Fox News host Dagen McDowell pushed back on Wednesday against Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance’s assertion that superstar gymnast Simone Biles’ withdrawal from Olympic events over mental-health concerns shouldn’t be seen as heroic, declaring that Biles “deserves praise up and down all day long until the end of time.”
After the legendary gymnast revealed that she pulled out of the women’s team event because of her inner struggles with mental health amid intense pressure—she has since withdrawn from the individual all-around event—Biles has received an outpouring of sympathy and support, with many lauding her courage for opening up about the sensitive issue.
At the same time, a number of right-wing media figures and pundits blasted Biles with a series of personal and vicious attacks, labeling her a “quitter” and “selfish sociopath” who has brought “shame on our country.”
Appearing as a guest host on Wednesday’s broadcast of Fox News’ midday panel show Outnumbered, Vance, who recently launched an Ohio Senate campaign, added to the right-wing pile-on.
Asked by Fox host Harris Faulkner whether he feels Biles “let down the country” by dropping out of Olympic events, the Hillbilly Elegy author said that while he understands that she’s “going through a lot of pressure” he is upset with how the press has portrayed Biles.
“We tried to turn a tragic moment, Simone Biles quitting the team, into this act of heroism,” Vance stated. “I think it reflects pretty poorly on our therapeutic society that we try to praise people not for moments of strength, not for moments of heroism, but for their weakest moments.”
He went on to say that the “normal response would be to say it’s a shame that she’s going through this” before griping once again that the press has “turned this into this weird therapeutic moment” by praising her.
“It’s the media that wants us to obsess over somebody’s failures instead of their successes,” he added.
McDowell, for her part, immediately rebutted Vance’s take.
“I don’t see it as a failure. I think the praise is coming because she was open about what she was facing,” McDowell responded.
She then noted that Biles was sexually abused by former Team USA doctor Larry Nassar, who sexually assaulted more than 100 young women and girls. Adding that this was the first Olympics for Biles since that story broke, McDowell said that Biles is likely dealing with post-traumatic stress.
Furthermore, as the Fox host observed, COVID-19 has resulted in the athletes being very isolated without any family support system on hand. McDowell also pointed out that Biles could “run the risk of catastrophic injury” if she attempted to compete while dealing with a mental block before saying she can relate to Biles’ experience.
“I can speak personally. I’m glad she’s talking about it,” she continued. “I can’t do gymnastics and I’m not putting myself at risk but a lot of people cope with, say, suffering panic attacks. I’ve had panic attacks on the air. You push through. I tried to talk about it.”
The Fox host concluded: “I’m not comparing myself to Simone Biles. What she’s done and everything she’s overcome, every hurdle she jumps, she deserves praise up and down all day long until the end of time.”
Faulkner, meanwhile, attempted to provide some cover for Vance at the end of the segment.
“You know, I hear you and J.D., you really resonated when you say sometimes we don’t celebrate the moments we should,” she said, adding, “J.D., you’re right. We have to celebrate the good times. Not make heroes when they’re bad but be there, be present with them when it’s not working out.”