After an Alabama middle school teacher read to dogs and kids at a nonprofit animal shelter under his drag persona, Chaya Raichik's Libs of TikTok followers targeted him, and as a result of manufactured outrage, his school suspended the educator while the animal rescue organization where he performed has had to seek FBI protection from death threats.
For the last 22 years, James Miller has performed as a drag queen, and in his 27 years as a teacher, that's never been a problem. But that changed when he read to dogs during a Drag Queen Storytime event in September, and the right-wing mob got wind of it last week, Huntsville ABC affiliate WAAY reports.
The video that has caused a right-wing meltdown is benign.
Reading from the children's book Walter the Farting Dog, while mentioning a dog beginning to dig and find a bone, Miller, as Divine, commented -- the point of which clearly is incomprehensible to children -- similar to many children's movies that adults understand differently from their kids.
"A treasure! A bone!" Divine said, adding, "everybody loves a big bone," before immediately moving on to the following line in the story.
The Libs of TikTok account accused Miller of making "lewd sexual innuendos and jokes" on her website.
\u201cSCOOP: Drag queen who\u2019s also a middle school teacher in @HSVk12 was caught on video making inappropriate sexual comments in front of children during drag events which he headlined. \n\nRead (or listen!) to the full story here: https://t.co/WyoWUR9yTS\u201d
Raichik tweeted, "SCOOP: Drag queen who's also a middle school teacher in @HSVk12 was caught on video making inappropriate sexual comments in front of children during drag events which he headlined. "
On her website, Raichik provides evidence that Libs of TikTok is falsely claiming to be a journalist with story deadlines, yet her outrage was picked up by Fox News.
The tactics Raichik engages in were successful in this case. WAAY reports that Miller has been placed on paid administrative leave indefinitely by Huntsville School District.
As part of a fundraiser, staff members enacted storytimes with children for the nonprofit shelter Hard Knocks Rescue & Training. The books read at events there focused on acceptance, authenticity, and dogs.
Much like the famous TV show Reading Rainbow hoped to achieve, drag queens across the country have endeavored to provide children with a whimsical element to reading books to inspire a lifelong love of reading.
As an educator, Miller said he felt simpatico with the shelter's mission and participated in story hours with the organization under his drag persona, Majesty Divine.
"I became a teacher in order to be that encouraging adult figure that I needed as a child," he told WAAY. "I advocate for all my students, LGBTQ+ or not."
According to him, comments made during the September event weren't any worse than innuendo from any recent children's movie.
The shelter's ownership remains behind Miller despite countless negative reviews online and hateful comments, including death threats since Libs of TikTok, targeted it.
The shelter's CEO, Lisa Maasen, said, "We are doing nothing wrong we have no shame for what we do. We fully support the message. We say all of the time, we would rather be excluded for who we include than be included for who we exclude, and that will be our statement every day going forward," according to WAAY.
The shelter has been in touch with local law enforcement and the FBI.
Disney movies and other children's programming have similar comments, Maasen added.
Drag Queen Story Time is still being hosted at Hard Knocks Rescue & Training, and organizers say they welcome Majesty Divine or anyone who'd like to read to animals or kids.
As a result of the manufactured controversy, Miller's employer, Huntsville City Schools, sent a letter to the community before he announced that he'd been placed on leave.
In it, Mountain Gap Middle School principal Heather Bardwell points to social media posts about one of the school's teachers. She says a thorough review is underway but acknowledges that the event had no connection to the school whatsoever.
"This was not a school-related event, it did not take place on school property, it did not occur during school hours, and it has no connection to any instruction that occurs in our classrooms," she wrote.
Still, it remains unclear what ramifications the Libs of TikTok attack on Miller will have on his career moving forward.
Conservatives have attacked the LGBTQ+ community this election cycle, with a particular obsession with drag queen performers.