A drag queen is attacking U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for using her image and likeness in a campaign ad warning of the “radical left” as part of an effort to boost his re-election chances.
Lil Miss Hot Mess, a board member of Drag Queen Story Hour, an organization that holds events in which drag queens read aloud children’s books to youth at libraries and community centers, says she recently saw a picture of herself reading to children in Rubio’s TV ad, which casts the cultural Left as the genesis for all the nation’s problems and Rubio as the person who will push back against its influence.
“The radical Left will destroy America if we don’t stop them,” Rubio intones in a voiceover as an image of Lil Miss Hot Mess flashes on screen. “They indoctrinate children, try to turn boys into girls. They allow aliens and drugs to flood into our country…”
“Why are you so obsessed with me and Drag Queen Story Hour?” Lil Miss Hot Mess asked Rubio in a Twitter video published by the LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD on Wednesday. “We’re simply out here, reading books to children, encouraging them to use their imagination to envision a more just and fabulous world.
“You, on the other hand, are out here during a hurricane…spreading hateful homophobic and transphobic bigotry,” she said, referring to the devastation cause by Hurricane Ian.
“We could be addressing the the devastating impacts of climate change, the devastating epidemic of gun violence in our schools, the devastating economy that isn’t working for working people. We know at the end of the day, you work for us, and let me tell you, dear, it’s not working,” Lil Miss Hot Mess continued.
“I just want to say to you: You can either stand up for those of us who deserve justice and rights in this country, or you can stand out of our way,” she concluded. “We are here to spread joy, justice, and a more fabulous future.”
Rubio, like many of his fellow Republicans, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, has fixated on drag queens and “gender ideology” as a threat to Americans. But as the online LGBTQ magazine Them reported, Rubio has singled out Lil Miss Hot Mess specifically in the past.
In May, Rubio wrote a letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall asking for two children’s books written by Lil Miss Hot Mess — The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish and If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It — to be removed from the library at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. Rubio called for the cancellation of a Drag Queen Story Hour on base as part of Pride Month, claiming that the events are “sexually-charged” and thus, inappropriate for children to attend.
“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,” Rubio wrote. “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.”
Lil Miss Hot Mess’s comments about Hurricane Ian appear to reference the fact that Rubio did not attend a Senate vote on releasing emergency aid to Florida in the wake of the hurricane, while Sen. Rick Scott, a fellow Florida Republican, voted against the measure. The aid to Florida was included in a short-term spending bill that would fund the government through December, which some Republicans argued should be dealt with separately, given the objections they have to the current Democratic administration’s spending priorities.
Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, decried Rubio’s ad, saying the ad’s framing and its messaging around Drag Queen Story Hour spread misinformation and have led some right-wing activists to threaten violence against organizers and the places, like libraries, that host such events, or to physically disrupt such events in the name of “protecting” children.
“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 said in a statement. “Public figures, media, and tech companies must be held accountable. And elected officials like Senator 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.”
It’s still unclear whether there are legal implications associated with using Lil Miss Hot Mess’s image and likeness. Because Rubio’s campaign did not seek out the drag queen’s permission to use an image of her, his campaign could potentially be charged with violating Florida’s right of publicity laws, which prohibit publishing, displaying, or using another’s likeness for commercial or advertising purposes without first obtaining express written or oral consent from the subject, according to Them. That could potentially open the door for Lil Miss Hot Mess, if she wanted, to sue the Rubio campaign for using her likeness without permission.
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