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.