by Joe Siegel
When January 20 rolls around and Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States, most people agree that his administration will pursue LGBTQ-friendly policies — and that likely means a different relationship between the White House, the news it makes, and LGBTQ media outlets.
“I think there will be more positive LGBTQ news coming out of the Biden Administration since he has pledged to support our community, but I don’t think the coverage will be any different,” said Jason Villemez, a writer for Philadelphia Gay News. “The difference between covering Trump and covering Biden is that with Trump we were covering all the rollbacks he made for LGBTQ equality at home and abroad. With Biden we expect the LGBTQ news to be much more positive and more frequent. Covering Trump the last four years has been a struggle, especially considering that every week someone in his administration, from Mike Pompeo to Betsy DeVos, did something against the LGBTQ community. We don’t expect that with the Biden administration.”
Angela Cragin, publisher of Seattle Gay News, believes covering Biden will be an easier task than covering the current administration. “He is seen as somewhat of a hero right now because he brings relief from the Trump days,” said Cragin. “Here is what Maggie Bloodstone, [our] dedicated writer, contributor and ad manager had to say: ‘Trump claimed he was a ‘friend’ to LGBTQ Americans while appointing anti-gay-rights judges and allowing the rabid religious right access to the White House, thus legitimizing their stance against our community, and has actively worked to roll back LGBTQ rights and protections. We can at least feel safe Biden won’t pretend to be our friend to our faces just to support those who most definitely are not our friends.’”
Cynthia Laird, news editor of San Francisco-based Bay Area Reporter, said she’s not sure covering Biden will be “easier” than covering Trump, “but it should generally be better news for the community. We covered Trump’s mostly anti-LGBTQ actions for four years, as local government officials and many organizations constantly brought him up, especially regarding the trans military ban and immigrant actions. In San Francisco’s case, the city attorney regularly filed suits against the Trump Administration, as did our state attorney general. Many involved LGBTQ issues, so we covered those.”
Laird noted that she has a request for the new administration. “It would be nice if the Biden-Harris Administration had officials that would regularly talk with the LGBTQ media, especially those not based in D.C. We’ll see what happens.”
“I suspect Biden will keep a lower profile and focus on business and not 24 hours himself,” said Troy Masters, editor of the Los Angeles Blade. “We will certainly have our White House access and access to various players in the government. It’s more critical than ever that we do, since we have lost the courts to a hostile judiciary.”
Chris Johnson, who has been covering the White House for the Washington Blade, expects the Biden Administration to be “at the forefront of advancing LGBTQ rights and to take action immediately on reversing Trump’s policies after years of neglect.”
However, Biden’s access for LGBTQ media is another issue.
“The Biden campaign often missed deadlines for my articles and cancelled appointments for interviews,” Johnson said. “We sought an interview with Biden, but it didn’t happen, so he became the first Democratic presidential nominee not to take part in an interview with the Washington Blade since President Obama answered questions for us in 2008. Even John McCain, a Republican, participated in an interview with us during his run for the presidency in 2008.”
Johnson, who had opportunities to ask questions as part of the White House press pool, reflected on the last four years. “It’s been quite a roller-coaster. I never really got to know Sean Spicer during his brief tenure at White House press secretary. He called on me initially during the briefings, but after I was quite aggressive in one instance of questioning on a proposed anti-LGBTQ religious freedom executive order, he froze me out. That more or less continued in the briefings under Sarah Huckabee Sanders, although I have to say she was more responsive behind the scenes. I also have engaged with Trump himself and was able to ask him questions on LGBTQ issues and other topics. That’s thanks entirely to the [White House Correspondents Association] allowing me to take part in the pool rotation. Numerically speaking, I’ve had more opportunities for questions with Trump as opposed to Obama.”
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