Election 2022

Anti-trans swimmer Riley Gaines has appeared in third campaign ad this year for Gov. Kristi Noem

Riley Gaines
Riley GainesPhoto: Screenshot

University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines has been making the rounds this election season, appearing in at least three high-ranking Republicans’ campaign ads to call transgender women “men.”

Gaines’ latest appearance is in an ad for South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who is up for reelection in November.

Gaines talks about how important winning at school sports is for her, but “for girls across America that dream is being stolen, by men competing in women’s sports, and the extreme left supports it.”

She then lied and said that state House Minority Leader and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jamie Smith “voted in favor of it” as the words “voted in favor of men in girls sports” flash on the screen.

Gaines is referring to S.B. 46, which says nothing about men competing in women’s sports. The bill – which was signed into law this past February – banned transgender girls from participating in school sports. All state house Democrats and 10 state house Republicans voted against it.

“I trust Governor Noem to fight for girls across South Dakota,” Gaines said, referring to nothing other than banning transgender girls from school sports.

So who is Riley Gaines? She swam for the University of Kentucky and tied for fifth place with Lia Thomas – who is transgender and met NCAA guidelines to compete as a woman – in the 200-yard freestyle.

According to her profile on the conservative Independent Women’s Forum website, Gaines “describes that day [the day she tied with Thomas for fifth] as heartbreaking and somber.” Not because she lost to four cisgender women, but because she had to share fifth place with a transgender woman.

“I touched the wall and saw that there was a five by my name, indicating that I got fifth, but the first thing I really looked at was who won because I was so curious who would win the race,” Gaines told Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) earlier this year. “Because, the night before, Lia won the 500-meter. So, more interested than my own self, I was interested in who won. I looked up and I also saw a number five by Lia’s name so in that moment I realized we tied.”

“It was a flood of emotions, really. I was extremely happy for the girls above me who conquered what was seemingly impossible by beating Lia, and it was kind of an array of emotions. I was shocked, really.”

Gaines apparently turned to conservative activism after she was devastated by tying for fifth instead of getting fifth place on her own. She appeared in an ad for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) earlier this month.

“Sadly, few stood up for me,” Gaines said. “But Rand Paul is not afraid to fight for fairness for women and girls.”

She was only referring to Paul and his opposition to transgender equality, not any other measures he supported that may have helped women and girls.

Last month, Gaines appeared in an ad opposing Iowa Gov. Laura Kelly (D). In the ad, she called transgender women “biological men” and said it was “wrong” for educational institutions to accept trans girls and women as girls and women.

“This has to stop,” she concluded. “If Laura Kelly can’t protect women, she shouldn’t be governor.”

Noem, for her part, has made her ban on transgender girls competing in school sports a centerpiece of her campaign. She released a national ad this past February touting her ban and saying it’s “protecting female sports.”

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