In order to defend Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, and others like it being introduced across the country, some rightwing media figures are stating that all male teachers are likely pedophiles.
On Sunday night, David Mamet, a 74-year-old Pulitzer prize-winning playwright who is also a male teacher of playwriting, told Fox News host Mark Levin, “What we have is kids being — not only indoctrinated — but groomed in a very real sense, by people who are, whether they know it or not, sexual predators.”
“Are they abusing the kids physically? No, I don’t think so,” Mamet continued. “But they are abusing them mentally and using sex to do so. Teachers are inclined, particularly men because men are predators, to pedophilia.”
Echoing Mamet’s views, conservative radio host Jesse Kelly wrote via Twitter, “All this talk about teachers and I’ll just say that if your kid has a dude teaching them kindergarten, you already got all the red flags you need.”
The National Education Association has said that only two percent of kindergarten teachers nationwide are male. Only about 16 percent of teachers from kindergarten to middle school are male, the association added. Among the top reasons that men don’t take the jobs are low pay and distrustful stereotypes about pedophilia, CBS News reported.
Words like Mamet’s and Kelly’s are not only shaming male teachers and depriving young students of positive male role models in the classroom, they’re also reinforcing the idea that men lack sexual self-control and encouraging people to accuse them child sex abuse, act violently towards male educators, or get them removed from classrooms.
In a recent installment of his show, Fox News host Tucker Carlson asked, “I don’t understand where the men are. Like where are the dads? You know, some teachers pushing sex values on your third grader, why don’t you go in and thrash the teacher? Like this is an agent of the government pushing someone else’s values on your kid about sex, like where’s the pushback?”
For the past month, Republicans have focused their attacks on LGBTQ people and liberals. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) press secretary Christina Pushaw has called the “Don’t Say Gay” law an “anti-grooming law.” Grooming is the act of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, and sometimes the family, to lower the child’s inhibitions with the objective of sexual abuse.
“If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children,” Pushaw wrote. “Silence is complicity. This is how it works, Democrats, and I didn’t make the rules.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham has also recently said that “Liberals are sexually grooming elementary students.”
Numerous social media commentators have pointed out that Republicans have long underfunded and attacked public schools as places of “indoctrination” in order to push a “school choice” agenda that would direct taxpayer dollars to largely unregulated charter schools that can discriminate against students and push religious agendas.
Mamet’s and Kelly’s comments, though, could be a sign that conservatives are expanding the narrative to include anyone who defies traditional gender roles in any way, like men who work in early childhood education and child care.