Two in-game podcasts in Watch Dogs: Legion (opens in new tab) that feature British journalist Helen Lewis will be removed as a result of "controversial" statements she's made in the past. Ubisoft said that it was not made aware of Lewis' previous statements until after development of the game was complete.
"Neither Ubisoft nor the game reflect this journalist’s viewpoints," Ubisoft said in a statement. "The development team worked with an external producer to select speaker profiles for these podcasts and were not aware of the controversy at the time of booking or recording.
"While the in-game podcasters are following a pre-approved script and are not speaking in their own name or with their own opinions, we understand this collaboration itself may be seen as offensive and we deeply regret any hurt this has caused. In response, we will be replacing these two podcast episodes in an upcoming update and will reinforce our background checks for partners in the future."
Ubisoft didn't specify which of Lewis' comments it considers "controversial," but Jezebel (opens in new tab) (via Kotaku (opens in new tab)) noted last year that she has expressed views in opposition of expanded rights for trans people. In a 2017 opinion piece (opens in new tab) criticizing changes to UK law aimed at simplifying the process of changing one's legally recognized gender, for instance, she wrote, "Being a woman or a man is now entirely in your head. In this climate, who would challenge someone with a beard exposing their penis in a women’s changing room?"
The statement echoes a regular talking point among trans rights opponents: That men will claim to be women for the sole purpose of gaining access to women's changing rooms and bathrooms.
As the US National Center for Transgender Equality points out (opens in new tab), this hypothetical fear is based on nothing. "Hundreds of cities, school districts, and 18 states already protect transgender people's right to use restrooms," writes the org, "and none have seen a rise in incidents of people attacking anyone or of people pretending to be transgender in order to get access to restrooms."
Lewis has stated (opens in new tab)in the past that she believes "trans women are women, and trans men are men," but has maintained what she described as "concerns about self-ID and its impact on single-sex spaces."
These are contradictory positions, said Jezebel. "While Lewis regularly complains that she gets lumped in with TERFs [trans-exclusionary radical feminists] despite her self-professed support for trans rights, there is a reason," wrote the site (opens in new tab). "Her thinking is largely in line with and gives ideological cover to ideas that have been used to limit the rights of trans people."
The rapid response comes amidst a self-declared effort at Ubisoft to change its corporate culture, which has faced fierce criticism (opens in new tab) this year over allegations of widespread sexual misconduct and abusive behavior. Ubisoft did not say when Lewis' removal from Watch Dogs: Legion will take place.