Sitting in her Malibu airplane hangar on Wednesday, Caitlyn Jenner said that a recent conversation with a fellow private plane owner illustrated why she’s running for California governor.
“The guy right across, he was packing up his hangar,” the Republican candidate recounted in an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Wednesday. “And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.’”
As she kicks off her campaign to unseat Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom in a recall election, Jenner, 71, has leaned heavily into conservative talking points, like bashing California’s state government over its policies on homelessness.
While she has mainly spoken of lower taxes and business-friendly policies, the Olympic gold medalist and reality TV star has also issued tirades against the social ills she claims are plaguing the Golden State — and driving companies and her own friends to flee elsewhere.
"This state has done so much for me over the years. But I’ve watched it crumble right before my eyes," she told Hannity. "California’s worth fighting for, and that’s what I’m doing."
As demonstrated by Wednesday’s interview her first on TV since announcing her candidacy earlier this month — Jenner’s attempt to court social conservatives has sometimes put her in a tenuous spot, particularly as one of the most visible transgender women in the US.
Later in the interview, Hannity pressed her on the question of transgender children in youth sports: Did she agree with Republican efforts in dozens of states to ban trans girls from participating in girls’ sports?
"I think we have to make sure that the integrity of girls’ sports is there," she said. "I think that’s extremely important, but there’s more to it than just what I said."
Earlier this weekend, Jenner — who first came to California to live near other elite track and field athletes — said trans girls should not be allowed to compete against their cisgender peers, describing it as a "question of fairness."
As some critics pointed out on social media, however, Jenner herself appears to have competed in women’s golf events. In 2016, she competed in a major women’s golf tournament alongside likes of soccer star Abby Wambach.
And just last year, in a podcast interview with Outsports, an LGBTQ sports media outlet, she said that "every trans person, if they’re into athletics, should have an opportunity to compete."
Comments like those have drawn charges of hypocrisy directed at Jenner, who also devoted part of her Fox News interview to discussing why she wants to become a role model for young people, including young trans people.
"For me, as a trans woman, I think role models are extremely important for young people," she told Hannity.
In the meantime, however, Jenner has focused on making her own accusations of hypocrisy, this time against “career politicians” like Newsom and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. She noted that both Democrats made visits to small businesses — at a pricey Napa Valley restaurant and a hair salon, respectively — while urging residents to avoid such establishments during the coronavirus pandemic.
During her interview with Hannity, Jenner also blasted plans to build high-speed rail in California — she can travel faster by plane, she noted — and said she supported forest management measures because she had managed to keep fire away from her Malibu mansion all on her own.
The recall election against Newsom has drawn a wide range of candidates, from experienced politicians like Republican former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer to former adult-film star Mary Carey and businessman John Cox, who kicked off his campaign with a 1,000-pound Kodak bear.
Jenner acknowledged during the interview that she will have to prove her political chops as an outsider, a role that only became more tangible when Hannity pressed her on policy specifics.
On the topic of immigration, Jenner said she would ensure California authorities worked closely with federal immigration authorities to deport those who had broken the law. But she also described her relationship with a man who overstayed his visa.
"He is the nicest, greatest guy," Jenner said. "I would do everything for him to stay here."
Painting herself as a "thoughtful disrupter," she noted that this approach would not just apply to her politics. If elected, she would become the nation’s highest-ranking transgender elected official, as well as the first woman governor in California.
Speaking again on transgender issues, Hannity noted that "some are mad at you."
“I move on,” Jenner replied, shaking her head.