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MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle offered something of a masterclass in journalism when she held a Republican governor to account for signing an anti-transgender bill.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) last week signed into law a ban on transgender middle and high school students competing in sports based on their gender identity. Justice ignored opposition to the law, including potential retaliation from the NCAA, and even suggested it could be expanded to cover collegiate sports.
Justice appeared on MSNBC on Friday, April 30, just two days after signing the bill, but evidently wasn’t prepared for Ruhle, host of MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle, to hold him to account for enabling transphobia.
Ruhle asked Justice to “name one example of of a transgender child trying to gain an unfair competitive advantage at a school there in West Virginia,” citing a common argument used by Republicans to justify athlete bans.
As it transpired, Justice could not provide even one example.
“Well, Stephanie, I don’t have that experience exactly to myself right now,” he said, attempting to continue his word salad before Ruhle cut him off.
“Not yourself, your state, sir,” she said. “Can you give me one example of a transgender child trying to get an unfair example. Just one in your state. You signed a bill about it.”
Justice then admitted that he couldn’t give Ruhle any examples, but attempted to string together a coherent argument based on his coaching experience.
“No, I can’t really tell you one, but I can tell you this Stephanie, I’m a coach. And I coach a girls’ basketball team. And I can tell you that there, you know, we all know, we all know what an absolute advantage boys would have playing against girls,” he said.
“But sir, you have no examples of this happening,” Ruhle interjected. “Why would you take your time to do this?”
Ruhle then delivered a verbal body slam, giving Justice a list of issues that might be more worthy of his time and energy.
“West Virginia ranks 45th in education, 47th in healthcare, 48th on the economy, and 50th in infrastructure. If you cannot name one single example for me, of a child doing this, why would you make this a priority?” she asked.
Justice tried to pass the buck to other Republicans in his state, saying he “didn’t make it a priority. It wasn’t my bill.”
“You signed it!” Ruhle tossed back.
Justice justified signing the bill by saying “girls worked so hard to obtain Title IX,” referencing federal civil rights law preventing sex discrimination in education programs and activities.
He then accused transgender people of trying to “disadvantage” cisgender females participating in sports, before once again saying banning transgender people was not “a big priority to me.”
Ruhle again reminded Justice that he signed the bill, leading Justice to say, “I think we only have 12 kids, maybe, in our state that are transgender-type kids.”
“For crying out loud, Stephanie, I sign hundreds of bills. Hundreds of bills,” he continued. “This is not a priority to me.”
Justice then once again claimed a personal justification — rather than one based on facts or evidence — for supporting the anti-transgender legislation.
“I would say I think that it would impose an unfair disadvantage on the girls, and so from that standpoint I support it,” he said.
Ruhle then stepped in to thank Justice and deliver the knockout blow.
“Please come back when — beyond anecdotal feelings as a coach — you can show me evidence where those young women are being disadvantaged in your state,” Ruhle said. “Because I can show you evidence about how ranking that low in education is disadvantaging young women and men in West Virginia.”
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