Michigan state senator hits back at GOP colleague accusing her of 'grooming' kids

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Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow pushed back in a viral speech against the growing trend of Republicans labeling their Democratic opponents as groomers and pedophiles.

McMorrow responded Tuesday morning to accusations made in a fundraising email by Republican state Sen. Lana Theis that her Democratic colleague wanted to “groom and sexualize kindergarteners.”

“I didn’t expect to wake up yesterday to the news that the senator from the 22nd District had, overnight, accused me by name of grooming and sexualizing children in an email fundraising for herself,” McMorrow said at the beginning of her remarks. “So I sat on it for a while wondering: Why me? And then I realized: Because I am the biggest threat to your hollow, hateful scheme. Because you can’t claim that you are targeting marginalized kids in the name of ‘parental rights’ if another parent is standing up to say no.”

Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow.
Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow. (Senate TV via Twitter)

Republicans have attempted to position themselves as the party of parental rights, with state legislatures across the country introducing a series of bills targeting the LGBTQ community, with those opposing the legislation being labeled as “groomers.” They’ve also targeted books that discuss race and gender while attempting to make it illegal for parents to seek gender-affirming care for transgender children. Prominent right-wing media figures have focused on anti-LGBTQ attacks in recent weeks.

“So then what?” continued McMorrow. “Then you dehumanize and marginalize me. You say that I’m one of them. You say she’s a groomer, she supports pedophilia, she wants children to believe that they were responsible for slavery and to feel bad about themselves because they’re white.”

McMorrow’s speech has been viewed over 9 million times in the less than 24 hours since she posted it to her Twitter account. During her comments, she talked about growing up being active in the church, working with her mother at a soup kitchen and the civil rights work of Father Ted Hesburgh, the former president of her alma mater, Notre Dame.

“I learned that service was far more important than performative nonsense like being seen in the same pew every Sunday or writing ‘Christian’ in your Twitter bio and using that as a shield to target and marginalize already marginalized people,” McMorrow said, emphasizing that she is a white, straight, Christian, suburban mom and that those promoting the attacks were using it to deflect from the fact that they weren’t working on the real issues.

“I know that hate will only win if people like me stand by and let it happen,” concluded McMorrow, who was first elected in 2018 and is on the ballot again this November. “So I want to be very clear right now: Call me whatever you want. I hope you brought in a few dollars. I hope it made you sleep good last night. I know who I am. I know what faith and service means and what it calls for in this moment. We will not let hate win.”

Theis’s rhetoric against McMorrow in the fundraising email sent out on Monday read, “These are the people we are up against. Progressive social media trolls like Senator Malloy McMorrow (D-Snowflake) who are outraged they can’t teach can’t groom and sexualize kindergarteners or that 8-year-olds are responsible for slavery.” She added that “enlightened elites” believe parents “must surrender to the wisdom of teacher unions, trans-activists, and the education bureaucracy.”

Theis targeted McMorrow and other Democrats in the Senate after they walked out of a session last Wednesday due to the content of Theis’s invocation, which the legislators took as a precursor to action against LGBTQ educators.

“Dear Lord, across the country we’re seeing in the news that our children are under attack. That there are forces that desire things for them other than what their parents would have them see and hear and know. Dear Lord, I pray for your guidance in this chamber to protect the most vulnerable among us,” said Theis, who is chair of the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee.

Michigan state Sen. Lana Theis.
Michigan state Sen. Lana Theis in 2019. (David Eggert/AP)

“The ‘forces’ are, of course, public school teachers, and the ‘things’ are the LGBTQ community,” tweeted Democratic state Sen. Dayna Polehanki. “To pervert the Senate Invocation in this way is beyond the pale.”

“Without sharing or repeating closed-minded harmful words from a sitting Senator under the guise of a ‘prayer,’ to every child in Michigan — you are perfect and welcome and loved for being exactly who you are,” added McMorrow on Twitter.

A number of GOP senators used the confirmation hearings of new Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to label her as soft on child pornography offenders, despite repeated analyses showing that Jackson’s rulings were within the mainstream of her fellow judges. When three Republican senators said they would vote to confirm Jackson, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., called them “pro-pedophile.” The following day, she referred to Democrats as the “party of pedophiles.”

Greene’s comments and the general trend toward accusations of pedophilia echo the QAnon conspiracy theory, supported by Greene in the past, which alleges that former President Donald Trump was working to take down a powerful cabal of child traffickers typically portrayed as the Democratic elite. Believers in the debunked theory frequently allege that their political opponents support pedophiles. Those pushing the accusations have a large audience, as a recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute found that 16% of Americans believed that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., addresses Trump supporters in Commerce, Ga., on March 26. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)

McMorrow’s direct response is a contrast to what the national Democratic strategy has been to the increase of Republicans claiming they are a party of “pedophiles” and “groomers.” Vice News spoke to a number of prominent House Democrats last week about Greene’s comments.

“I don’t even really pay attention to anything she says because she has nothing rational to say. It seems to me to be a ridiculous allegation,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., a member of House Democratic leadership. “We’re focused right now on getting things done for everyday Americans: lowering costs, addressing gas prices and inflation. They can continue to peddle lies and conspiracy theories.”

“I see polling that shows that that outrageous characterization is landing with some folks,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., told the outlet. “But you also don't really want to give oxygen to the land of misfit toys, which is where this is coming [from].”