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Did Piers Morgan ‘Sensationalize’ Transgender Activist Janet Mock’s Story?

Tuesday night, CNN’s Piers Morgan interviewed Janet Mock, an advocate for the transgender community who was promoting her new book, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. While there was nothing particularly contentious about the two pre-taped segments that aired during Piers Morgan Live, Mock took to Twitter after it was over to express her disappointment in the way she was treated by the host.


Here’s what Mock had to say about what she saw on TV last night, including that Chyron under her name and the way the show’s official Twitter account was promoting the interview:

She even posted with another prominent transgender activist, Orange Is the New Black’s Laverne Cox, to demonstrate her displeasure with Morgan:

Never one to let anything said about him slide on Twitter, Morgan quickly mounted his defense. He began by praising Mock, but then started responding to the backlash:

Later last night, Mock gave an interview to BuzzFeed that expanded on the accusations she made in her tweets. “He’s trying to do info-tainment,” Mock said of Morgan. “He doesn’t really want to talk about trans issues, he wants to sensationalize my life and not really talk about the work that I do and what the purpose of me writing this book was about.”

So, was Morgan’s interview inappropriate? Mock accused him of putting too much focus on her transformation and not enough on her current life as a transgender woman. He appeared to dwell on her experience as a child and particularly the challenge of revealing that background to her boyfriend. It was not until the last two minutes of the interview that Morgan brought up Mock’s work as an advocate for the trans community. It also did not help matters that the words “Was a boy until age 18” remained on the screen under Mock’s name for the entire interview.

By interviewing Mock, Morgan risked falling into the same trap that Katie Couric did when she asked Carmen Carrera about her “private parts” last month. After Carrera and others pushed back, arguing that it is no more appropriate to ask a transgender person about their genitals than it would be to ask anyone else, Couric defended the decision to leave the moment in the show as a “teachable moment for me, as well as our viewers.”

Morgan’s interview also comes on the heels of Grantland’s now-infamous “Dr. V.’s Magical Putter” story, about a transgender woman who committed suicide after fearing she had been exposed. After an enormous amount of backlash from the transgender community, editor Bill Simmons wrote an extended apology, explaining that the site’s primary mistake was not consulting someone familiar with transgender issues before publication.

Piers Morgan may be right that Mock “had no problem at the time” with the interview and did thank him for it after, but that does not mean she felt entirely comfortable with it after the fact. And most of what she objected to had less to do with what Morgan said and more to do with the way the show described her on screen and on Twitter (ie. “was a boy,” “formerly a man”). Or perhaps, as Morgan suggested on Twitter last night, she simply saw an opportunity to drum up controversy in order to further promote her new book.

Wednesday morning, after things had calmed down, Morgan sent out one more tweet on the issue, inviting Mock to return to her show tonight for a proper debate. If she decides to take him up on the offer, it will certainly be some must-see cable news TV.

Watch the full interview below, in two segments, via CNN, and decide for yourself whether Morgan was “sensationalizing” Mock’s life:

[photo via screengrab]

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