Fact Check: Did an Ohio Republican Really Blame Drag Queens for Mass Shootings?

Unless you've been living in a cave in Botswana for the past several days, you've no doubt seen the screechy headlines about Ohio state Rep. Candice Keller's Facebook post in the wake of the horrific shooting in Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend. Here is but a handful of them:

  • Ohio Republican blames mass shootings on ‘drag queen advocates,’ Colin Kaepernick and Obama (Washington Post)
  • Ohio GOP lawmaker blames mass shootings on Obama, 'fatherlessness' and 'drag queen advocates' (CNN)
  • An Ohio state lawmaker blamed everything from gay marriage and drag queens to marijuana for 2 recent mass shootings (Business Insider)
  • Southwest Ohio politician blames shootings on 'drag queen advocates' and open borders (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • Ohio lawmaker Candice Keller blames gay marriage, ‘drag queen advocates’ for Dayton shooting (New York Post)
  • Ohio GOP Lawmaker Blames Mass Shootings On Trans People, Gay Marriage And More (HuffPost)
  • Ohio Lawmaker Blames Shooting Deaths on Drag Queens, Marijuana (Advocate)

But that's not what she said, not really, and most of the people claiming she blamed drag queens for the deadly shooting either didn't read the whole thing or have some sort of agenda they're trying to push (my money is on an agenda).

Keller, a Republican and one of the most conservative members of the Ohio House (she is a passionate pro-life advocate and was a co-sponsor on the Heartbeat Bill), has been under fire ever since her post — set to private on her Facebook page, it should be noted — went viral. Since then she's had to hire police protection, and Jane Timkin, chairman of the Ohio GOP, has called for her resignation, along with hordes of others. It also appears that her website was attacked by hackers this week. When I tried to access it on Monday it would not load and there was a message indicating it may have been the victim of a DDoS attack.

For the sake of clarity, let's break down what she actually wrote to see if it's true that she blamed drag queens (and whatever else the left is complaining about) for the shooting. She began her post by saying, "After every mass shooting, the liberals start the blame game. Why not place the blame where it belongs?" [Note: The left most certainly does play the blame game, and they most often lay the blame at the feet of any Republican within reach.] Keller then listed several societal ills:

  • The breakdown of the traditional American family (thank you, transgender, homosexual marriage, and drag queen advocates)
  • fatherlessness, a subject no one discusses or believes is relevant
  • the ignoring of violent video games
  • the relaxing of laws against criminals (open borders)
  • the acceptance of recreational marijuana
  • failed school policies (hello, parents who defend misbehaving students)
  • disrespect to law enforcement (thank you, Obama)
  • hatred of our veterans (thank you, professional athletes who hate our flag and National Anthem)
  • the Dem Congress, many members whom are openly anti-Semitic
  • the culture, which totally ignores the importance of God and the church (until they elect a President)
  • state officeholders, who have no interest whatsoever in learning about our Constitution and the Second Amendment
  • and snowflakes, who can’t accept a duly-elected President.

It's clear if you read the items in context with the parentheticals that she blames mass shootings, in part, on the breakdown of the family, and then she goes on to blame "transgender, homosexual marriage, and drag queen advocates" for the breakdown of the family — not for mass shootings as many news outlets that should know better claimed.

Does anyone doubt that the breakdown in the family probably has something to do with the cultural rot that leads to mass shootings? Anyone with half a brain understands that the breakdown of the family, and Keller's second item, fatherlessness, have contributed to any number of social ills. And by and large, mass shooters are the products of broken homes. A 2018 article at Real Clear Politics article notes that 26 out of the 27 most deadly mass shooters grew up without fathers in the home. By nearly every cultural and socioeconomic measure children of divorce do worse than their peers from intact families. A National Institute of Health report on the topic blames divorce for:

  • Diminishing the child's future competence.
  • Weakening the family structure.
  • Contributing to early sexual experimentation leading to increased costs for society.
  • Adversely affecting religious practice—divorce diminishes the frequency of religious worship.
  • Diminishing a child's learning capacity and educational attainment.
  • Reducing the household income.
  • Increasing crime rates and substance use, with associated societal and governmental costs.
  • Increasing risk for school suspensions
  • Persons in Need of Supervision” status, binge drinking, and marijuana use.
  • Increasing emotional and mental health risks, including suicide.

These are inconvenient facts, considering how many children are products of divorce, but there is no question that the normalizing of no-fault divorce (thanks, Reagan) has been a terrible blight on American culture. Keller was not wrong to point to it as a possible cause of the increase in mass shootings.

But news outlets — left and right — took Keller's comments out of context and twisted her words to say something the Ohio representative (who is also a candidate for the state Senate) neither said nor meant.

As for the other items on Keller's list, shouldn't we at least consider how some of these phenomena — the decline of religion in America, the lack of respect for authority, elected officials who disdain our traditions and treat political opponents like mortal enemies, violent video games, the snowflake culture that permeates our college campuses, substance abuse — may be contributing to the rise in anti-social behavior we've seen in young men over the last two decades? It's not hard to see that an increasing number of individuals, young white males mostly, feel alienated from their families, peers, and countrymen. Sadly, some of them, usually after spending years marinating in hatred and violent entertainment, turn to violence.

(Before you jump all over me for suggesting that video games may contribute to mass shootings: I'm not stating that categorically, but it is true that one thing tying most of these mass shooters together is their immersion in violent video games, so it cannot be ruled out that some individuals with violent sociopathic tendencies may feed those dark impulses with first-person shooter games.) (And no, I'm not calling for them to be banned.)

Look, it's never a good idea to post anything beyond sympathy and promises of prayer in the wake of a mass shooting or any other tragedy. It's rarely helpful and more often than not results in outrage and polarization, just the opposite of what's needed in these situations. I wish Keller had waited a few days to let things cool down before sending out her missive, but I also wish the dishonest brokers in the media hadn't pounced on her Facebook post just so they could score cheap political points in the wake of terrible tragedy. Which is worse: laying out some possible causes for mass shootings or destroying a woman's life and career so you can virtue-signal and score political points? If you think it's the former, you need to check your heart.

PJM reached out to Rep. Keller but did not receive a response by publishing time.

Correction: An earlier version of this article referenced a Facebook page that was set up to condemn Keller. Andrew Riggs, the owner of the Facebook page "Ohioans Against Candice Keller," reached out to PJM to inform us that the page was launched in April 2017. We apologize for the error.