Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson stood in front of his office Tuesday afternoon and said he is the target of hate and vitriol because his comments about LGBTQ people are being twisted.
“The issue here that’s being driven, this narrative that’s being driven, that I have something against the LGBTQ+ community is absolutely false,” Robinson told reporters.
But Robinson has stood by his statements as video surfaced of him demeaning the transgender and LGBTQ community using words like “filth” and “garbage” and, in the latest video to emerge, saying behind a pulpit that the transgender rights movement is “demonic” and “full of the anti-Christ spirit.”
The comments came hours after LGBTQ state lawmakers and their Democratic colleagues gathered to blast the Republican lieutenant governor’s remarks in the video that surfaced last week saying that “transgenderism” and homosexuality are “filth.”
The lawmakers noted the high rates of suicide among LGBTQ people.
“I’d rather be talking about criminal justice issues and children’s rights and voting rights, and real issues that affect our state,” said Rep. Marcia Morey, a Durham Democrat. “But last week the lieutenant governor lit a match of hatred and intolerance that deserves a response from gay elected officials. ... Just like the N-word is abhorrent, so is calling transgenderism and homosexuality ‘filth.’”
At his own news conference, Robinson played a voicemail in which a caller said he should be hung from the tallest tree and repeatedly called him a racial epithet.
“I have disagreed with people socially,” Robinson said. “I have disagreed with people politically. I have disagreed with people’s spirits but never have I disrespected somebody like that.”
Robinson has drawn attention for criticizing the Jewish and LGBTQ communities and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Robinson said he does not have the right to tell anyone how to live their life.
“In fact, I am in favor of people being able to determine how they live in their own space and being safe in their own space and being secure in their own space,” Robinson said.
Robinson has doubled down on his statements in recent days as they made national news, saying that his comments were based on materials in North Carolina public schools.
At both the news conference and in a response video posted to Facebook he showed sexually explicit illustrations from a book he said is in schools.
“You can look at this and clearly see this is quite possibly and probably child pornography being presented to our children,” Robinson said.
Robinson has pointed to three books, “George,” by Alex Gino, “Lawn Boy,” by Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe — which tackle themes of gender identity and sexuality — as examples of “sexually explicit materials.”
A copy of the book, “George,” is in Cook Elementary School and the Downtown School as well as Lewisville, Clemmons and Meadowlark middle schools, said Brent Campbell, a spokesman for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
The book is on the state’s approved list for students in grades 4 and up, Campbell said.
“It is not something that is used in any lesson, and it is not a required reading,” Campbell said. “It is a title students can check out of the collection if they are interested and of the appropriate rated age.”
Robinson said he challenged anyone who said he should resign because of his comments to speak out against this type of material being shown to children.
“We are not resigning,” Robinson said. “And not only are we not resigning, we are not going to stop until the schools in North Carolina are safe from this kind of filth.”
Robinson added that comments he makes to a church need to be separated from those that he makes as lieutenant governor.
Morey called Robinson’s talk about the books “a bait and switch” and said that no one is arguing that young children should be reading sexually explicit material.
Journal reporter John Hinton contributed to this story.