If history is any judge, Fox News host Tucker Carlson and his producers apparently follow that old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” when it comes to the topic of transgender Americans.
Let me first make a full disclosure: I am a transgender woman, and I worked in television news for 30 years, including at two of the networks where Carlson once earned a big fat paycheck. I’ve also appeared on another Fox News show to discuss the issue of trans athletes. But I don’t know the man.
Despite that, he seems to have a rather unhealthy interest in women like me, especially for a married guy.
Admittedly, this could also be said about Laura Ingraham, The Five, and any number of programs on Fox News Channel. But no show at Fox has been as consistent on the topic of trans Americans as Tucker Carlson Tonight, or as a trans friend of mine calls it, “Tucked Crotch Tonight.”
Parker Molloy, a transgender writer based in Chicago and editor at large for Media Matters, has been keeping a tally. Following the latest episode she tweeted a thread about this phenomenon she’s observed: at least 13 shows on trans issues since Tucker Carlson Tonight premiered in 2016 (she later corrected the total to 14 with help from an eagle-eyed follower).
Molloy went on to note, “The segments are virtually identical to each other. ‘Are women’s sports soon to be a think of the past? Hello, I am a genuinely concerned cable TV host who isn’t just doing this because it lets me get a jab in at trans people wink wink.’ Sometimes it’s not even a new story. He’s used the same news pegs for multiple stories.”
And she created this graphic to illustrate her point, calling it evidence of “a sick obsession of his”:
Carlson himself would not directly comment on Molloy’s accusation of having an “obsession.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Carlson wrote, “Probably because I have three daughters, it’s painful to watch biological men steal athletic opportunities from girls. And it’s completely bewildering to watch so-called progressives cheer it on. They should be ashamed.”
The topic of transgender athletes is indeed a controversial one. It’s true that even some LGBTQ advocates cannot agree on what the correct solution is, but the International Olympic Committee, NCAA, and many state policies favor inclusion of trans women athletes within certain guidelines on hormone suppression, and allow use of testosterone for trans men.
One look at any record book will reveal that transgender competitors simply don’t dominate any sport, or event, or win every race or contest.
And as for that watchword, “biological men,” sorry, Tucker. Everyone is biological, and we all have biology. Therefore, I am a biological woman. The word they don’t want to use, of course, is “cisgender,” which is derived from the Latin meaning “same.” Trans women are not cis women; on that we can agree.
As I wrote for Outsports (where I am managing editor), Carlson most recently reported the story of three cisgender high school students in Connecticut, who have filed a federal civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education against Connecticut’s statewide policy allowing transgender girls to compete with them.
“Stories about so-called dominant trans athletes are cherry-picked for use in moral panic narratives by far-right outlets,” Molloy wrote for Columbia Journalism Review in May 2019.
Although I’ve known Molloy for seven years, we’ve never met face to face. And while she declined an invitation to comment here, she did confirm for me that she is politically progressive, something that is also clear from her writing.
The site where she is editor at large, Media Matters, identifies itself as a “Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.” Since 2004, it’s earned a reputation as a far-left watchdog famous for its daily take-downs of America’s number one-rated cable news network. Today’s headline: “Trump and Fox News may start a war.”
Just who is Carlson trying to reach with his anti-transgender rhetoric? Liz Lenz did some digging for CJR in September 2018:
“Since Bill O’Reilly was fired from Fox News in October 2017, Carlson has cannibalized O’Reilly’s audience. According to Nielsen Media Research, the top-rated markets for the show are Ft. Myers, Florida; Knoxville, Tennessee; Jacksonville, Florida; West Palm Beach, Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Birmingham, Alabama; Orlando, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Greenville, South Carolina; and Buffalo, New York.
“Only half of these cities went for Trump in the 2016 election, but they are (with the exception of Birmingham and Atlanta) overwhelmingly white and middle class, with an average age of 36. A large part of the jobs held by men in each city are in retail or construction.”
What’s interesting about Carlson’s frequency in focusing on transgender issues is how infrequently he’s invited someone trans to be a guest, and given them a fair shake.
Trans attorney Jillian Weiss accepted an invitation to be on the show in February 2017, and the HuffPost wrote that Carlson immediately insulted her. In April 2017, his first guest for his first show in his current time slot—vacated by #MeToo culprit Bill O’Reilly, who got the boot—was Caitlyn Jenner. Variety wrote, “Carlson had Jenner on to make a fool of her.” And in August 2018, Salon wrote that Carlson and his conservative guest “spewed hatred” at trans politician Christine Hallquist.
About the only time a trans guest didn’t get mocked or belittled by Carlson was July 2018, when trans athlete Joanna Harper shocked him into silence. Twice.
The world-renowned expert on transgender athletes agreed with Carlson on the subject of trans girls competing in track events. “If I were making the rules, I would allow them to participate in the state meet but not win medals.” Carlson was silent for 1.6 seconds, then fell mute again for 1.7 seconds later in the interview.
If Carlson is up for it, I’d like a shot at beating Harper's record.