Right-wing media figures have spent more than a week encouraging their audiences to harass healthcare workers at Boston Children’s Hospital for providing care to trans youth, leading to fears that the disinformation campaign could result in acts of violence. After reports surfaced of death threats against hospital employees, some on the right have broadened their focus to other children’s hospitals.
On Thursday evening, Fox News’ top star Tucker Carlson devoted two segments to the topic, interviewing far-right Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and anti-LGBTQ activist Chris Elston, who goes by the moniker Billboard Chris. Carlson repeatedly, falsely described providing gender-affirming care as “mutilation of children,” before asking Elston to elaborate.
“We have the biggest child abuse scandal in modern medicine history,” Elston said.
“I don’t think there’s any debate over whether we should be allowed – which doctors should be allowed to mutilate children,” Carlson responded.
Elston and Carlson are both completely wrong here. Numerous studies show that having access to gender-affirming care is associated with improved mental health outcomes, while being denied access is associated with increased rates of suicidality and depression. And while much of that care is non-surgical, experts have found that those who do have surgical procedures experience very low rates of regret.
Carlson added that “we can debate, you know, the trans question,” channeling the antisemitic phrase “the Jewish question,” that has long been used by Nazis and others on the extreme right.
Carlson also downplayed the concept of “stochastic terrorism,” a term that describes a process through which ubiquitous violent rhetoric creates conditions that can lead to acts of violence by individuals. The idea describes an environment in which each individual act of violence is impossible to predict, but the likelihood of some sort of violence becomes far greater.
In his introduction, Carlson praised Libs of TikTok, an extremist, anti-LGBTQ social media influencer account run by Chaya Raichik, which has driven much of the anti-LGBTQ harassment across Twitter and Facebook. On August 11, Raichik shared a video falsely claiming that Boston Children’s Hospital was performing hysterectomies and genital surgeries on minors. Facebook reportedly suspended Libs of TikTok on August 17, but the page has since resumed posting content targeting children’s hospitals. Twitter has yet to take any action against it.
Earlier this year, Libs of TikTok repeatedly suggested that drag events were inappropriately exposing children to sexual content. In several instances, those posts were followed by members of the far-right Proud Boys gang showing up to disrupt the event.
Since Raichik’s post about Boston Children’s Hospital, numerous figures and outlets on the right have joined in the effort.
The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh, one of the most virulently anti-LGBTQ pundits on the right, announced that he was organizing an intimidation campaign against hospitals that provide gender-affirming care for trans youth.
Walsh addressed the issue on his show days later, accusing Boston Children’s of lying about the threats they’d received and dismissing his connection to stochastic terrorism.
“When they claim that threats are coming in – that they’re being threatened – you can never take that claim at face value,” Walsh said. “Of course, they’re not above simply lying, and what’s more, we know what they consider a threat to be.”
“What was the word of the day that we learned yesterday? It was, uh, sto – sto – stochastic terrorism, is what it is,” Walsh continued. “So we already know that any criticism is an act of terrorism.”
Ben Shapiro took the same approach as Carlson and Walsh. Referring to the media writ large, Shapiro said that “if you note that gender-affirming care is an awful euphemism for torturing children – if you note this – then this means that you’re engaged in what they call ‘stochastic terrorism.’”
“No one should wonder about what Boston Children’s Hospital is doing, mutilating children,” Shapiro said. “No one should ask questions about that. This makes you akin to a terrorist, effectively speaking.”
Several other right-wing figures referred to the providers as demons or Nazis.
- Conservative talk radio host Jesse Kelly said a provider at Boston Children’s Hospital was “a demon, a child-abusing demon who thinks because a little boy picks up a Barbie doll, he's now somebody who should be groomed into eventually cutting his penis off.”
- Failing Fox News rival One America News repeatedly pushed disinformation about the issue, including one segment where a guest compared providing gender-affirming care to Nazi gas chambers.
- BlazeTV host Steve Deace also invoked the Nazis in describing the hospital’s practice. “That’s Fourth Reich stuff,” Deace said on his podcast. He also said what providers were doing was “like demonic possession” and that providing care to children was the moral equivalent of chattel slavery and segregation, and argued that providers should be “criminally prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
- Seth Dillon, the CEO of conservative humor website the Babylon Bee, tweeted the care Boston Children’s Hospital provided was “as evil as it is insane.”
Conservative digital media outlets and pundits have taken up the campaign as well. Far-right website The Federalist accused the hospital of “promoting the mutilation of healthy kids.” Nationalist conservative and Viktor Orban-apologist Rod Dreher wrote a typically unhinged post arguing now was the time for “moral panic.”
The list goes on.
The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles, tweeted about a gender-affirming provider at a different hospital in an apparent attempt to include them in the broader harassment campaign.
“I would probably call it the Gender Mutilation Service at Boston Children’s Hospital,” said Christian fundamentalist influencer Allie Beth Stuckey.
Conservative talk show host Dennis Prager said the hospital’s work showed that “Boston is a sick city. Really, really sick.”
The risks to the LGBTQ community and those who stand in solidarity with them, including healthcare providers, is difficult to overstate. Anti-trans activists have harassed trans people, drag queens, and others in LGBTQ communities for months. Fascist street gangs have taken up the call. Prominent trans YouTuber Clara Sorrenti, who is known online as keffals, was repeatedly “swatted” by anti-trans activists and is currently in hiding. According to a study by the Williams institute at UCLA, trans people in particular are over four times more likely to be victims of violent crime than people who are not trans.
These are the predictable and intended results of the targeted campaign against Boston Children’s Hospital and other trans-inclusive providers. Conservative pundits are making acts of violence like this more likely, a fact they know all too well, which is why they’re so desperate to deny it.