Why the White House and Fox News are fighting over gay pride

Joe Bide
President Biden at a Pride Month celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, June 10. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
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Tensions between the Biden administration and Fox News over Saturday’s Pride Month celebration at the White House boiled over this week, with the White House accusing the conservative network of lying about the meaning of a flag displayed at the event.

“@FoxNews is characteristically lying through their teeth,” deputy press secretary Andrew Bates wrote in a tweet that linked to a Fox News piece that read: “White House flew controversial new transgender flag that promotes grooming and pedophilia, say critics.”

In the article, Fox News reporter Kerry Byrne said critics of the flag told the network “it appears to reference a cult of pedophilia infecting many institutions and represents an unwanted takeover of traditional gay symbolism.”

Bates added that “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.”

Fox News deleted the tweet and reframed the article to focus on how the transgender flag “troubles some critics in the gay community.”

The Progress Pride Flag

The Progress Pride flag
The Progress Pride Flag displayed from the balcony of the White House. (Anna Rose Layden/Reuters)

The Biden administration hung what is known as the Progress Pride Flag at the White House to mark Pride Month. On its website, the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, explained the flag’s origin.

“The Progress Pride Flag evolved from the Philadelphia Pride Flag and was created by Daniel Quasar. Quasar added a white, pink, and light-blue stripe to represent the Trans community,” the group said.

“While the black and brown stripes still represented communities of color, the black stripe is also a nod to the thousands of individuals that the community lost during the HIV/AIDS crisis in 1980s and 1990s. Since its creation, the flag has become very popular.”

Flag code violation?

Conservatives upset over the display of the Progress Pride Flag also claimed its placement had violated the U.S. Flag Code, which requires the “flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of States or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs.”

Fox News ran a story on those critics on Sunday, quoting Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton, who echoed the conservative belief that transgender people are "targeting children."

“To advance revolutionary transgender agenda targeting children, Biden violates basic tenet of US Flag Code and disrespects every American service member buried under its colors,” Fitton wrote on Twitter.

But an American flag was also being flown atop the White House, claiming the highest spot on the property.

Topless trans activist

Rose Montoya
Rose Montoya at the Queerties Awards in Los Angeles, Feb. 28. (Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)

At a time when conservatives have gone after private companies like Bud Light and Target for their promotion of gay and transgender rights, and Fox News airs regular segments promoting those boycotts, the decision for the White House to proudly champion those causes has been, for some, controversial.

That controversy was fanned when transgender activist and model Rose Montoya was photographed topless at the White House event. Fox News and other conservative outlets published multiple articles about the incident.

The White House released a statement barring Montoya from attending future events.

“The behavior was simply unacceptable. We’ve been very clear about that,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday. “It was unfair to the hundreds of attendees who were there to celebrate their families. So, you know, we’re going to continue to be clear on that, and that type of behavior is, as I said, unacceptable. It’s inappropriate, it’s disrespectful. And it really does not reflect the event that we hosted to celebrate the LGBTQ+ families.”

In an Instagram video, Montoya defended her support of “freeing the nipple.”

“Conservatives are trying to use the video of me topless at the White House to try to call the community groomers, etcetera,” she said. “And I would just like to say that, first of all, going topless in Washington, D.C., is legal, and I fully support the movement in freeing the nipple because why is my chest now deemed inappropriate or illegal when I show it off, however, before coming out as trans it was not?”

‘Wannabe dictator’

Tensions between the network and the White House were also exacerbated Thursday, when Fox News briefly ran a chyron that accompanied their coverage of former President Donald Trump's arraignment on felony counts stemming from his alleged mishandling of classified documents.

“Wannabe dictator speaks at the White House after having his political rival arrested,” the chyron read.

Fox News explained Thursday that it had removed that description “immediately.”

Asked Thursday to respond to the chyron, Jean-Pierre referenced the $787 million judgement against the company in the defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems.

“There are probably about 787 million things that I can say about this,” she said. “That was wrong what we saw last night, but I don’t think I’m going to get into it.”