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Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Opinion | How Marjorie Taylor Greene’s ‘pedophile’ slur made it to ‘60 Minutes’ - The Washington Post

Opinion How Marjorie Taylor Greene’s ‘pedophile’ slur made it to ‘60 Minutes’

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) speaks on the second day of the Conservative Political Action Conference in in Fort Washington, Md., on March 3. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) 

CBS anchor Lesley Stahl was shocked to hear that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene stands firmly behind her frequent claim that Democrats are “pedophiles.” On “60 Minutes,” Stahl pressed Greene on her use of the slur, and the Georgia Republican defiantly responded that it’s the truth: “They support grooming children.”

“They are not pedophiles,” Stahl rejoined incredulously. “Why would you say that?”

Stahl has been roasted online for granting Greene a plum “60 Minutes” interview, which aired Sunday night. But the real problem with this exchange is that Stahl did not show any signs of understanding the longtime role of the “pedophile” insult in right-wing discourse as an expression of deliberate bigotry against transgender Americans.

As a result, Stahl squandered a high-profile opportunity to explain to a large prime-time audience what Greene and others really intend when they use this smear.

The “pedophile” slur, a companion of the term “groomer,” is regularly applied by Republicans and right-wing media figures to Democrats and others who stand up for transgender rights, including gender-affirming treatment for adolescents. Greene cheerfully flaunted this use of the term on “60 Minutes,” which left Stahlutterly flummoxed:

Greene: Democrats support, even Joe Biden, the president himself, supports children being sexualized and having transgender surgeries. Sexualizing children is what pedophiles do to children.

Stahl: Wow. Okay. But my question really is, can’t you fight for what you believe in without all that name-calling and without the personal attacks?

Greene: Well, I would ask the same question to the other side …

Not only did Greene casually conflate “sexualizing children” with transgender care, but she also is being despicably dishonest by reducing gender-affirming care to “surgeries.” Yet this conflation of support for trans youth with pedophiliaslipped by, unrebutted, to a national audience. No wonder Greene told Semaforshe was pleased with how the interview went.

Calling this mere “name-calling,” as Stahl did, does not communicate what is so hateful about it. And it implies a lack of awareness of the slur’s role in a discourse of deliberate dehumanization of trans people and those who minister to or validate gender dysphoria, who are said to be “grooming” children for nefarious purposes.

Before transgender people were targeted with this word, gay Americans were.Opponents of same-sex marriage charged a decade ago that its proponents aimed to destroy gender roles and the social order, ultimately leading to gay families with children and legalized “pedophilia,” according to Right Wing Watch.

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“It has been a talking point for a long time in the religious right that same-sex couples pose a risk to children inherently,” Jared Holt, a researcher at Institute for Strategic Dialogue who closely tracks the right, told me. The frequent message, Holt said, has been that gay rights activists are “seeking to corrupt children” with the “goal of eventual sexual exploitation.”

After marriage equality triumphed, the “pedophile” smear against Democrats morphed into something stranger: the deranged charges of child trafficking that drive the QAnon conspiracy theory. When those accusations proved obviously false, right-wing media figures and MAGA Republicans such as Greene seamlessly shifted to widely applying the “groomer” term to Democrats advocating for tolerance of trans people, especially adolescent trans care and classroom discussion of LGBTQ issues.

The through line here, as historian Brandy Schillace points out, is that the right has recoiled both at the prospect of happy gay families and at young trans people finding better lives with their own parents’ loving support. The connection, Schillace told me, is “resistance to seeing homosexuals or transgender people as part of families,” carried out by associating LGBTQ people with “child predators.”

The “groomer” smear has become so mainstream in right-wing discourse that the longtime communications adviser for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis brashly hurled itat DeSantis’s critics, with zero professional repercussions.

The “pedophile” term also carries echoes of historical slurs used during the civil rights era, says Manisha Sinha, a history professor at the University of Connecticut. She likens it to claims that civil rights activists were “racial amalgamationists” out to “pollute” the South with racial mixing.

“The whole idea was to denigrate the fight for political citizenship as some sort of sexual attack on the White race,” Sinha tells me. “In that sense, this language of ‘pedophiles’ and ‘groomers’ is reminiscent of that kind of language.”

How to effectively expose the ugly underbelly of this ongoing dehumanization campaign is a complicated question, and we all have our work cut out for ourselves in figuring out how to navigate the ugly terminology of anti-trans prejudice. But Stahl missed an opportunity to talk about it plainly to the American mainstream."

Opinion | How Marjorie Taylor Greene’s ‘pedophile’ slur made it to ‘60 Minutes’ - The Washington Post

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