Sen. Mallory McMorrow gains national spotlight pushing back against 'hateful garbage'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — A five-minute speech from Michigan Sen. Mallory McMorrow gained national attention Tuesday and more than 9 million views on social media as the Royal Oak Democrat spoke out against an attack by Republican Sen. Lana Theis of Brighton.

McMorrow gave a speech on the Senate floor, where she focused on a fundraising email Theis' reelection campaign sent out Monday. The message specifically claimed McMorrow and others were "outraged" they can't "groom and sexualize kindergarteners"

Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak

McMorrow denounced the political smear in her address Tuesday, talking about her Christian upbringing and saying she wanted every child in Michigan to feel "seen, heard and supported."

"We cannot let hateful people tell you otherwise to scapegoat and deflect from the fact that they are not doing anything to fix the real issues that impact people's lives," the Democratic senator said. "And I know that hate will only win if people like me stand by and let it happen."

The speech gained national attention in part because of debates over how sexuality and gender identity should be discussed in schools and because of similar unproven "grooming" allegations levied by some Republican lawmakers across the country in recent weeks.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network describes grooming as manipulative behaviors an abuser uses to gain access to a potential victim.

After the Senate's Wednesday session, McMorrow told reporters she received a call from a Christian woman in Texas, who told her, "You said everything that I want to say to my family and friends and neighbors."

Democrats need to call hate what it is, McMorrow said.

"There is a difference between politics and outright hate," she said. "And I think people are frustrated that elected officials haven’t done enough to call that out, that maybe Democrats are afraid of talking about religion and faith openly and honestly."

As a mother, McMorrow said she believes she was targeted by Theis because she was "the biggest threat to your hollow, hateful scheme."

"People who are different are not the reason that our roads are in bad shape after decades of disinvestment or that health care costs are too high or that teachers are leaving the profession," McMorrow said.

On Wednesday morning, Theis, a conservative lawmaker and chairwoman of the Senate's education committee, responded to McMorrow's speech and an appearance the Royal Oak Democrat made Wednesday morning on MSNBC.

"Sen. McMorrow is not naïve about politics and fundraising," Theis said. "I know that because it took her mere minutes to turn her Senate floor speech into a plea for campaign donations. 

"While Sen. McMorrow is on MSNBC preaching to her choir, I’ll keep my focus on Michigan parents, who Democrats are seeking to undermine as the primary decision-makers in the education of their children."

Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee for president, was among those who shared McMorrow's speech on Twitter.

"Please watch this incredible speech from Michigan State Senator @MalloryMcMorrow, who is not standing by," Clinton wrote.

McMorrow's viral speech came six days after Theis gave a prayer to open the day's session, in which she stated there were "forces that desire things" for children "other than what their parents would have them see and hear and know."

Democratic senators slammed the prayer.

"To pervert the Senate invocation in this way is beyond the pale," Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, tweeted last week.

The criticism of the prayer was cited in the fundraising email from the Theis campaign on Monday. She's being challenged in the August Republican primary by Mike Detmer, who's endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

A fundraising email from Michigan Sen. Lana Theis targets Sen. Mallory McMorrow.

The subject line of the fundraising message was "groomers outraged by my invocation." It listed McMorrow as a Democrat from "Snowflake" and described her as among a group of "progressive social media trolls" that didn't like her invocation.

"They believe that we, as parents, do not have the right to help our children navigate their adolescence or their education," Theis said in her fundraising email.

McMorrow appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday morning. She said no Republican lawmakers had come to her to apologize for the fundraising email.

"We have to push back against hateful garbage," McMorrow said during the interview.