CRANSTON, R.I. (WJAR) — Rhode Island state Sen. Tiara Mack is responding to fallout over a controversial tweet she sent involving a contentious sex education bill she sponsored that has stirred up debate across the state.
Part of the bill would amend Rhode Island's sex-education law to require courses including discussions of gender and sexual orientation, as well as “affirmatively recognize pleasure-based sexual relations,” between grades 6 and 12.
The specific line about teaching “pleasure-based sexual relations,” has ignited backlash across the state, with some Twitter users accusing Mack of being a “groomer.”
In response, Mack tweeted, “I’m not a groomer, you’re just an ***hole #LGBTQ #queeras****.”
When NBC 10 News confronted Mack about the controversial tweet, she referenced the negative responses she has received from opponents of the sex education bill.
“I have received hundreds of messages if not thousands of messages attacking my character and calling me names online, and many of these attacks we've seen on other LGBTQ+ organizations where the word groomer or pedophile is used to try discredit LGBTQ+ members,” she said. “It’s hurtful and harmful and it does hurt and does sting to have people who you don't know, who are faceless, who have two followers, who have just activated their Twitter account, call you these names and try to paint you as a villain.”
Mack told NBC 10 that at the time she and other lawmakers introduced the bill earlier this year, she received a round of vocal criticism and even death threats.
Mack went on to defend her language in the tweet. “I think that it is also just my authentic and unapologetic self. I do swear, I'm a millennial and that has just become much more of the norm in professional spaces, so I'm just unapologetically Tiara, and I do use a few curse words here or there.”
Mack didn’t apologize for the tweet, which is still posted to her account.
That tweet, which has nearly 300 likes and dozens of responses has ignited a firestorm on social media for days, with some indicating her language was inappropriate as a public official.
One user responded, “Classy lady we have here in RI.”
Another tweet reads, “Wow you are so professional!!!”
Others are defending Mack, with one person tweeting, “The irony being, all these people slinging “groomer” as an insult are just diluting the meaning, making it harder for people to actually recognize when an abuser is actually grooming someone.”
The future of the sex education bill that prompted the Twitter war is still in question.
The Senate held a hearing on Wednesday, which included testimony from those for and against the bill.
The committee recommended the bill be held for further study.