Fox News host Tucker Carlson confronted South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) on Monday over her controversial decision to reject legislation that would have banned transgender athletes from participating in sports that do not correspond to their biological sex.
What is the background?
Despite being a rising star in the Republican Party with national clout, Noem angered conservatives when she refused to sign a bill — H.B. 1217 — that would have prohibited student athletes at state schools from joining a sports team that does not match their biological sex.
Noem said the bill's "vague and overly broad language could have significant unintended consequences," and suggested the ban should not apply to college athletes.
What happened with Tucker?
Carlson confronted Noem directly, first by implying that Noem — who previously said she was "excited" about the bill — changed her mind because the NCAA, Amazon, and other commercial interests interceded.
"Well, that's not true, Tucker," Noem responded. "I could sign the bill the way that it is today. But it wouldn't solve the problem, and that's the real issue."
In fact, Noem said the "bill would only allow the NCAA to bully South Dakota" and claimed signing the bill "would actually prevent women from being able to participate in collegiate sports."
Noem also said the bill would let the "NCAA to take punitive action against our state," and legal scholars "say I would very likely lose those litigation efforts."
"Oh, so you're saying, so hold on, just to be clear, it's not the bill, wait, wait, wait... So, you're saying the NCAA threatened you and you don't think you can win that fight?" Carlson interrupted. "They said, 'If you sign this, we won't allow girls in South Dakota to play,' and you don't think you can win in court, even though the public overwhelmingly supports you nationally. And so you're caving to the NCAA? I think that's what you're saying."
"No, that's not right at all, Tucker," Noem fired back. "In fact, you're wrong completely."
Noem explained that, instead, she has been advised to protect Title IX, a federal provision prohibiting sex-based discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. Carlson responded by instructing Noem to win not a legal battle, but in the court of public opinion.
Later in the interview, Noem reiterated that her real fight is against the NCAA, but Carlson said, "I'm not really sure this is defending women's sports."
Noem vowed that if South Dakota lawmakers do not make her requested language changes, she will seek a new bill. And if that doesn't happen, she promised a special legislative session "to protect girls' sports through K- 12."
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