U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has blamed school closures and social media for “a dramatic increase in trans-identifying children.”
Greene, an anti-LGBTQ+ Georgia Republican known for making outrageous statements and embracing conspiracy theories, made the comment Tuesday during a hearing held by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic. The hearing was titled “The Consequences of School Closures: Intended and Unintended.”
Greene spoke of students who were “by themselves sitting in front of a screen for most of their waking hours as they were trying to educate themselves with online learning, which was a failure for many, but they were also spending their time on TikTok and Instagram, which are two poison pills for our children’s minds. And since this time, these school closures, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in trans-identifying children, which is not something that was normal nor common many years before this, and I think that’s completely devastating.”
That’s a typical comment from Greene. Already this week, when it emerged that the person who killed six people at a Nashville school Monday may have been transgender, Greene tweeted, “How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking? Everyone can stop blaming guns now.”
As Republicans have a majority in the U.S. House now and therefore a majority on committees and subcommitees, three of the four witnesses who appeared were opposed to school closures as a public health measure during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of those was Virginia Gentles, director of the Education Freedom Center at the Independent Women’s Forum, a right-wing group.
Gentles is a proponent of so-called school choice, which often involves directing funds to private schools at the expense of public schools. She is also known for anti-trans stances. “No child is born in the wrong body” is part of her Twitter bio, and she has often posted tweets and blog entries that state her opposition to gender-affirming health care.
Some of the witnesses and committee members Tuesday denounced teachers’ unions, saying they had too much say over school closures. But Democratic member Jamie Raskin of Maryland said the tragedies of the pandemic, both in loss of learning and loss of life, were not the fault of teachers, students, or local and state officials, but of Donald Trump’s ineffectual response. Trump “let the plague run loose,” Raskin said.
Another Democratic member, Robert Garcia of California, said the criticism of teachers’ unions and teachers in general was “very distracting,” and he pointed out that the school closures took place under Trump, while President Joe Biden came up with a plan for reopening schools early in his tenure. Teachers’ opinions are important, and they were among more than 50 groups the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention engaged with in making decisions about the pandemic response, he said.
Garcia noted that he was mayor of Long Beach before being elected to Congress, and it was the first large city in California to vaccinate all teachers in the public schools and, because of this, it was the first large school district to reopen. And the pandemic has to always be seen “in context with the lives that were lost” — more than 1 million Americans, he said. Garcia, one of the newest gay members of Congress, did not mention that the pandemic hit close to home for him — both his mother and stepfather died of the virus. In Congress, he has been a frequent critic of Greene, as he promised he would be.
The COVID subcommittee is showing a pattern of inviting problematic witnesses. Earlier this month, in a hearing on COVID-19’s origins, one of the witnesses was Nicholas Wade, a writer who has made racist statements in what purport to be scientific books. His 2014 book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History “made outrageous, racist claims about Black people being more prone to violence and Jewish people being more financially successful because of their genetic makeup,” HuffPost notes.
Video of the full hearing is below.
Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Hearingwww.youtube.com