“‘Hate wins when people like me stand by and let it happen. I won’t.’”
That was Mallory McMorrow, a Democratic state lawmaker in Michigan, responding to comments from a fellow state senator from the Republican side of the aisle who had suggested in a fundraising email that McMorrow supports sexualizing children.
Republican Lana Theis, from south-central Michigan near the Indiana state line, insinuated in a campaign email that McMorrow, from suburban Detroit and the parent of a young daughter herself, wanted to “groom and sexualize kindergarteners.”
McMorrow responded in a Senate floor speech on Tuesday that has gone viral.
“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. “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.”
“‘[Y]ou can’t claim that you are targeting marginalized kids in the name of “parental rights” if another parent is standing up to say no.’”
— Sen. Mallory McMorrow
McMorrow is referencing parts of a recent fundraising email from Theis, which was shared publicly by local media and referred to McMorrow as a “groomer.” (The term describes a predatory adult who takes actions meant to reduce a child’s fears and inhibitions as a prelude to sexual abuse or exploitation by the predator, according to the Farlex medical dictionary.)
The original fundraising email from the Theis campaign seemed to align itself with a national conservative pushback — often using the language of “parental rights” — against the purported indoctrination of children in race and gender issues in public schools.
From the archives (November 2021): Picking a fight on education appears to have worked in Virginia — but is it a winning strategy elsewhere?
Theis, who is facing a Republican primary challenge from the Trump-supported Mike Detmer, did not provide evidence backing her accusations. She was not immediately available for comment on this story. (McMorrow, interviewed early Wednesday on cable news, said Theis never once made eye contact during the Democrat’s floor speech.)
McMorrow’s viral moment comes as the issue of schooling and what is taught in U.S. schools has emerged as perhaps the central talking point for Republicans ahead of the midterm elections. Some of the hot-button topics include the use of critical race theory in informing lesson plans — which, many educators and other critics have countered, does not happen — and the role that teachers and schools play in addressing questions about sexual orientation and gender identity.
The latter was a focal point in Florida’s new “Parental Rights in Education” law, derided by its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The law has drawn intense scrutiny from those who argue that it marginalizes LGBTQ+ people.
McMorrow’s roughly five-minute speech has been watched more than 11 million times on her Twitter
account and has been played in part or in whole during numerous news broadcasts.