In the December 6 Republican presidential primary debate, podcast host Megyn Kelly used her role as moderator to challenge former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over his opposition to a federal ban on transition for minors — part of a pattern by the former Fox News host of attempting to further radicalize the GOP field on the already contentious issue.
In a lengthy exchange, Kelly first asked Christie, “Aren't you way too out of step on this issue to be the Republican nominee?” The candidate replied that his opposition to medical bans stemmed from a belief in parents’ rights.
Kelly followed up with an accusation that Christie signed legislation in 2017 requiring schools “to accept a child's preferred gender identity even if the minor's parents objected” and stating “that there is no duty for schools to notify parents if their son or daughter changes their gender identity."
Christie’s answer was poorly received by right-wing media figures; Daily Wire personality Matt Walsh called him a “stupid coward” and a “disgusting degenerate.” “Disqualifying,” added Libs of TikTok founder Chaya Raichik.
Christie did sign two pro-trans laws in 2017, including a law to protect transgender students, as Kelly accused him of doing. “As he did with the conversion therapy ban, Governor Christie took a stand for LGBT youth in New Jersey by signing this important legislation,” Garden State Equality wrote in a statement at the time. But as Christie said in the debate, the guidance mandated by the education law was not issued to schools until 2018, after Christie had left office.
Kelly’s prompting was not necessary to get the candidates to wade into vile anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis started with a speech about his record on trans issues, and he went out of the way later to accuse Al Qaeda terrorists of wearing “man dresses,” showing his dedication to ensuring everyone around him is dressed the way he would like them to be at all times. Vivek Ramaswamy bizarrely accused former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley of making a launch video that “sounded like a woke Dylan Mulvaney Bud Light ad.”
Nor was the debate light on big candidate promises to constrain the rights of trans people. Haley called trans women in women’s sports “the women’s issue of our time,” suggesting that she would take on legislation to ban trans sports inclusion, while Ramaswamy promised to hold federal highway funds hostage if states do not ban medical transition for minors.
This is not the first time that Kelly has challenged GOP candidates to take more strident positions against equality for trans people. In a September interview, the podcast host, famous for declaring that Santa “just is” white, attempted to push former President Donald Trump on the question of whether a man “can become a woman.”
Kelly has a long history of anti-trans extremism, saying that accepting trans children causes “confusion” for other children, calling gender-affirming care “a weird form of conversion therapy,” and laughing at the appearance of a transgender inmate.