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US news networks have stopped talking about LGBT issues under Donald Trump, analysis shows

Nick Duffy September 18, 2019
Donald Trump during the CNN presidential debate on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Donald Trump during the CNN presidential debate on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty)

US TV news networks are spending much less time talking about LGBT+ issues since Donald Trump took office.

An analysis of a decade’s worth of CNN, MSNBC and Fox News coverage by The GDELT Project shows the flatlining focus on LGBT+ issues on all three networks coinciding with the 2016 election, when Trump began to dominate the news agenda.

The analysis, drawing on transcripts from the Television News Archive, looked at the frequency with which terms like gay, lesbian, transgender, LGBT and queer are mentioned.

The analysts wrote: “Starkly apparent is that mentions have almost disappeared across all three stations since November 2016.”

‘Abrupt’ decline in focus.

According to PinkNews‘ analysis of the data set, between July 2009 and July 2016 – when Donald Trump became the Republican nominee – around 0.43 percent of MSNBC airtime, 0.32 percent of CNN airtime, and 0.20 percent of Fox News airtime was dedicated to discussions including the LGBT+ keywords.

Since August 2016, however, coverage has declined by three-quarters, with only 0.06 percent of MSNBC airtime, 0.08 percent of CNN airtime and 0.07 percent of Fox News airtime including the same keywords.

The frequency of LGBT+ keyphrases has declined significantly since Donald Trump began to dominate the news agenda
The frequency of LGBT+ keyphrases has declined significantly since Donald Trump began to dominate the news agenda

The percentages are likely to significantly underestimate the total amount of coverage dedicated to LGBT+ issues, as the data only records blocks of time where specific key phrases are used.

However, the analysts said that it would be “highly unusual for all three stations to change their terminology overnight and especially coincidental that this abrupt transition occurred immediately after Trump’s election”.

Coverage has flatlined since Trump won the 2016 election
Coverage has flatlined since the 2016 election

Prior to Trump taking office, coverage saw occasional spikes that appear to correlate with the 2012 election and showdowns at the US Supreme Court on issues including marriage equality.

However, Trump’s anti-LGBT+ policies and an impending Supreme Court showdown over whether LGBT+ people are legally protected from discrimination appear to have generated little additional attention by comparison.

Despite the lack of coverage on TV news channels, Google search data from the same time period shows a steady increase in interest of LGBT+ issues.

The GDELT Project noted: “The most likely explanation is that in a world defined by chaos, television news has simply shifted its coverage priorities. Though this has substantial ramifications with respect to raising awareness of LGBTQ issues.”

No coverage in Democratic debates.

The three Democratic TV debates ahead of the 2020 election have not included a single question about LGBT+ issues, despite candidates’ sweeping plans to expand civil rights laws to cover discrimination against LGBT+ people, clamp down on conversion therapy, and bolster recognition for transgender people.

GLAAD has questioned the absence of LGBT+ issues, branding the debates a “missed opportunity” to address concerns of LGBT+ voters on a national stage.

More: CNN, Donald Trump, fox news, MSNBC, TV

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