Michigan Sen. Mallory McMorrow blasts colleague Lana Theis on Senate floor in viral speech

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It started with a prayer, but the fight escalated quickly.

By Tuesday morning, a state lawmaker took to the Senate floor to defend herself against a completely unfounded allegation from another legislator that she wants to "groom and sexualize kindergartners."

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow shakes hands as she walks into the House of Representatives with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (not in the photo) during the State of the State address at the State Capitol in Lansing, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020.
State Sen. Mallory McMorrow shakes hands as she walks into the House of Representatives with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (not in the photo) during the State of the State address at the State Capitol in Lansing, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020.

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, decried the political attack by Sen. Lana Theis, a Brighton Republican who made the accusation in a recent campaign fundraising email without providing any evidence to support it.

"I am the biggest threat to your hollow, hateful scheme. Because you can't claim that you are targeting marginalized kids in the name of 'parental rights' if another parent is standing up to say no," McMorrow said, at times peering over toward Theis.

"You say, 'She's a groomer. She supports pedophilia. She wants children to believe that they were responsible for slavery and to feel bad about themselves because they're white.'"

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McMorrow is referencing portions of Theis' campaign material, shared publicly by Michigan Advance and others. A "groomer" is someone who establishes a connection with a child in an effort to ultimately exploit or physically abuse that child.

Theis, who's attempting to fend off a primary challenger, filled the campaign email with red meat for conservatives — its sweeping language suggests "our children are under assault in our schools" from the likes of "gender-bending indoctrination" and "race-based education."

She did not provide any evidence for any of these accusations but did personally attack McMorrow.

“These are the people we are up against. Progressive social media trolls like Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Snowflake) who are outraged they can’t teach can’t groom and sexualize kindergartners or that 8-year-olds are responsible for slavery," the material states.

Theis' words, and more broadly her decision to evoke issues roiling communities across the nation, have prompted a simmering feud. As McMorrow argued in her speech Tuesday, Theis' accusations are rooted in a broader national campaign to use highly polarized and oft-misunderstood concepts like Critical Race Theory to attack the LGBTQ community and others while painting critics as villains.

"I am a straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom who knows that the very notion that learning about slavery or redlining or systemic racism somehow means that children are being taught to feel bad or hate themselves because they are white is absolute nonsense," McMorrow said.

"No child alive today is responsible for slavery. No one in this room is responsible for slavery. But each and every single one of us bears responsibility for writing the next chapter of history ... we are not responsible for the past. We also cannot change the past. We can't pretend that it didn't happen, or deny people their very right to exist."

McMorrow's five-minute speech garnered massive attention, receiving more than 1 million views on social media only hours after she posted it. The Michigan Democratic Party, national Democrats and others criticized Theis for her allegations.

Theis did not respond to her colleague's speech on the Senate floor, and a representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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The campaign email began with reference to a recent story about several Democrats recently walking out of the Senate as Theis provided the daily invocation for that session. Theis only spoke for a few minutes, but her words incensed some Senate Democrats.

"Dear Lord, across the country we're seeing in the news that our children are under attack. That there are forces that desire things for them other than what their parents would have them see and hear and know," Theis said during the prayer.

"Dear Lord I pray for your guidance in this chamber, to protect the most vulnerable among us. Help us to do your will at every step."

That may have been the end of it, had Theis not picked up on the criticism and personally called out McMorrow, who had criticized the prayer on Twitter.

"I know that hate will only win if people like me stand by and let it happen. So I want to be very clear right now: Call me whatever you want. I hope you brought in a few dollars, I hope it made you sleep good last night," McMorrow said in her Senate speech.

"I know who I am. I know what faith and service means, and what it calls for in this moment. We will not let hate win."

The Senate returns to work Wednesday morning.

Contact Dave Boucher: dboucher@freepress.com or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Senator Mallory McMorrow blasts Lana Theis in viral speech