Fox News has quietly changed a headline on a highly controversial article that equated a Pride flag hung at the White House with “grooming and paedophilia”.
After a furious response from LGBTQ+ advocates and White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates, who accused the network of “characteristically lying through its teeth”, Fox altered the headline while keeping the central “grooming” allegations in the article.
The original headline and a since-deleted tweet by Fox News’ lifestyle reporter Kerry Byrne read: “White House flew controversial new transgender flag that promotes grooming and pedophilia, say critics.”
The article quoted a founder of the far-right Gays Against Groomers activist group who claimed the flag was a political statement about “indoctrinating kids and trans kids and pushing kids to sterilize and mutilate themselves”.
Mr Bates then shared a screenshot of Mr Byrne’s request for comment which made no mention of a link to paedophilia or grooming.
“Fox never even communicated the malicious and discredited foundation of this article to the White House,” Mr Bates tweeted, before referencing Fox’s $787.5m defamation settlement with Dominion Voting Systems.
“@FoxNews is characteristically lying through their teeth. Please see Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox News Network. Fox never even communicated the malicious and discredited foundation of this article to the White House. Then they lie about whether we responded at all,” he tweeted.
Mr Bates also shared a screenshot of the email from Fox News requesting comment.
After a fierce backlash, Fox News revised the headline on Wednesday to “White House flew controversial new transgender flag that troubles some critics in the gay community”.
.@FoxNews is characteristically lying through their teeth.
Please see Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox News Network.
Fox never even communicated the malicious and discredited foundation of this article to the White House.
Then they lie about whether we responded at all. https://t.co/2nu6KFmQXs
— Andrew Bates (@AndrewJBates46) June 14, 2023
Fox Digital did not add a footnote explaining that the article had been changed.
The flag in question, known as the Progress Pride flag, was designed by artist Daniel Quasar in 2018 and is based on the original multi-coloured rainbow flag and the transgender pride flag, according to Northwestern University.
The White House confirmed to Mediaite that it had responded to Fox News to say it had been flying the flag for three years at Pride events.
Fox News later updated its story after publication to include the response.
The edited version included a line saying: “The White House did not respond to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment on the flag’s design and meaning.”
Twitter users pointed out that Fox’s parent company wrapped its logo in the same flag to promote inclusiveness in a corporate responsibility report in 2022.
Neither the White House nor Fox News immediately responded to The Independent‘s request for comment.
Fox News, other right-wing media organisations and far-right personalities have repeatedly pushed a narrative linking transgender rights to paedophilia.
The “grooming conspiracy theory”, which has led to state legislatures passing dozens of punitive laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community, is based on “discredited research and junk science”, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
On Wednesday night, a Biden administration source told CNN: “Fox paid the biggest settlement in media history because they platformed dangerous lies, and the lesson they took from that experience is to repeat the same behaviour, including spreading baseless QAnon filth?”
This comes after Fox News came under fire earlier this week for describing President Joe Biden as a “wannabe dictator” who tried to have “his political rival arrested” during Donald Trump’s post-arraignment speech.
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