MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle took Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice to task on Friday morning for signing a measure that bans transgender girls from competing in school sports. Repeatedly pressed by Ruhle to provide just one example of a trans child trying to gain an unfair advantage in his state, all Justice could do was shrug and deflect.
With Republican-controlled legislatures across the nation passing a slew of anti-trans bills, West Virginia followed suit this month with legislation that would prohibit transgender women and girls from competing in sports at “any public secondary school or state institution of higher education.”
The measure says teams must be based on “biological sex” and trans girls are barred from women’s teams “where competitive skill or contact is involved.” It was signed into law by Justice on Wednesday.
During the interview on Friday, Ruhle brought up the law’s passage before asking Justice point-blank: “Can you name one example of a transgender child trying to gain an unfair competitive advantage at a school there in West Virginia?”
Hemming and hawing, the governor said he didn’t “have that experience exactly to myself right now,” prompting Ruhle to immediately interject.
“Not yourself, your state,” she pressed. “Sir, can you give me one example of a transgender child trying to get an unfair advantage, just one, in your state? You signed a bill about it.”
Justice acknowledged that he “can’t really tell you one” before offering up his personal feelings as a sports coach.
“Stephanie, I’m a coach and I coach a girl’s basketball team and I can tell you, we all know—we all know what an absolute advantage boys would have playing against girls. We don’t need that,” he declared.
Ruhle, however, pointed out that there “are no examples of this happening” while wondering aloud why Justice’s state would prioritize this issue when West Virginia has way bigger problems on its plate.
“According to U.S. News & World Report, West Virginia ranked 45th in education, 47th in health care, 48th on the economy, and 50th in infrastructure,” the MSNBC host tersely noted. “If you cannot name one single example for me of a child doing this, why would you make this a priority? I named four things that would seem to me like a much bigger priority!”
Shirking responsibility, Justice replied that he “didn’t make it a priority” and that it “wasn’t my bill,” causing Ruhle to fire back that he signed it into law.
“It just came to me and I actually signed it because I believe from the standpoint of a coach, I believe that girls work so hard to obtain Title IX, and I do not have any idea now why we are trying to disadvantage them in participating in a sport that they put so much into,” Justice said. “I don’t know why we’re doing that. This is not like it’s a big priority to me.”
Ruhle quickly retorted: “Well, you signed it, sir.”
The governor continued to defend signing the bill while simultaneously insisting it wasn’t important to him, claiming there were “only 12 kids in our state that are transgender-type kids” and that he signs “hundreds of bills.”
He added: “This is not a priority to me. But with all of that, I would say I think that it would impose an unfair disadvantage on the girls. So from that standpoint, I support it.”
Ruhle, for her part, made sure to get in the last word while extending an open invitation to Justice to return to her show.
“Please come back when, beyond anecdotal feelings as a coach, you can show me evidence where those young women are being disadvantaged in your state,” she concluded. “Because I can show you evidence how ranking that low in education is disadvantaging young women and men in West Virginia. Thanks for your time.”