Two Republican members of Congress attacked Dr. Rachel Levine, the assistant secretary of health, following her being sworn in as an admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
On Tuesday, Levine became the first out transgender officer in all eight of the uniformed services, and the first female four-star officer in the PHSCC. In that role, Levine will lead a team of more than 6,000 officers in responding to public health crises and natural disasters.
Following her promotion to admiral, Levine’s historic accomplishment was praised by LGBTQ advocates as a milestone for the transgender community. But she was criticized by conservatives due to her gender identity, with many disputing the notion that she is a woman.
Indiana Congressman Jim Banks responded to a tweet from U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy about Levine’s new position, tweeting: “The title of first female four-star officer gets taken by a man.”
The title of first female four-star officer gets taken by a man. https://t.co/bHKmJbE6cA
— Jim Banks (@RepJimBanks) October 19, 2021
He followed that tweet with another, adding: “Calling someone that was born and lived as a man for 54 years the first ‘female’ four-star officer is an insult to every little girl who dreams of breaking glass ceilings one day.”
Calling someone that was born and lived as a man for 54 years the first "female" four-star officer is an insult to every little girl who dreams of breaking glass ceilings one day. https://t.co/bHKmJbE6cA
— Jim Banks (@RepJimBanks) October 19, 2021
The LGBTQ Victory Institute, which advocates for greater LGBTQ representation in elected and appointed positions within government, called Banks’s tweets bigoted.
Ruben Gonzales, the executive director of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said the tweets were “an insult to every little girl who dreams of an America where public servants will treat them with respect and judge them by their accomplishments.”
“Whether Jim knows it or not, he has served next to countless LGBTQ military members who risk everything for our country, and with hundreds of LGBTQ appointees who work tirelessly for the American people,” Gonzales said in a statement, as reported by the Indianapolis Star. “For him to go out of his way to denigrate Admiral Levine and those LGBTQ public servants tells us much more about him than it does about them.”
Banks was joined by Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, who decried Levine’s appointment, tweeting: “Welcome to woke medicine, America,” which the congresswoman’s critics saw as a dig at Levine’s gender identity.
Welcome to woke medicine, America. pic.twitter.com/OfKWX2GM90
— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) October 20, 2021
But several Twitter users panned Boebert’s comments, tweeting their support for Levine.
“Rachel Levine has more public service, more public health and medical education and experience and has achieved more in her life than you could ever dream of achieving. She’s a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health service! She commands respect. You don’t, at all,” tweeted one user.
“Why are you denigrating this person? Why are you embracing prejudice?” tweeted another.
Virginia Congressman Don Beyer clapped back at Boebert, calling Levine “an accomplished pediatrician, a graduate of Harvard and Tulane, a former fellow at one of America’s top teaching hospitals, a professor who created medical programs at Penn State to help young people, and PA’s former Physician General.”
“You,” he tweeted to Boebert,” are just a hateful bigot.”
Dr. Levine is an accomplished pediatrician, a graduate of Harvard and Tulane, a former fellow at one of America's top teaching hospitals, a professor who created medical programs at Penn State to help young people, and PA's former Physician General.
You are just a hateful bigot. https://t.co/e5ihANWciZ
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) October 20, 2021
Fox News host Tucker Carlson also piled on, insinuating that the Biden administration is trying to provoke Americans who do not believe in affirming trans people’s gender identities.
“Behind the heavily guarded walls of the White House, everyone has gone crazy,” Carlson said, according to Mediaite. “Just this week the Biden administration declared that a biological man who wears a dress is now a female admiral. And then they sent that brave four-star female admiral out to deliver a speech that read like something out of a D-Day documentary.”
Carlson then played a clip of Levine accepting her appointment and saying she’s “honored to serve as the first female four-star officer of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps,” which set Carlson off.
“Come on. They’re daring you to sit there and not say this is ridiculous. But it is, sorry. It is ridiculous. Sorry, not playing along! But they don’t think it is. And so you have to ask yourself, how long will it be before Joe Biden appoints his horse to the Supreme Court?” Carlson said as a graphic of Biden in royal garb with the caption “The Madness of King Biden” appeared on the screen. “And when he inevitably does do that, you have to ask, how long will it be until CNN informs us, ‘This is a watershed moment for equine rights. Don’t you dare laugh. That would be a hate crime.'”
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