Fox News called female Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya “transgender” during a broadcast Wednesday shortly after the news broke that the runner would be barred from competing in international events unless she takes medication to suppress her testosterone output.
Semenya, 28, a South African who is believed to have an intersex condition that causes her body to naturally produce testosterone at levels much higher than most women, has been the target of criticism and harassment for years.
Fox News incorrectly labeled her as transgender on Wednesday in a news brief helmed by reporter Carley Shimkus that aired on the morning show “Fox & Friends.”
“A transgender Olympic runner loses her court appeal about testosterone levels in female athletes,” Shimkus said. “The Court of Arbitration for Sport rejecting Caster Semenya’s case that athletes should not have to reduce their levels to compete in international track and field events. The new regulations go into effect this month.”
The segment was followed by another about transgender weightlifter Mary Gregory. The mistake was quickly picked up by some shrewd observers and media outlets.
Shimkus apologized on the show Thursday.
“Yesterday we told you about South African Olympic champion runner Caster Semenya and her court battle over testosterone levels in females,” she said. “In that story we said she was transgender. She is not. We apologize for that error.”
Semenya, a three-time world champion in the 800-meter run and a two-time Olympic gold medalist in London in 2012 and Rio in 2016, has faced questions about her physique for years, but the Court of Arbitration’s ruling against her Wednesday broke new ground.
It has prompted outcry from human rights groups and medical researchers who have called the idea “unscientific” and said it sets a troubling precedent for using biological measurements to justify discrimination, according to The Washington Post’s Ariana Eunjung Cha.
Rick Maese contributed to this report.