...And How Many Did Chuck Todd Let Him Get Away With?
I think I just saw one of the worst interviews "Meet the Press" has ever conducted. Host Chuck Todd just interviewed the Republican lawmaker who was the primary sponsor of North Carolina's anti-LGBT law, HB2. Rep. Dan Bishop showed up with a huge smile on his face, as if he just won a huge prize. And he had – Bishop and his GOP colleagues rammed through both sides of the General Assembly what some have called the most anti-LGBT bill in the nation. And he managed to get it done, from "debate" to signing by the governor, in well-under 12 hours.
But back to "Meet the Press."
Chuck Todd was extraordinarily, and visibly, uncomfortable with the issue of LGBT civil rights. I'm pretty sure (feel free to tell me I'm wrong) he said "transgendered," a few times, and had to carefully pronounce "sexual orientation and gender identity," and even "LGBT."
Nope, I'm right:
Worse than his discomfort was his obvious lack of knowledge of the subject.
This is an issue with broad implications for the LGBT community, and sure, it's a national debate where many people have differing opinions. But what's never up for debate is asking an important question and allowing the person you're interviewing to wriggle and slither out of an answer – yet Todd did that repeatedly.
I'm not the only one who's furious:
@chucktodd HOW do you call yourself a journalist when you never challenged Dan Bishop on his "it's a question of custom" ?— Nicole Snow (@tempusviators) March 25, 2016
Frustrated that @chucktodd didn’t challenge State Rep Bishop when he misgendered trans women as ‘men’ entering women’s bathrooms.— Renee Bracey Sherman (@RBraceySherman) March 25, 2016
Bishop's first words were literally, "It's funny how misimpressions get started, Chuck." That's a heads-up, a gift, actually, to any journalist worth their salt that their guest intends to, and is prepared to, obfuscate and try to twist the facts. Apparently, Chuck Todd didn't get that memo.
Bishop began his lies by claiming that HB2 is a "business regulation" bill. It is not, and it's extremely clear what its intention was, since Republican lawmakers, especially House Speaker Tim Moore and Gov. Pat McCrory made numerous public statements about their intentions.
Bishop went on to claim, "what we did was restore common sense," and Todd totally let that pass. It's not common sense to force a transgender woman into the men's room, or to force a transgender man into the women's room.
He also gave the usual sexist trope about concern for women's privacy. Why not concern for men's privacy too? Two words: misogyny and paternalism.
Then there was this.
"Do you believe your bill prevents discrimination against gays and lesbians in North Carolina?," Todd asked, ignoring the fact that HB2 really targets transgender citizens. "You don't feel like you've rescinded protections?," Todd continued. (Why would Rep. Bishop's feelings have any journalistic rationale in this interview?)
"Absolutely not," Bishop claimed, because Todd let him when he said "feel."
"We worked very hard to preserve every piece of protection that North Carolina law, or Charlotte law, provided before the City Council went off the cliff and opened up women's bathrooms to men," Bishop claimed. That's untrue, as best as I can see – maybe legal experts can weigh in.
Chuck Todd did not even try to push back on that. "Rep. Bishop, transgender women are not men," was all he had to say. He did not.
And notice how Bishop wholly ignores the nine locales in North Carolina whose nondiscrimination protections he and his compatriots literally voided with the stroke of Gov. McCrory's pen?
And there's more.
"Let's take Caitlyn Jenner. Which bathroom would she legally be allowed to use in North Carolina,?" Todd later asked.
To this day, no one who listened to Rep. Bishop knows, because he never answered the question. Bishop responded by saying that HB2 only covers restrooms in public buildings.
And, stunningly, he said, "the notion that [HB2] undermines discrimination protections is absurd."
Of course it is because there aren't any. North Carolina has no statewide protections for LGBT people!
Todd asked the Jenner question again, and Bishop again obfuscated. Since he doesn't know what's on her birth certificate, he can't answer the question. Which was a goldmine that Todd was incapable of mining.
When asked, "How do you check to see if somebody's following the law?," Todd actually let Bishop get away with, "The question is one of custom."
Because just a few decades ago, in North Carolina, it was "custom" to not allow Blacks use the same restrooms as whites.
Later, calling LGBT activists and supporters of Charlotte's nondiscrimination ordinance "dishonest," Bishop says those people "can point to no protection that's been rolled back."
Rep. Bishop can tell that to the residents of Buncombe, Mecklenburg, and Orange counties, and resident of cities like Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh, and towns including Boone, Carrboro, and Chapel Hill.
Rep. Dan Bishop did not actually answer most of Todd's questions– or he just flat-out lied, or both. I'll let legal minds dig into that more. And again, NBC News' preeminent journalist enabled him. Todd literally handed the anti-LGBT community a blank check to twist truth and tell lies and have the platform of what is supposed to be a liberal network on which to do it.
Memo to MSNBC: You have actual, and excellent, journalists on staff. One of your two best, Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow, should have been asked to interview Rep. Bishop, not Chuck Todd. What a shame.
Image: Screenshot via MSNBC