Over Transgender Teachers" just because they got a press release from the Traditional Values Coalition, or just to get ratings. That's lazy. That's sensationalizing. It's wrong.

The American labor market has a workforce of 130 million people. There are millions of LGBT workers. How many transgender teachers have there been in the last decade? Probably about a half-dozen or so. Why is this the main frame on the CBS News coverage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act?

How CBS News Is Framing Coverage of ENDA

Look how CBS News is framing this coverage. (You can click on the pictures to enlarge.)

Under this "have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife" formulation, the Traditional Values Coalition has already won the debate.

No matter how much Allyson Robinson or other spokespersons may make good points about TVC's ridiculous position, the meme put out there by CBS News is that there is a serious news-worthy question as to whether the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will harm young children.

As a parent myself, I am fiercely protective of my child, and anything framed as potentially harmful to my child is going to upset me. I know the same is true of 99% of parents. Lafferty herself said on-air: "You want to change the argument. You know if we spotlight this issue that you lose." She may be hateful, but she is also crafty and cunning.

She's spinning this, and we need to be wise to that. CBS News needs to be wise to when they're being played.

I called Mr. Farber this morning to alert him to this post and explain the problem.

His response? "This is an on-going debate, and not the last time we will cover the topic. Suggestions for guests, topics and how we could better frame the debate are welcome."

So you are welcome to make suggestions. Please take advantage of Mr. Farber's gracious invitation.

I would ask that you be respectful but firm in letting Mr. Farber and CBS News know that it is unacceptable to have a hate group on without noting that fact. It is unacceptable to allow that hate group's framing of the debate -- whether transgender teachers harm children -- to dominate the news coverage.

Call or email CBSNews.com Editor-in-Chief Dan Farber at 212-975-4321 to let him know that CBS News shouldn't let the Traditional Values Coalition, a known hate group, define the debate on the job discrimination bill, ENDA.

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While I agree with everything said here, I have to take issue with one thing: The swastika-in-the-CBS-eye graphic.

Have we really sunk so low that we must use the tactics of the far right to make our point? As a person of Jewish descent, it offends me to see this symbol of one of the most horrific injustices committed by one group of human beings against another in modern memory being used in this way, just as it offends me when I see it and other Nazi imagery on signs and banners at Tea Party events on TV.

Have we really sunk so low that this kind of thing is acceptable just because our ideological opposites do it? Is this really the example and the standard we want to set?

As always, Jillian's words speak for themselves. Is this kind of graphic really needed to underscore her arguments? Personally, I don't think so.

After consultation with Bil, I have removed the graphic. Point well taken, Rebecca. I allowed my emotions of the moment to cloud my judgment.

Susan Meiers | April 21, 2010 2:07 PM

Wow, I got passed around like a cigarette! I got transferred 4 times, each time, "hold on", click, then a new person. Interesting.

I saw this earlier and was infuriated. It is just bizarre how some 'news' organizations must sensationalize something to report on it.

One thing that really got me was how the bigot kept saying 'severe mental disorder' yet the proponent (can't remember their names) did not once mention that the next version of the DSM is removing GID as a mental disorder.

That would have been a perfect time to ask the bigot if she would be okay if it wasn't a mental disorder.

It underscores how important the revisions to the DSM will be. While I do wonder if Gender Incongruance will actually be any less stigmatizing than Gender Identity Disorder in a practical sense, at least it takes "disorder" out of the picture and that has to be a good thing.

Well, and of course all teachers besides those-guys-who-want-to-become-women (as usual, trans men are not an issue, it seems) are perfectly well-balanced! NONE of them have any mental health struggles in THEIR lives, such as depression, or anxiety, or bipolar disorder, not to mention any personality disorders or being pedophiles or such. ~

Gemma Seymour | April 21, 2010 2:43 PM

Here's another example of CBS News' transphobia:


Fran Kridakorn | April 21, 2010 2:56 PM

I just called CBS on the article above on EDNA and the hate group, Traditional Values Coalition- I mentioned I lived in the Montg, AL area and was upset the way CBS allowed the conversation to be portrayed to the country. He told me viewers are able to figure things out- I told him David Duke from LA was a KKK member and was still elected in Washington, DC. People aren't informed!
Please keep reporting!

Don't you dare call that network transphobic, CBS has done a wonderful job of trans inclusion by portraying us as dead bodies in one of their many top-rated CSI shows.

More than one!

Then again, on Bones we get turned into dead bodies that are former evangelical pastors who fake their own deaths and when we are cut in half it becomes some sort of strange metaphor for living our lives.

And on Law and Order, we get to be PTSD suffering murderers protecting trans kids who commit crimes by hijacking hormones, as well as dead bodies never killed just for being trans, but because we are somehow tied to some secretive conspiracy.

I missed the House episode this week.

Of course, there's also Nip/Tuck, with mass murdering trans folk who are "brother and sister" that were sister and brother before, apparently, as well as all manner of odds and ends that are quickly dropped.

It's not merely CBS shows. I'm still waiting to see a decent portrayal of us on Television -- closest so far is Candis on DSM, and even that one is somewhat problematic...

There was a show with Richard Dreyfuss called "The Education of Max Bickford" where there was a trans person who was... yes, a university professor (some bits are you YouTube). It was very good. Unfortunately, the character was played by a cissexual actress. Fortunately, it was the very wonderful Canadian performer Helen Shaver (who played her as a woman with few "gimmicks"). Unfortunately, the character was written out of the show after about 5 episodes (just like many other trans characters are, including in Ugly Betty and Dirty Sexy Money). At least she didn't do sexwork, murder anyone, dress all hoochy or die.

Well, and what gets me is how cis women are used to portray trans women. Why not use a trans woman? I am sure there are at least a few trans actors around? The most extreme example to me is the movie that has Nicole Kidman cast as the trans women. Personally, right or wrong, I have enough body issues without having one of the most beautiful, delicate cis women in the world to compare myself with.

Great idea so you all here on Bilerico need to ramp up and make a
petition ready to sign request for action. Just saying send an email is a no go today.

Gina Grahame | April 21, 2010 6:16 PM

I've watched the entire video and must take exception to some of the post-comments:

(1) it's not the job of any journalist to frame the arguement - the reporter asked questions and let the two sides respond to it and each other. If you want a framed agenda, FOX and MSNBC are easily available.

(2) While the woman from the 'traditional values' camp is certainly anti GLBT, her views are shared by a great many of people in mid-America. I've lived in 4 mid-west and souther states and know it be true. I'm not saying her views are correct, but to attack her personally as a loon or simply bigot is to underestimate the opponents of change.

(3) The GLBT person was once again not prepared for the debate. Allyson seems very nice and made a couple of points - BUT, she had no solid comeback to the 'waist up versus waist down' arguement, no comment to the incident at the pool with her child, no comment to the issue of a transitioning person on the job, and did not stop the mental illness arrow as soon as it was thrown. Passion alone does win debates.

A closing observation - the continual lumping of transsexual and transgender together is doing neither any service and the water is completely murky. 'Transgender' is a self-described label that is left completely to the individual to define and thus has no solid definition to defend or uphold. Even in liberal San Francisco I have had people ask me if elimination of ENDA would mean that a person could change genders every day - one day in five o'clock shadown, the next in heels, wig and a dress. And I honestly don't know how to answer that.

This assumes that it's a lumping together that arises from the efforts of others, which is incorrect, Gina, but that's another subject entirely.

Curious to your points on number three: how would you have answered those charges yourself? What comebacks would you have employed?

As to how to answer that question, the reasonable response is "yes."

The questions that come after it are usually some variation of "eww -- why is that ok?"

And that very idea -- that it isn't ok for someone to do such a thing -- is the force that the law is supposed to address.

It might be a view shared by many, but the number of people sharing that view does not make it a view that is free of discrimination or prejudice -- especially the sort of prejudice that says it is not ok for someone to do as you describe.

Personally, I have some issues with that. I'll admit it. However, those issues are *my* problem, not someone else's.

And for me to think it's wrong for someone else is either projection of prejudice.

Take your pick.

battybattybats | April 21, 2010 11:00 PM

Let me say as a person of some Gypsy descent whose family was also harmed by the Nazis amongst the oft ignored and forgotten parts of the Nazi policies of Genocide, the harm done by media complicity in such bigoted propaganda is very much relevant and comparable in my eyes.

Yes irrelevant uses of Nazi comparisons needs to be called out. But where it can be apt it is appropriate to use.

GLBT people, Gypsies and many others have a valid claim on the genocidal wrongs of the Nazis just as valid as that of the Jewish people. I do not say that to in any way diminish the truth of the suffering of the Jewish people, but to speak out against the erasure of the other victims of the Nazi genocide camps and to remind everyone that apt comparisons are apt comparisons.

That media complicity in bigoted propaganda that villifies a group encourages fear of them and hate of them and scapegoats them is media complicity in bigoted propaganda that villifies a group encourages fear of them and hate of them and scapegoats them!

The importance is people knowing why it is apt or not. Making Nazi comparisons taboo and making them mythical and legendary can render the truth of the matter every bit as meaningless as over-using and inappropriatly using nazi comparisons.

The Nazis destroyed the first sex-change clinic didn't they? The clinic of the man who coined the term Transvestite didn't they?

Media complicity in hate-speech villification scapegoating propaganda...

Of course CBS is interviewing the Aryan nation for their opinion on a gay/transgender rights bill to make the opposition seem radical, nazis, racist. CBS could have also interviewed the catholic church, or protestant church which would oppose such sexual immorality but they didn't want to give credibility to the other side. After all there are about a billion catholics worldwide.

Gina Grahame | April 22, 2010 6:49 PM

Hi Antonia,

I agree the lumping together is the fault of the community – reporters and tv hosts are just regurgitating what they’ve read on the GLAAD website and heard from activists. The women on ‘TRANSform Me’ continually refer to themselves as transgender, not transsexual, and then seem slightly put-off when people think they are drag queens. … and that is certainly another discussion :-)

As to how I would have addressed the charges… to begin, I would have prepped to:
(1) be versed on the current standing of transsexuality and transgender by the most popular medical and psychiatric associations - making sure to have a favorable view ready to counter the inevitable ‘mental illness’ citation.

(2)learn other conditions that could qualify as ‘mental illnesses’ a teacher could possibly have that parents would not object to – Obsessive/Compulsive, ADD, Overweight, smoking, addictions, etc…

For the ‘waist up/waist down’ comment –I would have countered with an immediate joke of ‘that’s hitting below the belt, pardon the pun’ and then say 'I don’t know for certain what’s below the waist of the Conservative Woman anymore than she knows mine, or the you (the interviewer), or any other of the 99.9999999% percent of people we meet every day of our lives.

As to the incident at the pool – I would have shown empathy for her and her child’s incident and then asked for more information to determine if this was really an incident or simply a case of seeing someone they personally don’t like – were they accosted or did they simply pass by someone she viewed as different?.. how is she so sure knew these people were transgenders?.. were they taller than she?.. have lower voices than she?.. is she 100% certain these were not just women who looked or sounded different?..

Further, I would have pointed to benefits (to the repeal of ENDA) that would benefit people in the audience or people they know – women could no longer be fired for not wearing “enough” makeup, or hair that is “too masculine” in someone’s eye.

Lastly, however, for me to get on board with the repeal of ENDA some prevision must be included so that individuals don’t abuse it by switching from male to female and back again whenever the mood strikes them. Granted, this is a very small minority, but they’re the ones who’ll be on TV and bringing the lawsuits. Here again, transsexuals are losing a potential protection because of the desire to protect crossdressers.

A job is not a right, it’s a privilege. And gender expression/behavior on personal time is vastly different than on company time. As a former small business owner, I believe employers should have a say in employee conduct that could be disruptive to the work place. Many companies have dress codes of one sort or another, and if one doesn’t like it, they are free to look elsewhere.

Thanks. I wish a couple other commenters would realize when I ask stuff like that it's not to "trap them" into things.

I asked because I'm pretty well versed on most of those matters, and from both sides of the equation (that is, I understand Ms. Lafferty's POV from her perspective, not as an outsider).

Your prep efforts regarding the mental illness factor is exactly the sort of thing that needs to be seen when such stuff is done. One of the points that will be later related is the "cure" concept, but a very potent one when people say that is that it has a medical treatment, and what they are objecting to is the medical treatment without any reasonable support.

I think your tack of using humor to counter the nastiness and then pointing out the obvious is a wonderful response, and kudos to you for it.

Likewise the encounter in the pool area. One suggestion I would make at that point is to ask them why that was so troubling -- which is the area that Allyson was actually heading into when she noted her kids aren't all that confused. COnfused kids allows aspects of the research done on such to coe into play, and that would kill the "confused kids" argument, as the research -- done by pediatric groups -- sorta shows the opposite.

ENDA will not, in fact, stop someone from being fired for not wearing enough makeup. IT will stop it when such a situation happens that does not involve a strict dress code. Employers with strict dress codes are generally given an exemption in the law if that dress code affects the nature of their business model (it is legal to require that a woman look very provocative at a Casino, for example).

There is no way to set up a provision of the sort you describe, since to do so would, in fact, undermine the entire structure of gender expression in law. And, to the point I raised earlier, what, exactly, is so wrong with that?

Oddly enough, work is indeed a right. People do indeed have a right to a job. THe legal aspects of that stretch back a very long time, and it's derived from the very WASPy foundational ideas of the country. So your saying it's a privilege is actually undermining the legalk argument you might have, and sorta challenging established case law and legal recourse.

If there were no right to work, there would not have been a civil rights act or similar provisions made.

Just saying.

Thanks, though :D

jami_bantry jami_bantry | April 23, 2010 11:08 PM

Who ever asked HRC to speak for us - AGAIN???

Do I sense 2007 happening again?

I hope not. ;-|

We need people in these kinds of events who can EFFECTIVELY "talk on their feet," with sharp minds, and quick tongues, to make sure that people like Lafferty look like the misinformed (and/or bigoted) people that they are.

I met Allyson, when she attended an HRC gala here in Chicago. She stopped by to speak with us as we protested HRC outside the hotel. She seems like a nice person.

However, when dealing with people like Lafferty, "niceness" does not get points across. Being sharp, quick, concise, and "pull NO (verbal) punches," so as to not allow that person to control the debate, is what is required.

Allyson is also a minister. Why did Allyson not mention that?

OMG!!! a "mentally disordered she-male freak" who is also a member of the clergy??? ---


How would Lafferty counter that?

How would Lafferty counter if Allyson emphasized that she is a West Point graduate?

I feel that HRC, is as much to blame as CBS.

Why are we not, again, lambasting HRC for such, totally unprepared for, disasters?

Why is HRC not contacting Trans people, who have the skills to debate, like some of the very skilled/talented/educated, and prepared, people who contribute columns here, and elsewhere, on the net?


Gina Grahame | April 26, 2010 2:49 AM

I agree that body image in the media is a concern for all woman - regardless of how we started in life. As for Nicole being cast as transsexual - the primary reason for that is she can put butts in seats like no 'trans actress' can. On the plus side, be grateful they didn't once again hire a straight guy to play the role!

Gina Grahame | April 26, 2010 2:54 PM

Hi Antonia, Jami

Jami, I'm sure Allyson is a very person, but the fact that she's a minister has no more bearing on the argument than does the fact that she has a wife and kids - in fact, it further separates her from middle america who see it as another indication that 'she's not like us'. Not saying it's right, just saying it is.

Antonia, I think we're going to have to 'agree to disagree' about the job issue. When Gay and Lesbian couples (and all non-married couples) were granted partnership benefits at my company, they needed to fill out a form that included a provision the couple must have living together for at least one year by the date of signing. This seemed to pass without an issue.

I have not read the ENDA bill, granted, but if it does not contain a similar provision, then I would not be for its repeal. Would a guy who decides to wear a wonder woman costume to work be legally protected under 'gender expression'?.. would someone be able to switch from male to female and back every other day?...

These are extremes I know, but we all there are those out there who will do just that, and they'll bring lawsuits about violation of 'their rights'. The right-wing and centrists will run with these extremes, and transsexuals who are just trying to live their life will once again loose protections because the community reached too far in trying to protect the fringe element.

Just as free speach doesn't give one the ability to yell 'fire' in a crowded theatre, the right to personally express one's gender shouldn't be without limits either.

A last thought to the whole the 'below the waist' issue. I don't know for sure what anyone in my office has 'below the waist' because no one talks about. But from my personal experice with transgender activists, early transitioning people, and non-op people is that this is a topic of pride and conversation for them - and that's what causes friction in the workplace. If one wants to be treated as like any other man or woman, then simply act like it.