Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Jesse Watters hosts "Jesse Watters Primetime" on Feb. 26, 2024, in New York. (AP) Jesse Watters hosts "Jesse Watters Primetime" on Feb. 26, 2024, in New York. (AP)

Jesse Watters hosts "Jesse Watters Primetime" on Feb. 26, 2024, in New York. (AP)

Grace Abels
By Grace Abels March 29, 2024

If Your Time is short

  • Fox News host Jesse Watters’ five-part claim about programs funded by the latest federal budget ranges from missing context to inaccurate. 


The U.S. Senate passed a $1.2 trillion dollar spending package, narrowly avoiding a partial government shutdown. Before the bill was signed into law in the wee hours of March 23, one pundit criticized some of its details.

"What's in the new monster bill Congress is rushing to pass?" Fox News host Jesse Watters posted March 21 on X, where it had 2.3 million views as of March 28. He wrote that the bill included:

  • $850,000 for a "gay senior home."

  • $15 million to pay for Egyptians’ college tuition.

  • $400,000 for a "gay activist group to teach elementary kids about being trans."

  • $500,000 for a "DEI zoo."

  • $400,000 for "a group to give clothes to teens to help them hide their gender." 

His X post also included a clip of him discussing the earmarks on his show, "Jesse Watters Primetime," the same night. He posted a similar claim on TikTok, where it amassed more than 500,000 views and 55,000 likes. 

We contacted Fox News, and a spokesperson shared a list of the funding items Watters was referring to. 

Joshua Sewell, research and policy director at Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group, said the majority of federal spending is not distributed through earmarking. Sewell said the earmarks Watters noted "don’t appear to be unique or out of character" or "excessively large" when compared with other projects receiving earmarks. 

Except for the Egyptian college funding, all of the items Watters cited are from the budget’s Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education portion, which  Sewell said, has approximately 1,000 earmarks. 

Given the large number of earmarks, "I’m sure everybody could find something they don’t think is a best use of funds," Sewell said.

E.J. Fagan, assistant professor of political science at the University of Illinois Chicago, agreed that earmarks "are a teeny-tiny piece of the federal budget." 

Fagan also said his "impression from the backlash to these very small set of earmarks is that it is just cherry-picking." His research on the FY 2022 budget found that 0.6% of all federal earmarks mentioned LGBTQ+ as a target population. 

Here, we examine each of Watters’ claims. 

$850,000 for a "gay senior home"

This needs more context. 

The $850,000 earmark is for the Boston-based nonprofit LGBTQ Senior Housing Inc. to provide affordable housing for people 62 and older. It will help fund "The Pryde," a 74-unit housing complex in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood that is slated to open this spring. But that complex  is not exclusive to gay people; it is open to anyone who meets the income and age requirements.

The organization’s mission is to "facilitate access to welcoming, safe and affordable housing for low-income LGBTQ+ seniors," by developing that housing and establishing onsite services and programming "that addresses the needs of LGBTQ seniors." 

The $850,000 will be used for programming and the complex’s community center, which also will be open to older people from the neighborhood who don’t live in the complex.

The organization says the project is needed because of the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ seniors, some of whom may not have offspring to serve as caregivers or who may face discrimination or isolation. 

Applicants for the housing complex were not asked about their sexual orientation. 

"It would be against the law to limit this affordable housing to just members of the LGBTQ+ community," said the organization’s executive director, Gretchen Van Ness. 

The money will come from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ funds for community living.

Van Ness told PolitiFact that she applied for the funding through the office of Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., last year, because The Pryde is in Pressley’s district

$15 million to pay for Egyptians’ college tuition

This is missing context.

Fifteen million dollars is allocated to USAID, the federal agency that manages foreign aid, "for scholarships for Egyptian students with high financial need to attend not-for-profit institutions of higher education in Egypt," that are accredited by agencies recognized by the United States Department of Education or meet equivalent standards, the budget description says.

Similar Egyptian higher education funding has been provided to USAID over the past four decades, a USAID spokesperson told PolitiFact. The scholarships allow Egyptians to study at universities "in fields critical to Egypt’s sustained economic growth and development." 

Spending bills passed during Donald Trump’s presidency provided $10 million per year for the higher education scholarship program from 2017 through 2019 and increased it to $15 million in 2020

"The State Department and USAID have a long history of funding numerous programs to support the spread of democracy and western values throughout the world," Taxpayers for Common Sense’s Sewell said. "This is not a surprise."

$400,000 for a "gay activist group to teach elementary kids about being trans"

This is misleading.

Watters is referring to "Garden State Equality," a New Jersey LGBTQ+ advocacy group and a state affiliate of the Equality Federation, a national network of LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations. 

The budget describes the $400,000 earmark as funding "for trauma-informed strategies to support LGBTQ+ youth." 

Garden State Equality Executive Director Christian Fuscarino told PolitiFact the funding will support programs to educate communities about adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, traumatic events early in life such as violence, abuse or neglect that can affect long-term health. Research has shown that LGBTQ+ people report higher rates of adverse childhood experiences.

Fuscarino said some of the federal funding will be used for a summer camp for high school-aged kids that teaches about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, and imparts some trauma-informed strategies. That can include sharing techniques such as breathing exercises to cope with trauma’s impacts, Fuscarino said. The money comes from the Department of Education’s funds for "innovation and improvement."

The organization also conducts professional development training with kindergarten through 12th grade educators on LGBTQ+ terminology and anti-bullying initiatives. It has developed LGBTQ+ lessons and curriculum resources

Since 2019, New Jersey law has required schools to teach LGBTQ+ history in middle and high schools, and adopt instructional materials that portray society’s diversity including the "political, economic, and social contributions" of LGBTQ+ people.

A breakdown of how this funding will be spent is not yet finalized, Fuscarino told PolitiFact. Although the money is earmarked, the organization may not access the money until it submits a proposed budget and receives Department of Education approval.

Fuscarino said Watters’ characterization of the organization’s work as "teaching" elementary kids about "being trans" is inaccurate.

"We may go to a kindergarten class by being invited and read a story that is about an LGBTQ character," said Fuscarino, "but that’s not the core of what we're doing."

$500,000 for a "DEI zoo"

Watters’ framing is misleading. ("DEI" is an acronym for diversity, equity and inclusion.) 

The $500,000 earmark is for the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, the nonprofit that manages the acclaimed San Diego Zoo. 

The money is for the nonprofit’s Nature Biodiversity Corps program that "brings together inner-city high school students from diverse cultural, ethnic, and lived-experience perspectives," according to the website. The students "design, implement, maintain, and monitor native wildlife gardens on their school campuses," alongside experts and Wildlife Alliance mentors, the website says.

The funding comes from the Department of Education’s funds for "innovation and improvement." 

In the clip from his show that Watters shared on X, Watters described the biodiversity program as "an anti-racist nature appreciation program where high school kids from diverse backgrounds can observe wildlife." But the program is more than a trip to the zoo.

Students spend 10 to 20 hours monthly working on wildlife gardens at their own schools and participating in nature-based learning experiences at wildlife conservation sites.

The website says that since 2022, 200 high school students have participated, creating 14 gardens. 

Race and ethnicity are not considerations for participation in the program, zoo spokesperson Jake Gonzales said. 

The earmark funding will go toward staff salaries, transportation and supplies — including native plants for the gardens — and toward reaching more students at more schools, Gonzales said. The zoo has received federal earmarks in previous years, but for other conservation projects.

$400,000 for "a group to give clothes to teens to help them hide their gender" 

This claim is inaccurate.

The funding is for Briarpatch Youth Services, a Madison, Wisconsin, nonprofit that runs a youth homeless shelter and works with at-risk youth.

The earmark was requested by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and would come from the Department of Health and Human Services’ funds for substance abuse and mental health services. 

Briarpatch’s website lists several programs including employment services, support for those navigating the criminal justice system and street outreach and counseling for homeless youth.

The nonprofit’s "Teens Like Us" program has a support group for "queer and questioning youth" beginning at age 13. In 2023, the Teens Like Us program included what organizers called the "Briar-Attire Gender Affirming Clothing Program." The program provided gender-affirming clothing such as chest binders and tucking underwear to those who could not afford or access them. The Teens Like Us website no longer lists the clothing program.

Baldwin’s office told PolitiFact the $400,000 earmark can be used only for mental health services and counseling for kids experiencing homelessness, and will not be used for the Teens Like Us program. Briarpatch Executive Director Jill Pfeiffer confirmed that to PolitiFact.

Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter

Our Sources

Email interview with Fox News spokesperson, March 22, 2024

Email interview with Gretchen Van Ness, Executive Director of LGBTQ Senior Housing, Inc., March 25, 2024

Email interview with Joshua Sewell, Director of Research & Policy at Taxpayers for Common Sense, March 25, 2024

Email interview with USAID spokesperson, March 25, 2024

Interview with Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of Garden State Equality, March 27, 2024

Interview with spokesperson for Sen. Cory Booker, March 26, 2024 

Interview with Jake Gonzales, Senior Public Relations Manager at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, March 26, 2024

Email Interview with spokesperson for Sen. Tammy Baldwin, March 26, 2024

Email Interview with Jill Pfeiffer, Executive Director of Briarpatch Youth Services, March 26, 2024

Interview with E.J. Fagan, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois, Chicago, March 29, 2024

Congressional Research Service, "Appropriations Status Table: FY2020," accessed March 26, 2024

The Associated Press, "Senate passes $1.2 trillion funding package in early morning vote, ending threat of partial shutdown," March 23, 2024

CNBC, "Biden signs $1.2 trillion spending package for government funding until October," March 23, 2024

X post (archived), March 21, 2024

Internet Archive, "Jesse Watters Primetime, March 21, 2024

U.S. House of Representatives, "Departments of Labor, Heath and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2024," accessed March 26, 2024

LGBTQ Senior Housing, Inc., "Homepage," accessed March 26, 2024

LGBTQ Senior Housing, Inc., "The Pryde," accessed March 26, 2024

LGBTQ Senior Housing, Inc., "About Us," accessed March 26, 2024

American Psychological Association, "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Aging," 2013

Movement Advancement Project, "LGBT Older Adults Face Unique Challenges to Successful Aging, New Report Finds," May 25, 2017

National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, "Homepage," accessed March 26, 2024

CNBC, "Confronting aging: How LGBTQ+ seniors can tackle their special caregiving challenges," June 12, 2023

Journal of Gerontological Social Work, "Creating Supportive Environments for LGBT Older Adults," May 2020

U.S. House of Representatives, "Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024," March 21, 2024

USAID, "Higher Education | Egypt," accessed March 26, 2024, "Consolidated Appropriations Act 2018," March 23, 2018, "Public Law 115–31 115th Congress An Act," May 5, 2017, "Public Law 116–6 116th Congress Joint Resolution," Feb. 15, 2019, "Public Law 116–93 116th Congress An Act," Dec. 20, 2019

Taxpayers for Common Sense, "About," accessed March 26, 2024

Garden State Equality, "Homepage," accessed March 26, 2024

Equality Federation, "Homepage," accessed March 26, 2024

Garden State Equality, "Safe Schools & Inclusive Curriculum," accessed March 28, 2024

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, "Homepage," accessed March 27, 2024

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, "Native Biodiversity Corps," accessed March 25, 2024

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, "Growing Together," Dec. 14, 2023

Briarpatch Youth Services, "Homepage," accessed March 26, 2024

Briarpatch Youth Services, "Youth Employment Services," accessed March 26, 2024

Briarpatch Youth Services, "Youth Justice Services," accessed March 26, 2024

Briarpatch Youth Services, "Youth and Family Services," accessed March 26, 2024

Briarpatch Youth Services, "Teens Like Us LGBTQIA2s+," (archived 2023), accessed March 26, 2024

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Baldwin rebuffs criticism of funds for group focused on at-risk youth," March 21, 2024
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, "Congressionally Directed Spending Requests FY 24," accessed March 26, 2024

House Committee on Appropriations, "Fiscal Year 2024 Member Request Guidance," accessed March 26, 2024

Senate Committee on Appropriations, "FY 2024 Appropriations Requests and Congressionally Directed Spending," accessed March 26, 2024

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, "Despite Republican Attacks, Pressley, Warren, Markey Deliver Funding for The Pryde LGBTQ+ Senior Housing in Boston," March 25, 2024

Senate Committee on Appropriations, "Senate Approves Final FY24 Funding Package in Overwhelming 74-24 Vote," March 23, 2024
TikTok post, "What's Inside Congress' Monster Bill?," March 23, 2024

Garden State Equality, "ACEs: A Self-Healing Community Model, Using a Positive Deviance Approach," accessed March 28, 2024

Cleveland Clinic, "Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) & Childhood Trauma," April 4, 2023

JAMA Psychiatry, "Adverse Childhood Experiences and Mental Distress Among US Adults by Sexual Orientation," Feb 23, 2022

PLoS One, "Disparities in Adverse Childhood Experiences among Sexual Minority and Heterosexual Adults: Results from a Multi-State Probability-Based Sample," 2013

Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, "Sexual Orientation, Adverse Childhood Experiences, and Comorbid DSM-5 Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders," 2020

Garden State Equality, "Changemakers: A Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Youth Leadership Initiative," accessed March 27, 2024

Garden State Equality, "LGBTQ-Inclusive Lessons & Resources," accessed March 27, 2024

CNN, "New Jersey becomes second state to require schools to teach LGBT and disability-inclusive material," Feb. 1, 2019

New Jersey Legislature, "P.L. 2019, c.006 (S1569 2R)," accessed March 28, 2024 

New Jersey Legislature, "Bill S1569 SaAca (2R)," accessed March 28, 2024

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Grace Abels

Do Jesse Watters’ claims about the federal budget, LGBTQ+ and DEI funding add up?