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Right-wing groups spend millions of dollars on ads targeting transgender kids

America First Legal, an organization launched by former Donald Trump aide Stephen Miller (seen here at the White House in 2017), has been funding political ads that accuse the Biden administration of "pushing radical gender experiments on children."
Chip Somodevilla
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Getty Images
America First Legal, an organization launched by former Donald Trump aide Stephen Miller (seen here at the White House in 2017), has been funding political ads that accuse the Biden administration of "pushing radical gender experiments on children."

Ahead of Election Day in the high-stakes 2022 midterm elections, right-wing groups have spent tens of millions of dollars on anti-transgender ads in battleground states.

America First Legal, an organization launched by former Donald Trump aide Stephen Miller, is behind many of the political ads targeting transgender kids that have run in at least 25 states.

Research from the Human Rights Campaign indicates that "a significant portion" of the ad spending has been directed toward Black and Spanish-speaking voters through radio, mail, TV and digital means. America First Legal spent $4 million to get its ads on Black and Spanish-language radio in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

The narrator of an America First Legal radio ad accuses President Biden of pushing children to take cross-sex hormone medication and get gender-affirming surgery.

"The Biden administration is pushing radical gender experiments on children, changing their names, clothes, identities and bodies," the narrator says. "They want boys in our daughters' bathrooms and sports teams."

Citizens for Sanity, another group formed by former Trump administration aides, spent $20 million on TV ads in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania that focus on illegal immigration, crime and other issues.

Both America First Legal and Citizens for Sanity do not make any mention of candidates running for office in their ads.

Polling shows that transgender-related issues are not typically a top priority for voters, but controversies surrounding transgender athletes competing in women's sports have made headlines this year.

Yale University swimmer Iszac Henig and then-University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas broke records in the Ivy League championships in February, stirring debate as to whether transgender women should be allowed to compete on women's teams. In June, the world governing body for swimming, FINA, voted to effectively ban transgender women from women's swimming competitions.

Another radio ad funded by America First Legal that spread in October promoted claims of "anti-white bigotry" and accused the White House of putting white people last in line for COVID-19 relief funds.

"When did racism against white people become OK?" the narrator says. "The left's anti-white bigotry must stop."

Miller has been seen as pushing for an anti-immigrant, white nationalist agenda since his time as Trump's chief immigration adviser. In 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center said it obtained hundreds of leaked emails in which Miller detailed white nationalist ideas.

America First Legal was created as the conservative version of the American Civil Liberties Union, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that advocates for abortion rights and transgender rights.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ashley Ahn
Ashley Ahn is an intern for the Digital News and Graphics desks. She previously covered the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for CNN's health and medical unit and the trial of Ahmaud Arbery's killers for CNN's Atlanta News Bureau. She also wrote pieces for USA TODAY and served as the Executive Editor of her college's student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian. Recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Ahn is pursuing a master's degree in computer science at Columbia University.