Amazon defends removing Ryan T. Anderson’s book
But the online giant’s explanation doesn’t add up
After weeks of silence, Amazon is finally answering questions about why it stopped selling Ryan T. Anderson’s 2018 book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.
News that the megaretailer had purged the bestseller from its main platform, as well as its used- and audiobook subsidiaries, first broke in mid-February. It coincided with the U.S. House’s consideration of the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to civil rights protections. The House passed the act on Feb. 25. When numerous media outlets asked what prompted the company to delist a 3-year-old title, representatives responded only by pointing to a policy against selling hate speech, pornography, or other offensive material.
On Feb. 24, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Braun of Indiana, and Josh Hawley of Missouri sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos arguing that by removing Anderson’s book, Amazon had wielded its outsized market share to engage in political censorship. They said the company has “openly signaled to conservative Americans that their views are not welcome on its platforms” and asked Bezos to provide documentation showing how Anderson’s book violates content guidelines.
In a reply first reported by The Wall Street Journal, Amazon Vice President of Public Policy Brian Huseman said the company would no longer sell books that “frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.” He said a new policy went into effect after 2018 but did not explain when that occurred, what else the policy may contain, or what other kinds of books or content it might curtail.
Anderson, who, as president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has been a high-profile critic of the Equality Act, disputed Amazon’s characterization of his book in a series of tweets. He pointed out that at no point in When Harry Became Sally does he call transgender people mentally ill. “Three years ago, Jeff Bezos–owned Washington Post made false statements about me and my book (which they subsequently silently corrected),” he tweeted. “Now Bezos-owned Amazon is repeating those falsehoods as justification for cancelling my book.”
Anderson also asked why the retailer removed his book while still selling publications that do categorize gender dysphoria as mental illness, such as the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Rubio also responded to Amazon’s statement. Along with an op-ed in USA Today, the senator posted a short video to Twitter on Saturday lambasting Amazon’s decision not to sell some conservative content while looking to Republicans to support its anti-union efforts.
“Amazon gets to be the most woke corporation on the planet … banning books, not allowing traditional charities to participate in AmazonSmile,” Rubio said, referring to the company blocking Christian organizations such as The Family Research Council from participating in its donation program. “The problem is when it comes to tax cuts then they want our help. … If you have a union problem, if you think the taxes for corporations like yours, the biggest in the world, are too high, why don’t you go get your woke, liberal, leftist friends and have them help you?”
Huseman’s letter did not address other conservative content Amazon has removed in recent months, including a documentary on the life of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words became unavailable from Amazon Prime Video at about the same time as Anderson’s book. Its disappearance, which coincided with Black History Month, also generated headlines. The film does not deal with same-sex marriage, the transgender movement, or the causes of gender dysphoria, so it would not fall under Amazon’s new guidelines.