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The CNN Debate Was an Insult to LGBTQ+ People

The CNN Debate’s Ellen Question Was an Insult to LGBTQ+ People

Just in case you weren’t already totally sick of talking about Ellen Degeneres, CNN was ready and waiting to put that final nail in your sanity coffin.

If you’ve been living under a very peaceful rock, Degeneres was criticized for yukking it up with the former President George W. Bush at a recent Dallas Cowboys game earlier this month and defended the interaction by saying that the two are “friends.” “In fact, I'm friends with a lot of people who don't share the same beliefs that I have,” she said in a monologue on her show. She’s a vegan, she added, but that doesn’t stop her from hanging out with people who wear fur.

“Just because I don't agree with someone on everything doesn't mean that I'm not going to be friends with them,” she continued. “When I say, ‘Be kind to one another,’ I don't only mean the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone.”

But as this website has already pointed out, the issue isn’t that the two have different opinions. It’s that Bush nearly bankrupted the American economy in 2008 by pushing rampant deregulation, went vacationing during Hurricane Katrina, got the United States into a series of wars that cost $5.9 trillion, and lied about whether former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. His administration also tortured lots and lots of people and continually defended it.

After weeks of controversy, moderator Anderson Cooper covertly came out as #TeamEllen on Tuesday night by closing out the fourth round in a seemingly endless series of Democratic primary debates by framing her friendship with an accused war criminal as an act of bipartisan bravery.

“[W]e’d like you to tell us about a friendship that you’ve had that would surprise us and what impacts it’s had on you and your beliefs,” he told the presidential candidates, prompting a stream of cutesy anecdotes.

The fact that Anderson Cooper — a gay man — was able to ask this question without immediately bursting into flames is frankly remarkable, but perhaps he was wearing an invisible HAZMAT suit under his jacket. In addition to helping devastate the American economy for nearly a decade, Bush's administration unilaterally pushed policies targeting the LGBTQ+ community, such as a federal marriage amendment that would have banned same-sex unions across the country

Bush himself referred to the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s 2004 marriage equality ruling as “deeply troubling,” claiming that “activist judges... have begun redefining marriage by court order.” The former president also opposed LGBTQ+ inclusive hate crime laws, fought gay inclusion in the Boy Scouts, and said he wasn’t sure if homosexuality is a choice.

Suffice it to say that you told me a decade ago that someday we would be arguing about the sanctity of Bush calling the safety and dignity of LGBTQ+ people “special rights,” I would have laughed in your face, yet 2019 feels increasingly removed from the very concept of laughter. That’s the one with the smiling, right?

What’s so galling about Cooper caping for homophobes and the lesbian talk show hosts who love them is that his network couldn’t be bothered to ask a single question about LGBTQ+ issues throughout the entire debate, even during the same week that a federal judge struck down protections for transgender patients under the Affordable Care Act. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that it’s unconstitutional to ask doctors to treat trans people in accordance with their gender identity.

Medicare for All was a popular topic throughout the evening, with Pete Buttigieg seeking to distinguish his more moderate plan by attacking Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, so wouldn’t it have made sense to ask candidates how they will ensure coverage for 1.4 million transgender Americans who now face being turned away by hospitals and doctors simply because of who they are? One would think, but apparently thinking doesn’t get ratings.

Tuesday also marked the fourth consecutive presidential debate in which the topic of LGBTQ+ rights has yet to be raised, even as the federal government pushes the Supreme Court to rule that it should be legal to fire queer and transgender workers simply because of who they are. 

While CNN might feel it has sufficiently addressed the question of LGBTQ+ rights by holding a four-hour Town Hall event on the subject just days before, it garnered a fraction of the audience of a generalized debate. Around 1.1 million people tuned into to watch the historic forum, while the ABC debate in September took in 14 million viewers. This was a chance to press the candidates on LGBTQ+ issues with all of America watching, and the network blew it.

But hey, at least we all got a chance to hear a bunch of people tell heartwarming stories about John McCain — another Republican who opposed same-sex marriages, supported Proposition 8, fought against hate crime laws that protect LGBTQ+ people, and voted against LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections.

Laughter was fun, wasn’t it? I miss it so.

RELATED | These Candidates Still Haven’t Released LGBTQ+ Rights Plans

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