Last year was the deadliest on record for LGBTQ people, but you wouldn’t know that based on news coverage.
According to a new report from press watchdog Media Matters, cable and broadcast news spent less than 40 minutes across seven networks covering anti-LGBTQ violence, despite a year of unprecedented attacks.
“How are people going to know that this is a problem, not just so that they know that LGBTQ rights and safety is at risk but there are people who rely on this kind of information to be able to survive to know hey I might get targeted if I got on a dating app right now?” asks Media Matters’ LGBT Program Director Brennan Suen.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) reported an 86 percent spike in anti-LGBTQ homicides in 2017, the worst the organization ever recorded. (The Pulse Nightclub shooting is not included in the tally.)
Over the course of the entire year, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox Broadcasting Co., CNN, Fox News and MSNBC only discussed anti-LGBT violence 22 times, according to the report.
Fox News topped the list with 10 minutes and 21 seconds devoted to coverage of anti-LGBTQ violence. But most of that coverage (7 and a half minutes) was actually a segment that featured former Los Angeles Police Detective Mark Fuhrman defending the police officer who shot and killed nonbinary Georgia Tech student Scout Schultz, the report notes. CBS devoted 8 minutes and 29 seconds to coverage of anti-LGBTQ violence. Fox fell to the bottom of the list none at all, while other networks hovered in-between.
But networks largely covered just two stories related anti-LGBTQ violence. Schultz’s death was one. The other was the slaying of transgender Iowan Kedarie Johnson, which got attention after Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ assigning a prosecutor to investigate the murder.
For the most part, networks discussed isolated incidents, failing to link them to a growing threat of anti-LGBTQ violence.
“Speakers contextualized their subjects as part of an overall trend of increasing violence against the LGBTQ community in only seven of the 22 discussions,” the report notes.
ABC hosted just one discussion of anti-LGBTQ violence. CNN did four times, but only linked it to a trend of violence against LGBTQ people once.
The report comes amid the most shocking NCAVP anti-LGBTQ violence numbers to date. NCAVP reported 52 hate-related homicides last year alone. Transgender people accounted for 27 of those murders. People of color made up two-thirds of the victims in the report.
The lack of coverage for anti-LGBTQ violence also comes at a time when acceptance for LGBTQ people is reportedly declining. Suen also notes that anti-LGBTQ hate groups have been mainstreamed over the last year. President Trump keynoted the annual event of an anti-LGBTQ hate group last year when he spoke at the Values Voters Summit, and he has championed a rollback of LGBTQ rights.
“It is extremely scary because this is not the only area of LGBTQ rights that is being attacked right now,” Suen says. “But I would say it’s really inspiring to see other human rights organizations sounding the alarm about this issue and other issues. I think people just really have to get out there and educate their friends and call on media to do better coverage.”