A Washington state anti-LGBTQ group called 500 Mom Strong has garnered national attention for its attacks on Drag Queen Story hour after right-wing and evangelical media amplified the group’s protests and comments.
Anti-LGBTQ figures have regularly fearmongered and spread lies about Drag Queen Story Hour, a national program in which drag queens read children’s books to kids at libraries, schools, and bookstores. The program aims to help children “develop empathy, learn about gender diversity and difference, and tap into their own creativity.”
After 500 Mom Strong formed to protest a Drag Queen Story Hour in Spokane, WA, anti-LGBTQ figures including right-wing blogger The Activist Mommy and right-wing evangelical outlets such as LifeSiteNews amplified the story and the group’s rhetoric. The story was eventually picked up by Fox News, and The Activist Mommy will be heading to a protest alongside the group on August 21.
500 Mom Strong is a new anti-LGBTQ group fighting Washington state’s Drag Queen Story Hour
Kim Hall and Anna Bohach, who are mother and daughter, launched 500 Mom Strong on May 30. The group has led public actions online and in-person at rallies opposing Drag Queen Story Hour in Spokane, WA.
500 Mom Strong’s website claims that the organization is a “group of women who have had enough with the sexualization of our children and the mockery of our femininity.” The group and its founders have engaged in extreme rhetoric against LGBTQ people, including repeatedly comparing drag queens to people in blackface. Its website states that “a Drag Queen is no different than a racist donning black face.”
Hall has disparaged LGBTQ people on Facebook, calling Drag Queen Story Hour “institutionalized child abuse” and a method of “grooming children into the LGBTQ lifestyle” while citing HIV statistics among men who have sex with men. She spread that hateful rhetoric to a larger audience through an appearance on Fox News, saying LGBTQ people are “coming for our children now” and grooming youth “into their unhealthy lifestyle” that includes “HIV and AIDS.”
In addition to her anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, Hall has made anti-Muslim comments on her Facebook page. She has said that “we need to stop bringing Muslims into the country” and “get rid of the ones that are already here.”
In less than a month, right-wing media amplified 500 Mom Strong’s protest into a national story
On June 15, just two weeks after 500 Mom Strong’s launch, the group led its first protest against Drag Queen Story Hour and garnered national right-wing and evangelical media attention that eventually made it to Fox News. Now, the group is scheduled to protest on August 21 alongside influential right-wing blogger The Activist Mommy, whose involvement with the group helped boost its platform substantially.
500 Mom Strong launches
500 Mom Strong launched with some local media attention. Bohach and Hall co-founded 500 Mom Strong on May 30 and began appearing in local news. In a May 31 interview on television station KXLY, Bohach called drag a “grotesque mockery of what it means to be a woman and femininity” and said that “it’s just like blackface.” KREM also interviewed her for a May 31 article about Drag Queen Story Hour, and The Spokesman-Review wrote about 500 Mom Strong’s library protest scheduled for June 15 at a Spokane Washington Public Library.
Activist Mommy attacks Spokane program
The Activist Mommy started to attack Spokane’s Drag Queen Story Hour. On June 4, vehemently anti-LGBTQ right-wing media darling Elizabeth Johnston, also known as The Activist Mommy, encouraged her followers to “email or call the Spokane Washington Public Library” to oppose an upcoming Drag Queen Story Hour. Johnston has frequently called on her followers to oppose Drag Queen Story Hours in other parts of the country, and she has also echoed 500 Mom Strong’s rhetoric comparing drag to blackface and claiming it is “anti-woman.”
Spokesman-Review columnist criticizes 500 Mom Strong
A Spokesman-Review columnist penned a column criticizing 500 Mom Strong’s blackface comments. Shawn Vestal, a columnist for The Spokesman-Review, published a June 12 column defending Drag Queen Story Hour and criticizing 500 Mom Strong’s racist comparison of drag to blackface.
Vestal wrote: “So when people try to co-opt blackface for their own unrelated political aims – by, say, comparing drag queens to blackface performers – it cynically reduces the historical crime of blackface to little more than a selfish, opportunistic political strategy. It’s like comparing a hangnail to the Holocaust. … Drag is not blackface. It is not based on depicting women as comically subhuman for the delight of the nation’s majority population. It is not a vestige of a century of vigorous punching down by the powerful against the powerless. If anything, it’s the opposite – an expression of individuality and freedom from a population that has itself been historically powerless.”
500 Mom Strong pens op-ed
500 Mom Strong published an op-ed in The Spokesman Review, which The Activist Mommy shared. Two days after Vestal’s critical op-ed, The Spokesman-Review published a response piece from 500 Mom Strong’s Bohach.
In the op-ed, which was titled “It is time to take off the dress,” Bohach doubled down on her comparison of drag queens to blackface: “I am the leader of 500 Mom Strong and yes, I did dare to compare drag queens to a blackfaced minstrel ... I did so because it is true. In America, drag got its start in the minstrel shows of the early to mid-19th century. Blackface and drag were tools used to embarrass, shame and control black Americans and women.”
500 Mom Strong leads protest
500 Mom Strong led its Drag Queen Story Hour protest. After being promoted by The Activist Mommy and featured in local media, 500 Mom Strong led its protest against the June 15 Drag Queen Story Hour at the South Hill Spokane Public Library. According to The Spokesman-Review, “about 400 gay-rights activists stood in support of the library” while “about 200 protesters held signs and voiced their opposition” to the event. It also reported that 500 Mom Strong would be coming to protest a second Drag Queen Story Hour.
Right-wing and evangelical media amplify
Right-wing and evangelical media amplified the protest. After the June 15 protest, a number of right-wing and evangelical outlets, as well as The Activist Mommy, amplified 500 Mom Strong’s protest through July.
Writing about the protest on June 27, The Activist Mommy called drag queens “grown men dressed as sexualized female clowns reading stories” and bragged about getting several story hours “shut down.” In a July 29 post about the protest, she called drag queens “perverts.”
Right-wing and evangelical outlets including Christian News, CBN News, TheBlaze, Charisma News, The Daily Caller, Now The End Begins, PJ Media, and Christian Headlines also wrote about or mentioned the June 15 protest. Most coverage was framed around the event’s police presence and a pastor who was arrested there. A June 19 LifeSiteNews article about the events, which included an original interview with Bohach, received more than 103,000 engagements on Facebook, according to BuzzSumo. Altogether, right-wing and evangelical outlets’ coverage of the protest garnered at least 176,000 total interactions on social media.
Church Militant publishes 500 Mom Strong op-ed
Right-wing evangelical outlet Church Militant published an op-ed by Bohach. Bohach published a second op-ed on June 18, this time for right-wing evangelical outlet Church Militant, an “ultra-conservative” website that claims the Catholic Church is too liberal “toward LGBT men and women.” In her op-ed, she decried “the outright misogyny and womanface of the Drag Queen Story Hour,” claimed that 300 people attended the protest opposed by “a large group of militant drag queens and their supporters,” and called the library’s story hour a “sexist minstrel show” and an example of the “socialist patriarchy that has infiltrated our public institutions.”
White nationalist groups praise 500 Mom Strong
White nationalist groups praised 500 Mom Strong. From June 19 through 22, white nationalist groups posted praise for 500 Mom Strong. Hate sites Stormfront and The Daily Stormer both shared LifeSiteNews’ post about 500 Mom Strong. The Daily Stormer repeatedly used the anti-gay slur “faggot” and praised Bohach for “piggybacking on feminism ... to drive her real point across: drag queens pervert children,” while a user on Stormfront used an anti-trans slur, writing, “The tranny issue is now pushing many women away from the neo-liberal cult.” 500 Mom Strong has a history of making racist remarks with its comparison of drag to blackface. Additionally, Hall has made anti-Muslim comments on her personal social media accounts.
500 Mom Strong attends second protest
500 Mom Strong protested a second Spokane Drag Queen Story Hour. On June 22, 500 Mom Strong participated in a second protest against Drag Queen Story Hour in Spokane, this time at the library’s downtown location. Local TV station KREM featured a woman protesting against Drag Queen Story Hour who claimed, “There’s an agenda to influence their [kids’] sexuality.”
Fox News hosts 500 Mom Strong
Fox News gave 500 Mom Strong a national TV platform. On June 24, Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum gave 500 Mom Strong’s two founders a national TV platform to fearmonger and spread lies about Drag Queen Story Hour. During an appearance on The Story With Martha MacCallum, Hall claimed that LGBTQ people “want to groom our children into their unhealthy lifestyle” that includes “HIV and AIDS.” MacCallum did not push back against the comment about HIV.
Activist Mommy publishes commentary by 500 Mom Strong
500 Mom Strong’s Bohach authored commentary for The Activist Mommy. On August 3, Bohach authored guest commentary on The Activist Mommy’s website. In the post, she said that LGBTQ activists “sexualize children in their pedophilic fantasies” and that queer theory “embraces all forms of sexually depraved fetishes including pedophilia, bestiality, sado-masochism, and incest as legitimate and perfectly acceptable.” Anti-LGBTQ figures often claim that LGBTQ people are welcoming pedophiles into the community or are working to legalize pedophilia. In the piece, Bohach also compared queer culture to the creation of a “new and unassailable religion.”
Bohach wrote: “Their religion is called Queer Theory and its adherents are radical misogynistic zealots that have created their own queer caliphate. Their god is perversity, transgender 'women' are their high priestesses, and drag queens are their temple dancers. At their unholy altar of misogyny they sacrifice the dignity of women and sexualize children in their pedophilic fantasies.”
Activist Mommy to protest with 500 Mom Strong
500 Mom Strong is scheduled to protest with The Activist Mommy. After promoting 500 Mom Strong, The Activist Mommy is reportedly scheduled to protest at Planned Parenthood Spokane on August 21 alongside the group. In addition to 500 Mom Strong, Hall is also associated with a group called Selkirk Pro-Life Alliance that has protested the Spokane Planned Parenthood for years.