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Stateside Podcast: Michigan Democrat claps back

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State Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) addresses an email from Sen. Lana Theis's (R-Brighton) campaign on the Senate floor.

This week, Michigan State Senator Mallory McMorrow of Royal Oak has been thrust into the national spotlight after her recent floor speech went viral on Twitter. On Tuesday, McMorrow addressed the Senate in response to a campaign fundraising email sent by fellow State Sen. Lana Theis of Brighton that mentioned McMorrow by name.

In the email, Theis, a Republican, referred to the Democratic McMorrow as the Democrat from "Snowflake" and claimed that she had an agenda to “groom and sexualize kindergarteners.” According to McMorrow, this narrative of Democratic politicians as pedophiles began with QAnon conspiracy theories and has quickly spread.

“Now this language is being pulled into the mainstream. It has been used to target the LGBTQ community, particularly kids, as we see legislation being moved all around the country to target gay people and trans kids from playing sports. And now it's being used against me,” McMorrow said.

After the email was initially sent out, it didn’t take long for McMorrow to take notice. As the mother of a young child, she said she was disgusted by the way Senator Theis chose to characterize her.

“You know, there's no basis for it and also no thought of what the consequences might be,” McMorrow said. “I'm a mom of a one year old. And just what a horrible, vile thing to say about another mother. I mean, grooming is the act of befriending a child for the purposes of sexually abusing them. It is so disgusting.”

McMorrow delivered her speech on the Senate floor, where she talked about the Christian values her mother instilled in her. “Christianity and faith was about being part of a community,” she said, which meant she would stand up for the rights of marginalized people and would not stand for hate.

In response, Theis has accused McMorrow of using the speech as a fundraising opportunity. Though McMorrow estimated that her campaign has received around $300,000 in donations since her speech went viral, she said that she never asked for these donations and was using her speech to raise awareness, not money.

“The purpose was responding, and I wanted to respond to her face because part of the email about me, too, called me a social media troll, and I wanted to make it clear I don't hide behind my Twitter avatar or a keyboard,” McMorrow said. ”I'm a person and I'm a colleague and I'm a mom and I'm here in person in the same room.”

Prior to this situation, McMorrow said that she and Theis had an amicable working relationship, though she said that she hasn’t “seen any bipartisanship” during her time in office. Now, the dispute between the two senators has become part of a national conversation on bipartisanship, and McMorrow said she aims to continue that discussion.

“The message that I'm trying to send right now is this current Republican Party is not interested in bipartisanship or working together and are comfortable aligning themselves with hate and targeting marginalized people,” McMorrow said. “The only way forward is to say that very loudly and to give people a choice, you either vote for people who want to work together or you vote for hatred.”

Stateside has reached out to Senator Lana Theis to request an interview. Her office has yet to respond.

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Stateside’s theme music is by 14KT.

Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions.

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Anna is a senior at Michigan State University studying journalism with a concentration in international reporting.
Erin Allen comes to Michigan Radio as a new producer for the station’s Stateside show. She is an experienced communicator driven by her curiosity about stories of people.