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An LGBTQ bar in Miami has received threats and negative reviews on its social media pages after a conservative activist accused it of having children perform in drag shows.
In one Instagram post, a user wrote: “I hope y’all end up like Pulse,” referring to the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016 that killed 49 people and wounded 53. The FBI later deemed the shooting a terrorist attack.
In another instance, a Facebook user from Houston, Texas, gave the bar a zero-star review, writing: “Has children involved in their x-rated shows. Having money thrown at the children and telling them to pick it up! Unbelievable!!”
But Thomas Donall, the owner of the Palace, in South Beach, says that the threats and negative messages making false accusations against the bar on social media are untrue — the result of a misinformation campaign being spread by conservatives.
The incident that sparked the conservative outrage was a drag show where a performer was doing a routine dedicated to Madonna. Two young girls, whose parents had brought them to the bar, got permission to interact with the drag queens and began prancing and voguing on stage alongside a drag queen. The children, following the drag queen’s example, began picking up dollar bills from the floor that were dropped by customers as “tips” for the drag queen.
“It was all innocent fun for the girls,” Donall told Miami-based ABC affiliate WPLG. “I mean, they were posing with a Madonna show.”
However, Angela Stanton-King, a former Republican congressional candidate, conservative activist, and supporter of the QAnon conspiracy movement, claimed that she went to the Palace earlier this year and saw the children interacting with the drag queen.
“These people have children in a [expletive] drag show,” she said in a video she shot. She shared the video on Instagram with her nearly 300,000 followers, including footage of a confrontation she had with a Palace employee, during which she said: “I feel offended and disrespected by being a survivor of sexual abuse!”
Stanton-King has argued that city officials must take action to keep drag queen away from children, adding: “I’m anti-sexual exploitation of children.”
Such rhetoric isn’t new for Stanton-King, a Trump acolyte who was pardoned by the former president for her role in a car theft ring, who has previously spread misinformation on various topics on social media.
Stanton-King has been vocal about her anti-LGBTQ views, equating support for LGBTQ youth who come out as equivalent to pedophilia, railing against her transgender daughter, and even getting into a confrontation with her daughter during an appearance on the Dr. Phil show. She also threatened a transgender activist who appeared on the show — prompting Twitter to suspend her account.
But Donall worries that Stanton-King’s misinformation campaign is going too far, and hurting his business, which was already negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene recently repeated Stanton-King’s claims when she called for the drag queen who interacted with the children at the club (while, in typical fashion for Greene, misstating the club’s location, as well as repeating other erroneous information). This has prompted some conspiracy theorists to complain to Miami Beach City Hall, urging politicians to step in and stop the drag shows.
Donall claims one city official even asked him to change the drag queens’ artistic expression.
A spokeswoman for the city told WPLG she wasn’t aware the city had taken any action against the bar. But Donall says the attacks are taking a toll on his staff.
“It’s really difficult for us and heart-wrenching … I mean it just makes me … really sick to my stomach,” he said.
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