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In one of the most widely publicized examples of bias confirmation disguised as journalism, comedian Jon Stewart confronted Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for opposing “guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.” Without providing viewers any details about the AAP, Stewart condemned the state’s stance against gender transition care for youth, basing his argument on the fact that gender-affirming care was endorsed by AAP. Throughout the heated discussion, it becomes clear to viewers that Stewart is implying that the majority of pediatricians in the nation endorse “gender affirming” treatments. Stewart proceeded to conflate the AAP’s guidelines to similar guidance given to parents of children contemplating chemo therapy for cancer.

To those unfamiliar with pediatric medicine and the AAP’s structure, Stewart’s passionate presentation seemed noble to some, but there are five vital facts that should be known by anyone who watched the interview.


FACT 1: National pediatric and psychological organizations in the United Kingdom, France, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, and Sweden are reconsidering the use of hormones and surgeries and calling for rigorous systematic review of available evidence regarding the safety, efficacy, and risks of childhood social transition, puberty blockers, cross sex hormones and surgery. These concerns were raised by members of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the same organization Stewart cites to stress his biggest point.

FACT 2: The American Academy of Pediatrics was accused by several of its own members of stifling a resolution that called for re-evalution of the academy’s stance gender affirming treatments at the 2022 AAP Annual Leadership Conference. The resolution cited multiple national medical organizations, including the countries listed in the last fact. Ironically, AAP’s response to media inquiry regarding the resolution backpedals from Stewart’s description of AAP’s endorsement. An excerpt from reads, “The resolution, which was proposed again at an August AAP leadership meeting but failed to pass, stated that other countries are reconsidering hormone therapy as a first-line treatment and that the AAP should do the same. However, the AAP has said that this mischaracterizes its current policy, which does not recommend hormone therapy as a first-line treatment, but rather promotes following a systematic, collaborative evaluation by clinicians and mental health professionals.

FACT 3: Sweden and Finland, two nations considered far more socially liberal than the United States, ended their use of puberty blockers and reversed their endorsement of gender transition treatments for children, including hormone replacement therapy. They cited concerns about the inherent risks and dangers posed to the patients, including reproductive risks and other critical issues such as bone density.

FACT 4: Vanderbilt University Medical Center paused its practice of gender affirming therapies based on “new recommendations” from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. In other words, VUMC didn’t deem AAP’s endorsement of gender affirming care sufficient to prevent its pause of gender affirming procedures. VUMC’s deputy CEO and chief health system officer C. Wright Pinson said the clinic will be “seeking more advice from local and national clinical experts”. VUMC’s announcement came a week after Tennessee legislators pressed VUMC’s for answers regarding videos of a doctor on staff touting that gender-affirming procedures are “huge money makers”, and another video showed a staffer saying anyone with a religious objection should quit.

The news of Vanderbilt’s decision to pause their clinic’s gender-affirming treatments broke roughly around the same time that Stewart’s show aired, but Stewart’s production team undoubtedly has the ability to add such vital info via digital editing, and has yet to do so, more than a week after VUMC’s’s announcement. Since the pause, VUMC has noted that their gender affirming procedures didn’t involve surgery on genitalia, but didn’t disclose any details on puberty blockers or other hormone therapies.

Of course, Stewart didn’t bother to get into any such nuance, because doing so would have informed viewers that there is nothing close to a widespread endorsement from the majority of pediatricians throughout the country, even if you filter that pool down into strictly pediatricians who are undermined the crux of his chief point and repeated grievance throughout the interview. While it’s obvious that Attorney General Rutledge wasn’t adequately prepared to defend her stance, she also has plenty of other pressing issues on her plate, and is accustomed to questions from reporters that aren’t as intellectually dishonest or misleading as the Stewart and the drivel repeated ad nauseam. In the past, Stewart showed a true talent for balancing comedy with intellectual curiosity regarding policies, but this recent hit piece on Arkansas’ attorney general exposes Stewart as the hypocrite, not the elected official. Stewart used to be considered a more moderate version of another internationally-known liberal comedian and commentator, Bill Maher, but they seem to have traded roles during the past year, as the clip below demonstrates.

For more articles on Arkansas politics and government, visit our Arkansas political news section.

Matt O'Hern

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