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Posts falsely claim drag performer exposed self to children

June 13, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: A drag performer flashed their genitals to children while reading aloud in a Minnesota library.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The performer in this 2019 photograph was wearing several layers of nude tights, said Hennepin County Library Communications Manager Joshua Yetman. “There wasn’t any exposure to children,” Yetman said.

THE FACTS: As hateful and misleading rhetoric aimed at the LGBTQ community has escalated in recent months on social media, Drag Queen Story Hour events hosted by libraries or bookstores have become a frequent target.

This week, some social media users are resurrecting a 2019 photo of such an event in a Minneapolis suburb and reposting it with false claims it shows the performer exposing their genitals to children.

The image captures the performer, who is wearing a short dress while seated in front of students, reaching to the side for a book. In some versions of the post, a black box labeled “CENSORED” has been added to the space between the performer’s legs.

“This is literally a sex crime,” reads a June 10 tweet that was shared some 10,000 times.

“Adult flashes his penis to young children at library’s drag queen story hour,” another tweet read.

However, unedited versions of the image show that the performer was wearing opaque nude tights that covered their genitals, a fact that Yetman confirmed to the AP in a phone interview Monday.

“The performer was wearing tan or nude-colored tights, several layers of tights,” Yetman said. “They did not expose themselves to the children.”

Yetman said the photo was captured in October 2019 during a drag queen story hour program at Ridgedale Library in the Minneapolis suburb of Minnetonka. The image circulated online with the same false claims shortly after the program happened, and the library system debunked them at the time.

Yetman said the program finished its course in fall 2019, and hadn’t resumed during the pandemic. He said that while claims that a performer had flashed children generated a lot of conversation among library patrons, it wasn’t the reason that the program stopped running.

He added that he didn’t know whether the library system would continue to offer similar programming in the future.

“It will depend on what we hear from the community and what their interests are,” Yetman said.

Meanwhile, in the San Francisco Bay Area, authorities are investigating a possible hate crime after a group of men allegedly shouted anti-LGBTQ slurs during Drag Queen Story Hour at the San Lorenzo Library on Saturday.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.