State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson’s office fended off false reports from national conservative media that claimed Jackson — chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee — “banned” the use of he/she pronouns during committee hearings. A segment by Fox & Friends picked up by the Daily Caller and others criticized Jackson’s January 17 announcement, saying it reflected the “craziness” and “transgender extremism” of California politics. “It really shows how far the politically correct lobby are willing to go in terms of policing language,” said guest Brendan O’Neill, an editor for Spiked Online. “They want to dig down so far into how we speak and ultimately into how we think, that they are willing to ban the most common words in the English language.”
In reality, Jackson had announced only minor changes to the committee’s internal bylaws, which don’t ban or even mention the use of gendered pronouns during committee hearings. The changes were made based on recommendations from a new Senate resolution that encourages the recognition of nonbinary identities. The first sentence of the committee’s rules, for example, now uses the neutral pronoun “they” instead of “he” or “she” in reference to its chairperson.
“Some in the right wing media have taken these very minor changes out of context and misinterpreted them as a banning of the use of he/she language in our regular legislative business or in California’s laws,” said Jackson. “Let me be very clear: No one is banning any language. We are simply making our bylaws more consistent and inclusive moving forward.” The fact-checking website Snopes.com recently determined the claim by Fox & Friends and the Daily Caller to be categorically false.
The incident was only the most recent example of negative coverage by conservative press of Santa Barbara and its representatives. Fox seized on the Pledge of Allegiance controversy that recently roiled Santa Barbara City College as well as the City Council’s decision to ban the use of plastic straws at restaurants and cafés.