We live in a cynical world. And, since it is the fourth estate’s duty to hold a mirror to society, when it comes to the realm of celebrity journalism, this aura of contempt manifests itself in the form of severe schadenfreude. So, when the news broke Monday morning of the ex-Olympian formerly known as Bruce Jenner’s transition to Caitlyn—courtesy of a stunning, glamorous Vanity Fair cover shot by famed lenser Annie Liebovitz—the pessimists among us were nervously anticipating which mainstream media outlet (or big-name celeb) would blurt out something incredibly stupid. The house money was, of course, on Fox News. And lo and behold, one of Rupert Murdoch’s bloviating buffoons won the idiot sweepstakes.
Fox Business anchor Neil Cavuto couldn’t help himself, cracking a series of offensive transphobic jokes on the program Monday. First, he introduced the Jenner segment by yelling in an exaggerated voice, “What the HELL is going on?!” Then the other anchor on the program, Dagen McDowell, tried to one-up Cavuto by using male pronouns to identify Caitlyn a total of seven times. If that weren’t enough, Cavuto joked about ending the segment early due to his clear distaste for the subject, referred to his next guest Charles Payne as “Charlene Payne,” and then wrapped the segment by branding Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover and transition the end of American civilization: “Rome, final days. But that’s fine,” he said.
In addition to Cavuto’s series of unfunny, repugnant quips, Fox News published a story about Jenner’s VF cover on their website with the headline, “Bruce Jenner debuts new look as Caitlyn Jenner,” before changing it up to: “Bruce Jenner debuts new identity: Caitlyn,’” which at least hints at permanence.
Of course, this puerile, pigheaded behavior isn’t that much of a surprise coming from Fox News. In 2013, the LGBT organization Equality Matters published a piece documenting the right-wing network’s history of transphobic news coverage. Back in 2011, when Chaz Bono was on Dancing with the Stars, Fox News’ medical correspondent Dr. Keith Ablow said supporting transgender people was “insane” and “psychologically destructive,” while a Fox Nation in 2013 used an image from the film Mrs. Doubtfire to trivialize an important story on transgender people gaining access to healthcare in California and Oregon. The Equality Matters piece also cited an incident in which Bill O’Reilly mocked a story about parents who’ve been helping their transgender son live as a boy. “This is disturbing,” O’Reilly said. “Does it rise to child abuse?”
“Fox News’ pattern of dehumanizing and spreading misinformation about trans people goes against the standards of good journalism and instead gives license for continued violence and discrimination against a community that instead deserves support and respect,” the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s (GLAAD) Aaron McQuade stated to Equality Matters.
With the glaring exception of Fox News, most mainstream media organizations handled the Jenner story with the high degree of professionalism and respect it deserved.
“Caitlyn doesn’t have any secrets,” Jenner said in an accompanying video posted to the VF website. “As soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out, I’m free.”