Bias Watch

Rightwinger calls for “eliminating transgenderism” but says he didn’t mean killing people. No one is buying it

Michael Knowles speaks at CPAC
Michael Knowles speaks at CPAC

Far-right Daily Wire host Michael Knowles called for eradicating “Transgenderism” during this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) but insisted he did not call for killing transgender people.

In his speech, Knowles’s claimed that “For the good of society, and especially for the good of the poor people who have fallen prey to this confusion, transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely — the whole preposterous ideology, at every level.”

As Queer Insider explained on Twitter, “‘Transgenderism’ is widely recognized as an offensive term used by anti-LGBT activists, to try and dehumanize trans people and reduce their humanity to a ‘condition’.

In response to Knowles’s speech, multiple publications published stories saying he called for eliminating trans people. Many influential figures accused him of advocating genocide.

Knowles then claimed that wasn’t what he meant and called for retractions. On Twitter, he called out Rolling Stone’s headline, which originally stated, “CPAC Speaker Calls for Transgender People to be ‘Eradicated'”

“This headline is libelous, and I demand a retraction,” he wrote, tagging the publication.

An article in the Daily Wire called out other publications, like Huffington Post and Yahoo, for the same thing, explaining that Knowles was calling for the eradication of an ideology rather than people.

And more than one publication gave in to Knowles’s demands.

“Just like @RollingStone, the @thedailybeast bowed to right wing pressure to change their headline,” wrote Ari Drennen, the LGBTQ program director for Media Matters. “This is more than mere cowardice. This is joining in the campaign to reduce the very existence of trans people to a matter of ideological disagreement.”

“Make no mistake,” Drennen continued, “when they say ‘transgenderism’ they mean ‘transgender people.’ They want to force us back into closets, out of the country, or into early graves. We will not let them. If you will not stand for transgender people against these maniacs, you will not stand for anyone or anything.”

Rolling Stone’s update did manage to call out Knowles for his tantrum, updating its headline to “CPAC Speaker Calls for Eradication of ‘Transgenderism’ — and Somehow Claims He’s Not Calling for Elimination of Transgender People” while also adding interviews to the story commenting on Knowles’s call for a retraction.

Trans activist Erin Reed told the publication that “transgenderism” and transgender people are “one and the same, and there’s no separation between them.”

“If you try to separate us from all the things that allow people to experience the world… that does amount to banning transgender people’s existence. You can’t go your whole life without using the bathroom, without telling a joke on stage in front of friends, without your medicine. All of that amounts to a ban on transgender people.”

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if by using the inflammatory term ‘eradicate’ Mr. Knowles specifically meant trans people should be killed,” added senior Lambda Legal attorney Carl Charles, “What does matter is the reality of what he is saying and the impact it is having and will have at this particular moment in history.”

“He is advocating that trans people should not be free to live their lives with dignity and autonomy like Mr. Knowles presumably does —  instead, they should be relegated to non-existence: carrying on in secret and shame and living a lie for the rest of their days, which, he must realize, will mean some trans people opt not to do.”

According to Rolling Stone, Knowles has previously spoken about the need to eliminate “transgenderism” and has claimed he is not calling for genocide.

On a recent episode of his show before the conference, he said he wasn’t calling for genocide because “genocide refers to genes” and “transgender people is not a real ontological category.”

“There are people who think that they are the wrong sex, but they are mistaken,” he said. “They’re laboring under a delusion. And so we need to correct that delusion.” 

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