The dangers of Vickie Paladino and Tucker Carlson

Councilmember Vickie Paladino of Queens is tapping into the rhetoric of Tucker Carlson to attack drag story hour.
New York City Council/John McCarten

The June 6 episode of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” descended into a dangerous presentation of misinformation and outright nonsense when the Fox News show’s notorious host showed footage of a drag story hour event and immediately started comparing it to pedophilia.

“This is grotesque,” Carlson said. “Sexualizing children always is.”

Nobody was actually “sexualizing” children, of course but just one week later, Carlson’s rhetoric infiltrated the New York City Council when Republican Councilmember Vickie Paladino of Queens repeated some of Carlson’s very own words as she denounced funding for drag story hour in New York City.

The Queens lawmaker was responding to a New York Post article about drag story hour when she strung together a five-tweet thread describing the educational initiative as “grotesque” and suggesting it amounts to “child grooming and sexualization.” She vowed to fight against any drag story hour funding in her district — and even went as far as saying she contacted principals to inform them of her absurd position.

Carlson has long used his platform to fan the flames of hate against LGBTQ individuals, people of color, immigrants, and other marginalized communities, but his brand of bigotry has taken an even darker turn in recent years — and it has no place in the City Council — or anywhere in New York City.

The very fact that the “groomer” garbage even reached the city’s lawmaking body should be an ominous sign — and it shows the lengths some New York City-based political circles will go to perpetuate the most dangerous narratives about LGBTQ individuals.

Case in point: After out Manhattan Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell criticized Paladino and defended drag story hour, the New York Young Republicans Club had the audacity to post a tweet telling O’Donnell that he should “put children first, not adult males with a dress-up obsession.” O’Donnell’s tweet prompted several users to respond by saying “OK groomer” — a blatant form of homophobia directed at an elected official.

Paladino’s tweets drew some criticism from City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and LGBTQIA+ Caucus Co-Chairs Tiffany Cabán and Crystal Hudson. But it was only three short years ago when anti-LGBTQ Councilmember Ruben Diaz, Sr. — who left office at the end of last year — was stripped of his committee when he said the gay community controlled the City Council. Numerous city lawmakers stepped forward to demand Diaz’s resignation, and some even called for him to be expelled.

The City Council should take Paladino’s tweets just as seriously — even if she does not have the power of serving as a committee chair. The fierce nationwide backlash against queer Americans has overwhelmingly targeted transgender and gender non-conforming youth, and New York — including New York City — must do everything possible to create a safe environment for the young people who will carry our city into the future. The least we can do is support inclusive initiatives like drag story hour.

As for who’s grooming who, it’s quite obvious Carlson is grooming Paladino into spreading his hatred across New York City.