Fox News billed guest Cynthia Millen -- a right-wing writer with a history of hardline beliefs -- as simply a “former USA swimming official” in multiple segments in which she attacked trans athletes, including in an appearance where she decried best practice health care and promoted conversion therapy.
Millen is a writer for the website Catholic Stand, where she has documented extreme views on reproductive health care, same-sex couples, and critical race theory. She gained more prominence in right-wing media after releasing a letter to The Washington Times notifying USA Swimming that she was abruptly resigning from her duties because she could “no longer participate in a sport which allows biological men to compete against women. Everything fair about swimming is being destroyed.” Since then, she’s been billed simply as a “former USA Swimming official” in multiple media reports, including her January 11 appearance on Fox News.
On the network’s morning show Fox & Friends, Millen attacked trans athlete Lia Thomas -- a trans woman and a college student who swims for the University of Pennsylvania and who has been the target of frequent attacks by the right-wing media. She also promoted harmful, anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy and mischaracterized life-saving, transition-related health care, saying, “Statistics have shown that if a teenager with gender dysphoria is allowed to work through it with proper therapy, they end up not wanting to transition when they're adults. But the more serious thing is this: Transitioning involves mutilation of the body.”
Other right-wing shows also introduced Millen as simply a former USA Swimming official. She appeared on Fox’s The Ingraham Angle and Tucker Carlson Tonight, multiple Newsmax shows, and Megyn Kelly’s Sirius XM show, and she frequently misgendered Thomas and referred to her as male. Some right-wing outlets also misleadingly described her as a mere former official, including The Washington Times, the Washington Examiner, the New York Post, The Hill, the Daily Mail, and Swimming World.
As a writer, Millen has attacked LGBTQ people and modern reproductive health care
At Catholic Stand, Millen has documented her extreme views on reproductive health care, same-sex couples, and critical race theory. Catholic Stand is owned by Tito Edwards of Little Vatican Media, who runs a list of other far-right websites including The American Catholic, which has accused gay people of “recruitment” of children with the goal of “legalizing pederasty” and has spread dangerous COVID-19 misinformation from Project Veritas.
In one article for Catholic Stand, Millen stated that the the transgender movement is “reverting to old stereotypes of what a girl should and should not be” and referred readers to a video whose title included the deadname of celebrity and former Republican gubernatorial candidate for California Caitlyn Jenner. (Deadnaming is a form of harassment that targets trans people by referring to them by their former name against their wishes.)
Millen has also attacked same-sex couples, writing that same-sex adoptions are “not good for children; it’s not fair to children” and arguing that LGBTQ affirmation “only serves to promote the notion that people with same-sex attraction are different from the rest of us, or that ‘unrepressed’ sexual activity is healthy for them. It is not. The Church should re-emphasize the teaching and benefits of chastity for all.”
Outside of her extreme anti-LGBTQ views, Millen has also claimed “predators love Planned Parenthood because they successfully distract our attention” and that access to birth control is harmful for women, writing:
Society has convinced us that we should take these chemical cocktails in order to be our true selves, to be the free woman, the total woman that we were meant to be. But look at us! 1 in 8 of us will get breast cancer. The number of us who will get STD’s is rapidly growing. Our divorce rate has increased. And the permanent damage done to our fertility, our bodies, and our psyche has sky-rocketed. We have basically been sold the lie that by denying our womanhood, we will become more like the woman we ought to be, and we are paying with our lives.
Millen has joined the right-wing movement decrying what it calls “critical race theory,” claiming, “The encouragement of victimhood and the resulting lack of agency over one’s future is the primary component of critical race theory.” In reality, critical race theory is an academic framework examining the systemic impact of racism in the United States.
This is not the first time that Fox News and the broader right-wing media ecosystem has attempted to pass off right-wing activists as worried citizens inspired by a particular issue. A Media Matters review found that many of the guests Fox News presented as concerned parents or educators opposed to the teaching of the so-called “critical race theory” actually held day jobs as right-wing media personalities, as strategists for the Republican Party, or in conservative think tanks.