NEW YORK - After pushback from the mayor and her colleagues in the City Council, a councilwoman is defending her criticism of a taxpayer-funding program in which drag queens read stories to children in schools and libraries.
In a series of tweets earlier this week, Council Member Vickie Paladino of Queens called the program, which comes from Drag Story Hour NYC, "degeneracy," "child grooming," and "sexualization." She said that "adult drag performers have no business in our schools."
"Progressives may have no problem with child grooming and sexualization, but I do," Paladino posted on Twitter. "This will not happen on my watch. Kids deserve a quality education free from political manipulation and sexual content."
Drag Story Hour NYC, which is part of the Drag Queen Story Hour network, brings drag queens to read to children in schools, public libraries, and other community locations. The city's Department of Education has partnered with the nonprofit organization for years.
Mayor Eric Adams called Paladino's tweets "inappropriate" and said the program is staying.
"We're going to continue to promote the understanding of the different cultures, the different lives in our city," Adams said. "That's where I am."
The mayor said the program teaches children about acceptance and understanding and can ultimately help decrease hate crimes in the city.
Paladino, a Republican, claimed parents in her district "have had enough of progressive radicalism and gender confusion in the classroom" and threatened to pull funding from schools participating in the program. She represents Whitestone, College Point, Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, and parts of Flushing.
Several council members condemned their colleague's tweets and called for her to be censured.
"Could not be more revolted. Drag Story Hour NYC shows young, queer NYers that they're valid, that they truly belong," Council Member Tiffany Cabán, who also represents parts of Queens, tweeted. "Here's a colleague likening it to child abuse, at a time when this 'groomer' rhetoric is fueling a wave of violence against queer folks."
In a statement, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. said teaching children "empathy, acceptance and respect" is part of the mission of Drag Queen Story Hour.
"There is so much more work ahead of us when it comes to fostering an inclusive education, like greatly expanding the teaching of LGBTQIA+ history in the classroom," Richards said. "But I am deeply grateful to the Queens Public Library, our schools and other community organizations across our borough that participate in the Drag Queen Story Hour NYC initiative, which I will proudly continue to fund and support every single year."
On Friday, Paladino posted a statement to her social media platforms saying he refuses to apologize for her comments. She said her prior statements were not an attack on any of her colleagues but were about objecting to spending taxpayer dollars on the "political, social, and cultural indoctrination of our little children."
"Adults have the absolute right to embrace their own sexuality and choose how they present themselves to the world," Paladino said in the statement. "But I do not condone exposing little children to inappropriate narratives that encourage gender radicalism."
With FOX 5 NY's Linda Schmidt.