CNN Guest Jokes That Chelsea Manning Will Get “Good Practice” Being A Woman In Prison
CNN host Fredricka Whitfield continued to incorrectly refer to Chelsea Manning as a male as one of her guests suggested that providing Manning with hormone therapy while in prison would be “beyond insanity.”
During the August 24 edition of CNN Newsroom, Whitfield invited civil rights attorney Avery Friedman and criminal defense attorney Richard Herman to discuss the possibility of providing Manning - previously known as Bradley Manning - with medical treatment for her gender dysphoria while she serves her sentence in an all-male military prison for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Herman, who is a regular CNN legal commentator, railed against the possibility of providing Manning with adequate medical care, calling the idea “beyond insanity” and suggesting that Manning could get "good practice" presenting as a female in prison:
HERMAN: It's absurd. Sometimes we have to step back and say, “you know, some of these cases we cover, this is beyond insanity.” There's no way that taxpayers are going to pay a hundred thousand dollars for a gender transformation for this guy while he's in prison. If he wants to be Chelsea, he can practice all he wants at Fort Leavenworth, because those guys are there for a long time. So he can get good practice and when he gets out, he can have the operation or whatever, and he can pay for it.
CNN's Whitfield continued Herman's line of questioning, repeatedly referring to Manning as a male and wondering why Manning had waited until after sentencing to announce her gender dysphoria:
WHITFIELD: And if this argument is entertained, the issue has to be “why now?” Why wouldn't this have been addressed long before trial, long before sentencing?
Denying Manning access to medical care, including hormone therapy, raises "serious constitutional concerns," according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently found that refusing hormone therapy to transgender inmates in civilian prisons “serves no valid penological purpose and amounts to torture" as it aggravates a number of mental health problems and elevates the risk of dangerous autocastration attempts.
In addition, Whitfield's suggestion that Manning failed to address her gender dysphoria before her trial is false. As Friedman points out, Manning's gender identity issues were a major part of her lawyer's defense, having been public knowledge since as early as 2009. As Manning's lawyer David Coombs explained during the August 22 edition of the Today show, Manning chose to hold off her announcement until after the trial because" she didn't want this to be something that overshadowed the case." Now that Manning faces years in prison without the ability to make her own medical decisions, it makes sense that she would raise questions about the government's accommodation of transgender inmates.
Near the end of the segment, Friedman joked about Manning's appearance, saying “you know, when he puts that wig and lipstick on, the guy's a dead ringer for Tonya Harding.”
Whitfield isn't the first CNN employee to incorrectly refer to Manning as a male despite Manning's explicit request to be identified as a female.