Mississippi state Senator Jeremy England has responded to comments about a photo of him in a pink Halloween costume. The Republican lawmaker says he deliberately wore a “very embarrassing” Halloween costume to raise money for breast cancer research.
The original 2020 photo shows England in a shiny pink outfit with a fluffy pink tutu, sporting pink dyed hair. After it went viral, some critics even called England an anti-LGBTQ+ slur. England says he was “being bullied” and “received threats” in s Facebook post on Wednesday after the big post spike.
In fact, England was photographed taking part in the 2020 Men Wear Pink fundraiser. The fundraiser is held by the American Cancer Society, with an initiative that aims to raise awareness of breast cancer in order to end the illness.
“So now I’m being personally attacked,” England wrote in the post. “If you know me, you know I’m honest. You know I’m a Christian, a devoted husband and father, and I’m honored to serve as Senator for District 51. I’m not ashamed of the pictures being shared, I just wish it was being shared to raise money for breast cancer awareness as intended.”
The news comes as a tense GOP primary is underway in Mississippi. England currently supports Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann for re-election as the state’s second-highest official. Someone supporting one of Hosemann’s rivals posted the pink image with the caption, “Hosemann and his groomer weirdos.” (The tweet has since been deleted.)
“I think that’s some of the worst kind of dirty politics—that, of course, is where we are now in this race,” England said in an interview by the Associated Press.
The word “groomer” has become a slur to falsely claim that LGBTQ+ people – or anyone who ignores gender norms, because England only wears pink – is encouraging pedophilia.
England used the smear campaign against him and Hosemann to draw more attention to breast cancer fundraising. While the photos were the talk of the town in Mississippi, England started another one Online fundraising game Men Wear Pink to raise more money for breast cancer research. He has raised over $5,000 in the last four days.
England also shared an incident where state Senator and fellow Republican Melanie Sojourner sent him the tutu photo out of context. Sojourner is also the campaign manager of Hosemann’s opponent Chris McDaniel.
“She was clearly sending it to me as a threat,” England said.
In another interview with the Associated Press, Sojourner says the text exchange was “absent any intent to threaten and/or bully England.”
“As the jokester of the Senate chamber, the English Sen’s newfound decorum is both ironic and strange,” said Sojourner. “Old. England is crying foul to score political points for its chief enabler, Delbert Hosemann.”
During the general election on November 7 this year, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor – who could be McDaniel or Hosemann – will face Democrat D. Ryan Grover.