LOS ANGELES (AP) — Caitlyn Jenner, a Republican whose campaign for California governor has elicited angry reaction from some members of the LGBTQ community, said Wednesday that “I move on” when it comes to her critics.
Her comment came during a one-on-one interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, which marked some of the first words in public since announcing nearly two weeks ago her candidacy in an expected recall election that could remove Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
While discussing her place as a transgender role model, Jenner lamented the high suicide rate within the community and added, “For me to be a role model for them, to be out there. I am running for governor of the state of California, who woul
d ever thunk that? We’ve never even had a woman governor.”
But Hannity queried back: “But some are mad at you.”
Jenner shook her head and stumbled over her initial response. “I move on,” Jenner said, according to short clips of the interview released by Fox.
Last weekend, Jenner witnessed an outcry from many in the transgender community after she told TMZ that she opposes transgender girls competing in girls’ sports at school, calling it “a question of fairness.”
During the interview, which took place at Jenner’s private airplane hangar near Malibu, California, she also endorsed the border wall that was a signature project for former President Donald Trump.
“We can’t have a state, we can’t have a country without a secure wall,” Jenner said.
The 71-year-old Jenner — who won the men’s Olympic decathlon in 1976 and decades later became a reality TV star and transgender woman — announced her candidacy about two weeks ago in a written statement on Twitter. Since then, her campaign has been slow to unfold.
Prior to the interview, she has been active on Twitter and has posted a video and other materials on her website. Thus far, Jenner, calls herself a “compassionate disrupter,” has provided only a rough sketch of how she would manage the nation’s most populous state.
The taping took place in an exclusive area. Malibu is known as a playground for the wealthy, with sprawling mansions perched above the Pacific. It has about 12,000 mostly white residents, and the median value of homes is over $2 million, according to government statistics.
Her cautious steps into the campaign highlight the risks for a political newcomer who could be tripped up by a vast array of complex subjects, from immigration to tax policy to vaccine distribution.
The written statements and video released so far, which include shots of her Olympic competition and gold medal, appear intended to introduce Jenner’s story to voters who might know little about her.
With the Olympics more than four decades behind her, she’s probably best known these days for reality TV shows, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and the spin-off, “I Am Cait.”
Hannity’s show is likely to prove a welcoming stage for a critic of California’s Democratic-led government. It was a favored venue for former President Donald Trump.
“For a candidate like Caitlyn Jenner to win, it has to be like a layered cake. The bottom layer has to be Trump supporters,” said Bill Whalen, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution who was a speechwriter for former GOP Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.
“Where do you go to get Trump supporters? Simple. Sean Hannity,” Whalen said.
Jenner made headlines in recent years with her ties to Trump, who lost to Joe Biden in the state by over 5 million votes.
Jenner supported Trump in 2016 but later criticized his administration’s reversal of a directive on transgender access to public school bathrooms. She also split with Trump after he said transgender people would not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military.
Jenner’s first TV appearance comes as candidates in California’s expected recall election are becoming more visible. On Tuesday, Republican businessman John Cox appeared with a Kodiak bear named Tag to relaunch his campaign in Sacramento. Cox lost to Newsom in a 2018 landslide.
Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and ex-Congressman Doug Ose, both Republicans, also are running.
Despite her celebrity, Jenner is a longshot in her first try at elective office. Her threat to other Republicans — as well as Newsom — is her ability to capture the media spotlight, Whalen said.
“She is the shiny article in this recall right now,” he said. “She can make news any time she wants.”
The challenge she faces is getting past what Whalen called the “giggle factor” that comes with being a reality TV figure looking to run the largest state government in the country and the fifth-largest economy in the world.
“Will there be policy behind the polish?” he asked. “She’s going to need to produce serious ideas.”
Jenner took a small first step to answering those questions Tuesday, saying on her website that she would establish a working group to review state regulations, including those that could block the development of affordable housing, and promising to veto any tax increases.
Newsom’s campaign sent out a fundraising appeal in advance of the interview, warning that “This is a huge event for the far right. It will introduce this recall attempt to people across the country. We have to be ready for what comes next.”