Tennessee Lawmaker Switches From School ‘Litter Box’ Hoax to ‘Leashes’ Narrative

When asked to admit her claims of “litter boxes” in schools were a hoax, a right-wing Tennessee lawmaker instead shifted to claiming she was told about “leashes” instead.

The Tennessee Holler news outlet posted footage of an interview with state Sen. Janice Bowling (R) on January 11 2023 in which she refused to back away from pushing that type of disinformation despite being debunked by both local officials and news outlets.

Fact Check

Claim: Tennessee lawmaker claims schools use ‘litter boxes’ and ‘leashes’

Description: A right-wing Tennessee lawmaker, state Sen. Janice Bowling (R), claimed that schools were using ‘litter boxes’ and later shifted to ‘leashes’. These assertions have been debunked by local officials and news outlets.

Rating: False

Rating Explanation: The claims made by Sen. Janice Bowling have been thoroughly debunked by local officials such as the Franklin County Superintendent and various credible news outlets. Despite this, Bowling has maintained her stance without presenting any substantial evidence.

“I met with the principal and the superintendent in Franklin County and they have a group in their school,” Bowling told reporters. “No litter boxes, they had children, they weren’t allowed to use leashes.”

When asked to disavow her claims Bowling replied, “It was the truth,” saying again that she had met with the local superintendent.

However, The Tennessee Holler also reported that Franklin County Superintendent Stanley Bean promptly debunked Bowling’s claims, saying that he asked to meet with the lawmaker and the parents she has claimed had told her about “litter boxes” being used in schools:

When the time came for the meeting, Senator Bowling showed up, but there were no parents to be found. “She told me they were afraid to tell me in person,” Bean said. “So I told her that without any evidence she needed to retract what she had said about out schools. She said she would.”

Bean says the next thing he knew, Bowling was on local radio – but instead of retracting and apologizing, Senator Bowling was claiming to have put a stop to all the furrying and litter boxing and what-not, by issuing an order to Mr. Bean to put a stop to it.

We contacted Bowling’s office seeking comment on Bean’s claims. She did not respond.

Bowling is part of a cadre of right-wing politicians who have seized on the debunked transphobic lie that public school students were being allowed to use litter boxes on school grounds, citing unnamed “parents” as sources.

In September 2022, Bowling — the co-chair of the state legislature’s Education, Health and General Welfare joint subcommittee — went further than many of her cohorts in linking her claims to transphobic beliefs.

“I would hope that you continue to hold to rigorous health standards so that boys are not going into boys’ bathrooms and seeing a girl sitting on the urinal,” she said at the time. “That’s not good. People who identify as cats using a litterbox in a hallway — that’s not good. That is not healthy for anybody in a lot of capacities.”

The talking point was laundered so heavily that it was also debunked by national news outlets. But Bowling refused to acknowledge that in her interview with The Tennessee Holler.

“Sorry you don’t accept the truth,” she said.