Jon Stewart’s Brutal Takedown Of Anti-Trans Legislator Leslie Rutledge Is A Must-Watch

An interview with Attorney General of Arkansas turns into a masterclass in facing down anti-trans talking points.

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Jon Stewart in a chair opposite Leslie Rutledge.

Anti-trans legislation has exploded in recent years, with legislators targeting children’s right to scientifically backed gender-affirming care and calling any adult who supports trans kids a “groomer.” Many advocates find frustration in educating people about gender-affirming care — in part because there are so few thoughtful public displays of calling out the hypocrisies and cruelty of so many of these policies. Jon Stewart now has given everyone the perfect playbook with his own interview (and, let’s be real here, brutal takedown) of an anti-transgender legislator.

On the first episode of the second season of The Problem With Jon Stewart, he sheds light on the great “trans debate” — beginning with an acknowledgement that, yeah, he has been transphobic in the past. But then he moves forward with support for the trans community, particularly through an interview with anti-trans legislator Attorney General Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas.

Rutledge starts the interview by calling gender-affirming care for minors “experimentation” and saying that Republicans are “saving” children from this experimentation with laws banning this type of medicine. Stewart takes aim at this idea by tackling one of the big sticking points Republicans have been leaning on: protecting children from transition-related surgeries.

Stewart asked Rutledge how many children had received such surgeries in the five years prior to gender-affirming care being banned for minors in Arkansas. Rutledge did not know. But Stewart did. “In our research, it was zero. So it definitely hasn’t happened,” he said, showing that laws such as Arkansas’s are protecting children from threats that aren’t really there. After all, trans kids don’t get transition-related surgery except for in rare cases, and only then is it top surgery for those who were assigned female at birth — a practice that is backed by major medical organizations.

Rutledge then said the law is mainly to protect kids from gender-affirming medications — not surgery, but hormones and puberty blockers. But these drugs are not experimental. They’ve been used for many years and continue to be studied extensively.

“I think a lot of people might say, including myself, it’s surprising that the state would say ‘we want to make a decision for your family and your child to protect them even though the American Medical Association, the American [Academy] of Pediatrics, the Endocrine Society, the American [Psychiatric Association] all recommend a certain set of guidelines for children that are expressing gender dysphoria,’” Stewart said.

Rutledge tried to clap back that “all of those experts, for every single one of them, there’s an expert who says we don’t need to allow children to be able to take those medications.”

Stewart answered plainly: “But you know that’s not true.”

Rutledge also cited that 98% of kids with gender dysphoria are able to move past it with proper help. Stewart said, to a live audience guffaw, “That’s an incredibly made-up figure.”

From there, the interview devolved into Rutledge grasping at illogical straws. To watch this interview is to get the full picture of how ridiculous her anti-trans viewpoints are, and what the best way there is to deal with them — by looking someone in the eyes and simply, repeatedly asking for the facts. It’s apparent that the truth can be found in one place — and that’s with the experts and the lives impacted, not the legislators.

Watch the full episode for free on Apple TV+.

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