In a viral video, San Diego law professor Gail Heriot compared transgender people to those who fantasize about being Russian princesses. Heriot was then told that she was an “ignorant bigot” by Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren during a House Judiciary Committee meeting. This comes after U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights issued new directives on how education facilities should handle the transgender bathroom issue.
Heriot was speaking to argue that the new directives were an example of the executive branch overreaching. Herio is a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Lofgren Said She Let Heriot’s Bigotry Go ‘Unchallenged’; While the National Review Says the Congresswoman Took a ‘Cheap Shot’
Rep. Lofgren was reading from a written statement that Heriot had submitted prior to making remarks before the committee. Lofgren read out Heriot’s statement saying:
We are teaching young people a terrible lesson. If I believe that I am a Russian princess, that doesn’t make me a Russian princess, even if my friends and acquaintances are willing to indulge my fantasy.
Lofgren then added, “I found this rather offensive” before wondering if Heriot had ever met a transgender person. When the congresswoman was cut off by the committee chair, Republican Steve King from Iowa, she concluded, “We allow witnesses to say offensive things, but I cannot allow that kind of bigotry to go into the record unchallenged.”
Conservative magazine the National Review described Lofgren’s comments as an “epic cheap shot.” Writer Stanley Kurtz said, “Heriot is a thoughtful and courageous conservative whose public work consistently meets the highest intellectual standards.”
After the passage that was read out by Lofgren, Heriot wrote, “I should add that very few actual transgender individuals are confused in this way. They understand perfectly that their sex and their gender do not align. Some choose surgery to make their bodies better align with their gender. Most choose not to.”
2. Heriot Is a Conservative Crusader Who Has Taken Specific Aim at Affirmative Action in the Past
Heriot is a popular public speaker and prolific writer in conservative circles. According to her profile at the University of San Diego website, it says that “Professor Heriot teaches and writes in the areas of civil rights, employment discrimination, product liability remedies, and torts.” That same profile lists one of her “Key Works” as “Affirmative Action in American Law Schools.”
In their defense of Heriot, the National Review drew attention to an article she wrote in 2013 titled, “The Sad Irony of Affirmative Action.”
3. Since the Video Went Viral, Her Rate My Professor Page Has Been Trolled
As the video of Heriot getting shut down began to spread online, she began to receive negative reviews on her Rate My Professor’s page. One said:
My friends and I indulged her fantasy that she’s a Russian Princess. Alas, all I found was a narrow-minded toad, who equates people’s dignity and identity as mere fantasy, far inferior to her own, and unworthy of either equality or her respect. Best of luck with this “princess”. Her crown’s clearly missing more than a few jewels.
Another simply wrote, “Gail Heriot is a bigot.” One of the pre-video positive reviews for Heriot’s teaching read, “She is crazy – but I really liked her. It took me awhile to understand just how brilliant she is. I felt like she really explained everything very well. I would take a class from her again and think she is an exceptional professor.”
4. She Is a Graduate of Northwestern & the University of Chicago Where She Was in the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society
Heriot received her bachelor’s degree at Northwestern University and her law degree at the University of Chicago, according to her official profile. In her professional life after graduation, Heriot worked at law firms in Chicago and D.C. She was also the civil rights counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
She has been a Professor at Law at USD since 1989. On her profile at the American Conservative Union website it notes that she “graduated with [the] highest distinction” from Northwestern. It also says that in her role with the senate judiciary committee, Heriot was an advisor to Orrin Hatch.
5. This Incident Comes Just Before the Democratic Primary in California Where Bernie Sanders Has Called for an End to Transgender Discrimination
As the issue of transgender bathroom laws continues to grow in America, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called for an end to the discrimination of transgender people. While Republican candidate Donald Trump said “I don’t know yet” when he was asked the same question by Jimmy Kimmel in a similar segment.