During the May 25 edition of The Lead with Jake Tapper, CNN contributor and conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg and former Obama adviser Nayyera Haq discussed the conservative backlash against Target over the store’s Pride collection celebrating the LGBTQ community. Amid rising pressure from the right and threats made against Target employees, the company announced it will remove some of its Pride merchandise and, in some areas of the U.S., move the Pride display to the back of the store.
While speaking about the Pride collection, Goldberg attempted to undermine the notion that conservatives’ targeting of LGBTQ-friendly corporations is part of the larger right-wing trend of increased hostility and violence aimed at LGBTQ Americans, particularly trans people. He asserted that people are conflating what he referred to as “criticism about trans issues” with “homophobia and criticism of gays and lesbians and they use the whole alphabet of the acronym,” saying, “The issue here for a lot of people is the T.” Though “trans issues” were never fully defined by Goldberg, his language fully dismisses the fact that much of the right-wing vitriol against trans people is directly attacking the community’s critical lifelines such as gender-affirming care and simple trans visibility.
Though Goldberg acknowledged that much of the conservative antagonism toward Target is based on misinformation, he suggested that “the issue of transgender stuff does rile people up, particularly when it has to do with kids.” The CNN contributor also tried to defend individuals upset with “specific issues having to do with transgenderism,” which he tried to paint as completely separate from “issues having to do with gay marriage and all these other issues that gay Americans have won those battles.”
Anchor Jake Tapper affirmed that Goldberg’s anti-LGBTQ comments were “a good point” but demurred, “If this is a conversation we should have, we should probably have a trans person on to have this conversation.”
Trans-exclusionary groups such as the LGB Alliance and Gays Against Groomers have similarly attempted to drive a wedge between trans people and other LGB-identifying individuals, despite their fates being intrinsically linked. Further, trans equality is also core to gender equality; as the ACLU noted, “Limiting freedom for trans people worsens conditions for all women by re-entrenching the very gender stereotypes that have underpinned centuries of women’s oppression.”
Though the right to same-sex marriage has been protected by the Supreme Court since 2015, the same network of conservative activists who actively tried to suppress gay marriage have pivoted to targeting trans rights. And with Roe v. Wade recently overturned, some on the Supreme Court are now eyeing reversing other federal protections based on the right to privacy, including same-sex marriage.
Since CNN’s takeover by CEO Chris Licht last year, the cable news network has increasingly attempted to pander to right-wing audiences with special coverage given to right-wing politicians, often legitimizing culture war issues manufactured by conservative media in doing so. With its 2022 hiring of Goldberg, a former editor for the conservative outlet National Review, it’s clear CNN has no intention to stop its lurch to the right, no matter the collateral damage done to vulnerable populations.