Thursday, February 22, 2024

Mother Jones: Problematic New York Times articles are being cited in anti-trans bills

The New York Times has been receiving a lot of criticism because of how it has covered the trans community and their issues. In the face of this criticism, the newspaper, various employees, and other journalists have defended the coverage. But a new article via Mother Jones points out that The New York Times articles are not only full of distortions, but they are conveniently being cited in anti-trans legislation across the country.


New York Times columnist Pamela Paul argued in a 4,500-word op-ed earlier this month that transgender health care procedures amount to “unproven treatments for children,” despite major medical associations’ support for gender-affirming care and the widespread view that it is lifesaving. The piece, which builds upon Paul’s record of espousing anti-trans views in the pages of the country’s most important paper, was roundly condemned by trans journalists over what they alleged was an argument rife with inaccuracies. 

 Yet for all the criticism it unleashed, or precisely because of that very criticism, conservative groups seized upon Paul’s piece to pursue anti-trans legal maneuvers. In Idaho, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the powerful conservative legal group known for its critical role behind the strategy that overturned Roe v. Wade, specifically cited Paul’s Feb. 4 column as evidence of the “ostracism, pain, and lifelong regret” young people experience after receiving gender-affirming health care. The legal brief, which aimed to overturn a federal judge’s December ruling that blocked the state from enforcing a ban on gender-affirming health care, was ultimately unsuccessful. But it underscored the right’s enthusiasm for including New York Times pieces that have been accused of cherry-picking data and citing problematic sources in their defenses of anti-trans legislation across the country.

 . .  . Paul also appears to follow ADF’s pattern of misrepresenting data. When her piece claims that “30 percent of people on hormone therapy discontinue its use within four years,” Paul declines to include key context to that statistic: The study focused specifically on military families who stopped refilling their hormone replacement therapy prescriptions through Tricare, a health program for active duty service members. In the study, the researchers state “our findings are likely to underestimate continuation rates among transgender patients” because patients may have switched to an alternative insurance plan or private pay. 

Erin Reed, an independent trans journalist, also pointed out that the last two years of the study data coincided with Trump’s ban on transgender service members, another reason why people may have opted to switch providers. Paul presented the statistic as fact, without scientific or historical contextualization. Paul did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but after publication, a Times spokesperson said in an email that “this column was thoroughly reported and fact-checked, and we stand behind its publication.”

And, the article points out, the situation regarding Paul's op-ed is not an isolated incident. 

In pushing their bigoted propaganda, religious right groups either anoint in-house employees as experts on the LGBTQ community or rely on self-created astro-turfed groups with "official" sounding names. They still do this, but I guess it doesn't hurt nonetheless when they have people seemingly situated in legitimate entities helping them do their dirty work.