Fox News has helped amplify transphobic right-wingers spreading misinformation about children’s hospitals that provide gender-affirming care to transgender kids, a new Media Matters study has found. These hospitals have received bombing and death threats over these lies.
Between August 18 and 31, Fox News host Tucker Carlson interviewed anti-trans extremists Chris Elston, Chaya Raichik, and Chris Rufo, giving the three a platform to misinform viewers about the hospitals.
The August 18 installment of Carlson’s show featured Elston, “a Canadian anti-trans extremist whose tweet kicked off the attacks on Boston Children’s Hospital,” Media Matters wrote. On the show, Elston called gender-affirming care “the biggest child abuse scandal in modern medicine history.” Carlson agreed, calling gender-affirming health care “sexual mutilation of children.”
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The interview came one day after reports that doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital had received right-wing death threats over gender-affirming care.
In actuality, doctors don’t perform genital surgeries on minors. Instead, medical professionals encourage minors to explore their gender expression and can prescribe them puberty blockers to hold off the permanent bodily changes that come with puberty. Even then, genital surgeries are often too expensive for many trans people, are undesired, and are not always a good fit due to personal medical reasons.
A week later, Carlson interviewed Raichik, who goes by “LibsofTikTok” on social media. On his show, Carlson said that Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. was “castrating young people, minors for no legitimate purpose whatsoever.” He also said that Raichik was “committing actual journalism” in her tweets targeting the D.C. and Boston children’s hospitals.
Raichik has repeatedly and falsely claimed that Children’s National Hospital was performing hysterectomies (the removal of the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and sometimes ovaries) on transgender children. She also claimed that the Boston Children’s Hospital was conducting gender-affirming surgery on children as young as two or three years old.
The fact-checking site PolitiFact later debunked the claims, but physicians at the hospitals received so many death threats, harassing calls, and emails that the hospital had to hire extra security and give doctors new guidance on responding to threats.
“The night Carlson’s interview with Raichik aired, Boston Children’s Hospital was targeted with a bomb threat,” Media Matters wrote.
The following night, Carlson interviewed Rufo, an anti-trans activist who misleadingly claimed that Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Illinois was promoting “‘trans-friendly’ sex toys for children.” Rufo’s claim was based on a resource document that was provided exclusively to teachers.
During the segment, Carlson claimed that “some of these hospitals are performing horrifying experiments on children… things you think would be crimes but that apparently aren’t and that are going on in children’s hospitals in the United States.”
Media Matters wrote, “Not only did Fox spend more time (over 20 minutes) attacking and spreading misinformation on children’s hospitals over gender-affirming care than the other two networks [CNN and MSNBC] spent covering the attacks (less than 19 minutes), but no show on either mainstream network has aired more than one segment on the attacks. Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson Tonight alone has aired 3 segments attacking the hospitals.”
Instead of platforming transphobic conspiracy theorists, CNN and MSNBC interviewed medical professionals about gender-affirming care during the same time period examined by Media Matters. One medical professional interviewed on MSNBC attested that the threats against their hospital have made it difficult to provide essential care to children.