This election cycle, Florida’s senator Marco Rubio has firmly established himself in a right-wing, anti-LGBTQ+ message camp that is ultra-MAGA. In some of his recent television advertisements, the senior senator included conservative talking points, which has caused a person featured in the ads to wonder why he is obsessed with her.
The senator from the sunshine state, which just had one of its worst hurricane disasters, has spent much of his time attacking drag performers as far away as Germany.
In June, Rubio sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall in which he perpetuates the false smear that LGBTQ+ people and drag queens are somehow sexualizing children.
“It is completely insane for Ramstein AFB to use on-installation resources for rituals like ‘Drag Queen Story Time,’” Rubio wrote. “These inappropriate events are extremely divisive at home for good reason; in all cases, they place young children in close proximity with adults who are intentionally and explicitly sexualized.”
This is an old and recycled trope that conservative influencers have employed with ubiquity this election cycle.
“We’re simply out here reading books to children, encouraging them to use their imagination to envision a more just and fabulous world,” Lil Miss Hot Mess, who is on the board of Drag Queen Story Hour, says in the video.
President and CEO of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis, tells The Advocate that what politicians like Rubio are doing to scapegoat LGBTQ+ communities is harmful and must stop.
“We have seen increased threats and harassment directed not just at drag performers who do library readings, but also at library staff, teachers, and others who support inclusive learning materials for youth,” Ellis says. “It is abhorrent that extremists are targeting and threatening members of our communities dedicated to educating our youth and promoting literacy.”
The extremist message must be working on Rubio. One of his campaign ads is a collection of anti-LGBTQ+ talking points.
“The radical left will destroy America if we don’t stop them,” begins Rubio with menacing music opening the commercial. “They indoctrinate children and try to turn boys into girls,” Rubio continues while insincerely claiming that the left will call him names like ‘racist’ for his views but that he’s the guy to protect the country from its inevitable demise.
One should note that Rubio’s seeming obsession with Lil Miss Hot Mess is illustrated by the fact that he made the message of her book, The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish, which serves as permission for kids to express themselves, into something dirty.
In his letter, he wrote, “A flyer for the similar event last year highlighted the apparent inclusion of a controversial book, The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish. The author of the book said they wrote it so that children could ‘experience the magic of drag and to get a little practice shaking their hips or shimmying their shoulders to know how [they] can feel fabulous inside of [their] own bodies.’ As I hope you can agree, decisions over children and their bodies should be left to moms and dads serving our nation, not mediated through publicly funded propaganda on U.S. Air Force bases.”
Other political candidates have created similar ads that scapegoat drag performers and transgender people—often in the same ad. For example, Oscar Rosa, a candidate for Texas state representative, has an ad that promises, “This should be common sense, but it sadly needs to be said. I will never allow drag shows or transgender studies in our schools.
It is Ellis's contention that purposeful disinformation and misinformation are catalysts for violence due to their seemingly endless availability.
“Anti-LGBTQ disinformation, like you see in this ad, as well as on Fox News and social media, fuels extremist attacks across the country. Public figures, media, and tech companies must be held accountable. And elected officials like Sen. Rubio must follow through on their oath of office to protect and represent all of their constituents, rather than pushing anti-LGBTQ rhetoric for political points,” Ellis says.