While past presidential campaigns have traditionally included corn dogs and straw polls at the Iowa State Fair and politics and eggs in New Hampshire, the 2024 trail has added a new mandatory pilgrimage for GOP candidates eager for a shot at the nomination: an appearance on Fox News to bash trans people.
If the first 2024 presidential primary debate and the Republican National Committee’s streaming partner are any indications, the second debate will provide yet another opportunity for hopeful candidates to affirm right-wing media’s obsession with all things trans and gender — an obsession that their own polls show is not shared by voters.
In a somewhat surprising twist for the candidate seen as occupying the more traditional policy lane in the primary, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has enthusiastically embraced the right-wing media’s fixation on trans people. Since June, Haley has blamed trans people for the suicides of cisgender teenagers, said that preventing trans women from competing alongside cisgender athletes is “the women’s issue of our time,” and traveled to New Hampshire to appear at a town hall with anti-LGBTQ group Moms for Liberty, a group heavily promoted by Fox News and others in the right-wing media, before endorsing its work in an appearance on Fox & Friends.
Gov. Ronald DeSantis has gleefully made his efforts to drive LGBTQ people either back into the closet or out of Florida — his spokeswoman once shared a report about queer Floridians fleeing the state with a hand wave emoji — a centerpiece of his once-promising campaign.
After his campaign promoted a bizarre homoerotic video attacking former President Donald Trump for being too accepting of transgender people, the Florida governor appeared in an interview with OutKick contributor Tomi Lahren and defended the attacks, saying: “Identifying Donald Trump as being a pioneer in injecting gender ideology into the mainstream, … I think that’s totally fair game.”
DeSantis has somewhat scaled back his rhetoric in recent months, instead parroting a line in multiple appearances in September on Fox News and Fox Business about how “it’s wrong to tell a second grader that they can change their gender.”
Befitting his status as a Daily Wire wannabe, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has made the claim that “there are two genders” a centerpiece of his national platform, repeating it in the first televised debate. Fox News has, predictably, eaten that up.
Ramaswamy’s campaign has trafficked in anti-trans conspiracy theories that are common within right-wing media, with the candidate saying in multiple interviews on Fox News that the Covenant school shooter’s alleged manifesto was withheld from publication because they were trans. (In reality, the parents of the victims have asked for the shooter’s writings to be withheld, saying, “There is no compelling state interest in giving voice to a horrendous criminal.”)
In June, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott attacked trans athletes on Fox News’ Hannity, declaring that “transgender ideology is ruining women’s sports.”
By contrast, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had a dramatically different take on trans issues when first asked about them on Fox News, hitting anti-trans campaigners for disregarding the rights of the parents of trans youth.
“I tell you: It’s more of a parent’s decision than it is a governor’s decision, for goodness’ sake,” Christie told Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade in June.
But in a follow-up interview three months later, the network’s talent had seemingly found a question that would enable Christie’s appearance to promote the anti-trans panic with fears that teachers are secretly transitioning their students.
And The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles was quick to blame former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s lack of enthusiasm for playing into the right-wing media’s obsession with trans people when he failed to qualify for the second debate.
“Asa Hutchinson said that he would trans the kids,” Knowles claimed. “That is the issue that was decisive in this case. That is the issue that destroyed Asa Hutchinson’s career."