Rayla Campbell’s repulsive lies about schools and libraries
Meet the Mass GOP’s weird sex creep who wants to jail teachers and librarians
This is a long one, and it’s about perhaps the most unpleasant person in Massachusetts politics at the moment — but I thought it was important to write, especially since it’s Pride Month.
But first, I had a great time talking with Jamie Folk and Ilyas Rona of the Rigged podcast last week. They started the podcast to detail the sprawling Massachusetts drug-lab scandal, but their current season has focused on other examples of corruption in the criminal legal system. We covered a lot of ground in our discussion — you can listen here.
Rayla Campbell, who is running for secretary of the commonwealth, was accepting the Mass GOP’s endorsement at the party’s convention in Springfield on May 21 — and she said something... uh... pretty weird:
You can’t just sit and go, “Oh, that’s terrible. Maybe somebody else will take care of it. Oh, that’s not so nice.” Well, I don’t think it’s nice when they’re telling your five-year-old that he can go and suck another five-year-old’s dick. Do you? This is what they’re doing. … And I’m going to give it to you like it is, because that’s what’s happening in your schools.
Boston Globe reporter Matt Stout wrote that he asked Campbell about her comments, and she “did not provide evidence …, instead pointing to a pending bill in the [state] Legislature intended to update the state’s sexual education curriculum.” We’ll come back to that momentarily.
Campbell was very proud of her performance, tweeting: “Happy to bring a little energy with my audacious acceptance speech. Good to show a little chutzpah now and then. Glad the soy boy crew with [Matt Stout] and the Planned Parenthood gang looked on with chagrin. Nothing makes me happier.”
Mass GOP communications director Evan Lips complained on Twitter that the Globe did not report any of Campbell’s other comments at the convention, as though she didn’t get exactly what she wanted.
The Mass GOP sent out a fundraising email saying “Rayla brought down the house with a rousing speech that focused in part on the secrecy of [the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s] office, long held by Democrat William [F.] Galvin.” The email made no mention of the child-sex stuff.
Campbell is the sole Republican running for secretary of the commonwealth. In the general election, she will face off against Galvin or his primary challenger, Boston NAACP president Tanisha Sullivan.
A bit of context before we continue. Republicans throughout the country are livid about public schools teaching children about this country’s history of racism and white supremacy and have labeled it as “critical race theory,” which I guess is supposed to be bad. They have also been vocal about what they call “grooming.”
Grooming is a real thing. It refers to an adult “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,” as the Wikipedia article on the subject explains. But right-wingers have misappropriated the term to portray providing a supportive environment for young queer people as a form of sexual abuse. If you are familiar with past efforts to conflate homosexuality with pedophilia, then you already know the script.
Although the comments at the convention got a lot of attention, they were not out of the ordinary for Campbell, who believes young people should not be taught sex ed in school. Campbell constantly says this sort of bizarre nonsense on her WSMN radio show. And no, I’m not kidding — she really does have a radio show.
Here’s an example from her June 2 episode:
They’re completely destroying their innocence. As I’ve said it before, they’re raping your child from the brain. That’s what they’re doing. And then they want them to go out and masturbate and play with other kids in sexual ways. Again, grooming, sex trafficking, there’s got to be something wrong with someone who thinks that reading and having kids take this type of curriculum is normal and it should be taught. We’re talking about telling 10- and 12-year-olds and younger that they should try anal sex using a dental dam. What?
I have listened to this woman talk for hours, and I can confirm she spends most of her time thinking about weird sex stuff.
We’re merely [talking about] allowing parents to make the decision on what is in the curriculum. Certain things you talk about with your child and your household because it doesn’t affect the majority of everybody else. And bringing it in and shoving it down and trying to make it a fad like the, you know, they’re furries peoples [sic]. The furries, you know, dress up as animals and make animal sounds and that’s allowed in school. Did you ever get to dress up as an animal every day in, like, pajamas with, like, animals and go to school? Or was that I against the dress code?
Let’s go back to that legislation referenced in Stout’s reporting. In May 26 posts on Twitter and Facebook, Campbell claimed that two bills before the state legislature, H.673 and S.2495, would “lower the age of consent to TWELVE.”
No, not really. Neither bill even mentions the age of consent. The bills would require schools teaching sex ed to use age-appropriate, medically accurate information and to include information about anatomy, safe sex, abstinence, and consent in their curricula.
The bills would require that parents be notified if sex ed is taught, give them an opportunity to review sex-ed materials, and allow them to opt out their children. Campbell frequently talks about how parents should be in control of what information about sex their children learn, so you would think she would approve of this bill. But instead she decided to tell an easily disprovable lie to rile people up.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the bills would also require sex-ed curricula to include information about gender identity and sexual orientation.
“Maybe Campbell and the Mass GOP haven’t actually read the bill. They should,” he wrote.
Campbell’s goal is to see sex-ed teachers locked up. “This is criminal behavior and anybody teaching and OKing this type of curriculum to be in schools with underage children should be in jail,” she said on her June 2 show.
I could spend a lot of time recounting and debunking all of the crazy stuff Campbell has been saying about schools. But what I really want to talk about are the lies she has been spreading about libraries — lies which, again, spring from her unseemly fixation on sex and children.
Allow me to introduce you to the comic book Gender Queer: A Memoir. Maia Kobabe, an artist from California, wrote and illustrated the book. It tells the story of how Kobabe came to identify as nonbinary and asexual. (Kobabe uses the gender-neutral Spivak pronouns e, em, and eir.)
Campbell is obsessed with Gender Queer. She talks about the book constantly even though she hasn’t bothered to read it.
“I didn’t read the whole thing. I just happened to flip through and see what was going on,” she said on her June 2 show.
Campbell claims the book is “child porn” and is being used to indoctrinate, groom, and sex traffick children.
I have read Gender Queer, and I thought it was lovely. It captures the confusion and excitement of being a young queer person discovering one’s gender identity and sexual orientation. I can also tell you that there are barely any images in Gender Queer that could be considered explicit.
On one page, Kobabe masturbates by touching emself through eir jeans. Kobabe fantasizes about two nude men kissing. You can see part of one man’s butt, but you cannot see either man’s penis.
On another page, Kobabe says e “dreamed about having a massive painful boner that lasted all day.” A small illustration shows Kobabe’s pelvis; e is wearing boxers and there is a bulge.
On another page, there is a picture of two fully nude men. Both men’s penises are visible. One man is kneeling and reaching to touch the other man’s penis. This drawing is traced from classical Greek art — it’s the most explicit image in the book, and it’s the sort of thing you would see in a museum or history textbook.
Finally, there is a page where Kobabe wears a strap-on dildo while eir girlfriend performs simulated oral sex. Kobabe is wearing underwear, so no actual genitalia are visible.
That’s four pages out of a 240-page book. There are a few other pages that talk about sex, but the four I mentioned are the only ones with sexual images. Pretty underwhelming after all of Campbell’s hype. The amount of sex in the book is on par with many of the works of “classic literature” that I read for high school English classes like Siddhartha and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Literature discusses sex because sex is part of the human experience. If Campbell doesn’t realize how routine it is for books to include mild amounts of sexual content, I can only conclude that she does not read many books.
Campbell makes a big deal of the fact that Gender Queer is a comic book. “It’s in comic book motif, so anybody, like young kids, ‘Oh, look, it’s a comic book,’” she said on her June 9 episode.
Evidently she is unaware that while some comic books are for children, the vast majority are aimed at teens and adults and many depict sex. For example, the second volume of The Walking Dead shows the characters Lori and Shane having sex on the third page. The Walking Dead, which is replete with sex and brutal violence, is an extremely popular series and can be found in libraries across Massachusetts, often in the young adult section.
I could go into more detail on why the attacks on Gender Queer are baseless and tell you why it’s an important book that’s worth reading, but I would rather let Kobabe handle that.
“It’s very hard to hear people say ‘This book is not appropriate to young people’ when it’s like, I was a young person for whom this book would have been not only appropriate, but so, so necessary,” Kobabe told NBC News in December. “There are a lot of people who are questioning their gender, questioning their sexuality and having a real hard time finding honest accounts of somebody else on the same journey. There are people for whom this is vital and for whom this could maybe even be lifesaving.”
Kobabe continued: “I’ve been receiving almost weekly, and sometimes more than weekly, emails from readers thanking me for writing it, telling me how much it meant to them, saying it helped them understand themselves or that they gave it to a parent or a child or a friend or a partner, and that it helped their loved one understand them more, and that it opened up conversations they had not previously been able to have.”
And that brings us to the real reason Campbell is upset about this book: It’s about a nonbinary person.
Here’s Campbell sharing her thoughts on nonbinary people on her June 2 show:
And these preschool teachers that are nonbinary, whatever they want to call themselves — OK, they’re freaks. It’s either a woman or a dude. You’re one or the other. You’re not both. And you’re a weirdo for telling kids that this is, like — you tell kids, little three- and four-year-olds about your sexual life, [there’s] something wrong with you. You should not be anywhere near kids.
When Campbell says the book is being used to “groom” children, she really means that the book is promoting understanding and acceptance of the nonbinary and transgender people she views as “freaks” and “weirdos.”
As part of her campaign against Gender Queer, Campbell has claimed that the book is being shelved in the children’s sections of numerous Massachusetts public libraries. On her June 2 show, she said she first saw the book at the Avon Public Library.
“In the children’s section. It’s in graphic novels right next to Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And yeah, it was right there on display,” she said.
The Avon Public Library is a small library, so the adult, young adult, and children’s books are in the same room. However, Gender Queer is in the young adult section while the other books Campbell mentioned are in the children’s section.
Campbell began reading comments from her listeners and said that the book is in libraries in Brockton, Reading, Wakefield, and Weymouth.
“You could just keep going on with all of the towns that it’s in. It’s there. And it’s on display,” she continued.
Brockton has one copy of Gender Queer in its main branch. It shelves the book in the adult nonfiction section on the third floor. The children’s section is on the first floor.
The Reading Public Library shelves the book in the teen section on the first floor. The children’s section is on the second floor.
The Lucius Beebe Memorial Library in Wakefield shelves the book in the adult graphic novels section on the first floor. The children’s section is in the basement.
The Tufts Library in Weymouth shelves the book in the young adult nonfiction section located on the second floor. The children’s section is in the lower level below the first floor.
In a May 26 tweet, Campbell shared a picture of a page from Gender Queer along with another picture of books with Taunton Public Library stickers.
“It’s called Children’s SECtion with a C, not SEXtion. Hands off our kids! Here are the books we found mixed in at a public library that they say ARE NOT THERE,” Campbell wrote.
The Taunton Public Library shelves Gender Queer in the young adult section on the second floor. The children’s section is in the basement.
On May 24, Campbell showed up at a press conference held by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, “yelling and holding up a picture book that depicted images of people, well, ‘committing sex acts,’ as they have us put it in the newspaper,” tweeted Boston Herald reporter Sean Philip Cotter. The book was Gender Queer, Cotter told me.
Sean Philip Cotter @CotterReporterAt the end of the press conference, Secretary of State candidate Rayla Campbell showed up, yelling and holding up a picture book that depicted images of people, well, “committing sex acts,” as they have us put it in the newspaper
The official Twitter account for the Mass GOP said that Campbell got the book out of the children’s section of the “Randolph Public Library.” Except there’s no such thing. The library in Randolph is called the Turner Free Library — and it doesn’t have any copies of Gender Queer at all, let alone in the children’s section. A librarian said that if the library previously had a copy but withdrew it from circulation or lost it, it would still be listed in the catalog, which it is not. Mass GOP communications director Evan Lips did not respond to numerous requests for comment.
Mayor Wu’s press conference was about the drug-addiction and homelessness crisis in the area of Boston known as Mass and Cass. It had nothing to do with schools or libraries — and certainly nothing to do with library books in Randolph, which Wu has no control over.
The Boston Public Library does have its own copies of Gender Queer, but it shelves them in the graphic novels section, not the children’s section.
I checked the catalogs of every library network listed on the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners’ website, and I could not find a single copy of Gender Queer in the children’s section of the hundreds of libraries that are part of these networks. And my inability to do so was not for lack of trying.
There were a few listings in the CW Mars catalog that stood out.
The North Amherst Library lists “children’s” as the shelving location for Gender Queer. However, the call number shows the book is in the young adult graphic novel section, which I verified by calling the library.
The Rowe Town Library lists the shelving location as “juvenile collection.” But again, the call number shows the book is in the young adult graphic novel section, which I verified by calling.
The Windsor Free Public Library lists the shelving location as “juvenile nonfiction.” The call number does not indicate the section of the library where the book is kept, but I called and verified that it is a young adult book.
The Turners Falls Library in Montague lists the shelving location as “juvenile.” But yet again, the call number shows the book is in the young adult graphic novel section, which I verified by calling.
In the Minuteman catalog, I noticed that the Henry Whittemore Library at Framingham State University lists Gender Queer as a children’s book. However, a librarian explained that the library shelves children’s and young adult books together because it is a university library, not a public library. The books in the children’s section are primarily used by students in the teaching program. The public is welcome to browse the library and take out books, but children must be accompanied by adults. It’s also not possible to order the books online; you must show up in person.
Campbell has said that no one in the media has disputed all of the nonsense she’s been saying.
MassGOP @massgopThat book @RaylaForMA held up depicts children -- yes, children -- "committing sex acts," and it was checked out from the children's section at the Randolph Public Library. #mapoli https://t.co/7NQOp7URrA
But just like almost everything else she says, that’s not true.
I’ve also been emailing and calling Campbell since she made her comments at the convention, asking her for proof of what she has been saying and asking her to explain her motivation for lying about easily disprovable facts. So far, she has not responded to me.
When Campbell tweeted about the Taunton Public Library, I tweeted a reply saying that she was lying about Gender Queer being in the children’s section. When she tweeted that bills before the legislature would lower the age of consent, I again tweeted at her that she was lying. After that, she blocked me. I made similar comments on her Facebook page, and she blocked me from that too. (I thought that was pretty funny because of how she reacts to getting blocked on social media.)
The reason more journalists haven’t been spending their time mopping up all the bull diarrhea blasting from the mutant asshole growing on Campbell’s face is that she is an obvious fraud who has no chance of winning the election. She is desperate for attention, and few people are willing to provide it.
You’re probably wondering why I spent so much of my time on this. I read Gender Queer, which I had not heard about until Campbell started making it the focus of her pathetic existence. I looked at numerous library catalogs and called every library mentioned by Campbell. I listened to eight or so hours of the Rayla Campbell Show, which was some of the most cringe-inducing content I’ve ever consumed. If you forced me to watch Campbell’s livestream Clockwork Orange-style with no breaks, my brain would probably put itself in a coma to protect me.
I also made every reasonable effort to get in contact with Campbell — I even called her radio show a number of times on June 9, but she wasn’t taking calls that day. All this toil for a transparent grifter might seem gratuitous.
But I don’t think it was. The experience of debunking Campbell’s lies reminds me why libraries are so valuable and why I have loved them my whole life. Libraries are places of learning — not just the learning of specific facts, but the learning of critical-thinking skills.
When someone says something, you don’t have to just take their word for it. You can verify information for yourself. That is what libraries represent.
And that’s what demagogues like Rayla Campbell want to take away from us.
On Tuesday, Campbell showed up at several libraries, recording Facebook live videos of herself complaining about Gender Queer. In a video shot at the Thayer Public Library in Braintree, she says she found the book in the teen room.
I guess she decided to stop pretending the book is in the children’s section. Still, she complains that children might see it. (She also mentions that the children’s section is on a different floor.)
“This book depicts sex. Porn. Child porn,” Campbell says in the video. “This is happening. This is illegal behavior. These children aren’t even old enough to consent, but it’s telling them to perform all sorts of acts.”
She adds: “We’re going to be exposing everything, protecting you, giving you the rights that you were given by God. … And we’re also going to make sure that this rubbish is removed from our classrooms, from our libraries. It’s disgusting, and all these people should be held accountable.”
Campbell doesn’t really care where the book is shelved — she just believes that libraries shouldn’t have books she doesn’t like and librarians should go to jail for making those books available.
Campbell is one person. She can’t get any books removed from libraries by herself. But she isn’t the only person like her.
There is a long history of people challenging books that challenge them — books that ask them to think about difficult issues or to be more empathetic, books that make their small minds uncomfortable. They think they can tell the rest of us what we can and can’t read.
Gender Queer is at the top of their list. It’s currently the most challenged book in the country, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.
That’s no coincidence. These people want to censor libraries not just because they stand for truth but because they stand for equality.
But local librarians won’t be intimidated.
“Public library collections and spaces are just that: public. Libraries provide access to a wide variety of ideas and content for all community members,” said Andrea Fiorillo, a Reading librarian who is co-chair of the Massachusetts Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom/Social Responsibility Committee.
She continued: “We encourage readers and parents to make up their own minds about what is acceptable for themselves and their families. [The committee] stands against censorship efforts. Reading is one means of understanding complex issues. Censoring books will not make complex or controversial issues disappear.”
Those thoughts were shared by Celeste Bruno, the communications director for the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.
“The [board] recognizes an individual’s right to question library materials they find offensive,” Bruno said. “Living in a free society, that’s a right we all enjoy under the First Amendment.”
Bruno continued: “We also enjoy freedom from censorship. Providing access to information and viewpoints to those seeking them without judgment is an important part of a library’s mission. Libraries are not substitutes for parents and cannot assume the important role parents have in determining their children’s — and only their children’s — access to library resources.”
We should support our librarians by following this advice from Book Riot’s Kelly Jensen:
What you can do right now is write to your local library boards and your city council and praise the work of librarians and educators, especially on their abilities to curate diverse, inclusive, representative material for the entire community. Emphasize the value of seeing Pride displays and mention specifically the books you have borrowed or learned about from your library, thanks to this work. Educate yourself on the candidates running for office on the local, state, and federal levels and, if you can, call out those running on campaigns of hate and misinformation. Then either run for office if you’re able or show up to vote. Volunteer to get others to the polls, if you can.
I know enough about state politics to confidently say that Campbell won’t be the next secretary of the commonwealth — but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned. She is part of the growing, nationwide reactionary movement in the Republican Party. You don’t even have to leave Massachusetts to find more of these grifters. Just look at Geoff Diehl, the candidate the Mass GOP has endorsed for governor.
Reacting to Campbell’s comments about five-year-old boys being taught to perform oral sex on one another, Diehl said, “That language is not appropriate and certainly nothing that would be discussing … or the way we conduct ourselves in office.” But he nevertheless echoed her attacks on public schools, saying Democrats plan to use schools for the “indoctrination” of children.
Diehl claimed his daughter was forced by her high school to sign a document acknowledging her white privilege. Unsurprisingly, that turned out to be a lie.
These culture-war creeps have nothing to offer us. They have no positive vision for the commonwealth or the country — and they deserve nothing positive from us either.
Let’s tell them to go eat shit.
One more anecdote about Campbell.
In a May 28 Facebook post, she described a conversation with a librarian at an unspecified school library — a conversation that I’m sure totally happened and is definitely not made up.
“[The librarians] know exactly where the book Gender Queer is so I asked where the Pro-Nuclear family books are? She said, ‘they SHOULD be over here in this section.’ They weren’t,” Campbell wrote.
The post continues: “I said [to the librarian] you have a whole section on Michelle Obama’s books, do you have any of Melania Trump’s books? They claimed they didn’t know if she has a book. There are at least 3.”
Melania Trump has not published any books.
Next: “Then I asked where the Pro-police books were. You should have seen the look I got.”
At the beginning of the post, Campbell complained, “We now LIONIZE victimhood as a country.”
For the folks who didn’t pay attention in English class, that’s what is known as “irony.”
OK, one final thing.
At the Mass GOP convention, Campbell said, “I’m the biggest masshole in Massachusetts.”
That’s one claim I won’t dispute.
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Galvin Gets Rekt at MassDems Convention — Will It Matter?
At the Massachusetts Democratic Party convention during the first weekend in June, Boston NAACP president Tanisha Sullivan landed the party’s endorsement for secretary of the commonwealth, steamrolling incumbent William F. Galvin with 62 percent of the delegate vote.
You can watch Sullivan’s full convention speech here:
Sullivan touched on public records, among other topics. She called Massachusetts the “least transparent state in the country.”
“As secretary of state, I am going to work tirelessly to ensure that public information reaches the public sphere. Imagine that. Public information belonging to the public,” she continued.
She did not mention Galvin by name, but she alluded to his ethically dubious habit of using tax dollars to get his face on TV. Galvin has handed out millions of dollars worth of no-bid contracts to produce campaign-style advertisements that promote programs his office runs and prominently feature him.
“This is not a job that gets done by filming PSAs. It requires active engagement,” Sullivan said. “This office cannot settle for good enough. It must actively work for more.”
In the last election, the party endorsed Josh Zakim — but that didn’t stop Galvin from trouncing his opponent. Galvin is now seeking his eighth term in office.
“Zakim beat Galvin four years ago at the convention, but he beat him by a smaller margin than Tanisha Sullivan did,” GBH reporter Adam Reilly noted on the June 6 episode of Greater Boston. “He was a white man running against another white man in a moment when voting rights and the question of representation in politics had not become as hot button and important as they are today.”
Reilly continued: “However, that race did show that Bill Galvin has a staunch base of supporters. And those PSAs that Tanisha Sullivan hit him for recording all the time, they work. Voters have responded — at least some voters.”
Jacquetta Van Zandt, host of the Politics and Prosecco videocast, added: “I think it shows that Galvin is vulnerable. So this is the second time he’s been at a convention, and he’s lost to someone who has challenged him. Seven terms is too long, and I think it's time to make room for the new.”
Sullivan’s campaign website includes an issues page, which lists several principles guiding her approach to public records. The page says records should be available at limited or no cost, access should only be limited in the narrowest of circumstances, and as many records should be digitized as possible.
The page mentions a 2015 ranking by the Center for Public Integrity, which gave the state an F for access to public records and a D+ for overall integrity. This is somewhat misleading.
The state passed an update to the public records law in 2016. Galvin also appointed Rebecca Murray as supervisor of public records after her predecessor, Shawn Williams, resigned just days before the update took effect at the beginning of 2017. These changes have improved access to public records since the CPI ranking.
However, there are still many issues with the public records law. A source from within Sullivan’s campaign tells me that the candidate will likely soon release a list of specific policy proposals that would address some of these problems. I’m excited to see the platform when it’s finalized.
I’m also looking forward to watching some debates between the candidates.
Last Monday, Sullivan invited Galvin to participate in at least three broadcast debates but had not heard back as of Thursday afternoon, according to tweets from her campaign. Neither campaign has released any further information about debates since.
Tanisha Sullivan, Candidate for MA Sec. of State @Tanisha4MAIt’s been 2 days since we issued a challenge to @BillGalvin4MA to participate in at least 3 broadcast debates before the Sept 6 primary. Crickets 🦗#mapoli #WheresBillGalvin?
Galvin recently launched a new bare-bones campaign website, which does not mention public records anywhere. The website does not include a phone number or email address to contact his campaign, only a form. It’s possible to sign up for email updates, but the campaign has not sent out any yet.
Sullivan, in an email sent out by her campaign after the convention, said: “Our democracy is at an inflection point. Voters now have a choice between accepting the status quo or delivering a more forward-looking democracy for all in Massachusetts.”
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I was going to publish more of the disciplinary data police departments have submitted to the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, which I’ve previously written about here. However, I was in a lot of pain on Sunday and ran out of energy — chronic wrist and hand pain is the bane of a writer’s existence. I will include all that stuff in my next newsletter. If you want to see it as soon as possible, you can also follow me on Twitter.
That’s all for now, folks. Now go thank a teacher or librarian.