For supporters of North Carolina's one month-old “bathroom bill,” it has been a daily uphill battle in getting the truth out about what HB2 actually says. Not because there aren't people willing to do it, but primarily because of the misinformation and bias that saturates social media and print/broadcast journalism, which has the effect of drowning out the voices of the bill's defenders.
Sadly, some of the worst offenders when it comes to spreading inaccurate, one-sided information on HB2 are the North Carolina mainstream media. The liberal tilt of what we call “Big Media” (WRAL, the Charlotte Observer, and the News and Observer) in North Carolina is not a new development, especially for those who recall how the N&O infamously admitted in 2014 to sitting on a huge fundraiser story involving then-US Senator Kay Hagan for two weeks. But its activism on the issue of “transgender equality” is particularly noteworthy.
Here are some examples:
1) N&O journalist claims HB2 does not allow for schools to make accommodations at the local level for special situations.
On April 19th, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, based on the Obama administration's interpretation of Title IX, a transgender teenager's case against a Virginia school board had legal merit and needed to be reheard at the lower court level. At issue is the Gloucester County school board's failed attempt to compromise with Gavin Grimm's - who was born a girl - wish to use the men's restroom. Their solution: Grimm could use single-occupancy restrooms, but not gender-specific restrooms.
Colin Campbell, one of the lead N&O journalists covering the HB2 issue with an emphasis on social media reporting, tweeted out North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory's response to the ruling, a ruling which legal experts say could have implications for HB2.
Except HB2 doesn't ban that in NC. In fact, HB2 allows for the very type of accommodation that the local school board in Virginia put in place for Grimm:
This writer's attempts at contacting Campbell to issue a correction were unsuccessful, and as of this writing the inaccurate tweet is still up.
2) WRAL journalist Matthew Burns wrote a piece on April 22nd recapping President Obama's response to the HB2 controversy that was partly misleading and partly inaccurate.
House Bill 2, which was approved and signed into law in less than 12 hours last month, requires people to use public bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates...
There is no mention in Burns' piece of the accommodations rule noted in the above Tweet to Campbell. Nor is it noted anywhere in Burns' write-up that HB2 leaves bathroom decisions for private businesses up to the business owners. The original Charlotte ordinance that started the bathrooms dust-up banned most private establishments from being able to make that decision (see page 4 of the signed ordinance).
This writer's attempts at contacting WRAL for a correction and clarification were unsuccessful, and the same misleading report is still on their website.
3) The Charlotte Observer published a highly misleading, incomplete “fact check” from Politifact NC that sided with Equality NC, one of the lead special interest groups opposed to HB2.
First, it should be noted that Politifact NC states on their Twitter account that they are “in partnership with The News & Observer of Raleigh”, which should be a red flag to anyone familiar with the N&O's (and CO's) documented bias.
As to the substance of the piece, here is the headline on the fact check:
“Virtually no cases of sexual predators benefiting from transgender anti-discrimination laws”
Politifact NC rated as “mostly true” Equality NC's claim that “there have not been any public safety issues in those other communities” that have ordinances supposedly similar to Charlotte's original one. How did Politfact NC determine this? In part, they spoke with the left wing group Media Matters for America which claims on their “about” page that they are a “progressive research ... center ... dedicated to correcting conservative misinformation.”
But in spite of their giving credence to a left wing attack dog group, Politifact NC did - to their credit - research some cases around the US and Canada but found them lacking. Why? Because they said they couldn't find any that had actual convictions, outside of the one from Canada. And in one of the cases, they noted the man didn't identify as transgender and 'no one called the police':
We asked the N.C. GOP if they could point to anything that backs up the safety fears. They provided a link to a news story in Seattle from earlier this year, about a man who had twice gone into a women’s locker room and began undressing. Seattle does allow transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as.
The man didn’t identify as transgender and didn’t appear to present as a woman, the story said. No one called the police, and the man wasn’t charged with any crime. Follow-up stories described the incident as a stunt, perhaps politically motivated.
There's no proof either way as to whether the act was “politically motivated”, but that didn't stop Politifact NC from discounting that particular story as credible evidence that transgender access laws have the potential to harm women and children - even though the man's mere presence at the very least was likely emotionally if not psychologically traumatizing to those in the locker room.
The blogs did identify a few examples of alleged criminal activity having taken place under the guise of transgender-friendly bathrooms laws, but we couldn’t find proof of any convictions in those cases.
According to Politifact NC such cases don't count because in the United States you are “innocent until proven guilty.” This blanket dismissal dangerously discounts the photo and/or video evidence, and strong victim and eyewitness statements from several locations where the incidents are alleged to have happened.
With that in mind, one wonders if Politifact NC would also dismiss the numerous stories of Peeping Toms at Targets from all over the United States over the last two years, especially in light of their recent announcement reaffirming their existing inclusivity policy that welcomes men identifying as women to use the women's restrooms and fitting rooms. Yes, there were admissions, pleas, and convictions in some of those cases. Paging Politifact NC.
Perhaps all of these news outlets will get around to re-checking and correcting their reporting on this topic - just as soon as they get done giving exclusive interviews to Media Matters complaining about how tough and exhausting it is trying to combat the assertions of HB2 proponents. Of course, even if they did bother to correct themselves, at this point the damage has already been done, and their reporting has already solidified in the minds of the impressionable people who read it and believed it.