Today's broadcasts of Good Morning America and Today used the pronouns “she,” “he” and “it” while discussing the gender-bending gestation of Thomas Beatie, the pregnant “man” who is in reality a woman. Unlike previous reporting on Beatie's pregnancy, this time around the reporters and anchors discussing the story were a little more squeamish and a little less politically correct.
The coverage on both networks keyed off release of new photographs of a very pregnant Beatie, who is due to give birth in approximately four weeks. The photos first appeared over the weekend on The Drudge Report Web site.
Good Morning America has given the most coverage to Beatie's pregnancy of all the network morning shows (click here and here for previous reporting on the story). For the NewsBusters analysis of GMA's fascination with Thomas Beatie, click here.
CMI has challenged GMA's coverage by noting the reporters have continued to perpetuate the myth that Beatie is a man.
In this latest story ABC reporter Ryan Owens used the new photos to give the pregnant “man” more publicity. However, in this round of reporting a bit of common sense poked through the haze of political correctness. The first slip came from anchor Diane Sawyer when she correctly – though briefly – referred to Beatie as a “she.”
SAWYER: But first, the candid new photos of Thomas Beatie, the transgendered woman who became a man and she will -- he will give birth next month. The extraordinary images have rocketed around the world and Ryan Owens has the new ones and the details.
Owens for the most part followed the prescribed script by referring to Beatie as a “man.” Beatie was born a female, but underwent reconstructive surgery and hormone therapy to take on the attributes of a male. She has body hair and musculature associated with the male physique, but she opted to keep her female reproductive organs. A man does not have fallopian tubes, a uterus, or two X chromosomes, which means that biologically, Thomas Beatie is and always will be a woman.
In addition to the new photographs of Beatie, which include several topless pictures in which the scars from her breast reconstruction surgery are visible, Owen also played arguably the most endearing clips from Beatie's appearance on Oprah. (Note: Oprah is scheduled to rebroadcast the Beatie interview on the June 9 program.) These included Beatie's statements about the “human desire” to have a baby; wife Nancy's proclamation that she will be the baby's mother and Thomas will be the father; and footage from a teary Thomas at an ultrasound appointment at which the Beaties learned the baby is thriving in utero.
Supporting this sympathetic footage, Owens included an interview with a “biological anthropologist” who maintained that the way people behave and who they think they are is more important than their “history.” Helen Fisher, PhD. said, “What's really astonishing about this particular pair is that they actually behave like a man and a woman in a very traditional marriage and will probably bring those roles to the family and the little girl will grow up like all little girls with a daddy and a mommy.”
While reiterating Oprah's talking point that “different is normal” and Beatie's comment that “love makes a family,” GMA again failed to bring on a dissenting voice to talk about the problems the child may face in growing up with a public spotlight fixed upon her controversial family. Nor was there medical discussion about the hormone manipulation Beatie has undertaken to allow her body to adapt to a pregnancy.
However, Owens does get credit for acknowledging that the Beaties have been spotlight seekers throughout the course of this pregnancy. And in the wrap up with Sawyer he looked downright uncomfortable in responding to her last question.
OWENS: This couple has not been shy, we should point out, about selling their story and their pictures every step of the way. Also, this morning, the couple has revealed for the very first time, Diane, they do want more children so we expect to see pregnant man part two.
SAWYER: And it's not clear which hormones have been adjusted in what ways but you said he's still shaving.
OWENS: He is. There's actually a photo, we chose not to show it here, of him shaving his face while pregnant, so – (raises his eyebrows).
The photo Owens referred to is one of a topless Beatie, pregnant belly resting on the sink counter, shaving.
The discomfort of reporting this story was much more pronounced during the Today show, with co-hosts Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford clearly not toeing the politically correct line.
Kotb led into the topic by flipping through the June 9 issue of the New York Post to find a picture of Beatie. The photograph is a profile shot of a seated, naked Beatie. When Kotb was getting ready to hold the picture up for the camera, Gifford pleaded, “Don't show it!” Gifford called Beatie “her” and Kotb, who got lost keeping the transgenderism straight, finally said, “It's now a man.”
Gifford and Kotb made note that since Demi Moore's August 1991 Vanity Fair cover, in which she posed naked while heavily pregnant, many people have posed that way. The producers of Today then showed a split screen of Moore's Vanity Fair cover and the Beatie photograph. Kotb responded in distress: “Oh, oh, oh, it's breakfast time.”
Gifford observed that Kotb seemed “uncomfortable” seeing the pictures of Beatie. Kotb said she was. She acknowledged initially finding Beatie's story “interesting” when it aired on Oprah, but she was clearly struggling as she looked at the Post picture again and shook her head.
While noting a second time that the Beatie story is disturbing, Gifford switched gears and observed that “all life is precious no matter how it gets here.”
Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.