Right-wing media -- including Fox News and pundits from the Daily Wire -- have obsessively covered a potentially fabricated story about a trans woman accessing the women’s area of a spa. They used this story to attack trans-inclusive policies and nondiscrimination protections based on an unsubstantiated video, while credible reporting has found no evidence that the incident actually occurred.
The story involved a June 24 video of a woman berating staff at a California spa for supposedly allowing an unidentified trans woman to access its facilities. However, the Los Angeles Blade reported that the event “may have been staged”:
There is increasing doubt among law enforcement and staff at the Wi Spa whether there was ever was a transgender person there to begin with. Anonymous sources within the LAPD tell the Blade they have been unable to find any corroborating evidence that there was a transgender person present on that day.
Similarly, a source at the Spa told the Blade there’s no record of any of its usual transgender clients on its appointments guest list on the day in question. Treatment at the Spa is by appointment only, and most of its transgender clients are well known to the staff.
Additionally, the Los Angeles Blade noted that the Instagram user who uploaded the video also posts “almost exclusively Christian memes, which begs the question why she chose to go to a high-end spa well known for being LGBTQ friendly.”
After the story gained widespread attention online, anti-trans advocates staged a protest outside of the spa. According to NBC News, the crowd “included apparent QAnon supporters with T-shirts that mention the term ‘Pedowood,’ a baseless theory about a secret cabal of Satanist child abusers in government, entertainment and the media.” Some fought with counter-protesters, and the event was declared an unlawful assembly by police.
For years, anti-LGBTQ media and groups have leveraged disinformation to smear the community and to oppose equal rights, including access to lifesaving medical care, use of public accommodations, and equal opportunity to play sports. Now, conservative outlets are using the California spa story to once again target trans people and attack nondiscrimination protections.
Right-wing media spread the evidence-free story to attack trans women
From June 28 through July 6, Fox News -- which regularly attacks and misinforms about the trans community -- discussed the story at least six times, despite there being no evidence that it actually occurred. Fox hosts and guests often misgendered trans women and leveraged the story to attack their access to public spaces.
On the June 29 episode of Fox News Primetime, host Jesse Watters and guest Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist falsely claimed that nondiscrimination measures for public accommodations lead to attacks on women. At one point during the segment, Watters admitted, “We don't know if this is some sort of stunt on behalf of the guy or the woman with the camera.” Nevertheless, Hemingway continued to claim that this could “have horrific consequences for the entire civilization” and be dangerous to peoples’ freedom.
On July 6, the same program aired a segment featuring host Mark Steyn and anti-trans writer Abigail Shrier, both of whom used the story to attack the Equality Act and falsely claim it would allow men to access women’s spaces. Shrier, citing only the video as evidence, claimed that the unidentified person in the bathroom “had a full beard” and that “this would have been indecent exposure in every state in America going back 150 years. That’s a sex crime.”
During a June 28 segment on Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson said the video of the spa client confronting staff “made my day,” and guest Tammy Bruce claimed that her “transgender friends … are also appalled.” She also lied that trans people do not worry about accessing bathrooms and claimed that the “gay political leadership” is leveraging trans people to fundraise and “keep people divided.” (Fox also published a write-up of the exchange on its website.)
Right-wing outlets and figures online also used the spa story to fuel their attacks on trans-inclusive policies and to fearmonger about trans women:
And this is the “progress” Joe Biden wants to bring to every locker room in America? A wide-open door for men and boys to traumatize our daughters? In the name of tolerance, he’s pushing schools to throw children’s privacy to the wind and cast their lot with radical transgender policies like this one. If that makes you or your child uncomfortable, this president’s response is “too bad.” Even now, Biden’s Office of Civil Rights is making it clear that in cases like the Wi Spa, where a naked man walks around in front of children in the women’s locker room, he’s the one who could file a complaint for harassment. And this administration would side with him every time.
- The Christian Post published a June 29 article that claimed, “The footage is a real-life example of the concerns women’s rights campaigners across the political spectrum and radical feminists have raised in recent years. They argue that it is impossible to simultaneously ensure legal protections on the basis of sex and gender identity.”
- OneNewsNow, which is part of the larger media apparatus of the extreme anti-LGBTQ group American Family Association, published a June 30 article that fearmongered about trans people in public spaces and cited the group’s misleading campaign to boycott Target over its trans-inclusive restroom and dressing room policies.
The angry female customer’s surprise and alarm is itself surprising since the controversy over transgenders is anything but new. To date the public has witnessed it in high school and college sports, in the U.S. armed forces, in corporate business, and in the courts.
This week, Nevada’s Miss USA-sanctioned beauty pageant witnessed 21 females lose to a biological man who is now headed to the Miss USA contest.
Mississippi-based American Family Association grasped the public-safety issue more than five years ago, when the LGBT-friendly Target Corporation saw an opportunity to brag that its store policy allows transgenders to use the restrooms and changing rooms of their choice.
- A second OneNewsNow article from July 7 about the spa protest cited FRC’s Gary Bauer, who called the left “crazy” and claimed progressives hate America.
According to Bauer, what brings all of the far-left groups together is a hatred for religious faith and for the traditional nuclear family.
“The Left is crazy and they show it every day,” he tells One News Now. “There's only one thing that unites them all: It's a hatred for America, a hatred for normalcy, and their desire to bring down this country because it's been built on Judeo-Christian values.”
- Other anti-trans outlets that spread the spa story include The Post Millennial, FaithWire, TheBlaze, RealClearPolitics, and The Daily Wire, which published two articles that earned more than 127,000 combined Facebook interactions. Additionally, The Daily Wire’s anti-trans pundit Matt Walsh spread the story on Twitter, earning more than 35,000 likes, retweets, and comments.