GOP Rep. Ronny Jackson's false "pedophilia" attack on Katie Porter blows up in his face

Jackson gets debunked after pushing false claim about Porter's criticism of "groomer" attacks

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer

Published December 16, 2022 12:03PM (EST)

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, falsely accused Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., of saying that "pedophilia isn't a crime" when Porter actually said that LGBTQ people have been wrongly branded on social media as "groomers" and "pedophiles."

Porter was speaking with Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, about the group's latest report, which analyzed "the 500 most viewed, most influential tweets that identified LGBTQ people as so-called 'groomers.'" 

"The 'groomer' narrative is an age-old lie to position LGBTQ+ people as a threat to kids," Porter said. "And what it does is deny them access to public spaces, it stokes fear, and can even stoke violence." 

She went on to ask why Twitter allows posts calling LGBTQ+ people "groomers" according to its own hateful content policy to which Robinson responded that while Twitter and Facebook have community guidelines in place, the platforms also need to hold users accountable to those guidelines.

The Human Rights Campaign's report revealed that anti-LGBTQ+ content was largely driven by a small group of extremist politicians and their allies. 

Just ten people drove 66% of impressions for the 500 most viewed hateful "grooming" tweets — including Gov. Ron DeSantis's press secretary Christina Pushaw, extremist members of Congress like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and pro-Trump activists like "Libs of TikTok" founder Chaya Raichik.

The report found that posts from the 10 people alone reached more than 48 million views, and the top 500 most influential "grooming" tweets altogether were seen 72 million times.

"[T]his allegation of 'groomer' and of 'pedophile,' it is alleging that a person is criminal somehow, and engaged in criminal acts, merely because of their identity, their sexual orientation, their gender identity," Porter said. "So this is clearly prohibited under Twitter's content. Yet you found hundreds of these posts on the platform."

She did not say that pedophilia isn't a crime, but the congresswoman's remarks were inaccurately portrayed in tweets by Jackson and Libs of TikTok.

"Rep Katie Porter (D) says pedophilia isn't a crime – it's an identity," the account falsely tweeted alongside a video, which omitted Porter's full comments.

A context box appeared below the false tweet with Twitter's Community Notes identifying that the clip had been taken out of context and misrepresented what Porter actually said.

Jackson further amplified the falsehood and tweeted: "Katie Porter just said that pedophilia isn't a crime, she said it's an 'identity.' THIS IS THE EMBODIMENT OF EVIL! The sad thing is that this woman isn't the only VILE person pushing for pedophilia normalization. This is what progressives believe!"

Twitter's content box also appeared under his tweet, stating that "Katie Porter did not say this."

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The purpose of the hearing was to listen to survivors of the Club Q Shooting and activists testifying on anti-LGBTQ violence, who said that hateful right-wing rhetoric was a contributing factor to the shooting.

"For years, cynical politicians and greedy grifters have joined forces with right-wing extremists to pour gasoline on anti-LGBTQ hysteria and terrorize our community," said Brandon Wolf, who survived the 2016 shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub. "My own governor Ron DeSantis, has trafficked in that bigotry to feed his insatiable political ambition and propel himself toward the White House. we have been smeared and defamed. Hundreds of bills have been filed in order to erase us. Powerful figures have insisted that the greatest threats this country face are a teacher with they/them pronouns or someone in a wig reading Red Fish, Blue Fish and all along we warned that these short-sighted political maneuvers would come with a human cost, but they have continued anyway."

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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