FACT CHECK: Viral Image Claims To Show Article About Rachel Levine Vowing To Make ‘Hostile Misgendering’ A Mental Illness Under New Health Guidelines

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows a syndicated Associated Press article reporting that Dr. Rachel Levine, the Pennsylvania secretary of health, said she would make “hostile misgendering” a mental illness under new health guidelines.

Verdict: False

The image appears to be a doctored version of a syndicated article published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) news website. There is no record of CBC News or The Associated Press publishing an article about Levine vowing to classify “hostile misgendering” as a mental illness.

Fact Check:

President Joe Biden tapped Levine to become the assistant Health and Human Services secretary on Jan. 19, according to The Washington Post. She is poised to potentially become to first openly transgender federal official confirmed by the Senate, the outlet reported.

Following Biden’s announcement, Facebook users started sharing an alleged screen grab of a syndicated Associated Press article that puts up the headline “Biden’s pick for Assistant Secretary of Health vows to make ‘hostile misgendering’ a mental illness under administration’s new health guidelines.” The supposed article, time stamped to Jan. 19 at 8:18 a.m. ET, appears to match the style of stories on the CBC News website.

There is no record of the Associated Press or the CBC publishing the pictured article. A search of the outlets’ respective websites yielded no stories about Levine making the vow about “hostile misgendering.” Major media outlets likely would have reported on the remark if Levine had made it, yet none appear to have done so.

The image seems to be a doctored screen grab of an actual syndicated Associated Press article published on CBC News website. CBC News published the article with the headline “Biden picks transgender Pennsylvania official for Senate-confirmed health role” on the same date and at the same time as the image being shared. The sub-headline reads, “Rachel Levine is being appointed to serve as assistant secretary of health.”

Archived versions of the CBC News article from Jan. 19 and 20 show the headline and sub-headline as staying the same. The origin of the altered screen grab appears to be 4chan. Check Your Fact has previously debunked doctored screen grabs of news articles that originated on the internet messaging forum. (RELATED: Did Trey Gowdy Defend The Transgender Military Ban In An Interview CNN?)

“We can confirm that CBC News has never run such a headline or story,” Katherine Wolfgang, director of communications for CBC, said in an email to Check Your Fact. Patrick Maks, media relations manager for The Associated Press, also told Check Your Fact via email: “AP did not run a story saying that Levine would have hostile misgendering labeled as a mental illness.”

Levine released a statement about her nomination to the assistant Health and Human Services secretary position on Jan. 19. While she did say that she is proud of the “work I have done personally to raise awareness about LGBTQ equity issues,” she does not use the phrase “hostile misgendering” at any point in the statement. It focuses on the various work she has done as Pennsylvania’s health secretary under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

“Our work on addressing the opioid epidemic has saved lives and developed innovative models to get people into treatment and into recovery. I am proud of the work we have done to fight diseases such as HIV and Hep C, as well as preventing diseases through our childhood immunization programs,” reads her statement in part. “I am proud of the work we have done as an administration to address health equity, and the work I have done personally to raise awareness about LGBTQ equity issues.”

“I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve Pennsylvanians, and all Americans, as part of the Biden Administration if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed to this position,” Levin also said in the statement.

UPDATE (1/22/21): This article has been updated to include a response from The Associated Press Media Relations Manager Patrick Maks.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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