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Opinion: Accountability in the Era of Trump

GLAAD is "making media accountability of the Trump administration and its impact on human rights a top priority in 2017 and beyond,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis writes.
President-elect Donald Trump waves to the media from the steps at the clubhouse of Trump National Golf Club Nov. 20, 2016 in Bedminster, New Jersey.Don Emmert / AFP/Getty Images

From the hustle that’s typical of presidential transitions to the bustle of near-daily Twitter wars, there’s a lot of noise coming from Trump Tower. In the midst of such chaos, true accountability seems to have gotten lost.

But accountability has never been more important -- because for far too many of us, our very livelihoods are at stake.

President-elect Donald Trump waves to the media from the steps at the clubhouse of Trump National Golf Club Nov. 20, 2016 in Bedminster, New Jersey.Don Emmert / AFP/Getty Images

That’s why GLAAD today unveiled a resource for news makers and concerned citizens alike -- the Trump Accountability Project. The project databases false facts, misleading information, and hateful rhetoric purveyed by Trump and those in his circle, using video, audio recordings, and other source material to track and hold the new administration accountable for its hateful words and actions that target LGBTQ people and other minority communities. Whereas with GLAAD’s other media resources -- such as our Commentator Accountability Project, which focused exclusively on the shocking words that anti-LGBTQ talking heads said about the LGBTQ community -- the Trump Accountability Project includes the falsehoods, distortions, and outright lies Trump and his team have spread about all the marginalized communities living in this increasingly uncertain America. Because none of us today live in just one identity; rather, we live at the intersection of a multitude of identities. LGBTQ people are people of color, we are immigrants, we are people of diverse faiths and abilities -- and we will all be affected by Trump’s actions.

When it comes to LGBTQ people and issues, some of what President-elect Trump has said appears to be perhaps less barbed than administrations of the past, or even less menacing than the promises of some of his Republican primary opponents. But look just below the gilded facade, and there is something much more toxic bubbling to the surface.

Take marriage equality, for example. The President-elect himself might evade questions about his stance on the issue (telling 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahlrecently that the matter of marriage is “settled,” while dodging her actual question about his position), or he might give diluted comments that mute his previously documented opposition to the basic civil right (like when he told CNN’s Jake Tapper last year that he’s “for traditional marriage”). But at the same time, he picks a Vice President whose political career is all-but-defined by extreme anti-LGBTQ activism. Not to mention, Trump’s campaign manager and top aide, Kellyanne Conway, is a longtime ally of anti-LGBTQ hate groups like the Family Research Council and previously served as the go-to pollster for groups like the National Organization for Marriage, which fought tooth-and-nail to dismantle LGBTQ families. And his transition team’s domestic policy leader, Ken Blackwell, has an anti-LGBTQ quote bank that would make even the staunchest anti-LGBTQ activist blush. In a presidency about which the wide assumption is that the Commander in Chief will outsource much of the policy work to his underlings, these cards stacked in his deck indicate a dim future for LGBTQ people. Yet, their comments and records go largely overlooked or even ignored in mainstream media.

And what about the Supreme Court? Some of Trump’s potential picks are among the most anti-LGBTQ judges in the nation. With his potentially limited capacity to rollback key LGBTQ rights from his seat in the Oval Office, it’s the Supreme Court where many such issues will be decided. Once again, what Trump says he might or might not do is of much less import than the potentially lasting effects of the judges he suggests are deserving of lifetime appointments. But once again, their records go largely overlooked in the media.

Perhaps even more concerning than either his assembled team or his potential swaying of the judicial branch is Trump’s overall worldview of “othering.” Where will it stop? His campaign was about Muslim bans and Mexican walls, and his transition has given white nationalists an oversized (and terrifying) thrill. Trump has done nothing to tamp down the concerns that pervade almost every minority population -- which is why every divisive comment must be concerning to every minority. And that’s exactly why GLAAD is keeping close track of such comments with this new critical media resource.

Dinner and Show - 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards
GLAAD CEO & President Sarah Kate Ellis onstage during the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 21, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.Kevin Winter / Getty Images for GLAAD

It is deeply concerning how many people, organizations, and media outlets are now willing to excuse or simply overlook the hateful records of Trump and those in his widening circle. Some major political figures who rightly called out the racist, demonizing, divisive rhetoric of the Trump campaign are now signing up to work for a Trump administration, as if candidate Trump and President-elect Trump are two different people. News outlets are largely “normalizing” the President-elect, as if his upcoming inauguration is just as run-of-the-mill as any we’ve ever known. “Values” organizations that might benefit from Trump’s party affiliation are largely ignoring the many reasons why his own comments and character should run at odds with their stated missions.

GLAAD is not willing to turn a blind eye on hatred. Instead, we are making media accountability of the Trump administration and its impact on human rights a top priority in 2017 and beyond. As a nation, we have set a new precedent for what we consider acceptable in a leader. Now it’s up to all of us, but especially those in the media, to keep tabs on our leaders and the decisions they make for all our futures.

Sarah Kate Ellis is the president and CEO of GLAAD.

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