- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Kirk Cameron and Riley Gaines took different paths to becoming major conservative influencers, but they have in common their frustration with woke culture and their willingness to make themselves targets by taking a stand.

They spoke candidly with Billy Hallowell, host of The Washington Times’ “Higher Ground” podcast, in a rare dual interview about facing down their fears and tackling the chaos plaguing the nation as they continue to walk the road less traveled.

None of that happens without courage, said Mr. Cameron.

“Why haven’t [more] people spoken up? I think it comes down to fear,” he said. “I think fear is the main reason that people don’t want to stick their neck out. We’re afraid of what people are going to say and, worse, what people might do.”

The risks are real. “We might lose our job. We might not be able to find work again,” he said. “I know people that that’s happened to. Because of their religion, because of their politics, because of their vaccination status.”

Mr. Cameron, a teen heartthrob turned Christian actor, drew the left’s ire as the face of the Brave Books library tour, pushing back on drag queen story hours by holding readings of his children’s books in public libraries.

“We all feel fear. It’s a natural response when we think something bad’s going to happen to us. And courage is a decision,” he said. “Courage is what Riley’s doing.”

Indeed, Ms. Gaines, 23, has paid a price for her decision to challenge male-to-female transgender athletes in female sports. She’s been assaulted, accosted at her home and forced to hide in a locked room to escape a mob of student activists at San Francisco State University.

“I’ve been in multiple scenarios where I have wholeheartedly feared for my life,” she said. “I’ve been attacked. I’ve been punched in the face by these men who are wearing dresses, which, fortunately for me, their punches don’t really hurt that bad.”

At one point, she realized the main threat was “merely name-calling.”

“These names people were hurling my way, these petty personal attacks, it wasn’t based on anything other than, I think, their own insecurities, to be honest with you,” she said.

Ms. Gaines, a 12-time All-American swimmer who graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2022, credited her faith in God with keeping the vitriol in perspective.

“We know the outcome, right? The war. We know who wins. Correction, we know who has already won the war,” she said, referring to defeating sin. “And that is what keeps a smile on my face.”

Ms. Gaines isn’t taking her foot off the gas. She and a dozen other current and former female athletes filed a federal lawsuit two weeks ago against the National Collegiate Athletic Association over its transgender policy.

She hosts OutKick’s “Gaines on Girls” podcast, serves as an ambassador for the Independent Women’s Forum and heads the Riley Gaines Center at the Leadership Institute.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cameron has launched a children’s TV show with Brave Books called “Adventures With Iggy and Mr. Kirk,” featuring an iguana puppet voiced by “Sesame Street” puppeteer John Kennedy of the Jim Henson Co.

Mr. Cameron and Ms. Gaines, both Brave Books authors, teamed up in August for children’s story times at Alabama’s Huntsville-Madison County Public Library system, an event initially canceled by the library, then allowed after the First Liberty Institute threatened legal action.

Mr. Cameron, 53, encouraged conservatives to be “winners, not whiners” by becoming “creators of the culture, not complainers of the culture.”

“Courage is what heroes do, and the more heroes step out in faith with courage and bravery, it begins to wake other people up, and they come out of this frozen prison of fear and say, ‘Wow, she can do it. If he can do it, if somebody else can do it, uh, I can do it,’” he said.

He also said that those feeling discouraged should take heart in history because “history is His story, the story of God from the very beginning to the end.”

“Sometimes you find yourself in one of the chapters and you go, holy cow, this whole thing has fallen apart. This is the end of the world,” Mr. Cameron said. “And then you realize, no, no, no, you’re in the middle of the story somewhere. And the author knows exactly what he’s doing.”

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