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Right-wing media blame trans-inclusive policy for Virginia sexual assault

[…] In reality, the Loudoun County Schools policy was not in effect when the reported sexual assault occurred

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Graphic via Media Matters for America

By Brennan Suen | WASHINGTON – Right-wing media have seized on a report of a sexual assault at a high school in Loudoun County, Virginia, to attack trans-inclusive bathrooms, often suggesting that a policy in the school district opened the door to predators in girls’ bathrooms. In reality, the policy was not in effect when the reported sexual assault occurred, and it is always illegal to assault or harass someone.

On October 11, right-wing outlet The Daily Wire published a story about the reported assault and interviewed Scott Smith, the victim’s father, who was arrested at a June 22 school board meeting after an altercation. 

In the article, Smith seemed to acknowledge that the suspect might not have been affected by the district’s trans-inclusive policy, which allows students to use facilities that align with their gender identity. He said, “The person that attacked our daughter is apparently bisexual and occasionally wears dresses because he likes them. So this kid is technically not what the school board was fighting about.” However, he then seemed to blame the policy, saying, “The point is kids are using it as an advantage to get into the bathrooms.”

However, the policy was passed by the school board on August 11 — months after May 28, when the assault was reported to have taken place, making it impossible for the suspect to have used the protections “as an advantage to get into the bathrooms.” 

The myth that trans-inclusive bathrooms allow predators to attack women has been repeatedly debunked; additionally, assaults and harassment are already illegal regardless of whether bathrooms allow trans people. In fact, the suspect was later charged in a second assault in Loudoun County that was reported to have taken place in “an empty classroom.” The suspect has now been arrested and detained in juvenile detention.

The Washington Post has noted that authorities have not confirmed the gender identity of the suspect or that they were wearing a dress but identified as a boy. It also noted that “at the time of the alleged assault involving [Smith’s] daughter, that rule was not in effect”:

The parents she is representing have spoken out this week, often in interviews with conservative news outlets, to assert that the charged youth is “gender fluid” and that the assault took place in a girls bathroom. Those details have not been confirmed by authorities. The parents have also denounced a policy put in place by Loudoun’s school board in August that lets students use bathrooms matching their gender identities. At the time of the alleged assault involving their daughter, that rule was not in effect.

Nevertheless, right-wing media have quickly spread the story, frequently citing the alleged gender identity of the suspect and the school’s trans-inclusive policy — which they often falsely suggested was to blame for the reported assault. 

For instance, the Heritage Foundation’s outlet, The Daily Signal, published a report that quoted anti-trans advocate Lauren Adams, who said, “Assaults like these are the natural result of transgender bathroom policies, which allow boys to freely enter girls’ spaces and erode boundaries.” 

In an op-ed in The Washington Times, columnist Robert Knight suggested Virginia may once again give us an “American Revolution,” in part due to backlash over the case. Knight lied that the suspect “was allowed into the girl’s room because of the idiotic transgender mandate.”

The Daily Mail wrote, “Smith says the boy took advantage of the school’s trans policies to get into the girls’ bathrooms and assault her.” 

The New York Post also repeated this claim, writing: “Smith told the Daily Wire that his daughter was attacked at Stone Bridge High School on May 28 by a boy ‘wearing in a skirt’ who took advantage of transgender rules ‘to get into the bathrooms.’”

Unfortunately, right-wing media have once again perpetuated the debunked bathroom predator myth and ignored the facts in order to attack trans people.

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Brennan Suen is the LGBTQ program director at Media Matters, where he has worked since July 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, and he formerly interned at the Human Rights Campaign and SKDKnickerbocker.

The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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Matt Walsh’s sordid history as a radio host, exposed

Recently, Walsh has been helping lead a campaign against children’s hospitals providing gender-affirming care

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Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

By Ari Drennen | WASHINGTON – From early 2010 through August 1, 2011, Matt Walsh co-hosted a radio show called The Matt and Crank Program along with Andrew “Crank” Murr at WZBH “The Beach” 93.5 FM based in Georgetown, Delaware. The show featured all of the worst of Walsh’s bluster and bigotry without the production value given to his current work as a host for The Daily Wire, where he was hired in August 2017

Recently, Walsh has been helping lead a campaign against children’s hospitals providing gender-affirming care. On August 15, Walsh made the false, incendiary claim that these hospitals are “butchering, mutilating, and sterilizing their young patients.” The hospitals highlighted by Walsh and others have been inundated with violent threats — threats that the Daily Wire personality dismissed as a hoax before continuing his campaign.

A review of Walsh’s commentary for The Matt and Crank Program reveals that the pundit has previously praised violent political action, saying that enacting change means that “you have to make people hurt. … Holding signs and yelling loudly will not make anyone hurt.” 

The current Daily Wire personality and What is a Woman filmmaker also claimed that “we probably lost our republic after Reconstruction” and that “as the Anglo-Saxons, which were the original Americans, die off, our identity and our culture goes with it.” And he performed racist impressions and defended teenage pregnancy and marriage, saying that “at about 16, you’re an adult who is mature and can make decisions. … It’s just recently where all of a sudden we’re all r——- until we’re 25.” Walsh additionally encouraged subordinates to participate in sexually demeaning stunts, coercing an intern into exposing himself and allowing Walsh to shock him with a stun gun “in the ass.”

Matt Walsh’s violent political worldview: “You have to make people hurt”

While working at WZBH, Walsh attracted attention with a speech at a tea party rally glorifying violence, saying, “If you want extreme things to happen, you have to be willing to take — to go to extremes.

MATT WALSH: Our Founding Fathers had very specific goals in mind that they wanted to accomplish. There wasn’t a generalized sense of outrage. It was, these are our goals we want to accomplish. And by the way, they were willing to back it up with guns and violent force. If you want extreme things to happen, you have to be willing to take — to go to extremes. … Everyone keeps bringing up our Founding Fathers. They were willing to pick up guns and kill people for what they wanted. A sign won’t do it. And calling your congressman won’t do it.

On air, Walsh expanded and doubled down on his comments, saying that “if you want extreme change, you must take extreme action. … You have to make people hurt” and adding that “we probably lost our republic after Reconstruction,” seemingly criticizing the country’s first attempt at a multiracial democracy after the Civil War. Walsh further derided members of the so-called tea party movement as “not willing to do what they [the Founding Fathers] did.”

MATT WALSH (CO-HOST): But what I was trying to say, if you want extreme change, you must take extreme action. What you have to do is look at the situation and decide what exactly you want to have happen. And then you have to honestly approach it and say, what do we have to do to make this happen? But it is, in fact, true that you have to make people hurt. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry. But holding signs and yelling loudly will not make anyone hurt.

Most people will admit that we’ve been on this path not for a year, because of Obama; not for 10 years, because of Bush; not for 20 years, because of Clinton. Not Reagan, not Carter. We’ve been on this path for a hundred years or more. We probably lost our republic after Reconstruction. If you want actual change that isn’t going to reverse itself in 10 years or five years or even one year, then you do have to look at extreme action. 

And by the way, I’m not the one — you go to these tea parties, you’ve got people that are literally dressed up like it’s a costume party, dressed up like our Founding Fathers, dressed up like Samuel Adams and so forth. They’re the ones that keep harkening back to the revolutionary times. You’re the ones, tea party people, that are comparing yourself — in a not subtle way at all — to the revolutionaries. 

ANDREW MURR (CO-HOST): But then you forget what they did to accomplish their goals.

WALSH: Right. I’m saying, OK, you guys are dressing up like revolutionaries, you’re calling this the Tea Party. Don’t you understand what they did? Even the Tea Party was an illegal act. It was trespassing and vandalism. Don’t you get that? OK. You — don’t, don’t compare yourself to them because you’re not willing to do what they did.

Walsh has called for and defended political violence in many more recent examples, calling for “real men” to assault drag queensdefending secession after the January 6 storming of the Capitol, and defending violence against abortion providers in response to a mass shooting.

Matt Walsh defended pregnancy and marriage for teenage girls: “At about 16, you’re an adult who is mature and can make decisions” 

Walsh defended girls as young as 16 getting pregnant as long as they’re marrying men, saying, “The problem is not, per se, teenage pregnancy — it’s unwed pregnancy.” Walsh used an ableist slur to dismiss the idea that people are unable to consent to life-changing decisions before age 25 and said that girls “still in high school … want, biologically and metaphysically and with everything in their body, they want to settle down, they want to start a family.”

MATT WALSH (CO-HOST): Teen pregnancy is a new problem.

In the sense that it’s only recently that we decided that it is a problem, OK? But it is not a new problem in the sense that it’s a new phenomenon. It is not. In fact, ever since the beginning of time, teenage girls have been getting pregnant. It used to be more common.

WALSH: That’s my point, OK? So to all of a sudden act like this phenomenon of girls getting pregnant at that — at a young age — that we consider young, 16 or 17, to act like it’s a new thing is ridiculous. It’s always been that way. … Girls between the ages of like 17 and 24 is when they’re technically most fertile. 

… 

WALSH: OK? That’s biological. That’s a fact. I am just stating facts. That’s all I’m doing. But what happened recently, and this is the fourth fact, recently in the last 30 years or so, we decided that that’s way too young to start a family. 

WALSH: So what I’m saying is that the problem is not, per se, teenage pregnancy — it’s unwed pregnancy. That’s the problem in society. It’s only problematic when you are not married and you don’t have the man there to help you take care of the kids because he’s a coward.

… 

What I’m saying, though, is that if society was, if society was different and that we stopped insisting that you’re a kid until you’re 25 and we just deal with the reality that at about 16, you’re an adult who is mature and can make decisions — you are that at 16. I don’t care what anybody says. And if you’re going to tell me it’s different, well, then how come for the first 10,000 years of human civilization, that’s the way it was? It’s just recently where all of a sudden we’re all r——- until we’re 25?

And I got some more news for you. 17-year-old girls and 18-year-old girls that are still in high school, just getting into college, many of them want, biologically and metaphysically and with everything in their body, they want to settle down, they want to start a family, and that’s always gonna be that way, no matter what you do.

ANDREW MURR (CO-HOST): And I think a good example as to why that’s probably true is the whorish behavior of these same-aged girls when they get to college.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: There are some sluts.

MURR: They start, you know, these girls — believe me, when I went to the University of Maryland and I was a little bit older than everybody, it was like you get there and you see these innocent girls and by the end of the year, it’s just like the stories you’ve heard about them — it’s like this internal need to breed and it just comes out at the wrong time. They’re out there trying to get an education, but meanwhile —

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: To biology, that’s the perfect time. That’s when they’re, like Matt said, is most fertile. But society has told you that when you’re 18, that’s when you’re an adult, not when you’re 16 or 17.

WALSH: Yeah, and that’s a problem.

Walsh has repeatedly defended sexualization or sexual abusers of children in the more recent past, saying of the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal that “the problem is not pedophilia; the problem is gay priests” and saying that the response to a sexual abuse scandal in the Boy Scouts of America was “a lesson to us all” that “surrendering to the Left” will lead to being “completely obliterated.” 

Walsh initially defended Josh Duggar after the reality TV star was accused of sexual abuse of children, minimizing the allegations before later issuing a retraction once it came to light that Duggar had also cheated on his wife as an adult. The Daily Wire host has also minimized the #MeToo movement, suggesting that it’s “a hysterical witch hunt” and saying that women who feel violated after casual sex “consented to, and participated in, [their] own degradation.”

Matt Walsh’s racist worldview: “As the Anglo-Saxons, which were the original Americans, die off, our identity and our culture goes with it.”

As a radio DJ, Matt Walsh promoted the racist great replacement theory, expressing anxiety about “the extinction of the Anglo-Saxon race” and saying that “as the Anglo-Saxons, which were the original Americans, die off, our identity and our culture goes with it.”

MATT WALSH (CO-HOST): It is because we’re all dying off. Yes. That’s what the problem is. It’s not that, it’s not that we’re just, as the Mexicans come in, we magically meld with them and become like them. It’s not like that. It’s that we are dying off just like, just like any other species of animal does. We’re dying. And the way that animals — there’s two ways that animals die off. Well, three ways. One is disease. Two is deforestation, or they lose their habitat, which OK, look at us. And then the third one is that they stop reproducing. And those — and usually all three of those things happen kind of simultaneously. And that’s what’s happening with us. The extinction of the Anglo-Saxon race is just like that.

The Western white race is not having kids. They’re just not. That’s why before, 10 years ago, was like the average family was, whatever it was, 2.3 kids, now it’s 1.-something. I mean, we’ve lost a whole kid in 10 years. And, I mean, you just can’t survive when you refuse to have kids.

When the Mexican people come here, which is fine that they want to come, as long as they come legally, which most of them aren’t, but they bring with them — being that they’re a different culture, a different race, and everything else — they bring with them a identity, and they bring it to America. And so as the Anglo-Saxons, which were the original Americans, die off, our identity and our culture goes with it. Now, China and Japan and Korea and Vietnam and Egypt, all those countries, for thousands of years, have got to keep their identity and their culture. They’ve been allowed to preserve it, whereas ours is dying off in less than 200 years.

At other times, Walsh performed racist impressions of Black men, including calling Barack Obama Elementary School and pretending to be a father trying to enroll his son in the school. He pretended to have heard that the school was lenient with its grades, saying while posing as a Black man that Obama’s “main principle was that just cause you ain’t put in the work for something don’t mean that you shouldn’t be supplied with it.”

MATT WALSH (CO-HOST): Yeah, but let me put you on the spot right quick, because what is y’all honoring about my man Barack Obama?

EMPLOYEE: Well, just in terms of, they named the school after him, you know, and inside the school, they, you know, have pictures of him and they probably teach the students, you know, some of who he is. But overall, this, it’s still a regular school. You know, it’s not a school that — overall, the school is still run like the other schools are run. 

WALSH: OK. But it just seemed to me that the way that he would want to run it, you know, was similar to the way that he would want to run the health care and the economy, whatnot. Well, he want to make sure that, you know, I mean, just because you ain’t worked for something don’t mean that you shouldn’t get it. I mean, you feel me on that, right? 

EMPLOYEE: Um — 

WALSH: Well, just because — just cause you ain’t really put in the work for something don’t mean that you shouldn’t be, shouldn’t be supplied with it, because that’s a right that we have as Americans. 

EMPLOYEE: Well yeah, there are certain rights that we have, right? 

WALSH: Yeah. We got, I mean, I got a right. I mean, my kid got a right as an American to really get good grades in school and whatnot. You know, he’s got a right to that.

Yeah, but y’all’s, y’all Barack Obama Elementary, you know, I mean, which — which makes me presume the fact that y’all follow his principles, you know, his guiding principles and whatnot. 

EMPLOYEE 2: Yeah.

WALSH: His, his main principle was that just cause you ain’t put in the work for something don’t mean that you shouldn’t be supplied with it, because that’s the equal right that all Americans have, you know? So I want to make sure that I bring my kid over to you. You know, he can do his thing laid back, you know, but he still gonna be supplied with the grades, same as, you know, his big pops, hat would be me, you know, I’m going to be supplied with the checks, the government checks and whatnot. You know, just because I ain’t currently working don’t mean that I shouldn’t be supplied with it, you know? 

EMPLOYEE 2: Exactly. 

WALSH: So. So would that be the way you y’all run things, like maybe everybody, you know, they do their own thing, they get their own grades at the end of the semester or whatever how y’all partition it. They, you put all the grades in one pool and then, y’all split — 

EMPLOYEE 2: No, all kids. I mean. No. 

WALSH: So you telling me–

EMPLOYEE 2: You said in one pool? 

WALSH: Yeah. Yeah. You put all the grades together, you average it out, and then everyone get that average so that it’s really a team effort, you know what I mean? And everyone get the same thing because no one really has the right to be above no one else, especially when they kids. Right? 

EMPLOYEE 2: Well, all kids are treated equally. 

WALSH: Yeah, so. But how, but that ain’t the way in the school now. The school he at now right, he ain’t being treated equally. You know? Because he getting a E, he failing out while other people, you know, was getting A’s and passing on. My man on the second grade twice now, you know, and other people, they in fourth grade by now. So that ain’t equal. You know, I’m looking for some real equality. And I knew that when I saw Barack Obama Elementary was open and I said, now my man is going to supply me with what I’m looking for, because my man’s gonna run school the way he run the economy, the way he run health care — where he said, everybody’s going to get it whether you work for or not. You’re going to get it. 

EMPLOYEE 2: Well, no, he’s not in charge of the school.

Since this video, Walsh has said that white supremacists “don’t exist, for the most part” and the great replacement conspiracy theory is “just a fact.” Walsh has expressed doubt that racism exists and said that “when a white person says that all white people are inherently racist, all he’s really done is confess to being personally racist.” Walsh has also attacked Muslims, deriding them as “easily provoked,” and suggesting that “every mass attacker is Muslim.” One video from The Matt and Crank Program shows Walsh wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt.

Matt Walsh’s sexually demeaning workplace stunts: “I think we should shock you in the ass” 

At The Matt and Crank Program, Walsh appears to have sexually harassed someone at least posing as his employee (named only “Intern A” on camera), demanding that his subordinate remove his pants and allow Walsh to use a taser on his exposed butt despite multiple protestations.

MATT WALSH (CO-HOST): I would never usually suggest that a man expose his buttocks to me. … Well, here’s a serious suggestion. Why don’t we seriously shock you in the ass? Got a lot of padding in there. A lot of muscle … lot of muscle in that ass, boy.

INTERN A: You don’t want me to pull it out.

ANDREW MURR (CO-HOST): Yeah, I don’t either. I really don’t. I think we should just go.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: Hear me out. For the comedy of it, and also because that will hurt the least, I think we should shock you in the ass, at least at first.

INTERN: I think we should shock you.

WALSH: No, I don’t like that idea. What I do like is shocking you in the ass. So get over here.

INTERN: You’re not shocking my butt. 

MURR: And I do want you to put the old hardhat on. There we go. Does he not look amazing now?

WALSH: I’ll shock you in the stomach. All right? I’ll shock you in the stomach. Are you ready for this?

INTERN: No! No. I am not ready for this. 

MURR: I’m ready.

INTERN: This is not cool!

MURR: I’m totally ready for this.

WALSH: This is cool.

MURR: Matt, are you ready?

WALSH: I’m totally ready.

MURR: I’m totally ready. 

WALSH: As long as we’re ready, that’s all that matters.

MURR: That’s all that matters.

WALSH: Should I press it? Hold on a sec.

INTERN: Whoa. Oh no!

WALSH: Hold up. I’m not hitting it yet, I’m not hitting it, I’m not hitting it, but should I put it up against him like this? And then do it — is that how you do it?

(CROSSTALK)

INTERN: Oh, my God, I thought you were my friend.

CRANK: We are. That’s why we’re doing it.

WALSH: This is for your own good. This is for your own good, intern.

INTERN: I love you so much I’m hurting you.

WALSH: This hurts you more than it hurts me.

MURR: Yes it does. Oh God. I’m tingly with anticipation.

WALSH: One, two, three, go!

INTERN: Ow!

MURR: Did it shock you too?

WALSH: Wait, I only got like half a second.

INTERN: That’s all you’re supposed to get.

WALSH: Let’s try it one more time.

INTERN: That hurts.

MURR: You want me to hold onto you while we do it?

INTERN: That hurts.

MURR: Do you want me to hold onto you while we do it?

WALSH: Let’s try one more time. I dropped it. I didn’t get a good one.

INTERN: Not in the stomach anymore, because that hurts.

WALSH: All right, we’ll do it in the uhh —

INTERN: Chesticle.

WALSH: All right, in the chest. But this time we’re going in for the real thing!

INTERN: Wait, just do it in the arm. One, two, three, go.

WALSH: Hold on, hold on.

INTERN: Go! Ow!

WALSH: How bad does it hurt? Describe it.

INTERN: It’s like being muscle tenched.

MURR: What?

(Intern reaches for stun gun)

WALSH: Muscle tenched? I’m not giving you this thing, dude.

INTERN: Was it good for radio? You want to do it in the butt?

WALSH: I do, kind of. Let’s just try it once in the ass. Turn around. Ready?

MURR: I don’t even know if we can put this on the blog site.

WALSH: You’ve got a pimply, pale ass, bro.

INTERN: Go! Ow! Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow! All right, we’re done. That’s it. All right, good radio. You’re welcome, Delmarva. You’re welcome.

This was part of a series of videos of Walsh, Murr, the intern, and another man called “Tater” participating in a series of fraternity-style challenges, sometimes involving sexually suggestive behavior. In another video, “Intern A” was dressed in a diaper, wrestling a man who gave his name as “Tater.” In a video called “Intern A Earns His Name,” the titular intern was encouraged to lick the inside of a dumpster.

MATT WALSH (CO-HOST): He’s going to lick the inside of this dumpster. This dumpster has not been licked in years. So what it’s going to be is he’s going to sort of kneel down, put his tongue against the wall and then stand up.

A further video available on the old YouTube channel for Matt and Crank showed “the intern” washing a car in underwear while disco music played.

According to one report, Walsh announced his departure from The Matt and Crank Program just hours after recording his final episode on Monday, August 1, 2011, claiming that he wouldn’t be allowed to do further shows to say goodbye. The next day, he announced a two-week hiatus that he walked back the day after to let fans know that he’d be taking a job at WGMD, a smaller station in the region where he would work for less than a year. In December 2013 Walsh announced that he was “leaving radio forever” to spend more time with his blog. While Walsh spun this as voluntary, critics reported that WLAP’s programming director had said that the show had been canceled. After a period of time joining Matt at WGMD, reports say Walsh’s co-host returned to WZBH through 2015.

Additional Research by  JASON CAMPBELLMIA GINGERICH & ALEX PATERSON

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Ari Drennen is the LGBTQ program director for Media Matters, where she has worked since January 2022. She has a bachelors degree in political science and economics from Middlebury College. Previously she worked at the Center for American Progress and the League of Conservation Voters

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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News Analysis

Right-wing media spreads altered footage of drag queen- who sues

Libs of TikTok and other anti-LGBTQ media falsely claimed a drag queen exposed himself to minors — now the performer is suing

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Mia Gingerich | WASHINGTON – A drag queen who performed at the Idaho Pride event targeted by white nationalists in June is suing a right-wing blogger who doctored footage of his performance to falsely claim he had exposed himself to children.

Even though the video was swiftly debunked by local news, right-wing media — including Libs of TikTok’s Chaya Raichik and others who initially helped drive harassment against the Pride event — pushed the edited footage, leading to abuse against the performer. 

On June 11, police in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, arrested 31 members of the Patriot Front near Pride in the Park, a planned Pride event. Authorities said evidence showed the white nationalists, who had gathered at the park from across the country, were planning to riot at the event and in multiple areas around the town. Patriot Front has a history of anti-LGBTQ actions, including burning trans pride flags and vandalizing a memorial for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated it as a hate group.

The event was also targeted by a far-right biker group that announced it was holding an event nearby at the same time as Pride in the Park, with organizers saying there were “going to be going after the groomers” while alluding to possible violence. 

One of the performers at the event was Eric Posey, whose drag name is Mona Liza Million. Following Pride in the Park, right-wing blogger Summer Bushnell posted footage from Posey’s performance that blurred his crotch. In her posts, Bushnell erroneously claimed Posey had exposed himself to minors and called for her audience to report the video to police. The video, which was debunked by local news two days after the event was held, led to harassment against Posey after it went viral on social media. Now Posey is suing Bushnell, claiming she defamed him in an effort to gain popularity as part of the nationwide effort to malign LGBTQ people and Pride Month events.

A key instigator in manufacturing outrage over the event was Chaya Raichik, who runs the social media account “Libs of TikTok.” Raichik not only targeted Pride in the Park after Idaho-based white nationalist Dave Reilly called for her to do so, but she also helped spread Bushnell’s video weeks after it had been debunked by both the media and authorities. On July 31, Raichik retweeted a tweet with Bushnell’s video and calling Posey a “pedophile,” with Raichik adding, “This is what a ‘family-friendly’ drag show looks like.” Commenters reacting to Raichik’s post falsely accused Posey of being a “groomer” and “pedophile,” while others threatened extreme acts of violence against him, including multiple threats to castrate him.

Although the tweet she quoted was later removed for violating Twitter’s rule on hateful conduct, Raichik’s tweet was never deleted. 

Raichik was joined in sharing the doctored video by anti-LGBTQ trolls including right-wing podcaster Liz Wheeler and Gays Against Groomers, with the latter writing, “If gay rights do get rolled back, it will only be because of things like this.”

The renewed social media pickup of the doctored video led to an article published by right-wing blog Post Millennial headlined “Drag queen accused of exposing self to children at ‘family friendly’ Pride event.” The article promoted conspiracy theories that antifa was involved in targeting the Idaho Pride event, and the header for the article included a still from Bushnell’s video, with the edited video embedded.  

The Idaho Family Policy Center, a right-wing Christian nonprofit that partners with extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom and multiple other anti-LGBTQ organizations, posted a petition on September 8 denying law enforcement’s debunking of the video and claiming it had “reviewed the unedited footage and can confirm it portrays public exposure of the performer’s genitalia.” Included with the petition, which called for drag performances to be banned from taking place around children, was a still from Bushnell’s video. The petition remains active as of publication date. 

Far-right conspiracy theory outlet Infowars posted an article also featuring a still from the doctored video. The article suggested the targeting of the event by Patriot Front was “a federal false flag operation” and criticized the “mainstream media” for “ignoring a potential child sex crime occurring at the very same event.”

The article cited a press release from the local sheriff’s department saying police were investigating the video. The announcement came after a local outlet had already debunked the claims and released the unedited video, and despite law enforcement officials acknowledging that their investigation stemmed entirely from reports by individuals who had seen Bushnell’s doctored footage and none of whom had seen the performance in person. The stunt culminated on July 1 with the city prosecutor stating what had been demonstrated weeks earlier — Posey had not exposed himself. 

Disregarding available evidence, right-wing media widely used the release to push the false narrative and disseminate the doctored footage. Stephanie Hamill, a contributing writer for Media Research Center and ambassador for Turning Point USA, tweeted Bushnell’s video while adding that the “dancer’s genitals were reportedly exposed on the main stage with children viewing the ‘dance.’”

Right-wing author Janie Johnson tweeted a link to the video to her nearly 200,000 followers, attempting to excuse the white nationalists who targeted the event and writing, “Wonder what ticked the Idaho dads? This drag demon exposed himself to children.” 

The incident is nearly identical to another manufactured controversy pushed by right-wing media in which an edited photo of a drag performer reading to children at a library in 2019 was blurred and paired with the claim that they were exposing themselves to children. That smear, too, was quickly debunked, which did not prevent the ensuing harassment and an attempt from lawmakers to strip libraries of their funding.   

The targeting of Posey and the broader attacks on Pride in the Park followed an escalating campaign of harassment against drag and Pride Month events that falsely accused participants of abusing children. This harassment, and the escalating rhetoric of maligning LGBTQ people as groomers, has largely been enabled by the failure of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to adequately handle the targeted harassment. 

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Mia Gingerich is a researcher at Media Matters. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government from Northern Arizona University and has previously worked in rural organizing and local media.

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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Research/Study

Suicide risk & access to care among LGBTQ college students

LGBTQ college students with access to mental health services through their college had drastically lower odds of attempting suicide

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LGBTQ+ UCLA graduates (Photo Credit: UCLA LGBTQ Campus Resource Center)

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project’s researchers team published new data this week that assessed suicide risk, access to mental health services, and access to LGBTQ student services among a national sampling of LGBTQ+ college and university students.

The report’s findings show that LGBTQ college students with access to mental health services through their college or university had drastically lower odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those without access.

The data in the report takes on greater relevance as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is observed this September and highlight the ways in which community leaders, parents, and others can help prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth — a group that is more than four times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their straight and cisgender peers.

Key Findings:

  • LGBTQ college students with access to mental health services through their college had 84% lower odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to LGBTQ college students without access. 
    • LGBTQ college students reported that common barriers to accessing care included that they did not feel comfortable going (33%), long waitlists, (29%), and privacy concerns (17%).
  • LGBTQ college students with access to LGBTQ student services through their college had 44% lower odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to LGBTQ college students without access.
    •  Over six in ten (63%) LGBTQ college students reported that their college had LGBTQ-specific services, such as an LGBTQ center, available. 
    • Those who did not have access to LGBTQ student services through their college reported significantly higher rates of seriously considering suicide in the past year (41%) compared to those who did have access (30%). 
  • One in three (33%) LGBTQ college students seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 7% reported a suicide attempt in the past year. 
    • Rates of considering suicide were higher among LGBTQ college students of color (35%), multisexual students (35%), and transgender and nonbinary students (39%),
    • LGBTQ students of color (9%) and transgender and nonbinary students (9%) reported significantly higher rates of attempting suicide in the past year compared to White LGBTQ students (6%) and cisgender LGBQ students (4%).
  • Nearly nine in ten LGBTQ college students (89%) reported that their college was accepting of LGBTQ people, and this was associated with the availability of LGBTQ-specific student services.

“These findings are strikingly clear: LGBTQ college students who reported having access to mental health services at school had dramatically lower odds of attempting suicide compared to those without access,” said Dr. Jonah DeChants (he/him), Research Scientist at The Trevor Project.

“While college environments offer a number of positive and protective factors for LGBTQ students, the reality is that suicide risk still very much persists, especially among those who do not have access to affirming spaces and services. We urge all colleges and universities to realize that access to mental health care services, as well as LGBTQ-specific student services, on college campuses is critical for ensuring the mental health and safety of their LGBTQ student body,” he added.

Read the report here (Link)

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