Sens. Mallory McMorrow (left) and Lana Theis (right) | Susan J. Demas and Michael Gerstein photos
Updated, 7:47 p.m., 4/18/22
Last week, state Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) stirred up controversy when she claimed during her invocation prior to Senate session that children are “under attack” from “forces that desire things for them other than what their parents would have them see and hear and know.”
Appearing to reference Republicans’ national crackdown on teachings that reference LGBTQ+ issues and America’s history of racism, the invocation prompted three Democratic senators to walk out of session in protest, as the Advance previously reported.
Theis didn’t respond to a request for comment, but doubled down on her attacks while posting the story on Twitter. Now, Theis, who is facing a primary challenge from a former President Trump-endorsed Republican, has gone even further with a fundraising email Monday claiming Democrats like state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) are “trolls” and “groomers” that “sexualize” children, echoing many who believe in the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory.
“These are the people we are up against,” reads the email titled, “groomers outraged by my invocation.”
“Progressive social media trolls like Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Snowflake) who are outraged they can’t … groom and sexualize kindergarteners or that 8-year-olds are responsible for slavery.”
Theis goes on to characterize Democrats who want to teach their children about LGBTQ+ issues and America’s history of racism as “enlightened elites” who believe parents “must surrender to the wisdom of teacher unions, trans-activists, and the education bureaucracy.”
McMorrow was among at least three members — including state Sens. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) and Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) — who walked out after Theis’ invocation. All three and other members have also been vocal about the ordeal on Twitter.
Theis did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.
Speaking to the Advance Monday after seeing the fundraising email that specifically names her, McMorrow said Theis’ remarks are “vile.”
“What a horrible thing for a mother to say about another mother,” she said.
“I think the same thing that I thought last week, which is that this is an absolutely disgusting, vile attempt to scapegoat already-marginalized kids in the state of Michigan. It’s disgusting and I feel sad.”
McMorrow was asked how she could work alongside Theis now, after the Republican appeared to insinuate that McMorrow grooms children.
“You don’t work with them. You work to get them out of office,” she replied.
What a horrible thing for a mother to say about another mother.
– Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) on the fundraising email from Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton)
“If she thinks this means I’m going anywhere, she’s got another thing coming. And it’s just sad that she’s taking advantage of constituents instead of actually working to fix people’s very real problems.”
Theis is facing a primary challenge this year against Mike Detmer, a real estate manager who previously ran for Congress. Detmer has criticized Theis for accepting the results of a Senate Oversight report that found no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election that Trump lost. In February, Detmer told supporters they should “be prepared to lock and load” at the polls.
The Senate Democratic caucus issued a statement blasting Theis for “weaponiz[ing] schoolchildren.”
“Sen. Theis used the Senate invocation — the solemn prayer to start Senate session — to raise money, spread lies, and harm kids for her own political gain,” the Democrats said in a press release Monday afternoon. “She should not hold the title or position she does if she is going to use the pulpit to weaponize schoolchildren and launch baseless, despicable attacks against her colleagues.”
State Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) also chimed in Monday afternoon, emphasizing that the Michigan GOP has “completely failed to hold their own accountable for unethical or improper behavior.”
“I am appalled by the inappropriate insults and accusations coming from the Republican Party as they continue to neglect holding their own party accountable for inappropriate conduct,” Chang said. “While Democrats work to promote inclusion in classrooms and allow our children to be who they are and to be loved, Michigan Republicans have made it clearer than ever before that they remain opposed to recognizing LGBTQ children and teaching all students the truth about our history. Words matter, and this dangerous rhetoric only serves to harm those who are the most vulnerable.
“All this is happening while a former Republican legislative leader faces sexual assault allegations and used state resources to fuel his inappropriate behavior, and a sitting Republican senator was convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault. The Michigan Republican Party has completely failed to hold their own accountable for unethical or improper behavior,” Chang continued.
Former House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) is under investigation for sexual assault allegations, while state Sen. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek) faces a year of probation for inappropriately touching a nurse practitioner when he was sick with COVID-19. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) has so far declined to take punitive action against Bizon in the state Legislature.
“For Sen. Theis to use her political position to raise campaign money by preying on the vulnerability of people’s children is truly disappointing and despicable,” Chang said. “This incident represents the worst of politics today.”
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