A day after attending the White House ceremony to watch President Joe Biden sign a law that would protect marriage equality from the Supreme Court's conservative majority, drag artist Marti G. Cummings is defending themself against Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
In his show on Tuesday night, Carlson raged against Biden and the LGBTQ community, calling the civil rights law "an effort to degrade the country, to make it into a joke."
In particular, Carlson highlighted the White House's invitation to Cummings, a nonbinary performer who ran unsuccessfully for New York City Council last year, and their "unfiltered social media posts."
These included old tweets criticizing police, as well as a March 2022 tweet in which Cummings responded to a friend, "the kids are out to sing and suck d!"
"Of course, Cummings is also interested in children in all the wrong ways," Carlson told his millions of viewers.
Cummings's invitation and tweet from March were also highlighted by the right-wing website Breitbart.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News on Wednesday after locking their Twitter account, Cummings said they'd been honored to witness the "huge historic moment" at the White House but that their invitation had immediately sparked anger online after Pop Crave tweeted about it on Monday.
Right-wing users had dug up the March tweet as evidence of the drag artist's supposed depravity, but Cummings told BuzzFeed News they were simply using colloquial language to respond to a friend who had been talking about an adults-only event at a piano bar.
"They took it out of context to run with their really gross narrative around how drag artists are groomers and it sort of kind of became this barrage of hate, leading to then Tucker Carlson doing a story, which is a false narrative," Cummings said.
Cummings has since deleted the tweet but said people outside the LGBTQ community might not understand the way in which queer people might use "kids" or "girls" as expressions of affection for one another.
"At the time, I wasn't even thinking about that because it's such a part of our vernacular to say something like that in reference to our friends, not in a negative way by any means how the right wing is spinning this," Cummings said.
The performer suspected Carlson understood this context and merely wanted to outrage and mislead his viewers, accusing the Fox News host of "vile" and "disgusting" behavior for insinuating they preyed on children.
"I believe, like, Tucker Carlson knows full well that that tweet is not about what he's saying and it is taken out of context," Cummings said.
"It's a character assassination that he knows is wrong," Cummings said.
Across the country, drag performers like Cummings have found themselves targeted by political attacks from the right that seek to wrongly suggest they are trying to "groom" or sexualize children.
As a result, groups of far-right demonstrators, some of them armed, have interrupted drag events, leaving many performers fearing for their lives. More than 124 drag events were threatened or protested in 2022, according to a report published by GLAAD last month.
“I think they’re using drag queen story hour as kind of this way in,” RuPaul's Drag Race star Nina West told BuzzFeed News earlier this month. “They can’t call us faggots anymore, so they’re calling us groomers and pedophiles."
During his Tuesday segment, Carlson also highlighted prior comments Cummings had made in front of children, saying it was "fair" to accuse them of "being creepy with kids."
Cummings said they suspected Carlson was using a "hateful agenda" to distract viewers from the civil rights victory of the new law and to demonize the wider LGBTQ community.
"We're living in a really interesting time where, as we see progress for queer people happening, the hate continues to boil up," Cummings said. "And I think that what we're seeing in this instance, and in many instances, is that they're grasping at straws and trying to vilify people within the community, trying to vilify the community as a whole."