June 17, 2022 By Christian Murray
Councilmember Vickie Paladino has faced an avalanche of criticism this week—from her council colleagues to gay rights groups—following a series of inflammatory statements she made while expressing her opposition to a program where Drag Queens read books and perform for school children.
She has been accused of being a homophobic, cruel and dangerous for her harsh criticism of the city for funding Drag Queen Story Hour, a program that its advocates say promotes inclusivity and acceptance.
Paladino, a Republican who represents District 19 in northeast Queens, described the program as “unacceptable and grotesque” and tweeted Monday that “Progressives may have no problem with child grooming and sexualization, but I do.”
The City Council LGBTQIA + Caucus issued a statement Thursday calling for her to be formally censored and for her committee assignments to be removed.
“The recent comments made by Councilmember Vickie Paladino are unacceptable from anyone, let along an elected official. They are full of hate, intolerance and ignorance.”
But Paladino is not backing down from her comments and says that she is not promoting hate.
“It’s not hate speech to say drag Queens don’t belong in schools,” she tweeted Thursday. “I make zero apologies for that. Protecting children is my priority. Period. That is what I was elected for.”
She took a swipe at progressives and said that she now requires police security at her office.
“As my progressive council colleagues and their radical allies play victim and pretend that speaking against drag queens in elementary schools put them in ‘danger’, back in the real world my office now requires a police detail due to threats of violence from the leftist hate mob.”
As my progressive council colleagues and their radical allies play victim and pretend that speaking against drag queens in elementary schools put them in ‘danger’, back in the real world my office now requires a police detail due to threats of violence from the leftist hate mob. pic.twitter.com/RBC9PsGAGp
— Councilwoman Vickie Paladino (@VickieforNYC) June 16, 2022
The saga began Sunday when the NYPost reported that the non-profit organization Drag Queen Story Hour—and its predecessor group—had been awarded more than $200,000 in city contracts since 2018. The organization sends Drag Queens out to public schools, libraries and street festivals where its outrageously-dressed performers typically read to young students.
Paladino made a series of harsh remarks about the program as well as the city expenditure—which her critics have called ignorant.
“We are taking hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the pockets of hardworking New York taxpayers … to fund a program teaching little children about their gender fluidity? Not. On. My. Watch,” Paladino told the NYPost.
She then tweeted that she would yank funding from schools in her council district that partake in the program.
“Any school in my district participating in ‘drag queen’ degeneracy risks losing their funding. Adult drag performers have NO BUSINESS in our schools, and they will not be in my district. Period.”
Paladino has faced blistering attacks from many elected officials since making the statements, although there are some Republicans who have backed her up.
In Queens, most elected officials have slammed her for her comments.
“Could not be more revolted,” tweeted Astoria council member Tiffany Cabán. “Drag Story Hour NYC shows young, queer NYers that they’re valid, that they truly belong.”
Could not be more revolted.
Drag Story Hour NYC shows young, queer NYers that they’re valid, that they truly belong.
Here’s a colleague likening it to child abuse, at a time when this “groomer” rhetoric is fueling a wave of violence against queer folks.https://t.co/TKfqv9I5Z2
— Tiffany Cabán (@tiffany_caban) June 15, 2022
Cabán, along with members of the LGBTQIA+ Caucus, describe story hour as “a wonderful, wholesome, and vital program that invites our children to explore who they really are, to see themselves as unique individuals with the right to be whoever they are in the world.”
Councilmember Linda Lee, whose eastern Queens district shares a border with Paladino’s, also weighed in. “I don’t make it a habit to comment on the conduct of my colleagues, but rhetoric accusing LGBTQ+ people of pedophilia — ‘grooming’ — is unacceptable and should never be uttered by anyone,” Lee posted on Twitter.
Paladino’s use of the word “grooming,” which has traditionally meant the act of manipulating children for the purpose of sexual abuse, drew particular scorn.
Meanwhile, Councilmember Lynn Schulman, who represents Forest Hills and surrounding areas, issued a statement that she was “saddened that a Council colleague would fuel hatred for any group that doesn’t fit what is considered ‘the norm.’”
She also tweeted that hatred shouldn’t be tolerated.
This type of hatred shouldn’t be tolerated from anyone, especially another elected official. As a proud lesbian member of @NYCCouncil from Queens, & a funder of @DQSHtweets I am saddened & angry that a colleague would be threatened by the teaching of tolerance in our schools. https://t.co/poMdrBBQTZ
— Lynn Schulman 舒曼琳 (@Lynn4NYC) June 15, 2022
Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who represents Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale Village and South Ozone Park, was very direct in condemning Paladino.
“An attack against one New Yorker is an attack against all of us,” Adams said. “In the Council, we take pride in our mutual respect for one another as colleagues, even in the face of disagreements. But a disagreement stemming from a place of hate and intolerance is where we draw the line.”
“I stand with all of my Council colleagues, LGBTQ+ communities, and New Yorkers in unequivocally denouncing Council Member Paladino’s repugnant views and statements against specific members of the Council and the trans community,” Adams said.
But Paladino has got the backing of some Republicans. Andrew Giuliani, a Republican seeking the governorship, tweeted in her support. He said that she “speaks truth to radical power.”
The New York Young Republican Club also came to her support and so too have some Republican candidates seeking office in Albany.
Councilwoman Vickie Paladino speaks truth to radical power. I stand by @VickieforNYC for standing up for New York school children and fighting against this absurd push to introduce sex at such a young age. Make Children Innocent Again! https://t.co/0ZK1SPBP2G
— Andrew H. Giuliani (@AndrewHGiuliani) June 17, 2022
But the overwhelming majority of officials have expressed outrage following her comments.
Mayor Eric Adams issued a statement Thursday in support of the Drag Queen program without directly addressing Paladino’s controversial statements.
He tweeted that the program advances “a love of diversity, personal experience and literacy that is core to what the city embraces.”
Adams added that the goal is for New York’s children to be “academically smart” and “emotionally intelligent.”
Drag storytellers, and the libraries and schools that support them, are advancing a love of diversity, personal expression, and literacy that is core to what our city embraces.
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) June 16, 2022