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“America’s Doctor:” Outlining issues with Dr. Oz’s pseudoscience

Newport Beach-based cardiologist Dr. Danielle Belardo says Oz is a symptom of broader & more systemic problems in American healthcare systems

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Mehmet Oz campaigning with former President Trump (Screenshot/YouTube NBC News)

NEWPORT BEACH, Ca – By now, most folks are probably familiar with the widely ridiculed video released by Mehmet Oz’s Senatorial campaign, which followed his journey through a supermarket’s produce section on a mission to find ingredients for a crudité platter (otherwise known as a vegetable tray).

Oz’s Democratic opponent in the Senate race, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, was quick to join the online mockery over the viral video, which began with the celebrity doctor’s announcement that he was at “Wegners” (not a real place, though possibly a portmanteau of Wegmans and Redner’s, two actual grocery chains with stores in Pennsylvania.) 

In response, the Oz camp told Business Insider that had he “ever eaten a vegetable in his life,” perhaps Fetterman would not have suffered a stroke in May. That provoked a strong rebuke from Real Doctors Against Oz, a group of more than 100 Pennsylvania physicians who have vocally raised their objections to the candidate’s habit of promoting dangerous pseudoscience and dubious medical advice. 

But Oz’s peers in the scientific and medical community have been sounding the alarm about these concerns well before his campaign’s suggestion that a plate of crudité keeps the stroke away, as Newport Beach-based cardiologist Dr. Danielle Belardo told The Los Angeles Blade on Friday. 

Newport Beach-based cardiologist Dr. Danielle Belardo

Co-chair of the American Society for Preventive Cardiology Nutrition Committee, Dr. Belardo is an influential advocate for science-based medicine and accurate communication about health and nutrition, including through her podcast “Wellness: Fact vs. Fiction.” 

She told The Blade Oz is a symptom of broader and more systemic problems in the American healthcare system. And if elected, he would gain even more power and influence at a time in which the internet and social media have, by orders of magnitude, accelerated the spread of false information about science and medicine. 

“America’s Doctor” has already caused tremendous harm

Oz’s credentials are impeccable. It was not for no reason that Oz was once hailed by The New York Times as “one of the most accomplished cardiothoracic surgeons of his generation.” Triple board certified, he was vice-chair of Columbia University’s surgery department, the author of hundreds of peer-reviewed papers, and the recipient of several patents. Dr. Belardo pointed to his involvement in the creation of the MitraClip – a device used to treat leaky heart valves that effectively replaced the conventional treatment, a far riskier open-heart surgery. (A study by the New England Journal of Medicine found it could save millions of lives.) 

Oz’s subsequent “foray into pseudoscience,” Dr. Belardo said, “was quite a departure from his previous career.” 

After becoming a public figure through his appearances on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Oz won a national audience and a wildly popular daytime TV program. There, he embraced and promoted ideas about science and medicine that, in many cases, even a layperson would be capable of correctly identifying as pseudoscientific quackery. (The reasons why he chose this path are a mystery not worth exploring here. A lengthy 2013 New Yorker profile offers some answers, none that are particularly satisfying.) 

According to research in the British Medical Journal, which analyzed the overall quality of health claims made on “The Dr. Oz Show,” fewer than half of a sample of recommendations made on the program were supported by any credible evidence. 

Below is semi-complete accounting of the ways in which Oz abused his platform as “America’s Doctor” over 13 seasons from 2009 to 2022.

  • Oz claimed popular brands of apple juice contained dangerous levels of arsenic, which was not true and caused unnecessary alarm. The FDA called the segment “irresponsible and misleading” 
  • Oz promoted homoeopathy as an alternative to prescription drugs for the treatment of aches and pains, despite the overwhelming scientific and medical consensus that there is no evidence the practice works. Homeopathy is among the most widely debunked forms of alternative medicine, and safety concerns with homeopathic products have been flagged by the National Institutes of Health, the Federal Trade Commission, and the FDA
  • Oz discussed conversion therapy, treating arguments from proponents and opponents of the practice as equally legitimate, despite the position held by mainstream medical and psychiatric organizations that it’s ineffective and dangerous
  • Oz promoted iridology, all forms of which have been rejected by medical doctors as pseudoscience and quackery 
  • Oz told his viewers about a study that purported to show that genetically modified foods have damaging health impacts and can cause cancer. Almost as soon as it was published, researchers had discredited the study
  • Oz repeatedly promoted the use of colloidal silver supplements for a variety of maladies including colds, viruses, bacteria, and wounds, despite the absence of any evidence for its use in the treatment or prevention of any medical condition and the risk that it may cause a condition called argyria, which turns the skin blue-grey and is irreversible
  • Oz warned that women increase their risk of developing breast cancer by carrying cellphones in their bras, which is not supported by any scientific evidence and again caused unnecessary alarm
  • Oz told his audience that supplements containing green coffee extract is “magic” and a “miracle” for weight loss, despite the absence of reliable evidence of any health benefits. The segment was among the reasons Oz was called to testify before a Senate hearing on consumer protection, where he was roundly criticized by members of both parties including former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who told him: “The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products that you call ‘miracles,’” adding, “I don’t know why you need to say this stuff, because you know it’s not true”
  • Oz promoted the unproven use of hydroxychloroquine for treating covid, parroting – on his own show and in more than 25 appearances on Fox News – the claims about the drug made by then-President Donald Trump. (Oz stopped advocating for hydroxychloroquine only after a Veterans Affairs study showed covid patients were more likely to die when treated with it) 

Oz is not alone

Few American physicians can boast of professional accomplishments in science and medicine that rival Oz’s. None have attained his level of celebrity. But with respect to providers who peddle pseudoscience despite having the education and professional training to know better, or despite having ties to respected institutions like academic research hospitals, Oz is not unique.

Dr. Belardo pointed to Mark Hyman of the renowned Cleveland Clinic, a trained MD who “promotes tons of misinformation about pseudoscience…selling things like detoxes and cleanses.” The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) branded him the “Dr. Oz of nutrition” for peddling pseudoscientific “lies” about dietary health, once going as far as to compare the harms of processed foods to the Holocaust. Hyman practices “functional medicine,” which ACSH described as “a form of alternative medicine that encompasses a number of unproven and disproven methods and treatments.”

“Unlike politics, when it comes to science there is no ‘two sides,’” Dr. Belardo said. “Scientific evidence is a process of critically evaluating data in a systematic and rigorous way and interpreting that data,” she said. Unlike politics, it’s based on facts, not feelings.

Likewise, “There’s no such thing as ‘alternative medicine’ and ‘regular medicine’ – there’s just medicine,” Dr. Belardo said, adding: “If something that might be considered ‘alternative’ has enough robust scientific evidence, it would be included in medical care” – for instance, in the guidelines published and maintained by major medical organizations.

“Alternative medicine” covers a variety of practices, often with fuzzy definitions and unclear distinctions. Among many others, common terms include “complementary and alternative medicine,” “wellness,” “integrated” or “integrative medicine,” “holistic medicine,” and “natural” or “naturopathic medicine.” 

They are all pseudoscience – lacking biological plausibility, testability, reproducibility or repeatability, or evidence of their safety and efficacy (as gathered via clinical trials) – the very standards that, by contrast, are demanded of the diagnostic tools, pharmacological treatments, surgical procedures, and other forms of care offered in traditional medicine.

Sometimes, alternative medicine is provided as a supplement to traditional, evidence-based care, in which case it can be benign or even helpful – insofar as it may have a placebo effect or provide comfort to patients. In other cases, for a variety of reasons, people forego care from legitimate medical providers in favor of those practicing pseudoscience. 

Complicating matters is the fact that it can often be very hard to tell the difference, Dr. Belardo said: “Predatory pseudoscientific providers prioritize and take advantage of the people who don’t understand the scientific process.” They typically use scientific language that only those with formal medical training would be able to recognize as bogus – and even doctors can be misled. 

“Even though I’m a physician, I still can get duped and confused about scientific claims that are outside my specialty,” Dr. Belardo said. She added that some of the claims about “clean” beauty products – billed as less harmful to the skin and body because they are free from synthetic chemicals – looked facially plausible to her but did not hold up to scrutiny by “rigorously scientific dermatologists.”  

Practitioners with formal training in legitimate medicine like Hyman and Oz further “muddy the waters,” Dr. Belardo said, lending the veneer of legitimacy to pseudoscientific practices while sowing doubt and mistrust towards lifesaving evidence-based medicine.

Pseudoscience kills

The financial incentives for practicing pseudoscience are considerable. The providers and businesses associated with non-evidence based medical practice (like supplement companies) are making lots of money, Dr. Belardo said. The industry is also backed by a powerful lobby and faces far less regulation than traditional medicine. 

Many patients seeing pseudoscientific providers will pay out-of-pocket for products, supplements, treatments, and procedures that are often not covered by insurance and have not been proven safe, nor shown any therapeutic effect for the treatment of any disease or health condition. 

Other patients will suffer physical harms. Dr. Belardo said she has seen arrythmias, liver toxicity and failure, and bad interactions with prescribed heart medicines from patients because they were treated by an alternative provider who gave them underregulated herbal medications and supplements. 

That is hardly the full extent of the problem, however. “When we think about harms we’re not just talking about unregulated supplements – which can cause harms – but rather, something I see frequently, harms from misdiagnoses,” Dr. Belardo said. In such cases, the patient sees “an alternative provider and it delays the diagnosis of an underlying medical condition that requires guideline-directed medical therapy and treatment.”  

Dr. Belardo recounted a case where a gastroenterologist in her practice saw a patient who had been prescribed supplements for an iron deficiency, under the care of an alternative provider who did not perform a workup to determine the underlying cause of her condition. When Dr. Belardo’s colleague did a colonoscopy/upper endoscopy on the patient, per the diagnostic protocol, she discovered stage 4 colon cancer. “Had that been caught two years earlier, it would be a different scenario,” Dr. Belardo said. 

There are even more extreme examples of negligent and harmful practices by alternative providers. For example, a few years ago, a California patient died after a naturopathic doctor intravenously administered curcumin as a supposed treatment for eczema. The provider was previously among 34 defendants served with a lawsuit for their use or advertising of so-called “ozone therapies,” through which the toxic gas is injected into joints or into a patient’s rectum or vagina with a catheter. 

In 2020, a practice in Dallas was ordered to stop claiming that ozone therapy can cure covid, an example of a larger trend identified by Canada’s Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP), which wrote in 2020 that “Alternative medicine practitioners are leveraging the fear around coronavirus to sell products and procedures that are scientifically unproven.”

Oz and others practicing pseudoscience accelerate the spread of false information about science and medicine

The IRPP also linked alternative medicine to the proliferation of online misinformation about covid, with different “specialties” associated with different forms of “harmful noise”: Naturopaths have recommended useless supplements as preventative solutions as well as treatments, while homeopaths have endorsed a concoction later shown to cause liver damage. Aromatherapists and acupuncturists have stepped in to offer their services, which are comparatively benign but no more useful for the prevention or treatment of covid (or any other virus, for that matter).

When it comes to harmful, false messages about vaccines, practitioners of alternative medicine are among the worst offenders. A 2018 NIH study found that childhood vaccinations were less likely to be up to date among families that consulted a practitioner of alternative (“complementary”) medicine and more likely to be up to date among families that saw a general practitioner. 

These problems get worse as Americans become less literate in health science, more susceptible to conspiratorial thinking, and more distrustful of modern medicine and legitimate health institutions. As Carl Sagan wrote, “Pseudoscience is embraced, it might be argued, in exact proportion as real science is misunderstood.”

“Unfortunately, I see it frequently and all too often,” Dr. Belardo said. “And this is actually something that physicians are seeing across the U.S., and it’s no longer just a southern California trend. With the advent of social media, pseudoscience and disinformation is accessible through the internet,” where it spreads widely and quickly, presenting problems that the medical community has been slow to understand and address. 

“Medicine is an older system. Our medical societies are just catching up with social media. The pandemic was first time many physicians who are older and who are higher up in our field began to grapple with the amount of misinformation that is spread on social media,” Dr. Belardo said. Thankfully, “major organizations are starting to take a stand,” she said, noting the American Medical Association’s pledge to intervene when misinformation about covid is spread online and on social media platforms. 

Oz’s election to Congress, certainly, would not help matters. “Just looking at his history of endorsing pseudoscientific views and non-evidence-based medicine, he is not someone capable of helping to elevate social media to a place where people can find trusted scientific information,” Dr. Belardo said. 

Oz may have soiled his reputation among his peers, but he did not earn the moniker of “America’s Doctor” or build a devoted fanbase that propelled his TV show to win nine Daytime Emmy Awards over its 13 seasons for no reason. With Americans’ confidence in Congress reaching a new low of 7% this year, is the public likelier to trust Oz’s opinion less than another Senator’s when they differ on issues like the safety of vaccines or public policy solutions to mitigate a new strain of covid? 

Lest anyone think this would come into play only in the context of immunizations and infectious disease, consider that Oz, who is armed with far greater expertise in science and medicine than now exists in the entire Congressional GOP caucus, was “just asking questions” in that segment on his show about whether conversion therapy should be considered a legitimate “treatment” for homosexuality and gender dysphoria. (Dr. Belardo called Oz’s unscientific and anti-LGBTQ+ framing of the topic “nauseating.”) 

In the Senate, Oz would have a powerful regulatory role over alternative medicine 

What is the difference between a wellness influencer and physician practicing pseudoscientific alternative medicine? Well, it might depend on where they live. To the extent that any regulation may exist, rules governing the practice of non-mainstream medicine differ tremendously state-by-state. 

Complicating matters, distinctions among the various forms of alternative medicine are unclear and confusing – as are the occupational titles and educational and training requirements of those who practice in the space. 

The classification and regulation of naturopaths provides a representative example of how alternative medicine is treated differently across different jurisdictions in America. According to overwhelming evidence presented in peer reviewed journals, naturopathic providers recommend against evidence-based medical testing, pharmacological treatments, vaccinations, and surgery in favor of unscientific diagnoses and treatments without evidentiary support. Quacks, in other words, who practice charlatanism and promote therapies that are often ineffective, harmful, and unethical. 

Seventeen U.S. states allow naturopathic doctors to use the designations ND (“Naturopathic Doctor”) or NMD (“Naturopathic Medical Doctor”). Among these states, 12 allow for some health insurance coverage. In these states, the widely discredited alternative medical practice is given the appearance of legitimacy. 

Even more alarming, 12 states and U.S. jurisdictions allow naturopaths to prescribe prescription medications, while nine allow them to perform minor surgeries. South Carolina and Tennessee specifically prohibit the practice of naturopathy. 

It is not difficult to imagine that if elected to the Senate, Oz would use his legislative powers to loosen regulations of alternative medical providers and associated industries or otherwise treat these actors favorably. 

In the absence of clear regulatory solutions to the multifaceted problems presented by alternative medicine and the spread of misinformation and disinformation, Dr. Belardo stressed the role of self-regulation by doctors – and the importance of advocating for evidence-based medicine wherever possible.

She pointed to California State Sen. Richard Pan (D-6), a practicing pediatrician as “a wonderful example.” Dr. Pan wrote a bill, signed into law in 2019, that prohibits fake medical exemptions for vaccinations of minors. For this, he was targeted with smear campaigns and violence from anti-vaccine advocates. 

In an interview with the AMA, Dr. Pan said he urges physicians to tell “their patients that the COVID vaccine is safe and effective. It’s been thoroughly evaluated, administered to hundreds of millions of people.” And “If their patients have questions, they should encourage them to ask those questions and get accurate answers from either themselves or trusted sources, like the American Academy of Pediatrics or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Dr. Belardo said other prominent figures in the medical community who have used their platforms to advocate for evidence-based science and medicine include Drs. Jennifer Gunter and Yoni Freedhoff. 

For laypeople, meanwhile, there are ways to filter out pseudoscience. Dr. Belardo said she advises her patients to find another provider if given a diagnosis or offered a treatment that contradicts with the scientific consensus of major medical organizations. These groups typically have resources and guidelines – unassailably reliable – that are written specifically for patients, she said.

Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Transphobic Fox host: Trans people are “Deeply Anti-Human”

Fox news host Laura Ingraham launched into a transphobic rant claiming the political left are cheering on what she termed anti-humanism

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Screenshot/YouTube Fox News

By Media Matters Staff | NEW YORK – On her show last night, Fox news host Laura Ingraham launched into a transphobic rant claiming among other things that those on the political left are cheering on what she termed anti-humanism.

Then she pivoted to the transgender community:

“Crusaders for climate change, abortion, euthanasia, gender fluidity, they all lead — eventually, their thinking — to the devaluing of human life.

“At its core, being anti-human means being anti- truth because it involves the questioning or denying of objective facts, including those at the very heart of our existence. 

“The cult of gender deviancy collapses into meaningless slogans and blather. None of it makes any sense, but it’s deeply anti-human.” 

Watch the Media Matters for America video clip:

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Obama rallies for Warnock as Walker goes transphobic in latest ad

“Tomorrow is the last day for early voting and then we need to get people out to the polls on Tuesday, which means we still got work to do”

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Former President Barack Obama with Sen. Raphael Warnock (Pool photo via CNN)

ATLANTA – Former President Barack Obama held a rally with Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) tonight in Atlanta as the Georgia election runoff for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Warnock enters its final week.

Speaking to the enthusiastic crowd in the historic Pullman Yard, Obama urged supporters to continue pressing to secure Warnock’s chances as early voting ends Friday ahead of next Tuesday’s election.

“Now I know a lot of folks have been voting early over the last few days, that is a good thing. That is an encouraging thing. But — you knew there was a but —plenty of folks haven’t voted yet. Tomorrow is the last day for early voting and then we need to get people out to the polls on Tuesday, which means we still got work to do,” Obama said.

A spokesperson for the the Georgia secretary of state’s office told the Blade that more than 1.1 million votes have been cast so far.

Warnock’s Republican challenger meanwhile focused on his opposition to transgender rights. In a recent campaign ad, Herschel Walker is featured alongside cisgender former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who tied with University of Pennsylvania trans female swimmer Lia Thomas.

In the ad Gaines says she “worked so hard” at competitive swimming but she was “forced to compete against a biological male.”  The ad also goes on to attack Warnock in the Chyron onscreen stating: “Raphael Warnock voted to allow biological men to compete in women’s sports.” That particular charge by Walker’s campaign is factually incorrect as the U.S. Senate has not held any votes on the subject of transgender women in sports.

Politico’s National political reporter Natalie Allison tweeted:

During the rally in Atlanta this evening Politico reported Warnock received roaring applause when he poked fun at Walker, something Obama also did, referencing a series of outlandish comments the retired football star has made over the course of his candidacy.

“We all know some folks in our lives who, we don’t wish them ill will, they say crazy stuff … but you don’t give them serious responsibility,” Obama said.

“He was an amazing running back,” Warnock said of Walker. “And come next Tuesday, we’re going to send him running back to Texas.”

Walker, who was raised in the Peach State and was a star player at the University of Georgia, lived the majority of his adult life in Texas before returning to run for Senate in 2021.

Politico also noted that Warnock, the pastor of the Atlanta church that Martin Luther King Jr. attended, tied the election to the long struggle of African Americans for equal rights, noting the crowd had gathered on the 67th anniversary of Rosa Parks refusing to get up from a bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama. Walker is also African American.

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Charlie Kirk smears Out Calif. State Sen. Scott Wiener on Twitter

“Kirk is leading the movement to slander gay men and trans people as ‘pedophiles’ and ‘groomers,’ & these heinous words have consequences”

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Charlie Kirk speaking on the 2021 Turning Point USA college tour (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

SAN FRANCISCO – In a lengthy tirade on Twitter Tuesday, far-right extremist radio chat show host Charles J. Kirk, while loosely channeling an InfoWars host Alex Jones style-attack, went after California State Senator Scott Wiener, (D-SF District 11) implying that the veteran lawmaker endorses and supports child molestation.

Kirk, 29, is a co-founder of Turning Point USA, a conservative right-wing political group aimed at influencing college and university students and young people. Ironically, Kirk himself dropped out of Harper College, a junior community college near Chicago, without having completed any degree or certificate.

Kirk hosts a daily three-hour radio talk show, called The Charlie Kirk Show, on Salem Media which is known for owning conservative websites Townhall.com, RedState, Hot Air, and PJ Media, as well as Twitter aggregator Twitchy, calling itself a ” for-profit Christian broadcast corporation.”

He is also an avid supporter of impeached former president Donald Trump, consistently refers to himself as a MAGA Republican and has asserted that the concept of white privilege is a myth and a “racist lie.” He also has spread false information and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 on social media platforms, such as Twitter, in 2020.

Recently Kirk has been attacking the LGBTQ+ community on the subjects of trans youth and also following the lead of far-right Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, (R-GA) in attacking Senator Wiener:

Kirk’s attack on the senator commenced with: “Thousands of pedophiles in California are going free after just a few months in jail, thanks to the state’s radically reduced penalties for child molestation. One reason so many of these predators are going free so early is California lawmaker Scott Wiener.”

Then he went on to state in the thread: “That name and photo might ring a bell. Wiener is one of the most effective lawmakers in the entire country. He’s behind California’s new law that will protect parents who kidnap their children and take them to California to receive mutilating surgeries.

Wiener was also behind California’s law lowering penalties for intentionally spreading HIV to other people, and their law creating a third “nonbinary” gender for government documents.

If there’s some horrifying idea related to modern gender and sex ideology, Wiener has probably written and passed a bill about it in California.

If elected Republicans cared as much about their voters’ concerns as Scott Wiener cares about freeing pedophiles and mutilating children, they’d have won total victory long ago.”

Editor’s Note: It needs to be made clear, California has NOT reduced penalties for child molestation.

(REUTERS) Posts on Facebook claim that SB-145, a bill passed by the California State Senate on August 31, 2020 seeks to “legalize pedophilia.” This claim is false, as the bill is intended to reform the state’s sex offender registry to be fairer to young LGBT adults who may be in technical violation of statutory rape laws. The bill seeks to treat all statutory rape cases—regardless of what kind of sex they involve—equally.

Senator Wiener responded to Kirk’s attacks saying on Twitter:

Charlie Kirk — one of the biggest attention-seeking liars around — is spreading bald-faced lies about me. These statements are absolutely false & defamatory. These are the lies bigots have always spread about LGBTQ people — lies that lead to violence against our community.

In an emailed statement to the Blade Wiener said:

“LGBTQ leaders around the country are under attack by toxic, far-right ideologues and elected officials. These MAGA talking heads – whose party performed far worse than expected in the midterm elections – have no meaningful policy solutions for the issues facing our country. Instead, they are focused on slandering and demonizing gay and trans people, and using us as scapegoats. Specifically, they’re employing the age-old slander that LGBTQ people are threats to children, and that is what Greene and Kirk tweeted about me.

“Charlie Kirk is a prime example of this type of extremist right-wing grifter, and he joined Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene in tweeting about me repackaged versions of centuries-old homophobic lies. Kirk and Greene are leading the movement to slander gay men and trans people as ‘pedophiles’ and ‘groomers,’ and these heinous words have consequences. Be it the massacre at Club Q or the death threat I just received this morning referencing Kirk’s tweet, LGBTQ people everywhere are experiencing an onslaught of violence and threats.

“People like Kirk and Greene are a stain on our country, and they should be held accountable for spreading vile, homophobic misinformation.”

In his statement Wiener was referencing last week’s attack by Far-right Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, (R-GA) who called the Senator a “communist” questioning Wiener’s loyalty and service to both the State of California and the U.S. she then went on to accuse Wiener of being a “groomer” implying that the Senator was a predator of minors for sexual purposes:

Pass my Protect Children’s Innocence Act to stop communist groomers like this from using state government power to take children away from their parents to allow a for-profit medical industry to chop off these confused children’s genitals before they are even old enough to vote.”

Wiener made a point of calling out use of the word “groomer,” as the abusive reaction and fallout from right-wing sources regarding the mass-shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, continues to ratchet up against the LGBTQ+ community.

The word “groomer” is categorically an anti-LGBTQ hate word. It’s super homophobic/transphobic. It plays into the slander that LGBTQ people are pedophiles. It’s no different than calling someone a fagg*t. If you call someone groomer, you’re inciting violence against LGBTQ people,” Wiener stated in a tweet.

Equality California, the largest statewide LGBTQ equal rights advocacy group reacted to Kirk’s smears Wednesday afternoon. In an text message to the Blade, Equality California spokesperson Jorge Reyes Salinas said:

“It is disgusting but not surprising that days after a mass shooting fueled by dangerous rhetoric from extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Charlie Kirk posts lies to spread anti-LGBTQ+ hate. The statements made are false, defamatory and lead to violence  against our LGBTQ+ community. This is another performance to build up hatred.”

The organization had previously tweeted at Kirk defending the senator:

“This is a lie. It’s false, offensive and dangerous — the exact type of disinformation that has fueled violent attacks like the Club Q shooting in #ColoradoSprings. Shame on you, and shame on @elonmusk [Twitter owner and CEO] for allowing these dangerous lies to proliferate.”

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Marjorie Taylor Greene tweets homophobic attack on Sen. Wiener

“Greene is a toxic person & embodies why the MAGA movement is dangerous, a threat to our democracy & to the personal safety of LGBTQ people”

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Calif state Sen. Scott Wiener, (D-San Francisco) (Photo credit: California LGBTQ Legislative Caucus)

LOS ANGELES – Far-right Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene attacked Calif. State Sen. Scott Wiener, (D-San Francisco) on Tuesday after Wiener made a point of calling out use of the word “groomer,” as the abusive reaction and fallout from right-wing sources regarding the mass-shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, continues to ratchet up against the LGBTQ+ community.

The word “groomer” is categorically an anti-LGBTQ hate word. It’s super homophobic/transphobic. It plays into the slander that LGBTQ people are pedophiles. It’s no different than calling someone a fagg*t. If you call someone groomer, you’re inciting violence against LGBTQ people,” Wiener stated in his tweet.

Quoting Wiener’s tweet the far-right MAGA Georgia congresswoman called the Senator a “communist” questioning Wiener’s loyalty and service to both the State of California and the U.S. she then went on to accuse Wiener of being a “groomer” implying that the Senator was a predator of minors for sexual purposes:

Pass my Protect Children’s Innocence Act to stop communist groomers like this from using state government power to take children away from their parents to allow a for-profit medical industry to chop off these confused children’s genitals before they are even old enough to vote.”

In an emailed statement, Senator Wiener responded to the homophobic attack by the Georgia Republican:

“The same day Elon Musk reinstated QAnon extremist Marjorie Taylor Greene, she launched a vile homophobic attack on me because of my vocal advocacy in response to the Club Q slaughter. When Greene has attacked me in the past, threats against me have typically increased. She is a toxic person and embodies why the MAGA movement is so dangerous. Green is a threat to our democracy and to the personal safety of LGBTQ people.”

The term ‘groomer’ is considered highly offensive as it broadly brushstroke paints LGBTQ+ people as child molesters.

The definition according to the Urban online dictionary:

groomer

1 (the crime definition): An adult that builds a sense of trust with a minor to exploit and/or abuse them, typically (but not always) in a sexual manner. This is a crime, and it also causes harm to the minor.

2 (in US politics): What republican politicians and supporters refer to LGBTQIA+ people and their allies as, to manipulate their audience to pass anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation. This is targeting and harming LGBTQIA+ people and the people using the word in this manner typically are (or have connections with those who are) actual groomers.

National Public Radio, (NPR) reported this past May the Movement Advancement Project’s executive director, Ineke Mushovic, pointed out:

“What the far right often does is they engage people’s reptilian brains, the fight-or-flight instinct,” says Mushovic. “And so it behooves far-right conservatives to put people in a state of fear, because then they’re reactive. They don’t support change.”

The “grooming” narrative, Mushovic added, “taps into this primal sense of fear and this kind of parental protective instinct. But we know it’s a completely false narrative.”

The “grooming” narrative has been actively promoted by conservative activist Christopher Rufo, and Daily Wire pundit and transphobe Matt Walsh who have both attacked gender affirming care in their assaults on the LGBTQ+ community.

Green’s H.R.8731 – Protect Children’s Innocence Act, was introduced this past August 19 and has forty-nine Republican members listed as co-sponsors. The language as introduced stated targets primarily Trans youth healthcare and targets colleges and universities from “offering instruction in gender affirming care:”

This bill places restrictions on the provision of gender affirming care. Gender affirming care includes performing surgery, administering medication, or performing other procedures for the purpose of changing the body of an individual to correspond to a sex that differs from the individual’s biological sex.

Specifically, the bill makes it a felony to perform any gender affirming care on a minor and it permits a minor on whom such care is performed to bring a civil action against each individual who provided the care.

Additionally, the bill prohibits the use of federal funds for gender affirming care or for health insurance that covers such care. Such care may not be provided in a federal health care facility or by a federal employee. The bill also prohibits qualified health plans from including coverage for gender affirming care. Further, plans that include coverage for such care are not eligible for federal subsidies. […]

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Out AG candidate wins, Rollins concedes congressional race

‘Fixing our system of disagreement matters. Integrity matters. Truth matters. Democracy matters, elections matter’

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Kris Mayes & Will Rollins (Photo Credit: LGBTQ Victory Fund/Rollins Campaign)

PHOENIX – The closest statewide competition in the Grand Canyon State was the race for Arizona attorney general. On Monday Maricopa County released its final election results that had openly Out candidate Kris Mayes beating her Republican opponent Abe Hamadeh by only 510 votes.

“Kris’ victory is a win for all Arizonans. Voters chose a champion of equality who believes in democracy over a cynic who spread election disinformation for his own perceived political gain. In a state with bans on abortion and same-sex marriage still on the books, the symbolism of voters choosing an out LGBTQ Attorney General cannot be overstated,” Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement. “Kris has a long track record of taking on big fights and winning on behalf of her community and will be a powerful pro-equality, pro-choice force in Arizona. Today’s results are a resounding rebuke to the hate and intolerance sweeping our country. Voters made their voices heard loud and clear: enough is enough. It’s time for change, it’s time for courage.”

There are currently just two out LGBTQ state Attorneys General in the United States, according to LGBTQ Victory Institute: Dana Nessel in Michigan and Maura Healey in Massachusetts. In case of Massachusetts, Healy is now the governor-elect of Massachusetts, having won the 2022 election.

According to Phoenix NBC News affiliate KPNX 12, the state’s unofficial final results have placed Mayes only 510 votes ahead of Hamadeh to become the state’s next attorney general. The results will likely spur an automatic recount after state election numbers are certified on Dec. 5. 

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. – In the race to represent California’s 41st Congressional District in the House of Representatives, openly gay Democratic candidate and former federal prosecutor Will Rollins congratulated his GOP opponent Ken Calvert and conceded the race.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, Rollins said: “I have called Representative Calvert to offer my congratulations. I had hoped for a different result, but I respect our democratic system and am sure that our fine election workers did their jobs honestly and responsibly, and I accept the count. Thank you to the hundreds of thousands of you who voted.” 

He added:

“So, what’s next? What’s next for our communities, and what’s next for our country? The truth is that we are in a moment of uncertainty, because America is divided. And there are a lot of people out there who benefit – financially, militarily, politically – when Americans turn against one another.

“But this campaign proves that ordinary Americans have the power to reject those who try to divide us. That is how we built this country, and that is how we built this campaign. We are a community of Democrats, Republicans, and independents who came together to restore compromise, civility, and progress in the United States.”

Rollins also noted:

“This community is growing. Ordinary Americans of good faith uniting to elect leaders who know that this country is about more than one person, more than one president, more than one party, and more than one congressman. We may not always agree on how to solve the country’s problems, but the point of this campaign has always been that the way we disagree matters. Fixing our system of disagreement matters. Integrity matters. Truth matters. Democracy matters.”

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Politics

Kelly cites white supremacy after losing House race in Tennessee

A 2022 report by The Sentencing Project shows that 21% of Black voters in Tennessee are permanently barred from voting

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Odessa Kelly lost her House race in a gerrymandered district. (Photo by Shance Ware)

NASHVILLE – Odessa Kelly was on track to become the first openly gay Black woman elected to represent Tennessee in the U.S. House. On election night, as votes were counted, Kelly watched that dream slip out of reach. 

“The loss didn’t come because I’m an openly gay Black woman in the South, the loss came because of racism,” Kelly said in an interview with the Blade.

Kelly, who ran to represent Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District against incumbent Mark Green (R), lost the election by more than 20 points. Kelly blames white supremacy, gerrymandering, and voter suppression for her loss.

“I just lost a congressional race due to White Supremacy, Gerrymandering, Racist (GOP), Undercover Racist BlueDog Dems, and Voter Suppression,” Kelly tweeted post-election.

Republican-led gerrymandering parceled predominantly Democratic Davidson County, which includes Nashville, into three separate congressional districts. This gerrymandering obliterated representation for Nashville residents at the state and federal level. 

“We have zero representation in the largest, most populated city in Tennessee,” Kelly said. 

Gerrymandering often intentionally marginalizes minority communities’ voices and votes by relocating them to conservative districts. East Nashville, the minority ruled and politically Democratic district where Kelly grew up, was moved to the conservative and predominantly white district of Cookeville. But Nashville residents aren’t the only Tennesseans affected by gerrymandering in the state. 

Statewide, Tennessean voters of color were disproportionately split up and relocated to districts where they are outnumbered and their voices are drowned out. This leaves communities of color at the mercy of Jim Crow and racist political tactics that suppress their voices and their votes because they no longer hold a majority vote in any of these new districts. 

“White supremacy showed up in our state legislature and in me losing this race,” Kelly said. 

The systemic disenfranchisement of Black voters in Tennessee also played a major role in Kelly’s loss. A 2022 report by The Sentencing Project shows that 21% of Black voters in Tennessee are permanently barred from voting, while only 8% of adult voters are barred statewide. 

And a Tennessee Advisory Committee Report shows that Tennessee is one of 11 states that permanently disenfranchises voters. With some of the toughest laws and requirements for voting, the state makes it hard for Tennesseans to earn the right to vote again. 

“I assume that the majority of those individuals who can’t vote would probably vote for me because they’re looking for relief and pathways out of poverty,” Kelly said. “And those are the things that I’m fighting for.” 

As for what’s next, Kelly says she is determined to keep fighting for a country and political system where those forgotten by the status quo are represented. .

“I will not stop. I will not give up. I will keep fighting because the issues don’t change.” 

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California Politics

Lindsey Horvath elected to LA County Board of Supervisors

Horvath extended her appreciation to outcoming Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who had endorsed and backed her in the campaign to succeed her

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Lindsey Horvath (Screenshot/YouTube CBS Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES – West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath won slightly more than a plurality of the vote gaining a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors representing District Three after State Senator Bob Hertzberg conceded Thursday afternoon.

In a statement released Hertzberg wrote; “I want to offer my sincere congratulations to Sup-Elect Horvath. The challenges LA faces are extraordinary and it’ll take someone with her work ethic to be successful. Thank you to everyone who has supported me- my family, friends, elected leaders, & residents across SD3.”

 

“I am humbled and honored that the voters have chosen me to serve as their next Supervisor. Their confidence and support fueled our people-powered campaign across the finish line, and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to represent the people of District 3,” Horvath told supporters and county residents in a statement Thursday evening.

“I want to thank Senator Bob Hertzberg for his incredibly generous and kind phone call, for his commitment to public service, and for engaging in this hard fought campaign to make Los Angeles a better place. I welcome his supporters into the work we will all need to do together. Regardless of who you voted for, I will always work my heart out to represent you and the best interests of our communities,” she said.

She also extended her appreciation to outcoming Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who had endorsed and backed her in the campaign to succeed her in the seat.

SUPERVISOR 3RD DISTRICT

Candidate(s)VotesPercent
LINDSEY HORVATH (N)227,56152.24%
BOB HERTZBERG (N)208,01947.76%
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Politics

Cicilline joins clergy rallying support of Respect for Marriage Act

The legislation presents a rare area on which the deeply divided Congress has struck an agreement to pass a significant bipartisan bill

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U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) speaks during a rally in the Lower Senate Park on Nov. 16, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Christopher Kane)

WASHINGTON – Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline, chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus and member of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees, joined multi-faith clergy for a rally on Thursday at the Lower Senate Park in support of the Respect for Marriage Act.

Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat who co-sponsored the U.S. House of Representative’s version of the legislation, which the lower chamber passed this summer, celebrated the U.S. Senate’s expected vote today to send the bill to President Joe Biden’s desk.

The congressman said that while faith has sometimes been misused as a cudgel to argue against same-sex marriage, “many people support marriage equality not despite their religious beliefs but rather because of them.”

“As a proud Jew, it’s part of my religious community and tradition,” Cicilline said. “We’re taught to heal the world and repair the broken world. I’m proud as a member of Congress and chair of the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus to follow our Biblical command to pursue justice.”

Cicilline’s message about the personal significance of the protections offered by the Respect for Marriage Act was echoed by, among other speakers, Revs. Nicole Garcia, faith work director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, and Paul Raushenbush, president of the Interfaith Alliance.

Yesterday, a dozen Senate Republicans joined their 50 Democratic colleagues to support a procedural cloture vote, which advanced the Respect for Marriage Act to a floor vote by the full chamber.

Biden and a chorus of LGBTQ, civil rights, and legal advocacy organizations celebrated the GOP members’ support of the bill, which leadership in the House and Senate have made a major priority for Congress’s lame duck session.

The Respect for Marriage Act presents a rare area on which the deeply divided legislature has struck an agreement to pass a significant bipartisan bill.

The impetus behind the legislation was the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which saw a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas in which he pledged to revisit the high court’s precedent-making rulings on other matters, including same-sex marriage.

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Politics

Pelosi announces end of her tenure as House Speaker

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) also announced he will step down from leadership to pave the way for “a new generation of leaders”

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Nancy Pelosi addresses the House from the chamber floor Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 announcing she is stepping down from leadership (Screenshot/YouTube Washington Post)

WASHINGTON – On Thursday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) announced her decision to pass the leadership torch to the younger generation of Democratic members in the lower chamber, stepping down after decades of service in that role.

“I will continue to speak from the people of San Francisco as a member of the House,” she said, but “I will not seek reelection to democratic leadership in the next caucus.”

Republicans secured a narrower-than-expected seven-seat majority in the 2022 midterm elections, with Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) poised to become the next House Speaker when the new Congress is seated in January.

Pelosi, whose decision to step down comes weeks after her husband was brutally attacked in the couple’s San Francisco home, reached an agreement with fellow Democratic members in 2018 that she would resign from her position in leadership by the end of this year.

While she did not address the question of who might succeed her as Democratic leader of the House, the website Puck reported on Thursday that Pelosi plans to throw her support behind Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Ny.).

“Never did I think I would go from homemaker to House Speaker,” Pelosi said from the floor of the House. Reflecting on her 35 years of service in the chamber, the congresswoman celebrated the work that she and the Democratic caucus have accomplished.

This included passage of transformative legislation under the administrations of three presidents, she said: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden. Pelosi, who became the first woman Speaker of the House in 2007, also held that role under former President Donald Trump’s tenure.

“When I think of Nancy Pelosi, I think of dignity,” opens a statement from President Joe Biden on the Speaker’s announcement:

“History will note she is the most consequential Speaker of the House of Representatives in our history. There are countless examples of how she embodies the obligation of elected officials to uphold their oath to God and country to ensure our democracy delivers and remains a beacon to the world. In everything she does, she reflects a dignity in her actions and a dignity she sees in the lives of the people of this nation.”

Democratic Senator Alex Padilla of California also released a statement, which read in part: “Speaker Pelosi’s perseverance and commitment to unity has served as a source of strength both at home and abroad in the face of extremist attempts to harm our democracy, our nation’s Capitol, and even her own family.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement in which he said, in part: “Her career in Congress, and as Speaker, has been a masterclass in powerful, empathetic leadership, guided by her strong moral compass and unmatched political skill.”

The LGBTQ Victory Institute hailed the Speaker’s record on matters of consequence to the community. Pelosi, the group wrote, “is the most pro-LGBTQ Speaker in American history – constantly championing our rights and causes – and the relief and pride that came with having a fierce defender in that position cannot be understated.”

“From her first floor speech in 1987 to today’s, Speaker Pelosi has been an indefatigable champion for LGBTQ+ civil rights, reproductive freedom and the health and well-being of all Americans,” Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang said in a statement. “She is, without question, the most effective Speaker in history, and we are eternally grateful for her service.”

Also on Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced in a letter to his Democratic colleagues that he would not seek another term in leadership.

Having served in leadership positions for 36 of his 42 years in the House, Hoyer wrote, “I have been honored to serve alongside Nancy Pelosi, whose tenure as Speaker was both historic and extraordinarily productive.”

Hoyer announced his endorsement of Jeffries to replace him as the House’s Democratic Leader.

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Politics

GOP wins narrow control of the U.S. House

“With a small Republican majority, we think there’s a greater chance of blocking anti-gay and anti-trans bills”

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House results From The Associated Press · 428 of 435 seats up for election called as of November 16

WASHINGTON – Certainty over Republicans’ control of the U.S. House of Representatives crystalized on Tuesday, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fended off a bid for his position by fellow GOP Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.).

As the final votes from last week’s midterm elections continue to trickle in, by Wednesday evening it became clear that when the 118th Congress is seated in January, the legislature will be divided between the House and the U.S. Senate, where Democrats will either retain their 50-vote majority or win an extra seat, pending the results of Georgia’s runoff election in December.

It is the House, too, that will be divided, as the majority’s shift from blue to red was narrowly won, with only seven races whose results have not yet been tallied. Republicans’ control of the chamber comes with 218 seats, a feat they accomplished today. By 4:40 p.m. PT, Democrats had won 210 seats.

Leadership in both chambers has also been decided. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is poised to take over as House Speaker in January when the new Congress meets. McConnell, meanwhile, prevailed over a challenge for his Senate leadership by Scott, his Republican colleague.

“With a small Republican majority, we think there’s a greater chance of blocking anti-gay and anti-trans bills, which may now not even be brought up for a vote,” Geoff Wetrosky, campaign director for the Human Rights Campaign, told the Washington Blade by phone on Tuesday.

“Not only because of the composition of Congress, but also because last week’s election made clear that voters do not support this kind of extremism,” Wetrosky said.

Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, told the Blade by phone on Tuesday that “the first six months will be spent in internal warfare, but it’s clear that there won’t be anything positive coming out of the House for our community.”

There “very well may be negative bills,” Parker added, noting that with a slim majority in the lower chamber, there is unlikely to be much legislation, period.

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