Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has faced backlash on social media after calling out former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines for her athletic performance. Olbermann’s comments came in response to Gaines’ defense of a “Women’s Bill of Rights,” which emphasizes biological differences between males and females. The bill, supported by Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen, asserts that men should not have access to women’s spaces.
“Can you just address the reality and move past it?” Olbermann wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “You sucked at swimming. That’s why you lost.”
Gaines, who tied with transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, received criticism from Olbermann for her swimming abilities, prompting her to respond by pointing out Olbermann’s dismissal from ESPN due to his political bias. The confrontation sparked a debate about the inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s sports.
“Ah, makes sense now why you got fired from ESPN,” Gaines wrote.
Former University of Pennsylvania swimmer Paula Scanlan, a vocal advocate for women’s sports, joined the conversation, accusing Olbermann of disregarding the invasion of women’s spaces and the potential harm caused by such narratives. Scanlan shared her personal experience of feeling uncomfortable undressing in front of Thomas in locker rooms.
“Your political bias blinds you and dismissive views like yours embolden men to change in front of us,” Scanlan told Olbermann. “Why don’t you address the reality that women’s spaces are being invaded and many women are harmed by this narrative.”
Prof. Emeritus Colin Wight countered Olbermann’s claims by sharing Gaines’ impressive swim resume, highlighting awards such as the SEC’s “Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year” and achievements like being an “Olympic Trials qualifier” in 2021. Wight labeled Olbermann as “nasty ignorant” and stressed that the reality contradicted his assertions.
“The reality is staring you in the face,” Wight told Olbermann. “And you’re a nasty ignorant man. Sucked at swimming.”
Washington Examiner contributor Kimberly Ross criticized Olbermann’s comments as sexist, redirecting the focus to Lia Thomas as an example of someone who transitioned to female identity to compete against biological females.
“I’m sorry?” she wrote. “Your statement should be directed toward a dude named Lia Thomas. He sucks at swimming against biological males so much so that he decided to identify as female just so he could win. How sexist and sad. Both you and ‘Lia.’”
Scanlan, who recently testified about the shift in the #MeToo movement, highlighting its absorption into the Democratic Party, reiterated her concerns in an op-ed. She expressed frustration over the lack of attention to sexual assault cases involving transgender women and argued that certain women’s organizations neglect such instances.