The MRC's War on Lia Thomas
The Media Research Center spent months spewing hate at a transgender college swimmer, a hostility that only increased as her winning and awards did.
By Terry Krepel
If you haven’t heard, there’s an athlete at Penn who’s destroying women’s swimming records.
1) Philbin apparently thinks that 25-year-old cultural references are relevant to insulting transgender people today. 2) Philbin seems to have forgotten that his employer believes anonymous sources are not trustworthy and are used only to advance political narratives. Still, he continued whining:
This guy has the potential to be NCAA champ and break NCAA all-time records. In women’s swimming. Outckick’s interviewee pointed out the absurdity of it all.
A Dec. 13 item by Jay Maxson -- who's so mysterious we don't even know what gender he (or she) is -- was upset that the transphobes attacking Thomas were correctly identified as such:
Courtesy of “transphobes,” an “anti-trans panic” has come to the Ivy League swimming pool at Pennsylvania University. Lia Thomas, the latest trans woman athlete,” has become the “villain”, says SBNation Outsports trans writer Karleigh Webb (no conflict of interest here though). Thomas is a man who’s smashing women’s swimming records to bits, while violating Webb’s belief that “transgender women” are only acceptable to the Right if they lose at women's sports.
Maxson devoted a Dec. 21 post to cheering that an editor for a swimming magazine trashed Thomas, littering it with phrases like "It’s time to stop the madness" and "gender-bending nonsense." Three days later, Maxson found someone else to help him (or her) trash Thomas:
Long-time USA Swimming official Cynthia Millen resigned a week ago in protest over the so-called University of Pennsylvania transgender athlete making a mockery of women’s collegiate swimming. Millen told The Washington Times and Fox News that she will not support transgender nonsense on the grounds that the fairness in women’s swimming is being destroyed by a man.
Maxson concluded by gushing that "The courageous people are those like Millen who have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and oppose the agenda."
Maxson's fellow MRC sports blogger, John Simmons, heaped more love on Millen in a Dec. 29 post:
On Christmas Eve, swimming official Cynthia Millen resigned after 30 years in the sport due to a transgendered woman who is smashing swimming records. Now, she is boldly speaking out against men who are allowed to compete in women’s sports simply based on what they identify as.
But both Maxson and Simmons censored from their readers the fact that Millen is actually a far-right hater who has lashed out against transgender people as a whole (so much for the "child of God" thing), same-sex marriage and adoption and even birth control. But really, does anyone expect the MRC to be honest about this?
A Jan. 18 post by Maxson was filled with hate and deliberate misgendering:
In a gag-worthy twist, the latest from the PennU trans swimming pool is that Lia Thomas says he is the Jackie Robinson of transgender athletics. Strange, but I don’t recall anything about a “Jacquelyn” Robinson, major league baseball’s first black player with Brooklyn in 1947, later joining the Rockford Peaches women’s baseball team (1943-54) and batting .990!
The same day, John Simmons bashed champion swimmer Michael Phelps for accurately noting that Thomas' situation is complicated, whining that "his stance on transgenderism leaves a lot to be desired" before going into right-wing lecture mode: "People cannot simply take testosterone suppressants or have reassignment surgery to 'change their gender.' You are either born a male or a female, anything else you do is a feeble attempt to change the fundamental identity you were born with. So we should never be 'comfortable in our own skin' if we are living a lie, but our Phelps seems perfectly okay to let that one slide."
Maxson returned on Jan. 21 to whine that "the NCAA is changing its rules because of Thomas," further huffing: "Maybe being the BTOC (Big Transgender On Campus) wasn’t such a hot idea after all for Will 'Lia' Thomas. She’s growing more and more unpopular with her teammates." A Jan. 28 post by Matt Philbin -- under the weird, creepy headline "Women’s Locker Room Gets Teste Over Thomas" -- was also outraged that Thomas allegedly has Trump's personality (and is weirdly obsessed with the state of Thomas' genitals):
There’s still junk in Davy Jones’s locker, and the gals don’t wanna see it.
It seems that both Philbin and Maxson have forgotten that their employer considers anonymous sources to be untrustworthy. Maxson forgot it again in a Jan. 30 post:
The Will (aka “Lia”) Thomas controversy with Penn University women’s swimming is on a collision course with postseason events and potential NCAA rules changes regarding transgender athletes. An anonymous member of that team told Fox News she overheard Penn administrations speaking of a potential lawsuit if Thomas is prevented from NCAA national competition in March.
Actually, the folks generating that "hysteria" are transphobes like Maxson. Speaking of transphobia, Simmons served up a helping of it in a Feb. 22 post:
Left-leaning, publicly-funded media outlet National Public Radio (NPR), like a large contingent of the American population, loves the fact that trans-woman Lia Thomas is dominating the swimming competition in the Ivy League. They love it so much they are willing to sacrifice basic journalist principles to make sure it's seen as nothing but an accomplishment that everyone should celebrate.
Then it was lecture time again from Simmons:
This situation lacks all semblance of basic moral principles and common sense, which is perhaps exactly why NPR published the story in the first place.
If Simmons actually cares about the issue, he should look inside MRC headquarters, where its "news" division CNSNews.com serves up bias and unbalanced reporting on a regular basis.
Philbin returned to spend a Feb. 28 post in full whine mode over an Associated Press report that accurately pointed out how right-wingers like him are hyping transgenderism in general and Thomas in particular as wedge issues for political purposes:
Long before “Republicans Pounce!” they had “wedge issues.” They used them to divide people and, according to an AP report, they still do.
Philbin's mocking tone disguises the fact that no point does he deny that that he and his fellow right-wingers are whipping up transphobic hysteria for political purposes.
The winning -- and the hate -- continues
As Thomas competed in college conference competitions, the hate ratcheted up. Alex Christy huffed in a March 18 post:
MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson took a break from Ukraine coverage towards the end of her Thursday show to hype the “potentially history-making night” to come as transgender swimming Lia Thomas prepared to compete in the NCAA swimming championships -- which Thomas did win later in the day. Together with activist Chris Mosier, the duo demanded Thomas be celebrated for making it to the championships.
Christy complained that Jackson "cherry-picked" a competitor who didn't object to competing against her and ignored "plenty of reports that her teammates resent having to share the same locker room as Thomas and compete at such a biological disadvantage." But the reports Christy cited come from the New York Post, which has the same right-wing anti-trans agenda as the MRC, and are anonymously sourced, which, again, the MRC doesn't like. Christy went on to baselessly suggest that Thomas became transgender solely because she couldn't compete successfully as a male: "Thomas went from being the 462nd ranked male swimmer to the number one ranked female swimmer and later on Thursday would go on to win the national championship. It doesn’t take an advanced biology or anatomy and physiology degree to figure why and that is not a cause for celebration."
The same day, John Simmons cheered that "tranny" Thomas received "warranted backlash" for winning a race at the NCAA championships:
In the most unsurprising sports headline of the week, Lia Thomas - a transgendered female - defeated a pool (no pun intended) of real women in the 500-yard freestyle event at the NCAA Division I Championships in Atlanta, GA on Thursday, with a time of 4 minutes, 33.24 seconds.
Simmons didn't explain why anonymous sources should be trusted to trash Thomas. And like Christy, his sources of criticism of Thomas were mostly right-wing activists, and the first one he cited was notorious homophobe Matt Walsh. Simmons concluded by ranting:
When you start to lose the support of feminists for what you are doing, maybe it’s time to take stock in just how bonkers of a situation we have on our hands.
By contrast, Simmons and the rest of the MRC have stayed silent about Walsh's sick stunt of deceiving transgender people into thinking he was making a pro-transgender film. Maxson cheered the right-wing backlash as well in a March 21 post:
America’s college women’s swimming season is over, but the controversy over transgender fraud Will “Lia” Thomas isn’t disappearing any time soon.
Maxson hid the fact that Save Women's Sports is very much making it a partisan political issue; members protested outside the NCAA swimming championships even though none of them had any background in swimming and have consistently misgendered Thomas. Maxson deliberately misgendered her too:
Meanwhile, Thomas, who is a senior and finished with college competition, is setting his sights on the 2024 women’s Olympic swimming competition. He’s aiming to take his ill-gotten eligibility for women’s swimming to its highest competitive level. The unfairness never ends in this mad, mad, mad world of woke sports.
Maxson put out another rant the same day complaining that "NBC airbrushed a photo of Penn University swimmer Will 'Lia' Thomas to portray him [sic] more like a cover girl than a manly man." Simmons used a March 25 post to gush over how transgender person Caitlyn Jenner criticized Thomas while also misgendering her as well:
Caitlyn Jenner is an odd individual. He transitioned to a she in 2015 and has been an outspoken supporter of trans rights in recent years, but yesterday Jenner made a statement that might have some trans people scratching their heads.
Yes, Simmons really thinks being transgender is an "ideology" like his being a hateful right-winger. He then used a March 29 post to cheer that a college swimmer went on a right-wing podcast and "detailed how repulsive it was being in the same locker room with a man," going on to rant that Thomas was destroying American society:
A growing contingent of NCAA swimmers have had enough with Lia Thomas ruining women’s swimming not just in the pool, but in other aspects as well.
Simmons concluded by ranting that accepting Thomas means "society will devolve into chaos and ruin" and sneering, "Hopefully, pressure like this will be enough to get Thomas out of the pool with biological women and get him back to being mediocre against other men."
An April 7 post by Maxson championed another swimmer bashing Thomas, prompting yet another transphobic rant:
Excuse me, but Lia does not need anything but a one way ticket out of women's swimming.
Maxson used an April 11 post to baselessly claim that Thomas became a woman to win more medals, then bashed the NCAA for not hating LGBT people as much as he (or she) does:
For three long seasons, Pennsylvania University student William Thomas toiled at the back of the pack in men’s collegiate swimming. To say he was an also-ran would be an insult to also-runs. After ranking a woeful 462nd in men’s swimming, he re-invented himself as “Lia” Thomas, a transgender “woman.”
The MRC's war on Thomas has always been about dehumanizing and smearing her for being transgender, and it's a part of the organization's overall hatred of anyone and anything LGBT. Let's not pretend it involves any sort of desire for "integrity."
The attacks never stop
When Thomas did an interview with ABC, Michael Ippolito was in full rant mode in a May 31 post:
Men are not women, and women are not men. Ten years ago, that statement would need no elaboration. Now this phrase can get you called transphobic, ignorant, fired, or shunned from civil society.
Ippolito censored the fact that Thomas also said that the hormone treatment she underwent as part of the transition meant that "I lost muscle mass and I became a lot weaker and a lot, a lot slower in the water." Of course, that inconvenient fact disproves a key right-wing narrative about Thomas, that she is using full-male-strength muscles to compete with other women.
So offended was the MRC that Thomas was allowed to tell her side of the story regarding the controversy over her swimming that it took a second to fully express their hatred of her. Curtis Houck attacked the interview again later that day:
On Monday, Good Morning America aired their delayed ABC News/ESPN exclusive interview with transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, who switched genders and crushed actual female swimmers to win an NCAA Division I Swimming title. And, as predicted, the Disney-owned channel largely laid it on thick for Thomas.
In a June 1 post, Maxson found a former Olympic swimming champion to attack Thomas: "Three-time Olympic women’s swimming gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar criticized males competing in female sports Tuesday and told TMZ Sports they can’t out-run biology. Transgender wannabes like Will “Lia” Thomas, the man who swam for the Penn University women’s team this past season, can’t out-swim it either. On June 14, Maxson dug up some anonymous person who claims to be Thomas' roommate for some Thomas-bashing:
A former teammate of Penn U transgender swimmer William “Lia” Thomas asserted the controversial athlete is “mentally ill.” The anonymous Thomas critic made her remarks in an exclusive interview with Christopher Tremoglie of the Washington Examiner.
Maxson did not mention any purported "pressure to comply" regarding why this alleged ex-teammate remained anonymous. After all, if she's no longer on the team, there's no reason to stay anonymous, is there?