Editorial | Who’s ‘grooming’ who?

Grooming hatred in America
Judging by the language he uses on his prime-time show, it seems as though Tucker Carlson has been grooming his audience into lashing out against the LGBTQ+ community.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore

Let’s talk about the terms “groomer” and “grooming” for a moment, because some right-wing homophobes have been flagrantly throwing them around lately. 

Merriam-Webster defines the term grooming, in part, as to “get into readiness for a specific objective.” It is commonly used to describe pedophiles who “prepare (a child) for a meeting, especially via an internet chat room, with the intention of committing a sexual offense.”

Right-wing politicians, social media trolls and cable TV loudmouths have used the terms “grooming” or “groomer” with impunity to dehumanize LGBTQ+ people, or oppose LGBTQ+ friendly policies or programs, such as drag queen story hour, in which a drag performer reads stories to children about diversity, equality and tolerance.

Sadly, the New York City Council has at least one member, Republican Vickie Paladino of Queens, who embraces this vile slander of the LGBTQ+ community, and those who support them.

Paladino’s beliefs are similar to the morally repugnant statements of right-wing propagandists like Tucker Carlson, who pushes hateful filth upon American television viewers night after night.

Carlson, on June 6, made statements about grooming and the drag queen story hour that were oddly similar to Paladino’s tweet a week later. “This is grotesque,” Carlson said. “Sexualizing children always is.”

A week later, in responding to a right-wing tabloid’s story besmirching drag queen story hour, Paladino practically parroted Carlson.

“NYC is spending taxpayer dollars to bring adult drag queens into elementary schools across the city to perform for small children,” she tweeted. “This is unacceptable and grotesque, and follows a deeply disturbing national pattern.”

Paladino’s statements reflect dangerous ignorance on her part. There’s nothing “sexual” about drag queen story hour; the program serves to build tolerance of LGBTQ+ Americans among everyone, including children whose peers may be LGBTQ+ themselves. 

Rather than saying ignorant things to call attention to herself, Paladino ought to attend a drag queen story hour (as an observer, not a protester), and try to understand what it’s truly about.

No child is being “groomed” at these events — but certainly, a large segment of the American population is indeed being groomed today. 

Adults, not children, are these groomers’ targets. 

And these monsters seek to fulfill not a sexual predation, but rather a political, anti-American one.

Hate-mongers on the right who trash LGBTQ+ Americans and label them “groomers” are in fact groomers themselves.

These groomers prey on the emotions of the American people, seeking to weaponize them in their never-ending objectives to fracture this country, strip away civil rights, dehumanize entire segments of the population — and even violently lash out.

Like Carlson, they spout their filth on television; like Paladino, they spread their hatred on social media; and like Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott, they codify their prejudice into their state constitutions.

Indeed, every accusation made by the right wing is a loud confession of their own vile hatred, disrespect and intolerance — and a full-throated rejection of American values.