Children’s hospitals across the U.S. are facing growing threats of violence, driven by an online anti-LGBTQ campaign attacking the facilities for providing care to transgender kids and teens.
Twitter has left up the account inspiring the attacks, despite its employees voicing concerns in internal Slack channels that it’s “only a matter of time” before the posts lead to someone getting killed.
The campaign is led by Libs of TikTok, a Twitter account with more than 1.3 million followers run by a former Brooklyn real estate agent named Chaya Raichik, whose posts are frequently cited by Fox News’s Tucker Carlson and other right-wing media figures.
After gaining a large Twitter following in the spring as she baselessly accused LGBTQ teachers of being pedophiles and “groomers,” Raichik began criticizing children’s health facilities earlier this summer, targeting a hospital in Omaha in June and another in Pittsburgh in August.The attacks resulted in a flood of online harassment and phoned-in threats at both hospitals.
Next came threats against children’s hospitals in Boston and Washington, D.C., after Raichik posted tweets targeting them.
Reached by Twitter direct messaging on Thursday, Raichik didn’t respond to a question about whether she felt responsible for the threats to the hospitals. “We 100 % condemn any acts/threats of violence,” she wrote.
Twitter declined to comment, but people familiar with internal discussions say Twitter executives face internal pressure from some employees to respond more aggressively to the account. Meanwhile, hospital providers and their vulnerable patients have taken action to lessen the possibility of drawing Raichik’s attention.
“A lot of people have chosen to try to be as quiet about their practice as they can to avoid those direct attacks,” said Michael Haller, a professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Florida. “Institutions have removed their websites, taken down their publicly facing phone numbers.”
“It’s actually crazy. I can’t even imagine being one of my patients,” said Justine Lee, a craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgeon in Los Angeles who performs gender-affirming surgeries. “I can’t think of any other medical condition that would result in this level of hate.”
After Raichik falsely claimed on Aug. 11 that Boston Children’s Hospital performs hysterectomies on children, the hospital received a barrage of “hostile internet activity, phone calls, and harassing emails including threats of violence toward our clinicians and staff,” the hospital said in a statement. The hospital does provide hysterectomies to certain patients over 18.