Rep. Jim Banks’ official Twitter account was suspended after he referred to Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine — the first openly transgender four-star officer in the US’s eight uniformed services — a “man.”
The Republican lawmaker from Indiana claimed he was “posting a statement of fact” when he tweeted about Levine, the same day she was ceremonially sworn in as an admiral in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
“The title of first female four-star officer gets taken by a man,” Banks tweeted Tuesday, a screenshot shows.
Banks’ account was suspended Saturday for violating Twitter’s hateful conduct policy barring the promotion of violence against others on the basis of gender identity. The policy also bars “targeted misgendering” of transgender people.
“Calling someone that was born and lived as a man for 54 years the first ‘female’ four-star officer is an insult to every little girl who dreams of breaking glass ceilings one day,” Banks said in a follow-up tweet Tuesday.
On Saturday, he vowed not to “back down” to Twitter following the suspension.
“Twitter has suspended my official account for posting a statement of FACT,” Banks tweeted on his personal account. “I won’t back down. I’ll be posting on my personal account for the time being … Big Tech must be held accountable!”
Banks, whose remarks were blasted as bigoted by LGBTQ advocates, then doubled down on them in a statement to the Indianapolis Star.
“Big Tech doesn’t have to agree with me, but they shouldn’t be able to cancel me,” the lawmaker who district covers Fort Wayne told the newspaper. “If they silence me, they will silence you. We can’t allow Big Tech to prevent us from telling the truth. When Republican take back the House next year, we must restore honesty to our public forums and hold Big Tech accountable.”
Ruben Gonzales, executive director of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, said Banks — a Navy Reserve veteran who served in Afghanistan — was out of line.
“Whether Jim knows it or not, he has served next to countless LGBTQ military members who risk everything for our country, and with hundreds of LGBTQ appointees who work tirelessly for the American people,” Gonzales told the Indianapolis Star. “For him to go out of his way to denigrate Admiral Levine and those LGBTQ public servants tells us much more about him than it does about them.”
John Stephens, a Democrat running to replace Banks in Indiana’s 3rd congressional district, echoed Gonzales’ take, calling the married father of three a hypocrite.
“Calling yourself a Christian while you live the life of a bigot doesn’t make you Christian,” Stephens tweeted. “Weren’t you taught to respect officers when you served?”
Stephens later tweeted “your pronoun matters” while promising to refer to anyone by “who you say you are” and citing the national news coverage on Banks’ tweets.
“I hate making promises, but I will promise not to get banned from Twitter for being hateful,” Stephens tweeted Saturday.
A message seeking comment from Twitter was not immediately returned Monday, but a rep told The Hill in a statement Banks’ official House account was “temporarily locked” for violating its hateful conduct policy.
“The account owner is required to delete the violative Tweet before regaining access to their account,” a Twitter spokesperson told The Hill.