During an August 28 interview on Salem Media, right-wing radio host Jenna Ellis smeared gender-affirming care as “child abuse” and “genital mutilation” as Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey compared health care for trans youth to lobotomies and equated the court's expansion of LGBTQ rights to a “godless reformation.”
Ellis is a radio host for the Christian outlet Salem Media who was recently indicted in Fulton County, Georgia, for her efforts to overturn the 2020 election result in the state. Media Matters and others have repeatedly documented Ellis’ bigoted anti-LGBTQ remarks in media, including earlier this year when she agreed with a guest that laws punishing homosexuality with death cannot be “wrong” because they’re based on laws God created.
Earlier this year, right-wing media and Republicans latched onto a shady whistleblower complaint about a clinic in St. Louis to demonize evidence-based health care for trans youth. The whistleblower complaint spurred Bailey to launch an investigation into the clinic and subsequently enact an “emergency rule” that limited gender-affirming care in the state. The GOP-led Missouri legislature and Republican governor have since restricted gender-affirming care for trans youth, incarcerated trans adults, and Medicaid patients.
Bailey joined the August 28 edition of Ellis’ program to tout Missouri’s efforts to restrict health care for trans youth. Ellis used the show to push the right-wing smear that gender-affirming care is “child abuse” and compared it to “female genital mutilation.”
Ellis also claimed that there are judges with a “cultural Marxist perspective” who are expanding LGBTQ rights. In response, Bailey declared: “Welcome to the godless reformation, where you can be burned at the stake for trying to protect children from sterilization.”
During the interview, Bailey also suggested that “history's not going to look kindly on” gender-affirming care and compared such treatments to lobotomies in the 1940s and 50s for mental health conditions, saying, “We look back now in horror at that practice as morally abhorrent and not based on any objective reality. And certainly I think this will be looked on the same way.” (Lobotomies were often performed without the consent of the patient. Gender-affirming care is provided under an informed consent model, with permission of parents required for minors.)
Ellis and Bailey continued to attack the trans community and allies throughout the interview.
Ellis said that we should “have the moral conversation” about whether trans adults “should be permissible in the United States” because “the truth is, a man can’t be a woman,” while Bailey baselessly accused the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, which have sued Missouri for its ban on health care for trans youth, of “want[ing] the state court to find a constitutional right to sterilize children.” He also said: “How dare anyone tell these children that God put them in the wrong body? We know he doesn't make mistakes.”
At multiple points in the interview, Bailey and Ellis asserted that other attorneys general should follow Missouri as a model to restrict rights of transgender people. Ellis praised Bailey, saying he has “done so much great work in the state of Missouri” and arguing that “all 50 states should take your lead” in restricting health care for trans youth.
Bailey also claimed that “the legal landscape is changing” and “this is just the first brick in a wall to protect kids,” noting that Missouri had a “winning strategy” and “could provide a great blueprint for other states to follow.” Ellis agreed, adding, “And hopefully Congress as well.”
The Kansas City Star called Bailey’s appearance on Ellis’ show “remarkable,” noting that “Missouri’s chief legal officer, a role that at times involves prosecuting criminal cases, is appearing with an individual accused of committing a felony to advance a conspiracy to overturn a presidential election in another state.” (Since her indictment, Ellis has been touring right-wing media to fundraise for her legal fees, while also frequently comparing herself to a “political prisoner.”)
Bailey’s appearance on Ellis’ Salem program was part of a right-wing media tour to tout the state’s efforts to restrict gender-affirming care. He also recently appeared on Fox News and extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council’s podcast Washington Watch, as well as Ellis’ American Family Radio program. Bailey has also used far-right media to promote his office’s other lawsuits, including appearing on a major QAnon influencer’s show to promote a case that has at least temporarily limited the government's ability to discuss misinformation with tech platforms.