Boston Children's Hospital front sign, picture taken from Boston.com, image courtesy of Charles Krupa of Associated Press

Woman in Custody After Boston Children’s Bomb Threats

On the evening of August 30th, 2022, Boston Children’s Hospital received a bomb threat from an anonymous caller. Authorities were immediately notified, and the hospital went into lockdown. No one was hurt and no explosives were found. Just over a week later, around midday on September 9th, 2022, Boston Children’s received yet another phoned-in threat that generated the same outcome. The primary suspect of the threats, Westfield MA resident Catherine Leavy, has been taken into police custody as of September 15th. Having used her personal phone to make the threat, the FBI linked the number to a T-Mobile account in her name. In an FBI interview on the 15th, Leavy initially denied any participation. However, as more evidence of her involvement came to light, she expressed a disdain for Boston Children’s, and eventually admitted that she had made the threat in an affidavit. According to a Department of Justice press release, Leavy has been charged with “one count of explosive materials – willfully making a false bomb threat.”

The threats have come in the wake of a weeks-long harassment campaign sparked on social media. Claims that the hospital was providing hysterectomies (surgical removal of the uterus) to minors were spearheaded by Chaya Raichik, who operates the “Libs Of TikTok” social media accounts on various platforms. In particular, Raichik took issue with a now deleted video from the hospital’s website, detailing the processes of qualifying for gender affirming surgeries, which are unavailable for minors at Boston Children’s, as stated in the video and elsewhere on the website.

Despite the hospital’s policy, the rumor that Boston Children’s was providing hysterectomies to young girls spread throughout Twitter. It was picked up and shared by various right-wing political commentators, such as Tucker Carlson, Christopher Rufo, Ben Shapiro, and Matt Walsh. In an August 11 tweet, Walsh stated, “There needs to be an organized effort to fight back against the drugging and mutilation of children,” a sentiment that was echoed among other conservative users. The constant insistence that something must be done about this is believed to have led to the two bomb threats. This phenomenon, of vaguely calling for drastic action towards a person or institution that has repeatedly been demonized by the group calling for action, is called “stochastic terrorism”.

It’s impossible to directly attribute the motive for the threats to the call for action; Leavy did not specifically name people like Carlson, Raichik, and Walsh. However, it’s influence is plausible, given that in the days leading up to the threat calls, hospital workers at Boston Children’s had received a myriad of harassment. Walsh has been adamant that since the bomb threat was a false alarm, and the caller hadn’t actually planted any explosives, the bomb threats never happened in the first place. Raichik has claimed that the threats were made by a leftist in an effort to smear her and get her banned off social media; a claim that seems to be at odds with Federal Election Commission’s records that indicate Leavy has donated to the Donald Trump campaign and the Republican Party over 200 times since 2016.

 

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