Theis defends targeting McMorrow in fundraising email with anti-LGBTQ+ attack

Republican senator admits language was ‘clunky’

By: - April 21, 2022 5:05 pm

State Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton), April 21, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins

State Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) on Thursday defended her fundraising email Monday that accused state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) and other Democrats of “grooming” and “sexualizing” children. But she briefly admitted during a radio appearance that the language was “clunky” and could have been “written differently.”

Still, Theis — who quipped she is “having an interesting week” — told WJR-AM radio hosts Tom Jordan and Kevin Dietz Thursday that she stands by her accusation of Democrats being “groomers” for being willing to teach their children about LGBTQ+ issues.

“People get so upset about that word, and they try to redefine it as ‘pedophile,’” Theis said. “… I’m sorry that the left has tried to spin it.”

Theis sparked days of headlines when she gave an invocation last week prior to session, claiming children are “under attack” from “forces that desire things for them other than what their parents would have them see and hear and know.”

McMorrow and other Democrats walked out in protest and spoke out on Twitter about the remarks, which referenced the nationwide GOP effort to crack down on teachings that reference LGBTQ+ issues.

Theis then specifically named McMorrow in a fundraising email Monday that insinuated she and other Democrats groom and sexualize children. The language echoed ideas aligned with the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory.

“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,” the email reads.

McMorrow denounced the email in a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, earning her viral status on Twitter, a retweet from the likes of Hillary Clinton, several media appearances on MSNBC and almost $300,000 donations to her campaign, per Politico.

McMorrow said Wednesday that Theis has not reached out to her. She did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), April 20, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins

Theis has not responded to numerous requests for comment from the Advance and has not spoken with reporters in person about the incident.

She ducked out of session early on Wednesday, took a phone call after a committee hearing Thursday morning, left the chamber promptly after a quick session that afternoon and was absent for her second committee meeting of that day.

However, Theis did speak to WJR Thursday morning. She said she defines “groomers” as “people who are working to desensitize the sexualization of children, creating comfort in the child for sexual issues and working to create a rift between the child and the parent so the children’s protective system is no longer available to them.”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, grooming is a method used by offenders that involves befriending and building trust with a child and the adults around them with the goal of sexually assaulting or abusing the child.

“I would have had that language to be written differently,” Theis admitted regarding the email. “… But you should never be providing inappropriate sexual content to a child.”

She falsely claimed that parents who support teaching children about LGBTQ+ issues want libraries to have “pornographic material in them,” and “[make] those required reading for our children.”

“… [McMorrow] walked out on my prayer where I was asking for God’s protection on our children,” Theis said.

“She’s earning money off it, so OK, I guess, but I’m still going to stand with the parents. … I’m not going to back down from that.”

Theis, who is facing a tough primary challenge from former President Trump-endorsed Republican Mike Detmer, has previously introduced anti-trans legislation to require high schools to ban transgender boys from cisgender boys’ sports teams and transgender girls from cisgender girls’ teams.


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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.