ABC News faced criticism for its Sunday report which focused on parents fleeing states that criminalize transgender surgery for children, with some accusing the network of biased advocacy rather than objective journalism.
A journalism professor commented that the network’s portrayal of a seven-year-old child, whose parents claimed they knew their child identified as a girl since the age of three, appeared more like advocacy than unbiased reporting.
Additionally, the Disney-owned outlet faced backlash for its negative portrayal of governors such as Florida Republican Ron DeSantis, who have supported legislation that is opposed by LGBTQ groups.
It is worth noting that DeSantis and Disney are currently engaged in a legal dispute over the control of 25,000 acres of Central Florida property owned by the corporation.
These concerns were highlighted in a report by Fox News:
A story by Disney-owned ABC News that profiled families leaving red states over their transgender surgery laws, including one set of parents who claimed they knew their child was transgendered at age 3, has generated significant discussion and criticism since its publication on Sunday.
ABC News reported on a Texas couple who said their three-year-old son – now aged seven – announced “I’m a girl person” and asked at that point to be their daughter, coincidentally on “National Daughters Day.” The couple is leaving Texas because of the state announcing its intention to pursue child abuse investigations against people who seek “gender-affirming care” for their children.
“Her family is not alone. Across the country, advocacy groups say some families are packing up and moving out of their home states that have implemented anti-LGBTQ legislation to get to a place with greater protections for the community, according to queer advocacy groups nationwide,” ABC News reported.
The story also touted Washington state as a “safe space” for LGBTQ families from states like Texas under Gov. Gregg Abbott, R., and Florida, which recently banned gender transitions for minors, under Gov. Ron DeSantis, R.
The story also linked to a March 2023 piece from ABC News about “transgender youth care,” which overwhelmingly cited voices favorable to “gender-affirming care.” The article noted it does “not come without risk” but the “risks are often outweighed by the benefits.”
That Disney, the media and entertainment behemoth with whom DeSantis has clashed publicly for the past year, is ABC’s parent wasn’t lost on his 2024 presidential campaign. It responded to the story by issuing what it called a warning to everyone “from woke corporations to corporate media” if they “carry water for activists who want to push gender transitions on children.”
“Governor DeSantis has led the way in protecting children from harmful mutilation in the name of radical gender ideology,” press secretary Bryan Griffin told Fox News Digital. “No leader in America has done more on this issue. It is illegal in Florida to perform sex changes on children or give them chemical hormone or puberty blocker treatments for gender dysphoria. No matter if he has to fight the Biden Administration, deep-pocketed advocacy groups, or woke corporations, Governor DeSantis will always stand up for families and children in the face of the left’s gender ideology onslaught.”
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The story itself took on a sharply negative tone toward DeSantis and other conservatives who have passed legislation that has angered the LGBTQ community, and it also raised eyebrows with its credulous reporting on the young transgender girl featured in the story whose parents asserted was wise beyond her years.
“It is generally considered good journalism to provide a human perspective to a particular topic, but there is a difference between humanizing a story and giving sympathetic portrayals,” DePauw University journalism professor Jeffrey McCall told Fox News Digital. “The media should be careful to not exploit individual children in order to make broader cultural statements. That is the concern here for ABC’s profile of a seven-year-old child. Legislative activity in a number of states regarding this topic makes the matter newsworthy, but ABC’s profile of the young child comes off as advocacy, rather than a broader journalistic effort to cover a multi-faceted topic.”
Conservative media critics also took aim at the story.
“It’s sickening,” the Media Research Center’s Curtis Houck told Fox News Digital. “This is a purposeful attempt by Disney-owned ABC to groom children who have any number of concerns with school as well as feelings, thoughts or hobbies that can change in an instant. The liberal media have generally made zero attempt to present a counterargument because doing anything except encouraging young kids to change teams is treated as some cardinal sin.”
“ABC pushing this is an attempt to change cultural norms in a very negative way,” comedian Tim Young told Fox News Digital. “Stories like these should not be covered with any sense of legitimacy and should be called out for how absurd and dangerous they are.”
Seattle radio host Jason Rantz quipped that if people always took the feelings of three-year-olds as “serious and permanent, we’d have a lot of cowboys and superheroes as adults.”
“There’s no such thing as a transgender 3-year-old unless the child is being told how to think and why they should think a certain way. There is not even the understanding of the concept of being transgender or even one’s sexuality at that age. A boy wanting to wear a dress is learned behavior, but also not indicative of any specific gender identity,” Rantz said. “We rightly acknowledge they have no worldview to determine what their adult profession would be as a child; yet we’re pretending they understand the nuances of gender identity?”
LGBTQ advocate Heather Hester praised ABC News for spotlighting the child in particular, however, saying the piece also showed “how dangerous and destructive this legislation is and the effect it is having on real people.”
“Yes, a 3-year-old can be transgender,” she told Fox News Digital. “Think of gender identity as who you are on the inside. This is something all children inherently know from very young. There have been transgender and gender-diverse people throughout history. The fact that it seems like there are more people of all ages speaking their truth about their identity shows the depth of connection, safety, and trust – between parent and child. Allowing for curiosity, conversation, and expression is one of the most loving things a parent can do. No government official – or any other outside voice – should ever think they have the right to supersede that relationship.”
ABC News didn’t reply to a request for comment.