Mike Huckabee thinks he knows why a man stripped naked in a Planet Fitness. It’s the inevitable end result of the gym’s trans-affirmative policy, he claims.
On Sunday 34-year-old Eric Stagno was arrested for doing naked yoga in a Plaistow, NH location of the national fitness chain. According to law enforcement officials who responded to the scene, Stagno “stripped down at the door [and] then proceeded to walk back and forth a couple of times before settling in on the yoga mats.”
No one was harmed during the incident, and Stagno didn’t even appear to realize others were upset by his presence.
When apprehended by police at approximately 1:30pm, the assailant claimed he thought nudity was kosher in the gym — citing the company’s slogan. He thought Planet Fitness “was a judgment-free zone,” as the Boston Globe notes.
Although Stagno was not apprehended in the women’s locker room, Huckabee believes the incident illustrates the dangers of allowing transgender people to use the bathroom or changing facility that aligns with their gender identity. In a 10:17am tweet, he argued it’s all just a slippery slope to men walking around naked in the common area.
“With the idiocy of Planet Fitness having said men could go into the women’s locker rooms and saying there is no real gender and we can be whatever we feel like being, who would have ever seen this coming?” the Republican tweeted.
Per company policy, Planet Fitness allows “members and guests [to use] all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity.” INTO reached out to the company to further clarify these policies — as well as comment on the former Arkansas governor’s statements — but did not hear back before publication time.
Huckabee, a presidential candidate in 2012 and 2016, has previously alleged that inclusive facility access is a threat to women’s safety and privacy.
“For those who do not think that we are under threat,” the conservative told attendees at the 2015 National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, TN, “simply recognize the fact that we are now, in city after city, watching ordinances say that your seven-year-old daughter, if she goes into the restroom, cannot be offended and you can’t be offended if she’s greeted there by a 42-year-old man who feels more like a woman than he does a man.”
The one-time Fox News host also joked that if his high school had allowed students to self-identify their gender, he would have lied to get into the women’s locker room.
However, the myth that transgender people are dangerous “bathroom predators” who exploit public restrooms and locker rooms to prey on innocent women and children has been widely debunked. It was even the subject of an unsuccessful lawsuit against Planet Fitness claiming its trans-inclusive guidelines put customers in harm’s way.
Michigan woman Yvette Cormier sued the gym in 2015 after encountering a trans woman in the locker room, which she alleged was tantamount to sexual harassment.
Two years later, the Michigan Appeals Court ruled her claim was unfounded — and not based in the reality of what took place. In a unanimous 3-0 decision, judges claimed Cormier “failed to plead factual allegations” demonstrating actual harm.
“She did not, for example, allege that she was exposed to male genitalia in the women’s locker room,” judges argued in a written opinion. “She merely alleged that she, while clothed, saw a clothed man in the women’s locker room and further only alleged that defendants’ policy ‘would’ and ‘could’ create a hostile environment for women.”
“She has simply not alleged an intrusion of… privacy,” the court concluded.
As the Human Rights Campaign reports, at least 300 major companies have similar policies in place guaranteeing the right of trans people to affirming restroom and locker room access. To date, these policies have not led to an uptick of sexual assaults perpetrated against U.S. workers.