Fox News wasted little time weighing in on the Great Chelsea Manning Pronoun Debate. “I don’t do what Bradley Manning wants me to do,” America’s Newsroom host Gregg Jarrett declared last week, explaining why he had just repeatedly used masculine pronouns to describe Manning. But as you can see in the clip above, Jarrett’s friends at Fox & Friends took that stance to the extreme this morning by mocking the Army private by playing Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).”
Setting aside the absurdity of that clip for a second, it should be noted that Fox News isn’t the only major cable network to decide that it won’t respect Manning’s wish to live out the remainder of her life as a woman. CNN says that it won’t make the pronoun switch because Manning has “not yet taken any steps toward gender transition through surgery or hormone replacement therapy.” (It’s unclear why announcing her wish to “begin hormone therapy as soon as possible” doesn’t count as such a step.)
Manning’s announcement last week set off a series of discussions within newsrooms across the country. The most obvious question facing journalists was whether to use masculine or feminine pronouns when referring to Manning. (Here at Slate we immediately began using the latter.) But there was also the issue of how to identify her when talking about events in the past. (Did Chelsea Manning turn over classified materials to WikiLeaks, or did Bradley?)
There’s no perfect answer for an outlet trying to balance both Manning’s wishes and the need for clarity, something Manning and her lawyer have acknowledged themselves. Still, it doesn’t take a Herculean effort to respectfully acknowledge the change without getting tied up in rhetorical knots. Of course, not everyone is willing to make that effort. And, as the above clip suggests, Fox News isn’t even interested in having that debate.
This post was updated at at 1:19 p.m. for the sake of clarity.