Social media posts on several platforms claim the head of Drag Queen Story Hour, a group that coordinates reading for children, was arrested on child pornography charges. This is false; a former Wisconsin judge who did not work at the national nonprofit was arrested in March 2021 for possessing illegal materials involving minors.
"Head Of ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ Org Arrested For Child Porn," says a headline pictured in a June 20, 2022 video on Instagram.
Jaimee Michell, the Instagram user who published the video and the founder of another account called "Gays Against Groomers," added in the caption: "Wow who could have ever predicted this."
Screenshot of an Instagram post taken June 21, 2022
The posts come as threats against LGBTQ rights advocates and allies, spurred in part by a spike in far-right rhetoric online, have forced the cancellation of some events in the US -- including those in which drag queens read books to children. On June 11, police in Idaho arrested 31 members of a white supremacist group who planned to riot at a Pride celebration.
The posts shared on social media reference a March 2021 article from the National Pulse, a conservative media site, about Drag Queen Story Hour, a national organization with chapters around the country. Drag Queen Story Hour says on its website that its mission is to celebrate reading "through the glamorous art of drag" and to provide "diverse, accessible, and culturally-inclusive family programming where kids can express their authentic selves."
By itself, the National Pulse headline makes it seem like the executive director of Drag Queen Story Hour was arrested on child pornography charges. However, as media outlets reported at the time, the full story indicates otherwise.
"Brett Blomme -- a former head of the Cream City LGBTQ+ Foundation which runs a Drag Queen Story Hour program -- was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography," the National Pulse article says.
Blomme, a former Milwaukee County Children's Court judge, was arrested in March 2021 and charged with seven counts of possessing child pornography. In December of that year, he was sentenced to nine years in prison for distributing child porn.
Blomme previously served as CEO of the Cream City Foundation, a philanthropic organization that aims to "advance human rights and respond to the human needs of LGBTQ+ people in Southeastern Wisconsin." The foundation, whose name references a nickname for Milwaukee, issued a statement condemning Blomme on March 21, 2021.
In a separate statement published March 18, 2021 on Facebook, the Milwaukee chapter of Drag Queen Story Hour said it had "never been run by the Cream City Foundation nor Brett Blomme" and that neither had "participated in planning, organizing, hosting or performing at any of our events."
"Cream City Foundation has only ever been a fiscal sponsor that allows DQSH Milwaukee to give & receive funds as a non-profit," the statement says. "Aside from financials, they have had no part in DQSH Milwaukee & DQSH National."
A fiscal sponsorship is an arrangement that "offers a way for a cause to attract donors even when it is not yet recognized as tax-exempt," according to the National Council of Nonprofits.
"In essence the fiscal sponsor serves as the administrative 'home' of the cause," the group says on its website. "Charitable contributions are given to the fiscal sponsor, which then grants them to support the cause."
Jonathan Hamilt, executive director of Drag Queen Story Hour, told AFP in an email that the organization's Milwaukee chapter "has cut ties completely with Cream City Foundation."
"Pedophilia has no place in the LGBT community and no place in society as a whole," he added. "If you or anyone you know is the victim of child abuse we ask you reach out to the National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-422-4453."