Jon Stewart delivers masterful takedown of Arkansas attorney general over cruel anti-trans laws

Jon Stewart on the left and Leslie Rutledge on the right.

Jon Stewart is winning praise after he confronted the Arkansas attorney general over her anti-trans laws.

In March 2021, Arkansas banned gender-affirming care for minors in a devastating blow to the state’s trans community. The law is currently the subject of a legal challenge, with a trial due to begin in October.

Comedian and political commentator Jon Stewart took Arkansas attorney general Leslie Rutledge to task on the law in his Apple TV+ show The Problem with Jon Stewart – and it was truly something to behold.

In a clip shared on social media, Stewart asks Rutledge why the state had decided to override parents, physicians, psychiatrists and other medical professionals when it enacted its ban on gender-affirming care for minors.

In response, Rutledge tried to claim that, for every expert who believes in gender-affirming care, there’s another who believes it’s harmful – but Stewart wasn’t having any of it.

“But you know that’s not true. You know it’s not for every one there’s one,” Stewart said.

Jon Stewart condemned Rutledge for her ‘incredibly made up’ figures

The exchange escalated further when Rutledge claimed that 98 per cent of gender diverse young people stop experiencing gender dysphoria without any treatment.

“Wow, that’s an incredibly made up figure. That doesn’t comport with any of the studies or documentation that exist from these medical organisations.”

When asked where her figures had come from, Rutledge said she didn’t know “off the top of my head”.

Stewart went on to draw parallels with cancer treatment, pointing out that Arkansas follows all accepted guidelines on cancer care for minors.

He asked Rutledge why Arkansas had decided not to follow widely accepted medical guidelines on treating trans youth when they’re happy to accept recommendations on cancer treatment.

Stewart said: “If your child is suffering from paediatric cancer and the state comes in and says to you, ‘They recommend chemotherapy but we’re not going to let you do that. You can’t. We think you should get a different opinion and here’s the organisation we think you should get the opinion from. They’re not the mainstream, but they’re an organisation, so that’s who you have to be treated by.’

“Does that sound like something you would accept?”

Rutledge pushed back, saying Stewart’s example was “extreme” and “not in line” with the discussion on gender-affirming care.

When Rutledge said she had friends who had lost children to paediatric cancer, Stewart said: “I’ve got some bad news for you. Parents of children who have gender dysphoria have lost children to suicide and depression.

“And so these mainstream medical organisations have developed guidelines through peer-reviewed data and studies and through those guidelines they have improved mental health outcomes.”

He continued: “So I am confused why you follow AMA guidelines… for all other health issues in Arkansas – because we checked – but not for this.”

At the end of the clip, Stewart asked Rutledge what her qualifications were to decide trans youth shouldn’t be allowed to access gender-affirming care.

When she suggested they were “irreversible” decisions, Stewart mocked her for making it sound like nine year old children can walk into doctors’ surgeries and be put on hormone treatments.

The clip has been widely shared on social media, with many praising Stewart for holding Rutledge to account and interrogating her on the bill.

In the same episode, Stewart apologised for his past jokes at the expense of the trans community.

“We are in a new dawn of gender and sex complexity, where those who don’t fit in a simple binary are meant to be seen with humanity,” he said.

“It wasn’t always like this, people. As recently as, let’s say, the 1990s, early 2000s, people were making s**tty jokes, reductive jokes, about the subject.”

A photo of Stewart on The Daily Show then flashed up on screen, with Stewart laughing uncomfortably in response.

“S**tty and reductive jokes are kind of my brand,” he said.