Fox News’ Tucker Carlson -- a serial misinformer and anti-trans bigot -- dedicated part of his May 7 show interviewing Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, during which they both lied about a Texas bill to ban best practice medical care for transgender youth and classify it as “child abuse.”
In reality, such necessary care for trans youth is accepted as a safe, effective, and lifesaving treatment that is widely supported by medical professionals and yields long-term mental health benefits. As The Washington Post’s Samantha Schmidt explained:
Medical guidelines do not recommend performing gender-affirming genital surgeries on transgender people before they turn 18. They also do not recommend any medical interventions before a child reaches puberty. But once transgender children reach the early stages of puberty, medical guidelines say they can consider puberty blockers, which are reversible treatments that pause puberty and give children time to decide what to do next. Later in their teenage years, transgender adolescents can consider hormone replacement therapies, such as estrogen for trans girls and testosterone for trans boys, which create more permanent changes to their bodies.
Despite the well-documented importance of such necessary care, Miller called it “gender modification,” and Carlson and his guest repeatedly referred to it as mutilation. Carlson also falsely referred to such treatments as “castration, chemical and otherwise,” a popular myth pushed by right-wing and anti-LGBTQ media. Moreover, Miller lied that “some of these children have this done to them as young as two years old,” which Carlson did not correct, instead saying it was “beyond belief.” (Notably, Carlson admitted earlier this year that “most people, including me, have very little idea of what it means, medically” to transition.)
The two also lamented reports that some Texas Republicans are slowing down the bill and chastised the state’s Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for not using his power to move the legislation. Miller rhetorically asked, “Who has a problem with this?” and called those opposing the bill “nuts.” He then suggested that Abbott use “some of his political powers” to get the bill moving. Further along in the segment, Carlson said, “I mean, if a Republican governor can’t even weigh in on this, to what extent is he representing his voters, honestly?"
Berating fellow conservatives when they fail to fall-in-line with the most extreme of anti-trans positions is a pattern for Carlson and the greater right-wing media, indicating that they will not accept anything less than the most extreme of anti-trans positions and policies. Earlier this year, for example, Carlson used his show to chastise the Republican governors of Arkansas and South Dakota for not supporting some of the most extreme anti-trans policies -- even though they took action on others.
Carlson frequently misinforms about trans kids
Carlson’s May 7 episode is just the latest example of the Fox host’s war against trans kids. So far this year, Carlson has hosted extreme anti-trans writer Abigail Shrier to misinform about best practice medical care, called trans people “a challenge to the perpetuation of the species,” and agreed with a guest who falsely suggested that providing health care for trans youth allows people to “basically molest and abuse children.”
Additionally, a recent Media Matters study found that Carlson has led Fox News’ coverage about trans athletes -- airing 27 discussions about them from January 1, 2019, to March 31, 2021 -- that often fearmongered and sensationalized their participation in sports.
Carlson’s misinformation is part of a greater right-wing campaign that fuels extreme measures like those in Texas and Arkansas
Carlson’s anti-trans lies do not exist in a vacuum; right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ figures obsessively fearmonger and spread disinformation about best practice medical care for trans youth, and they have recently amplified this harmful rhetoric to attack the Equality Act.
Moreover, right-wing content about trans kids’ health care often earns high engagement on social media and skews the public's understanding of the issue. A July 2020 Media Matters study of Facebook content about trans topics earning at least 100,000 interactions during a one-year time period found that content about trans issues from right-leaning sources “earned nearly two times the engagement of all other sources combined.” Overall, 12% of such content was from right-leaning sources writing about medical care for trans people, receiving a total of 8.3 million Facebook interactions.
Furthermore, Texas is just one of many states around the country advancing measures to ban and criminalize best practice care for transgender youth. On April 6, Arkansas became the first state in the country to ban such care in a move advocates have called “the single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a state legislature.” In at least two states, Kansas and Missouri, doctors could face criminal penalties for providing lifesaving care for children (Missouri’s legislation further “includes parents who help or support their children in undergoing these medical treatments, requiring that they be reported to the state children's division”). And in at least one state, North Carolina, care would be banned for trans people up to age 21.
Right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ groups have fueled similar legislative efforts in the past with their misinformation. As states consider the fate of trans youth whose physical and mental well-being are on the line, the public must not fall for lies and misinformation about best practice medical care from anti-trans bigots like Tucker Carlson and others in right-wing media.