Chasten Buttigieg says Nex Benedict ‘failed’ by Libs of TikTok’s appointment to government role

Chasten Buttigieg pictured at a red carpet event.

Teacher, author and advocate Chasten Buttigieg has said Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction “failed” Nex Benedict by appointing the founder of right-wing social media channel Libs of TikTok to a school library board.

In a speech marking one month since the death of 16-year-old Benedict, who, according to friends, identified as Two-Spirit and used he/they pronouns, Buttigieg slammed those who had been perpetuating anti-trans rhetoric in the state.

“Many, many adults failed Nex, especially the state superintendent who has made repeated efforts to parrot anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and famously hiring openly anti-LGBTQ+ people to prominent positions, including Libs of TikTok,” he said.

Nex died on 8 February after being taken to hospital for the second day in a row, following an alleged altercation with three fellow Owasso High School pupils.

Oklahoma teenager Nex Benedict died following an alleged assault in February
Oklahoma teenager Nex Benedict died one day after an alleged assault in February. (GoFundMe)

Although an official cause of death is still pending, the Owasso Police Department shared preliminary information from the medical examiner’s office indicated that Nex “did not die as a result of trauma“.

Activists have called on Oklahoma’s superintendent of public Instruction Ryan Walters to resign over his anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in the wake of the incident.

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Speaking at a press call with the Human Rights Campaign, Buttigieg, the husband of US transport secretary Pete Buttigieg, criticised Walters for appointing Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik to the state’s library board, claiming she “doesn’t live in the state of Oklahoma and doesn’t even hold a degree in library science or education”.

Buttigieg went on to say: “Placing individuals who have openly attacked LGBTQ+ rights in positions that influence educational policy sends a dangerous message. It undermines the very foundation of what education should be: a place of safety, growth and inclusivity.”

In response to the speech on 7 March, Raichik described herself in a post on X/Twitter as a “citizen journalist” because she “[posts] TikToks he doesn’t like”.

A still of Chaya Raichik, LibsOfTikTok founder, on Fox New wearing a pink top and smiling
Libs of TikTok founder Chaya Raichik was appointed as an adviser to Oklahoma’s state library committee in January 2024. (YouTube)

In response, Buttigieg said: “As a parent and former teacher, I want qualified people involved in education. This is actually quite simple: Chaya isn’t qualified for her appointed government position. She doesn’t live in Oklahoma, holds no degree in education [and has] zero classroom experience. The rest is theatrics.”

Government to investigate circumstances surrounding Nex Benedict’s death

Following demands by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and other not-for-profit organisations that the government look into Benedict’s death, the federal Department of Education announced that it would open an investigation into Owasso public schools.

“The US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), is opening for investigation the complaint you filed against the Owasso Public Schools,” an open letter said.

“Your complaint alleges that the district discriminated against students by failing to respond appropriately to sex-based harassment, of which it had notice, at Owasso High School during the 2023-2024 school year.

“OCR is opening the following issues for investigation: 1. Whether the district failed to appropriately respond to alleged harassment of students in a manner consistent with requirements. 2. Whether the district failed to appropriately respond to alleged harassment of students in a manner consistent with the requirements.”

In an open letter to the government, HRC president Kelley Robinson had written that Nex’s life “demands justice”, pointing out that the department has “various tools available for addressing anti-LGBTQ+ hatred and violence”.

Kelley went on to say: “We believe Nex’s death is the natural consequence of a growing wave of hatred against LGBTQ+ people… being fuelled by an unprecedented, co-ordinated attempt to eliminate the rights and visibility of our community across the country.”

Earlier this week, The Oklahoman reported that Walters was the recipient of Freedom of Information Oklahoma’s Black Hole award, given to “the individual, agency or organisation that has most thwarted the free flow of information”.