A new report shows that coverage of issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community has plummeted since President Donald Trump took office.
According to the widely respected polling website RealClearPolitics, news reporting on LGBTQ+ issues “has all but disappeared since Trump won the White House.” Looking at data that the GDELT Project compiled using the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive, findings show that all mentions of words like “gay” and “gays” have “essentially vanished” on cable news networks like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News since Trump’s surprise win in the November 2016 election.
The terms “have remained largely absent from coverage for the past three years,” concludes researcher Kaley Leetaru. She adds that LGBTQ+ news reporting had, comparatively, been a “hallmark of Obama-era media coverage.”
The result wasn’t much better when adding in words like “lesbian” or “transgender.”
The virtual erasure of LGBTQ+ issues from cable news is a marked contrast to the increased interest in queer and trans lives under an administration that has repeatedly rolled back equality. In the 971 days since Trump took office, the queer media watchdog group GLAAD estimates that his presidency is responsible for at least 124 anti-LGBTQ+ attacks, including the trans military ban and Supreme Court briefs arguing it should be legal to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in the workplace.
As these assaults continue, data from Google News only shows that search interest in the term “LGBTQ” has increased while cable news coverage fell. With increased need for information on the state of LGBTQ+ equality, Google data indicates about five times the number of searches for the queer acronym as three years ago.
Thus, one could conclude that cable news networks have essentially abandoned LGBTQ+ people at the time the community needs media coverage most.
However, RealClearPolitics does not draw any conclusions as to why reporting of LGBTQ+ issues on networks like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News is so poor following November 2016. The website suggests than one possibility is “that the daily deluge of headlines from a very mediagenic presidency has bombarded outlets with so many newsworthy stories that historically important topics like [LGBTQ+] issues have been displaced from the news cycle.”
But whether Trump has flattened the LGBTQ+ beat or there’s another explanation, this isn’t the first survey to show that CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News are virtually ignoring LGBTQ+ coverage. A study published by NewNowNext and Media Matters for America earlier this year found that reporting on LGBTQ+ issues was “sparse and shallow” during Pride Month.
“[E]ven the most [LGBTQ+] inclusive television networks would need to more than double their coverage to adequately reflect the community,” the report claimed.
While LGBTQ+ people make up an estimated 4.5 percent of the U.S. population, the report noted that stories devoted to queer and trans lives made up less than one percent of news coverage on the big three cable networks in June — 0.6 percent on CNN, 0.8 on MSNBC, and 0.3 on Fox News.