President Trump bans Transgenders from serving in the Military

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Yesterday President Trump set off yet another controversy when he sent a series of tweets stating that transgender individuals will no longer be allowed in the military. Transgenders had not been allowed to serve until 2016 when President Obama’s Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, lifted the ban last year. As a part of this measure, Carter allowed a one year review of the policy so that the Pentagon could gauge the full impact of the new legislature.

Just a few weeks ago, Secretary of Defense, James Mattis announced that he would be extending the review period another 6 months. This means that Trump had until December 1st to make this decision and his tweets yesterday caught many people off guard. This measure has drawn a great deal of criticism towards the President, who was a great supporter of the LGBT community during his campaign.

Here’s how Fox News and CNN are covering this story:

CNN – “Trump to reinstate US military ban on transgender people

Fox News – “Trump announces ban on transgender individuals serving in military

Opening Paragraph:

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving “in any capacity” in the US armed forces. – CNN

The decision reversed a policy initially approved by the Defense Department under President Barack Obama, which was still under final review, that would allow transgender individuals to openly serve in the military. Defense Secretary James Mattis announced last month that he was delaying enactment of the plan to begin allowing transgender individuals to join the US military. – CNN

President Trump touched off a firestorm Wednesday after tweeting that he wants to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military in any capacity — citing advice from his “generals” and medical costs. – Fox

Background:

Ash Carter, the Defense secretary under Obama, ended the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military in 2016, but allowed for a year-long review process to allow the Pentagon to determine how it would accept new transgender recruits into the military. – CNN

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not have an answer on what would happen to active transgender military members but said the White House and the Defense Department would work together “as implementation takes place and is done so lawfully.” – CNN

Sanders said transgender service “erodes military readiness and unit cohesion” citing health costs. She said the move was based on a “military decision” and is “not meant to be anything more than” that. – CNN

The president’s tweets came only a few weeks after Defense Secretary James Mattis said he would give military chiefs another six months to conduct a review to determine if allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the armed services will affect the “readiness or lethality” of the force. The deadline for that review was Dec. 1, 2017. – Fox

But Trump himself tweeted during the campaign season that he would “fight” for the LGBTQ community while his opponent “Hillary (Clinton) brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.” – Fox

During his confirmation hearing in January, Mattis was asked whether he believed that allowing LGBT Americans to serve in the military or women in combat would undermine the military’s lethality…“Frankly, senator, I’ve never cared much about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with,” Mattis testified. – Fox

Missouri Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler offered an amendment that would prohibit the Pentagon from spending money on transition surgeries or hormone therapy. Her amendment was narrowly defeated earlier this month. – Fox

Reactions:

“Since becoming the Secretary of Defense, I have emphasized that the Department of Defense must measure each policy decision against one critical standard: will the decision affect the readiness and lethality of the force?” Mattis said in a memo late last month. “Put another way, how will the decision affect the ability of America’s military to defend the nation? It is against this standard that I provide the following guidance on the way forward in accessing transgender individuals into the military Services.” – CNN

The American Civil Liberties Union called the decision “outrageous and desperate” and said it was exploring ways to fight the policy shift…”Let us be clear. This has been studied extensively, and the consensus is clear: There are no cost or military readiness drawbacks associated with allowing trans people to fight for their country. The President is trying to score cheap political points on the backs of military personnel who have put their lives on the line for their country,” said Joshua Block, the senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project. – CNN

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Michigan, the vice chair of the congressional LGBT caucus, called Trump’s decision a “slap in the face to the thousands of transgender Americans already serving in the military” and said it “undermines our military’s readiness.” – CNN

“Anyone who is willing to put on the uniform of the United States and risk their life in service to our country should be celebrated as patriots, regardless of their gender identity. This short-sighted and discriminatory policy will make America less safe,” said Kildee. – CNN

“This is worse than don’t ask don’t tell, this is don’t serve, don’t serve,” The National Center for Transgender Equality said in a written statement. “This is an appalling attack on our service members; it is about bigotry rather than military readiness, reason or science. It is indefensible and cannot stand.” – Fox

The Family Research Council praised Trump’s action…“I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to return to military priorities – and not continue the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military,” FRC President Tony Perkins said in a statement. “The military can now focus its efforts on preparing to fight and win wars rather than being used to advance the Obama social agenda.” – Fox

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said “we don’t need to be experimenting with the military. Plus there’s no reason to take on that kind of financial burden.” – Fox

Abbie Goldberg, professor of psychology at Clark University who has researched and written about the LGBTQ community, told Fox News “no one wins under Trump’s plan.”
“Some people will not serve, which is a loss to the military and the country,” Goldberg said. “Others will serve, but not openly, and thus they will be at risk for discharge or verbal, physical and sexual abuse.” – Fox

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Trump’s decision a “cruel and arbitrary decision designed to humiliate transgender Americans.”
“On this very day in 1948, President Harry Truman signed the executive order desegregating the U.S. military. Sixty-nine years later, President Trump has chosen this day to unleash a vile and hateful agenda that will blindside thousands of patriotic Americans already serving with honor and bravery,” she said. – Fox

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.,slammed the sudden announcement and said anyone who is fit to serve in the military should be allowed to do so…“The president’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter,” McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said. – Fox

“I continue to maintain that what matters in choosing those who serve is that they are best qualified,” [former defense secretary Ash] Carter said in a statement. “To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military. There are already transgender individuals who are serving capably and honorably. This action would also send the wrong signal to a younger generation thinking about military service.” – Fox

The numbers:

A 2016 Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Defense Department concluded that letting transgender people serve openly would have a “minimal impact” on readiness and health care costs, largely because there are so few in the military’s 1.3 million-member force. – CNN

The study put the number of transgender people in the military between 1,320 and 6,630. Gender-change surgery is rare in the general population, and the RAND study estimated the possibility of 30 to 140 new hormone treatments a year in the military, with 25 to 130 gender transition-related surgeries among active service members. The cost could range from $2.4 million and $8.4 million, an amount that would represent an “exceedingly small proportion” of total health care expenditures. – CNN

The Pentagon has refused to release any data on the number of transgender troops currently serving. A RAND study found that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members in the active-duty military, and another 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves…The study also found that allowing transgender people to serve in the military would have a “minimal impact” on the health care costs. – Fox

This was an interesting series of articles to look at because it is one of the rare times that the Fox article is longer than the CNN article. While it is clear that CNN is anti-Trump in nearly everything they write, that bias is especially present in this article. They make no effort to quote anyone who supports the bill and leave out an important quote from James Mattis’ confirmation hearing. When asked about transgenders and women in combat, he replied: “Frankly, Senator, I’ve never cared much about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with.” It’s important that the Fox article included this quote because it shows that not everyone in Trumps administration may agree with this decision. Someone who only reads the CNN article is likely to come away with the conclusion that Mattis supports this action and they would villainize the whole administration.

Additionally, if someone only read the CNN article they would come away with the opinion that no one supports this measure. Fox does a good job of including a couple quotes from Senators and advocacy groups who support the bill because the military is not the place for “experimentation” as Rep. Steven King says. However, they also include numerous quotes from figures like Nancy Pelosi, who spoke out strongly against the ban. It was interesting to me how each article wrote about the number of transgenders currently in the military, as they both cited the RAND study from 2016. I have highlighted those portions above.

Nearly all the other Fox articles I have read have held a strong bias towards President Trump. That was not immediately evident to me when I read this article. Will their coverage of this issue change over the next couple days to get more behind the President? Does this signal some differences in opinion between the President and the leaders at Fox?

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