Laurel Duggan on April 6, 2022
Corporate media outlets are attacking conservatives for their use of the word “groomer” to describe efforts to teach young children about gender identity and sexual orientation.
Backlash against the phrase comes after intense debate over Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, characterized as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, which bans classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade. Some conservatives have called opponents of the bill “groomers,” a word that describes pedophiles who befriend children and build their trust in order to sexually abuse them. Mainstream media outlets have in turn attacked conservatives over the allegations.
“If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said in a March 4 tweet. “Silence is complicity. This is how it works, Democrats, and I didn’t make the rules.”
If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children. Silence is complicity. This is how it works, Democrats, and I didn’t make the rules.
— Christina Pushaw 🇺🇸 (@ChristinaPushaw) March 4, 2022
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes said Republican politicians were “play[ing] footsie” with “QAnon” adherents through “vague allegations of ‘grooming,’ an age-old smear to imply that members of the LGBTQ community are trying to prime children for sexual abuse.”
His comments came during an MSNBC segment titled “The QAnon part out loud: GOP smears political opponents as ‘pro-pedophile.’” He linked the trend to Florida’s recent education bill.
“That appears to be the case in Florida and the basis behind the state’s so-called don’t say gay bill which prohibits the discussion – the discussion – in class of sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms for young children,” Hayes said.
The Washington Post published an article Wednesday about “groomer” accusations. The publication cited experts who characterized the term as “part of a conservative effort to foster a moral panic that will help limit how and what educators teach.”
The Los Angeles Times called the “groomer” attacks a reference to a “homophobic trope” and linked concerns about pedophiles to QAnon conspiracy theorists.
“Conservatives Are Smearing ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Opponents as Pedophile ‘Groomers,’” was the title of a Tuesday Vice News article comparing recent “groomer” accusations to anti-LGBT movements in the 1970s, and claiming the word was being used to smear gay people rather than to attack proponents of sexual education for kindergarteners.
Michelle Goldberg, an opinion columnist for The New York Times, referred to conservatives’ concerns as “a renascent moral panic, one that combines elements of QAnon with old tropes about gay predators.”
“This is, of course, not the first time that gay and gender-nonconforming people have been framed as a moral threat to children,” Goldberg added.
“Why are Republicans so concerned about ‘grooming’?” a Monday headline in The Week asked.
“It’s hard to know how much of this is sincere hysteria and how much is ugly, McCarthyist politics,” the article read.
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