By Riley Prillwitz
A few weeks ago, a news outlet came to Colorado College, interviewed some students on the side of Cascade Ave., and edited it into a video, which was later posted online.
CBN News, otherwise known as “The Christian Perspective,” published a Feb. 7 story by James Gottry, the vice president for public policy at the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute. As part of the story, Gottry interviewed CC students about whether transgender men and women should compete against their identifying gender. Titled “When Truth is Simply Too Controversial,” Gottry’s article equates gender essentialist views with “simple fact,” while dissenting points of view are attributed to “the prevailing orthodoxy of ‘tolerance.’”
In the video, posted online to the CBN News website, multiple Colorado College students were asked questions about sports. Gottry began with simple ones, such as, “do you believe in equal opportunity for men and women in sports?”
“He stopped me on the street with the preface that he was with a group talking about ‘college athletics,’ and if I was a supporter and/or liked to watch college athletics,” said interviewee Maddy Unger ’21.
Yet, only after a few questions, he began to ask about transgender athletes in pointed language.
“Do you think that transgender females, that’s biological males, should be allowed to compete in women’s sports?” Gottry asked.
“I felt like the interview changed very abruptly, when he began talking about the battle of the sexes with Serena and Venus Williams (where they both lost to a lowly ranked male tennis player),” explains Unger. “I was initially confused about why this was not about college athletics, but then came the main question, of whether there were genetic differences between male and female athletes, and whether trans women should be able to compete with male athletes.”
Gottry brought up multiple examples in his questions, such as high school transgender athletes Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood setting records in Connecticut running track against other girls. He also brought up MMA fighter Fallon Fox, who, when fighting another woman, broke her skull in two places.
Max Moog ’21, was one of the CC students interviewed for the article. He explained that James stopped him on the street and asked if he could answer questions about college athletics.
“I knew that he was going to ask something controversial, and as soon as he began asking about competitive women’s cycling I had a feeling he was working his way to the question of trans athletes,” Moog said. “He remained respectful during the whole interview but certainly posed questions in a way that showed his bias.”
It should be mentioned that Gottry deliberately does not respect the preferred pronouns of the athletes he mentions in either his video or his article.
Unger picked up on this right away. “The way he was using male/men female/women basically interchangeably throughout the interview made me feel very uncomfortable, and basically confused me to the point that I did not know what he was trying to say anymore.”
Yet, Moog went on to mention that bias is not a one-sided issue. “He definitely tried to guide and skew my answers but not much more than would I expect from a CC student making a film.”
“Yes, he tried to skew my answers,” said Unger. “When I said that I support trans athletes competing at every athletic level, he completely stopped the camera and composed himself.”
For some, being put in an interview with this perceptible agenda was a difficult experience.
“I know that personally I became very flustered when he would start talking about the use of estrogen and testosterone in athletics, and what the effect of those are on a person’s body,” Unger said.
“While I am not 100% happy with the way my responses were edited, I knew what I was getting myself into and feel that I represented myself and my views well in the moment,” said Moog. “If Mr. Gottry really wanted to capture the full extent of the conversation, he would have posted the full unedited clip. At the end of the day, I get that he works for a conservative publication that needs to deliver on a certain message.”
While it was unexpected of Gottry to come and ask CC students questions without allowing much time for thought, Moog thought it was perfectly fine of Gottry to come to Colorado College and to interview students the way he did.
“While it is a highly debated issue, I don’t really see a problem with him asking the questions that he did. Students should be able to represent and defend their beliefs.”
Unger has a different point of view. “When he suggested the idea that trans women taking estrogen was not enough to allow them to compete in women’s athletics, well, I did not have the necessary information to debate him properly while also trying to respect the trans people in my life.”
Gottry was contacted on multiple occasions for this article but gave no response.
No matter the topic or political view, media bias does exist and must be taken into consideration when reading a news source.