Samantha Bee Reveals Hypocrisy in One Lawmaker’s Anti-Trans Bill

The comedian called one state representative accused of sexual harassment the 'worst person in Tennessee.'
Apr 19, 2016·
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Protecting innocent women and girls is high on the list of priorities for lawmakers pushing for so-called bathroom bills—laws that prevent transgender people from using the restrooms that match their gender identity. But when considering the true threat to women, late-night host Samantha Bee thinks one legislator might want to look in the mirror.

“Let’s take a look at some of the trans people who have assaulted someone in a bathroom,” Bee said on Monday night’s episode of Full Frontal, “Oh, right, there aren’t any.”

But Bee notes that the same cannot be said of state Rep. Jeremy Durham, one of the cosponsors of Tennessee’s now-delayed bathroom bill. The legislation would have forced transgender students in public schools and universities to use restrooms that corresponded with the biological sex listed on their birth certificate. Durham is under investigation for numerous sexual harassment claims.

Durham “may pose a continuing risk to unsuspecting women who are employed by or interact with the legislature,” according to a report from Tennessee State Attorney General Herbert Slatery, who interviewed 34 staff members before making his recommendation. Female employees said Durham sent them sexually explicit text messages and engaged in inappropriate touching. Many said they did not feel comfortable being alone with him.

Durham has denied all the allegations, but that didn’t stop Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell from removing Durham’s office from the Capitol building and limiting his access to the House floor earlier this month.

“Tennessee’s self-appointed ladies’ room bouncer has been deemed such a risk to women that he needs a whole separate building to protect female colleagues from him,” Bee said, calling Durham an “active threat” compared with the “nonexistent” threat of allowing trans women access to the oladies’ restroom.

The bathroom myth—that men will pose as trans women to gain bathroom access and prey on women and girls—has been thoroughly debunked. There are zero verifiable reports of such attacks, according to Media Matters for America.

But that hasn’t stopped lawmakers from employing this scare tactic to drum up support. Restrictive bathroom bills are being considered in Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, and South Carolina, and last month, North Carolina became the first state in the nation to receive a governor’s signature on bill that bans students from using restrooms that match their gender identity.

On Monday, Tennessee state representatives decided to table their bathroom bill until next year, telling The Tennessean that their decision to put the legislation on hold was because most schools already enforced such a policy anyway. However, Bee pointed out that the state has passed some other controversial laws, including one that could potentially benefit Durham. A Senate bill passed last month will require people who sue their employers or elected officials for sexual harassment to foot the legal fees should they lose the case.

“Sorry, Tennessee women,” Bee said. “I guess if you don’t want to get felt up by a lawmaker and then slapped with a bill from his lawyer, then don’t visit the state capital.”