Unsolicited text messages amplify Derek Schmidt’s lies about Kansas drag show

By: - October 26, 2022 5:36 pm

Derek Schmidt, the GOP nominee for governor, has pushed lies about a Wichita drag show. Gov. Laura Kelly's campaign has reported an unsolicited text message that amplified the lies. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Derek Schmidt’s lies about a nonexistent connection between Gov. Laura Kelly and a Wichita drag show are being amplified through unsolicited text messages to Kansas voters.

Schmidt, the GOP candidate for governor, has used a false story from a U.K. tabloid to attack his Democratic rival as their bitter campaign enters the final two-week stretch. No state funding was used to support or promote the performance.

Schmidt also equated the drag show to the sexualization of children, a nod to bigotry often directed at the LGBTQ community. As evidence, his campaign distributed photos of a drag show performer who was actually a woman.

Text messages delivered Tuesday night touted “BREAKING NEWS” about Kelly being “under fire for her Department of Commerce’s role in taxpayer funded ‘all ages’ drag shows involving children.”

Kelly’s campaign said it reported the text messages to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission for review.

“Schmidt should be embarrassed,” said Lauren Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for Kelly’s campaign. “First, he’s unable to provide evidence about his own false attack at a press conference. Then he digs in his heels after reporters debunk his lies, and now he’s spreading lies to voters through text messages.”

The Commerce Department provides funding to an arts commission that gave a grant to a Wichita organization to pay for an artist’s residency. That Wichita organization hosted the drag show, which was actually funded by the Knight Foundation and local retailers.

The unsolicited text messages provided a link to a U.K. Daily Mail story, published Monday, that falsely claimed the drag show was taxpayer funded.

“Read more, plus see the shocking pictures and video,” the text read.

The text and story feature images of FaeTality, a Wichita dancer who said in an interview with Kansas Reflector that she just likes to dress up and perform.

Some Republicans incorrectly assumed the dancer was a man. FaeTality said she has been female since birth, was a member of her high school dance team, and was a dance major in college. She described the routine as “tame.”

“This is literally just because I love to dance,” FaeTality said. “I love to put on the costumes and the makeup and everything, and go out there and perform.”

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the editor in chief of Kansas Reflector. He writes about things that powerful people don't want you to know. A two-time Kansas Press Association journalist of the year, his award-winning reporting includes stories about education, technology, foster care, voting, COVID-19, sex abuse, and access to reproductive health care. Before founding Kansas Reflector in 2020, he spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He graduated from Emporia State University in 2004, back when the school still valued English and journalism. He was raised in the country at the end of a dead end road in Lyon County.