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Right-Wingers Furious That Fox News Doesn’t Hate Trans People As Much As They Do

fox-news-woke.jpg Dominion And Fox News Reach Settlement In Defamation Case - Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
fox-news-woke.jpg Dominion And Fox News Reach Settlement In Defamation Case - Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

To say that’s been a rocky month at Fox News would be an understatement. First, in April, the conservative cable news network agreed to pay $787.5 million to settle a defamation suit from Dominion Voting Systems for airing lies about the company interfering in the 2020 presidential election — avoiding a trial that was bound to prove intensely embarrassing. Days later, they fired their biggest primetime star, Tucker Carlson, following a period of internal warfare between the host and top executives. Ratings immediately took a dive, with a wide swath of conservatives (including Donald Trump) declaring that the network was doomed.

And now, Fox finds itself on the wrong side of a culture war it helped to foment.

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Despite broadcasting hundreds of segments attacking trans people, platforming viciously transphobic guests, and relentlessly demonizing trans individuals who then receive harassment and death threats, it seems that Fox News is actually “woke” on matters of gender identity. That’s according to a report from the Daily Signal, a right-wing media outlet owned by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. The story is based on the leak of a Fox employee handbook dating from January 2021, which includes policies aimed at affirming staff members’ gender transitions. Employees can dress and use restrooms in accordance with their gender identity and are to be addressed by their preferred pronouns. All of which, for anti-trans hardliners, represents a grotesque betrayal of the brand’s supposed values.

The Daily Signal article notes that none of this is really up to Fox — the handbook policies conform to legal protections enforced by New York (where the company is based) and California (where it maintains a substantial workforce). And, in a statement shared with Rolling Stone, a Fox News spokesperson reiterated that “Fox News Media is compliant with all Human Rights laws mandated by the cities and states in which we operate, including New York and California.” But the grievance machine cares not for such excuses, and far-right influencers who see no room for compromise in their anti-LGBTQ hate campaign are condemning Fox as a secretly tolerant organization.

Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh, who released the anti-trans propaganda film What Is a Woman? last year, was particularly critical, claiming that he had been “blacklisted” by Fox after several appearances because of his extreme hostility to the transgender community. In a Twitter thread, Walsh fumed that the network “needs to get the Bud Light treatment,” referring to a recent outcry on the right over the beer brand’s endorsement deal with trans performer and activist Dylan Mulvaney. (An anonymous Fox employee who spoke to the Daily Signal claimed that once Carlson had been sacked, executives issued instructions to stop bashing Mulvaney on air.) “They are actively working to suppress conservative voices while promoting leftism in its most radical form,” Walsh concluded.

Many right-wing websites picked up the Daily Signal scooplet, likewise framing it in alarmist terms. RedState called the handbook “shocking.” Gateway Pundit‘s headline blared, “Fox News Caves to Marxist Democrat Ideology.” Even the comparatively moderate RealClearPolitics described “woke bathroom, gender policies.” Eddie Scarry, writer for the Federalist, speculated that those who brought attention to the handbook would be barred from future Fox News appearances. Conservative talk radio host and blogger Erick Erickson complained that the LGBTQ workplace equality at Fox was the “same thing Bud Light wanted.” The Daily Caller‘s Geoffrey Ingersoll said he knew of employees, “some very senior,” disgruntled that company was “going along with far left activists and their propaganda terms.” Auron MacIntyre, columnist at the Blaze, theorized that “Fox got rid of Tucker so they could deliver more Caitlyn Jenner conservatism,” alluding to the celebrity and failed California gubernatorial candidate who is among the most outspoken trans Republicans in the country.

Meanwhile, familiar MAGA trolls from Jack Posobiec to @Catturd2 also registered their disgust. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — sharing a video in which Carlson biographer Chadwick Moore alleges the host was fired as a condition of the Dominion settlement — clumsily attempted to tie the gender guidelines into that unconfirmed narrative. Still, the notion that boilerplate corporate language from a document distributed to employees two years ago is somehow connected to the recent unrest at Fox indicates the right’s deepening mistrust of the network. As far-right extremists grapple for an explanation of how the company went “woke,” conspiracist thinking is already in bloom.

All told, Fox News is facing an undeniable credibility crisis within a demographic it once controlled. As it continues to seek stability, it must also contend with smaller competitors jockeying for their dissatisfied viewers: in the wake of Carlson’s departure, Newsmax enjoyed a substantial boost in audience numbers, and earlier this year, the Trinity Broadcasting Network — a Christian channel and the largest religious broadcaster worldwide — announced a pivot to news along with the hiring of Fox alums.

Which is not to say that Fox itself, a juggernaut by any measure, is going anywhere. The online cadre of anti-trans conservatives is vocal, and they command zealous digital mobs, but nothing to outweigh the millions of Americans who regularly tune into Fox’s negative coverage on gender identity without caring if the company’s treatment of its LGBTQ staff is sufficiently hostile. Though this latest outrage may further erode Fox’s ratings, it will probably do far more to boost the self-promoters who invented the scandal.

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