In Minnesota, Republican Scott Jensen — who is running against Democratic incumbent Gov. Tim Walz in the 2022 midterms — has promoted a bizarre conspiracy which claims that public schools are allowing children to use litter boxes instead of restrooms if they identify as "furry." Now, according to KARE TV 11 (the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis/St. Paul), Jensen is drawing criticism from teachers and school officials for repeating a myth that has no basis in reality.
Jensen promoted the "litterboxgate" conspiracy theory, as it is being called in Minnesota, during a campaign event in September — telling the crowd, "What are we doing to our kids? Why are we telling elementary kids that they get to choose their gender this week? Why do we have litter boxes in some of the school districts so kids can pee in them, because they identify as a furry? We've lost our minds. We've lost our minds."
But according to KARE, "Several Minnesota school districts, including a representative for Mankato Area Public Schools, confirmed to KARE 11 that children have not been given litter boxes to use."
School superintendent Paul Peterson told KARE, "Litterboxgate is, in fact, complete nonsense." And the group Education Minnesota described "litterboxgate" as a "bizarre internet hoax" that "appears to be an attempt to discredit school policies intended to make schools safe and welcoming for students."
According to KARE, "Minnesota Dept. of Education spokesperson Kevin Burns told KARE there aren't any public schools in Minnesota that provide litter boxes in restrooms. School districts don't track the number of children who engage in the 'furry' subculture, which involves taking on the persona of an anthropomorphic animal. The unsubstantiated rumors have popped up in school districts across the country, including Michigan, Colorado and Nebraska."
Lisa Olson, who heads the Elk River Education Association in Minnesota, has been critical of Jensen for promoting "litterboxgate."
Olson, at a press conference, told reporters, "There are no litter boxes in schools. It's simply not true. We know this misinformation that Scott Jensen is spewing is false and hurts our students and our schools."
A KSTP/Survey USA poll released on October 3 found Jensen, who formerly served in the Minnesota State Senate, trailing Walz by 10 percent. But an Alpha News/Trafalgar Group poll from mid-September found Walz with only a 3 percent lead over Jensen.