Defending his veto of Arkansas’ anti-trans health care bill on Tuesday night, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson refused to be bullied by Tucker Carlson—and rebuffed the Fox host’s attempts to fluster him with talking points and mischaracterizations.
Carlson has repeatedly used his top-rated show in recent months to attack trans kids and their parents, largely under the guise of wanting to prevent child abuse or protecting the sanctity of women’s sports.
In March, he tore into Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem—a rising GOP star and potential presidential candidate—for “caving” to the NCAA by not signing a bill banning transgender women in sports. (Noem, who supports excluding transgender athletes, said the bill’s passage could lead to a long court battle that the state would eventually lose.)
Prior to his interview with Carlson, Hutchinson told NPR that Arkansas’ bill barring gender-affirming treatments for transgender minors was a “step way too far” and places a “very vulnerable population in a more difficult position.”
He added: “My own personal view that this is too extreme, it was too broad, and did not grandfather in those young people who are currently under hormone treatment.”
The Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act, which the state’s legislature passed by overriding Hutchinson’s veto, prohibits minors from receiving puberty blockers, hormones, and any transition-related surgeries, even if they have parental consent. It could also strip away the licenses of any health care providers who provide any such services.
At the start of his conversation with the Fox News star, the governor pointed out that Carlson’s description of Hutchinson’s stance—which he said was “pro-choice on the question of chemical castration”—was not accurate.
“If this had been a bill that simply prohibited chemical castration, I would have signed the bill,” Hutchinson said. “But Tucker, as you know, this bill was over-broad and extreme. It went far beyond what you just said.”
“And I made it clear that if this was about prohibiting procedures of sex reassignment surgery, absolutely, I would have signed that bill,” he continued. “But this was the first law in the nation that invokes the state between medical decisions, parents who consent to that, and the decision of the patient. And so this goes way too far. And in fact, it doesn’t even have a grandfather clause that those young people that are under hormonal treatment.”
Insisting that puberty blockers were the equivalent of “chemical castration,” Carlson then wondered aloud why Hutchinson wouldn’t also just get rid of laws allowing children to get married or to drink alcohol. “There are all kinds of things in Arkansas, kids in every state, are not allowed to do,” Carlson said.
Carlson also claimed that Hutchinson hadn’t done much research on transgender issues, only for the governor to point out that he has studied the topic quite a bit.
“In contrast to what you just said, I spent a lot of time reviewing cases, meeting with people, listening to the experts as well as to faith leaders as well,” he said. “And I’m a person of faith, but at the same time, I’m a person of the limited role of government. I signed pro-life bills. I sign many bills that would be looked at as very conservative. But this is one that crosses the line. There is no need for it.”
Hutchinson referred Carlson to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has spoken out against the bill because it targets transgender youth. Carlson brushed that aside, instead asking the governor if he spoke to corporations such as Walmart before vetoing the legislation.
After saying he hadn’t, Hutchinson attempted to circle back to his previous point, only for Carlson to press him again on whether he’d spoken to corporate interests about the bill.
“Tucker, I answered that. I answered that question and I said, ‘No, I have not.’ Do you have another question?” Hutchinson shot back, briefly stunning Carlson into silence.
“I’m skeptical because we have certainly seen across the—let me just say, governor, with respect, I am skeptical that not a single corporation in the state of Arkansas has weighed in with you one way or the other on this bill,” the Fox host eventually replied.
Carlson then went back to his original line of argument, asking why Hutchinson wouldn’t allow underage drinking and marriage, and wondering aloud, “Why are we regulating the behavior of children at all if we are allowing children to decide” to transition? As he badgered Hutchinson, the governor finally fired back at the increasingly hostile host.
“You want to keep talking or do you want me to answer the question?!” Hutchinson asked.
The lengthy interview concluded with Carlson asking Hutchinson if he ever could have foreseen being the governor who vetoed “a bill that would have protected children from chemical castration,” prompting Hutchinson to provide a rather nuanced response.
“When you are talking about less than 200 kids in Arkansas that are currently on hormone treatment and they are immediately cut off without having a grandfather clause in the legislation, I don’t think that’s treating those kids or their parents or their health care providers fairly or equally,” he said.