Connect with us


Panhandle Florida teacher wants 117 books removed as obscene

ALA says 1,600 books in more than 700 libraries and library systems across the nation involving race, gender and the LGBTQ community targeted



Vicki Baggett (Screenshot/Studio 850 Facebook)

PENSACOLA – An English teacher in Escambia Public Schools is challenging 117 books available to high school and middle school students labeling them as obscene.

Vicki Baggett recently sat for an interview with The Panhandle Citizen/Studio 850, a local news content provider, to express her point of view on the books she labeled obscene including titles that had LGBTQ+ affirming themes.

The District has been center to controversy over book bans and teaching materials being deemed inappropriate on not only LGBTQ+ themes but race related as well. A career special education teacher resigned this past month just as classes were scheduled to start after a Escambia County Public School District staffer removed posters and pictures of historically significant Black Americans from his classroom.

Michael James, 61, who has taught special ed classes for the past fifteen years told Pensacola News Journal reporter Colin Warren-Hicks in an interview that he had emailed a letter to Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith in which he wrote that a district employee removed the pictures citing the images as being “age inappropriate.”

Images that were removed from the bulletin board at O.J. Semmes Elementary School included depictions of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman, Colin Powell and George Washington Carver, James said.

Florida Politics reported that the controversy comes as the first Florida schools, including Escambia County schools, begin their first academic year under legislation signed by DeSantis that targets “critical race theory.”

Among other rules, the law prohibit lessons teaching students that they are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, color, sex or national origin. It would also ban instruction that they are personally responsible and should feel guilty for the past actions of members of their race, color, sex or national origin.

A new report released by the American Library Association (ALA), covering its annual assessment of books being challenged or banned in the United States showed a dramatic increase in just a three month period of time in 2021 versus all of the previous year.

According to the ALA, nearly 1,600 books in more than 700 libraries and library systems across the nation involving race, gender and the LGBTQ community, were targeted by conservative groups in many cases led by anti-LGBTQ+ groups like the Florida-based ‘Moms for Liberty.’

ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals.


Escambia Public Schools District published a listing of the titles she challenged:

(ES, MS, HS)
School form submitted and date
*All Boys Aren’t BlueGeorge M. JohnsonHS8/1/22
*Bluest EyeTony MorrisonMS, HS8/1/22
*Perks of Being a WallflowerStephen ChboskyHSNorthview High 6/2/22
A Court of Frost and StarlightSarah J. MaasHS9/2/22
A Court of Mist and FurySarah J. MaasHS9/2/22
A Court of Wings and RuinSarah J. MaasHS9/2/22
Ace of SpadesAbike-lyimideMS, HS9/2/22
All the Things We Do in the DarkSaundra MitchellHS9/2/22
Almost PerfectBrian KatcherMS, HS9/2/22
And Tango Makes ThreeJustin RichardsonES9/2/22
Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal SnoggingGeorgia NicolsonHS9/2/22
Art of Racing in the RainGarth SteinHS9/2/22
AutobiographyChristina LaurenHS9/2/22
Being Jazz: My Life as a TransgenderJazz JenningsHS9/2/22
BelovedToni MorrisonHS9/2/22
Better Nate than NeverTim FederleES9/2/22
Beyond MagentaSusan KuklinMS, HS9/2/22
Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage WizardEcho BrownMS, HS9/2/22
Boy2GirlTerence BlackerHS9/2/22
BreathlessJennifer NivenHS9/2/22
BumpedMegan McCaffertyHS9/2/22
City of ThievesDavid BenihoffHS9/2/22
CrankEllen HooverHS9/2/22
Darius the Great Deserves BetterAdib KhorramHS9/2/22
Dead Until DarkCharlaine HarrisHS9/2/22
Deogratias: A Tale of RwandaJ.P. StassenHS9/2/22
DimeE R FrankHS9/2/22
Doing ItHannah WittonHS9/2/22
DramaRaina TelgeimeierES, MS9/2/22
Draw Me a StarEric CarleES9/2/22
Empire of StormsSarah MassHS9/2/22
Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseJonathan Sagran FoerHS9/2/22
FadeLisa McMannHS9/2/22
ForeverJudy BlumeHS9/2/22
GeorgeAlex GinoES, MS, HS9/2/22
GLBTQKelly HuegelHS9/2/22
Go Ask AliceAnonymousHS9/2/22
GracelingKristin CashoreES, MS9/2/22
Ground ZeroAlan GratzES, MS, HS9/2/22
Hear These Voices: Youth at the Edge of the MillenniumAnthony AllisonHS9/2/22
HeroineMindy McGinnisHS9/2/22
IdenticalEllen HopkinsHS9/2/22
InfandousElana K. ArnoldHS9/2/22
Jesus Land: A MemoirJulia ScheeresHS9/2/22
Killing Mr. GriffinLois DuncanMS9/2/22
L8r G8rLauren MyracleHS9/2/22
Lessons from a Dead GirlJo KnowlesHS9/2/22
LexiconMax BerryHS9/2/22
Little and LionBrandy ColbertHS9/2/22
Looking for AlaskaJohn GreenMS, HS9/2/22
LuckyAlice SeboldHS9/2/22
LushNatasha FriendMS, HS9/2/22
Me and Earl and the Dying GirlJesse AndrewsHS9/2/22
Melissa (George)Alex GinoMS9/2/22
Milk and HoneyRupi KaurHS9/2/22
Monday’s Not ComingTiffany JacksonMS, HS9/2/22
More Happy Than NotAdam SilveraMS, HS9/2/22
My Friend Dahmer: A Graphic NovelDerfHS9/2/22
New KidJerry CraftES, MS, HS9/2/22
Nineteen MinutesJodi PicoultMS, HS9/2/22
Out of DarknessAshley PerezHS9/2/22
Queer, There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the WorldSarah PragerHS9/2/22
Race and Policing in Modern AmericaDuchess HarrisMS9/2/22
Rainbow BoysAlex SanchezHS9/2/22
Ready or Not (All-American Girl Series)Meg CabotMS, HS9/2/22
Red HoodElana K. ArnoldHS9/2/22
Slaughterhouse FiveKurt VonnegutHS9/2/22
Sloppy FirstsMegan McCaffertyHS9/2/22
Sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My PlaceJackson BirdHS9/2/22
SpeakLaurie Halse AndersonHS9/2/22
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in AmericaIbram X KendiHS9/2/22
The 1619 ProjectMS9/2/22
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianSherman AlexieMS, HS9/2/22
The Black FlamingoDean AttaHS9/2/22
The BreakawaysCathy JohnsonMS9/2/22
The God of Small ThingsArundhati RoyMS9/2/22
The Handmaid’s TaleMargaret AtwoodHS9/2/22
The Hate U GiveAngie ThomasMS9/2/22
The House of SpiritsIsabel AllendeHS9/2/22
The Kingdom of Little WoundsSusan CokalHS9/2/22
The Kite RunnerKhaled HosseiniMS, HS9/2/22
The Music of What HappensBill KonigsbergHS9/2/22
The Nowhere GirlsAmy ReedHS9/2/22
The Poet XElizabeth AvevedoMS, HS9/2/22
The Prince and the DressmakerJen WangHS9/2/22
The Truth About AliceJennifer MathieuHS9/2/22
Thirteen Reasons WhyJay AsherMS9/2/22
This One SummerMariko TamakiHS9/2/22
This One SummerMariko TamakiHS9/2/22
TricksEllen HopkinsHS9/2/22
Two Boys KissingDavid LevithanHS9/2/22
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black BoyEmmanuel AchoHS9/2/22
UnravelTahereh MafiMS, HS9/2/22
Water for ElephantsSara GruenMS, HS9/2/22
We are the AntsShaun David HutchinsonHS9/2/22
What Girls Are Made OfHS9/2/22
When Aidan Became a BrotherKyle LukoffES9/2/22
When Wilma Rudolph Played BasketballMark WeaklandES9/2/22
57 BusDashka SlaterMS, HS9/16/22
Bear Town: Book 1Fredrick BackmanHS9/16/22
Eleanor and ParkRainbow RowellMS, HS9/16/22
From Blood and AshJennifer L. ArmentroutHS9/16/22
The Freedom Writers DiaryErin GruwellMS, HS9/16/22
Girl in PiecesKathleen GlasgowHS9/16/22
GritGillian FrenchHS9/16/22
GuyaholicCarolyn MacklerHS9/16/22
The HatersJesse AndrewsHS9/16/22
Leah on the OffbeatBecky AlbertalliMS, HS9/16/22
Ramona BlueJulie MurphyHS9/16/22
ScarsCheryl RainfieldHS9/16/22
Simon vs The Homo Sapiens AgendaBecky AlbertalliMS, HS9/16/22
SmokeEllen HopkinsHS9/16/22
Stella Brings the FamilyMiriam B. SchifferES9/16/22
The Upside of UnrequitedBecky AlbertalliMS, HS9/16/22
Where I End and You BeginPreston NortonHS9/16/22



Moms for Liberty distances itself from co-founder Bridget Ziegler

In its annual Year in Hate & Extremism report for 2022, the SPLC says Moms for Liberty advances an anti-student inclusion extremist agenda



Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler in a campaign advert for a seat on the Sarasota County Florida School Board. (Screenshot/YouTube)

ORLANDO, Fla. – As outrage continues to build over the sexual battery allegations of Florida GOP chairman Christian Ziegler, accused of raping a woman he had known for 20 years according to a law enforcement affidavit, calls for his resignation and that of his wife, Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler grows.

In a report by the Florida Center for Government Accountability journalist Bob Norman Tuesday, in an email sent to top Republican officials in Florida, embattled state GOP chairman Christian Ziegler characterizes himself as the victim of an ongoing rape investigation being conducted by the Sarasota Police Department. 

The 40-year-old Ziegler calls it an “attack,” not on the victim in the case, but himself. He claims he’s being “targeted,” and notes that “anyone” can file a rape complaint. Ziegler promises to later reveal information about the “motive” and who was behind his ordeal.

“We have a country to save and I am not going to let false allegations of a crime put that mission on the bench as I wait for this process to wrap up,” wrote Ziegler. “Thank you to all who have reached out in support.” 

Despite his denials and obfuscation of the report filed against him by Sarasota Police detectives, Ziegler refuses to step down which has Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis leading the chorus demanding Ziegler’s resignation.

“I said the other night when it came out, it’s, look, you’re innocent until proven guilty. There’s clearly things that are lodged against people that aren’t necessarily true. But I think when you have an investigation of crimes of this magnitude, I think that the mission has to come first,” the governor said Tuesday.

“It is not helpful to the mission to have this hanging over his head.  I’ve said he should step aside. Paul Renner, the Speaker. Kathleen (Passidomo), Senate President. I think most people acknowledge that it’s just an untenable situation when you have things like that there,” he added.

“And so we’ll see what ends up happening. But I don’t know that you have any real standing with that hanging over you,” the governor acknowledged. DeSantis has been joined in his demands by Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, who told the Associated Press Ziegler should step down rather than be a distraction during an important election year.

Ziegler and his wife are also being called out for the hypocrisy of admitting a sexual relationship with another woman even though they very publicly oppose and campaign against LGBTQ+ rights.

Cameron Driggers, the Executive Director of the Gainesville, Florida-based Youth Action Fund alongside Jack Petocz, the non-profit’s Vice-Chair, in a joint statement to the Blade on Tuesday said:

The revelations regarding the abusive behavior of Moms for Liberty Co-Founder Bridget Zieglar and her Husband, Christian Ziegler, Chair of the Florida GOP, comes as no surprise to the young people who have faced their reign of terror over the last few years.

The fanatically anti-queer culture war raging in Florida is in large part thanks to the Zieglers, who have put young LGBTQ+ Floridians within the crosshairs of bigotry and targeted legislation. At the same time, they were engaging in a non-traditional lifestyle of their own. The shameful hypocrisy of the Zieglers knows no bounds.

If they possess even one ounce of decency, Christian and Bridget Zielger should resign from their positions of power immediately.”


Petocz and Driggers organized a statewide walk-out in protest of Florida’s infamous Parental Rights in Education bill colloquially known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law signed by DeSantis in March of 2022 and also led a successful effort to oust a far-right incumbent school board member in deep red Flagler County where they were attending secondary school.

Beyond the efforts of activists like Driggers and Petocz, other LGBTQ+ advocates are also calling out the Zielgers who have long backed the Florida governor’s efforts.


In May of this year, Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, the executive director of GLSEN, which advocates for LGBTQ students, said in a statement that DeSantis “is trying to turn back the clock on progress and erase LGBTQ+ people from existence.” 

“He’s using vulnerable communities as political pawns in an attempt to gain power and further his own career,” Willingham-Jaggers said. “We know that inclusive curriculum and LGBTQ+ representation benefits all students, and every single major medical association in the U.S. supports gender-affirming care for youth. As Floridians continue to face attacks on their education, health care and bodily autonomy, we’re calling on legislators, advocates and allies to rise up with us and support LGBTQ+ youth.”

Moms for Liberty as a group has factored into these attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+ youth in general both in Florida and across the United States, leading the civil rights watchdog group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, to label the so-called “parental rights” group extremist.

In its annual Year in Hate & Extremism report for 2022, the SPLC says that Moms for Liberty advances an anti-student inclusion extremist agenda.

Bridget Ziegler is a sitting member of the Sarasota School Board and has been unabashed in her anti-LGBTQ+ agenda calling for removal of LGBTQ+ books from the libraries in the system and curtailing affirmation of the system’s LGBTQ+ minority student population.

The efforts by Ziegler and Moms For Liberty has had a chilling effect says Lance Preston, the Executive Director and founding CEO of Indianapolis, Indiana-based Rainbow Youth Project (RYP). The RYP offers no cost access to meaningful mental health and suicide prevention counseling, as well as reduced or no cost non-surgical healthcare assistance to trans and queer youth.

According to Preston, “Moms for Liberty claims to promote “traditional family values” and fights against what they label as “indoctrination.” Unfortunately, their actions have had severe consequences for countless young individuals struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Rainbow Youth Project has recorded over 23,000 crisis calls and live chats since April 2022, with approximately 4,361 of the callers specifically mentioning Moms for Liberty activities in their schools and communities as at least a major reason for their depression, isolation, anxiety, self-harming behaviors, and even suicidal ideation, Preston noted.

“The hypocrisy would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous. For instance, they profess to stand for “liberty” while attacking school children for sending the organization colorful cards begging the group to stop bullying LGBTQ+ kids. The group immediately condemned those youth, calling their cards “hate mail,” and sought to deny those kids their liberties under the First Amendment,” Preston said.

“Every LGBTQ+ youth deserves love, acceptance, and support during their difficult journey. It is heartbreaking to witness the harm caused by Moms for Liberty, who spread misinformation and stigma, perpetuating intolerance and prejudice. We will continue to call upon communities to stand against discrimination and work alongside us to create a world where LGBTQ+ youths can thrive, free from the fear of rejection or harm caused by anti-LGBTQ+ groups like Moms for Liberty,” Preston told the Blade.

“These allegations are incredibly serious and deserve a full investigation. Whether through elected office, GOP party leadership, or Moms For Liberty, the Zieglers have spent years telling people how to live and who to be. They’ve been the tip of the spear for right wing extremism in a state being hijacked by the anti-LGBTQ+ agenda. Their desperation for power and complete disregard for people has been and will continue to be a stain on Florida’s history,” Brandon J. Wolf, National Press Secretary & Senior Director, Political Comms, for the Human Right Campaign said in an emailed statement to the Blade.

In addition to the political leadership calls for Ziegler’s stepping down, his wife now faces similar calls in Sarasota. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sarasota County School Board member Tom Edwards called for his colleague Bridget Ziegler to resign from the board amid accusations that her husband sexually assaulted a woman who had been part of a three-way relationship with him and Bridget.

Edwards told the newspaper that last year’s School Board chairwoman has become too much of a distraction for the district.

“She is nothing but a distraction from before and only getting worse, and it will never go away as long as she sits there,” he said. “As a School Board member, my focus is on our students, their academic achievement and educational outcomes. It is not on the Zieglers’ escapades.”

Edwards added that the Zieglers, both Christian and Bridget, “cannot any longer be near children or public policy” because of their advocacy against critical race theory and the discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in schools, which he said has caused damage to students’ mental health.

Edwards, the only openly gay member of the board, had been attacked publicly by a woman at a board meeting who referred to him as a ‘groomer,’ a homophobic and offensive slur during a public comments section of a board meeting. Bridget Ziegler, then Chair, refused to eject or silence the woman saying only that personal attacks in public comment happen to elected officials on all sides and that stopping the speaker would have only escalated tensions.

In an emailed statement received Tuesday morning by the Blade and other media outlets, current executives of Moms For Liberty and co-founders Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice said:

“We have been truly shaken to read of the serious, criminal allegations against Christian Ziegler. We believe any allegation of sexual assault should be taken seriously and fully investigated.

“Bridget Ziegler resigned from her role as co-founder with Moms for Liberty within a month of our launch in January of 2021, nearly three years ago.  She has remained an avid warrior for parental rights across the country.

“To our opponents who have spewed hateful vitriol over the last several days: We reject your attacks. We will continue to empower ALL parents to build relationships that ensure the survival of our nation and a thriving education system. We are laser-focused on fundamental parental rights, and that mission is and always will be bigger than any one person.”

The fallout from the scandal over the Ziegler’s hypocrisy and allegations of rape and misconduct have also affected Moms for Liberty chapters in other states. According to Moms for Liberty the group has 300 plus chapters in 47 states.

The News-Item newspaper in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, reported that The Northumberland County chapter of Moms for Liberty is on pause as it breaks from the national organization, according to its chapter chair Clarissa Paige.  

Paige said she formed the Northumberland County Chapter of Moms for Liberty in April 2022 out of concern for a lack of accountability and representation in county schools.

She said, “We hit significant milestones by ensuring school board members were accountable and supporting the elections of responsible community leaders.”

Paige, who has three children attending Warrior Run schools, has been outspoken against the curriculum she alleges to contain aspects of social-emotional learning or critical race theory, and threatened legal action against the school for reenacting a mask mandate.

Paige refuted claims by the Southern Poverty Law Center that Moms for Liberty spreads hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ community.

Paige is seeking nonprofit status for Northumberland County Academic Alliance, which she told The News-Item will continue to focus on parental rights in schools.

“The journey has always been the strength of our local community and we found all the support we need among us,” Paige said Monday. “We are going to continue to champion parental rights with dignity and integrity.”

Bridget Ziegler, and her husband Christian did not respond to requests for comment by the Blade Tuesday.

Continue Reading


Hyatt Regency Miami settlement over ‘Drag Queen Christmas’

The Hyatt Regency Miami agreed to pay a $5,000 fine & the consent order said the hotel “admits no liability by settling” the dispute



Hyatt Regency Miami (Photo courtesy of the Hyatt Hotels Corporation - Hyatt Regency Miami)

MIAMI, Fla. – The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (FDBPR) and the Hyatt Hotels Corporation reached a settlement this past week stemming from enforcement actions taken by the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, which operates under the FDBPR, targeting the Hyatt Regency Miami for an event it hosted that included a drag show last December.

Orlando’s ABC News affiliate WFTV 9 reported that under the settlement, known as a consent order, the Hyatt Regency Miami agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and to prevent minors from attending performances at a facility known as the James L. Knight Center if such a performance “contains, depicts or simulates” activities targeted in the new law which is currently blocked by two Federal courts.

The consent order said the hotel “admits no liability by settling” the dispute. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation announced the settlement Wednesday.

The hotel’s affiliated James L. Knight Center had hosted “A Drag Queen Christmas” performed Dec. 27, 2022 with minors present in the audience. The Knight Center is a major South Florida venue and has previously hosted the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. The venue’s main room can seat 4,600 people.

In targeting of the show, which is a holiday-themed drag show that toured in 36 different cities and featured stars from the reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Insider webzine journalist Kimberly Leonard reported that the DeSantis administration officials accused the Knight Center of several violations, including a prohibition of “lascivious exhibition” before people younger than 16.

The department’s complaint said performers engaged in “acts of simulated sexual activity, and lewd, vulgar, and indecent displays” that included:

  • Performers forcibly penetrating or rubbing exposed prosthetic female breasts against faces of audience members
  • Intentionally exposing performers’ prosthetic female breasts and genitalia to the audience
  • Intentionally exposing performers’ buttocks to the audience
  • Simulating masturbation through performers’ digitally penetrating prosthetic female genital
  • Graphic depictions of childbirth and/or abortion

Last Spring state lawmakers in Tallahassee passed SB 1438, signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, that put a statewide ban on drag performances where children may be present. In June, U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell ruled it unconstitutional noting [SB 1438] ” is specifically designed to suppress the speech of drag queen performers.”

Presnell in his twenty-four page ruling further noted: “The state claims that this statute seeks to protect children generally from obscene live performances. However, as explained [in court filings], Florida already has statutes that provide such protection.”

The State then appealed his ruling to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit based in Atlanta, Georgia.

In a significant ruling released in October by the 11th Circuit, the court determined that the law posed a threat to constitutionally-protected free speech and expression and affirmed that the block of the law would stand for the entire state of Florida.

Continue Reading


911 tape released in criminal investigation of Florida GOP chairman

The criminal investigation, which sources say involves video recordings and the seizure of Christian Ziegler’s phone, is ongoing



Christian Ziegler with his wife Bridget at Donald Trump's 2017 inauguration. (Ziegler/Facebook)

By Bob Norman | SARASOTA, Fla. – The sexual battery investigation of Florida GOP chairman Christian Ziegler began with a 911 call from a friend of the alleged victim who was worried about her well-being, according to a recording of the call obtained by the Florida Trident. 

The 911 call, made on October 4 at 2:46 p.m., reveals the caller was concerned about the mental health of the woman, who isn’t being identified due to the nature of the investigation.

“I was hoping to do a wellness on a friend of mine,” the caller began. “She hasn’t shown up for work the past two days and I just got off the phone with her and she sounds drunk and I know she has pain medication on her and she told me that she doesn’t think she can do it anymore.” 

The dispatcher then asked questions about the victim’s address, which was redacted, before the caller said the alleged victim had been struggling with addiction that had “gotten worse and worse the last couple of months.” Then she relayed the information that kicked off a criminal investigation that is ongoing. 

“She won’t answer anyone else at work except for me but she told me she was raped yesterday and that she’s scared to leave her house,” said the caller. “… She’s saying she’s scared that — the person that raped her came to her house — that she’s scared to leave.” 

The caller then told the dispatcher, “I’m worried about her right now.” 

“I have units en route,” said the dispatcher. 

The alleged perpetrator is Ziegler, who has yet to publicly comment on the investigation first reported by the Trident on Thursday morning. His attorney, Derek Byrd, said in a written statement Ziegler would be fully exonerated in the investigation.

Sources close to the investigation told the Trident that Ziegler and his wife, Sarasota County School Board Member Bridget Ziegler, who is also an appointee of Gov. Ron DeSantis and cofounder of the right-wing group Moms For Liberty, had a three-way sexual relationship with the woman prior to the alleged October 2 sexual assault.

A copy of the search warrant involved in the case was released late Friday that substantiated much of the Trident’s earlier reporting and added a wealth of new information.


Ziegler, according to the affidavit, had known the woman for 20 years and they had agreed to a tryst at the woman’s home on October 2 with Ziegler’s wife.  When Bridget Ziegler wasn’t able to make it, the woman canceled via text to Christian Ziegler, writing that she had been “more in for her,” meaning Bridget. She told police that Christian Ziegler came to her home anyway and entered uninvited as she opened the door to walk her dog. Inside, she said he raped her.

In an interview with detectives attended by his attorney, Christian Ziegler admitted he had sex with her that day but said it was consensual sex with the woman. He also admitted that he shot video of the incident, which he said he initially deleted, but later uploaded to a Google Drive. When the affidavit was filed with the court on November 15, police had yet located the video. The contents of the Google Drive was among items seized by police under the warrant, along with his Gmail and iPhone.

According to the affidavit, Bridget Ziegler told detectives she was involved in a sexual encounter with her husband and the woman once over a year ago.

News of the criminal investigation led DeSantis to publicly call for Ziegler to step down from his role at the top of Florida’s Republican Party shortly after the presidential candidate’s debate with California Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday night on the Fox News Channel. 

“I don’t see how he can continue with that investigation ongoing, given the gravity of those situations,” DeSantis told reporters. “And so, I think he should step aside. I think he should tend to that. He’s innocent until proven guilty, but we just can’t have a party chair that is under that type of scrutiny. And so, I hope that — I hope the charges aren’t true. I’ve known him, I’ve known Bridget; they’ve been friends. But the mission is more important,”

The criminal investigation, which sources tell the Trident involves video recordings and the seizure of Christian Ziegler’s phone, is ongoing.

Florida Center for Government Accountability public access director Michael Barfield contributed to the reporting of this story.


Bob Norman is an award-winning investigative reporter who serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Florida Trident and journalism program director for the Florida Center for Government Accountability. He can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 954-632-4343.  

The preceding article was previously published by the Florida Center for Government and is republished with permission.

The Florida Center for Government Accountability, a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization, focuses its government accountability and journalistic efforts primarily on local governments, providing support and assistance for citizens and investigative journalists working to hold government accountable. All donations made to FLCGA are tax deductible.

FLCGA is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News — a nationwide network of independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organizations. Learn more at

Continue Reading


Husband of Moms for Liberty cofounder accused of sexual assault

Ziegler, husband of Moms For Liberty cofounder, accused of rape by alleged the menage a trois lover to him and his wife



Christian Ziegler, Florida’s GOP chairman and husband of Sarasota County School Board member and Moms of Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler are pictured with Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, (C) (Photo Credit: Ziegler/Facebook)

By Bob Norman | SARASOTA, Fla. – Christian Ziegler, Florida’s GOP chairman and husband of Sarasota County School Board member and Moms of Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler, is under criminal investigation after a woman filed a complaint with the Sarasota Police Department alleging the longtime Republican official had raped her, according to a heavily redacted police report obtained by the Florida Trident

The complaint was filed on October 4 and the alleged sexual battery occurred inside the woman’s home in Sarasota on October 2, according to the report. Among the few words that went unredacted in the report are “rape” and “sexual assault complaint.”

The woman, according to sources close to the investigation, alleged that she and both Zieglers had been involved in a longstanding consensual three-way sexual relationship prior to the incident. The incident under investigation by Sarasota police occurred when Christian Ziegler and the woman were alone at the woman’s house, without Bridget Ziegler present, the sources conveyed. 

The Zieglers have risen in the ranks of GOP politics in recent years.

Sources also corroborated that a search warrant was executed on Christian Ziegler’s cell phone and that investigators continue to conduct a forensic examination of the electronic device. Christian Ziegler is also alleged to have secretly videotaped the sexual encounters between the couple and the woman, which had been occurring for the past three years, sources said. 

There have been no charges filed in the case and the Trident is unaware whether the woman’s allegations have been substantiated. A voicemail was left with Mr. Ziegler for comment and a message was left at Bridget Ziegler’s school board office. Neither had been returned prior to publishing this story.  

After our story was published, Christian Ziegler’s attorney, Derek Byrd, issued a written statement saying that his client has been “fully cooperative with the Sarasota Police Department” and predicting Ziegler will be “completely exonerated.”

“Unfortunately, public figures are often accused of acts that they did not commit whether it be for political purposes or financial gain,” Byrd said in the statement. “I would caution anyone to rush to judgment until the investigation is concluded. Out of respect for the investigation, this is all Mr. Ziegler or myself can say at this time.”

The Zieglers are one of Florida’s top political power couples in the GOP. Christian Ziegler is a longtime Republican Party official who served as vice chairman of the state party prior to his election as chair in February. Prior to that he was a Sarasota County Commissioner who ran on a “family values” platform. 

An ad for Ziegler’s DeSantis-fueled school board campaign.

Bridget Ziegler has become a star within the MAGA movement who was personally endorsed for her school board seat by Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, who also appointed her in March to the state board that oversees the special district previously overseen by Disney World prior to DeSantis’s politically motivated feud with the entertainment company. 

She is perhaps best known as the cofounder of the right-wing group Moms for Liberty, which has supported book bans in public schools across the country. Bridget Ziegler personally helped lay the groundwork for DeSantis’ Florida Parental Rights In Education Act (known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law) that disallows instruction on “sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through the third grade. She stood behind DeSantis as he signed the bill.

Following in the Moms For Liberty model, Ziegler has been a leading anti-trans activist and “critical race theory” opponent who has said her aim is to bring “religious values” into public schools that she claims are “indoctrination centers for the radical left.”

“Bridget Ziegler, we should have her in every county in Florida,” DeSantis said in one speech. “We have to do a better job in these school board races.” 

The Zieglers pose with Trump in 2015.

She is currently a salaried vice president at the conservative Leadership Institute, which recently opened an office in Sarasota. At the Institute she oversees a school board training program that she said “teaches trains moms and dads how to run for school board, win, and then govern!”

Christian Ziegler has longstanding ties to both DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, who called out Ziegler’s name in a recent speech earlier this month during the “Florida Freedom Summit” in Kissimmee and said he was doing a “fantastic job.” Ziegler, as the state’s GOP chair, has remained officially neutral on the race.

In a written statement, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried called for Christian Ziegler’s resignation.

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried

“Allegations of rape and sexual battery are severe and should be taken seriously,” she said. “I applaud the accuser’s bravery in coming forward against a political figure as powerful as Christian Ziegler, and I trust that the Sarasota Police Department will conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations of criminal behavior. Christian Ziegler can’t possibly continue to lead the Florida GOP under these conditions. Given the severity of the criminal allegations, I’m calling for his immediate resignation.”

Fried stopped short of asking Bridget Ziegler to resign her school board and state seats, but noted the “hypocrisy” of the couple.

“As leaders in the Florida GOP and Moms for Liberty, the Zieglers have made a habit out of attacking anything they perceive as going against ‘family values’ — be it reproductive rights or the existence of LGBTQ+ Floridians,” said Fried. “The level of hypocrisy in this situation is stunning.”

Florida Center for Government Accountability public access director Michael Barfield contributed to the reporting of this story.


Bob Norman is an award-winning investigative reporter who serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Florida Trident and journalism program director for the Florida Center for Government Accountability. He can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 954-632-4343.  

The preceding article was previously published by the Florida Center for Government and is republished with permission.

The Florida Center for Government Accountability, a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization, focuses its government accountability and journalistic efforts primarily on local governments, providing support and assistance for citizens and investigative journalists working to hold government accountable. All donations made to FLCGA are tax deductible.

FLCGA is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News — a nationwide network of independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organizations. Learn more at

Continue Reading


Broward high school students stage walkout over Trans exclusion

Monarch High principal James Cecil, a 25 year veteran of the Broward schools district, had been reassigned off-campus



Screenshot/YouTube WPTV News

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. –  Students at Monarch High School in northern Broward County walked out of classes Tuesday protesting in support of the trans community and school staff who were reassigned amid an investigation involving a transgender female student allowed to play on a girls’ sports team.

In a statement, officials with Broward County Public Schools said that Monarch High principal James Cecil, a 25 year veteran of the Broward district, had been reassigned off-campus while an investigation into allegations of improper student participation in sports, specifically allowing a trans student to participate on the girls’ volleyball team.

Local NBC News affiliate WPTV 6 reported that in addition to Cecil, several other staff were reassigned as school district officials investigate the allegations that the Florida state law signed by Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis two years ago, banning Trans youth athletes from participating in sports was violated.

Local journalist Kevin Deutsch reported that in an email and robocall Monday morning, Monarch High School parents and staff were informed that Cecil and three others “have been notified that they are part of the BCPS Special Investigative Unit’s investigation and have been reassigned to non-school sites pending the outcome,” according to a district spokesperson.

The other staff members are Assistant Principal Kenneth May, Teacher/Athletic Director Dione Hester, and Information Management Technician Jessica Norton, according to BCPS.

Additionally, Alex Burgess, a temporary athletic coach at the school, “has been advised his services are paused while the investigation is ongoing,” the spokesperson said.

Students perform MASSIVE WALKOUT at Monarch High School after staff reassigned:

Continue Reading


Far-right blog says Satan’s overseeing Target’s holiday offerings

“When shoppers enter the seasonal aisles, they are greeted by pride flag waving Santa’s and transgender-themed nutcrackers”



'Pride' Nutcracker 2023 holiday decoration item sold at Target stores. (Photo by Vilk Radic)

LAKE MARY, Fla. – A staff writer for Florida-based far-right anti-LGBTQ+ Charisma Media’s blog Charisma News, alleges that Satan aka The Devil, Lucifer, or the Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles, Baphomet, Lord of the Flies, the Antichrist, Old Scratch, Father of Lies and Moloch is in charge of Minneapolis-based Target Corporation’s Christmas offerings.

According to James Lasher, Satan and Target teamed up to offer shoppers LGBTQ+ themed Christmas decorations. One in particular, an LGBTQ+ affirming nutcracker drew scrutiny. Lasher writes: “The year is not over yet, and the retail giant thought it would be a good idea to ring in the Christmas season with another ‘Pride’ campaign where they deck the halls in transgender flag colors.” He then goes on to note:

“When shoppers enter the seasonal aisles, they are greeted by pride flag waving Santa’s and transgender-themed nutcrackers who come in white and black and feature purple bears and a pride flag, the higher tier model costing $63.00 and comes with a staff with a heart on it saying “Love is Love.””

Lasher summarizes the Target Christmas holiday shopping experience as: “The goal of Satan is to move our ever-increasingly secular society away from any references of Jesus Christ. And he has succeeded mightily in accomplishing that goal in America. This entire charade of dedicating the month of June to pride is merely cover for the real goal of saturating American culture in this pagan ideology 24/7, and what more proof do you need than the attempt at making Christmas ‘Pride’ now?”

The Christian extremist writer then cites biblical references as to why Target is marketing-in-sin and then writes: “The Christian church is battling this takeover itself, with apostate congregations taking down crosses and replacing them with pride flags. No longer do they pray to Jesus and read the Bible, but instead they pray to drag queens and read the works of radical activists.”

In May of this year, outrage over LGBTQ+ Pride related merchandise being sold, especially in the company’s southern regional stores, by far-right activists caused Target Corporation to confirm that in some of its locations in semi-rural areas of rural Georgia, South Carolina, and Arkansas have moved Pride merchandise from the front of the stores to backroom areas or deeper into the stores after confrontations and backlash from shoppers.

Target’s Pride Collection, which was displayed for sale starting on May 1, is comprised of more than 2,000 products, including clothing, books, music and home furnishings. Items include “gender fluid” mugs, “queer all year” calendars and books for children aged 2-8 titled “Bye Bye, Binary,” “Pride 1,2,3” and “I’m not a girl.”


Speaking for the Minneapolis-based retail giant, spokesperson Kayla Castaneda noted: “Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.”

Castaneda related that the company has been celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month for over ten years, but this year the increased opposition and hostility gave the company pause and led to a decision to pull some of the Pride merchandise.

In an email to the Blade in June, Castaneda said, “Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride month and throughout the year.”

Continue Reading


Newly introduced Florida bill could destroy LGBTQ+ nonprofits

The legislation would establish “biological” pronouns as official state policy applying to government employees and contractors



Florida House Of Representatives (Photo Credit: Florida House Of Representatives)

By Erin Reed | TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A new bill just introduced in Florida aims to expand “Don’t Say Gay Or Trans” provisions to a broad range of workplaces. Targeting government employees, contractors, and nonprofits, the bill sets forth restrictions and bans on policies relating to pronouns, gender identity, and sexuality.

Specifically, it would prohibit state and local government employees as well as any contractors engaged with the government from changing their pronouns or honorifics if they do not match their assigned sex at birth. It would also bar them from instructing on gender identity or sexuality, similar to “Don’t Say Gay Or Trans” laws already active in the state education system. The legislation would establish “biological” pronouns as official state policy.

The bill also would establish protections for what it calls “deeply held biology-based beliefs.” It may even prevent all nonprofits in the state from mandating any “training, instruction, or other activity on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” a clause that could destroy LGBTQ+ nonprofits across Florida.

The bill, HB599, was introduced by Representative Ryan Chamberlin, a Republican. The bill is split into two sections, with the first section applying to government employees and contractors, which it defines as “an individual, partnership, corporation, or business entity” that “enters or attempts to enter into a contract for services” with any state, county, municipality, or special district of Florida.

These definitions encompass a huge number of businesses, such as stadiums, convention centers, major hospitals, insurance agencies, and more. For these businesses, as well as for all government workers, the bill would declare that it is the state’s policy that “a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait and that it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person’s sex.” It then would bar covered employees from sharing pronouns that “do not correspond to that person’s sex,” effectively banning social transition at work for these employees.

See the provisions barring pronouns, honorifics, and more here:

The bill also would enshrine a new phrase into law: protections for employees “deeply held religious or biology-based beliefs.” The phrase “deeply held religious beliefs” has longstanding precedent in constitutional law and is used to overturn laws judged to be violating someone’s freedom of religion.

Deeply held “biology-based” beliefs, however, are not something that has ever been a part of any law. It would appear that this line is meant to provide religious-based protections to people who assert that their misgendering of transgender people and using transgender people’s old names is part of their “biology-based” rights.

The bill is not limited in its application to government employees and contractors, however. A separate section of the bill would apply to “nonprofit organizations or an employer who receives funding from the state.” In the most broad reading of this section, separating “nonprofit organizations” from “employers who receive funding from the state,” it would bar all such organizations from mandating “training, instruction, or other activity on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

Provisions in HB599

This provision is severe in its potential impact. Virtually every LGBTQ+ organization would be radically affected by it and would likely have to shut down. It would be nearly impossible for an LGBTQ+ organization to run without providing instruction, training, and “other activity” around gender identity or sexuality. It would be a blatant power grab by the state targeting organizations critical to the government and would further drive LGBTQ+ activism and organizing underground in the state. If enforced broadly, this section could have a similar impact to laws in Russia designed to shut down LGBTQ+ organizations there.

This section would have impacts far beyond LGBTQ+ organizations as well. The provisions would apply to “any organization that is exempt from taxation” including “s. 501” organizations. This would include, for instance, 501c4s, which are crucial during election cycles and could be used to target left-leaning organizations running election ads. Many of these organizations have LGBTQ+ employees and provide instruction and accommodations for their employees, which would be barred by the state if this gets passed into law.

It could also have impacts on medical organizations that do business with state and local governments. Planned Parenthood, a 501c3, heavily provides care for LGBTQ+ people, and such a law could be used to target the organization statewide. Likewise, many state hospital systems that do business with the government often must educate employees and patients on HIV and AIDs, which is impossible to divorce from LGBTQ+ issues. Community health clinics would, similarly, have to contend with these provisions.

Brandon J. Wolf, the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign said to the Blade in a statement Tuesday: “This Florida bill is a hateful, anti-LGBTQ+ monstrosity. It is dangerous, unconstitutional, and we know it’s just the start of politicians’ attacks on our community this legislative session. We’re prepared to fight back.”

This legislation represents an early move in what promises to be a challenging year for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in 2024. Historically, Florida has often been the breeding ground for new laws aimed at the LGBTQ+ community. This bill might well serve as a precursor to the next “model policy” that could be replicated in multiple states, and bears close watching.


Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here:


The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

Continue Reading


Global pop icon P!nk set to distribute banned books in Florida

Black and LGBTQ+ authors and books about race, racism, and LGBTQ identities have been disproportionately affected in the book bans



P!NK appearing on the Kelly Clarkson Show this past July talking everything from new music to parenting. (Screenshot/YouTube)

NEW YORK – Florida bookseller Books & Books and global pop icon P!nk announced on Monday that in partnership with literature and human rights group PEN America during the pop star’s Florida concert show schedule she is set to give away 2,000 banned books.

As a mother of two who is deeply invested in education and in representation for all races and sexual identities, P!nk wanted to give away banned books to highlight the spike in book bans in Florida and across the country as documented by PEN America. 

“Books have held a special joy for me from the time I was a child, and that’s why I am unwilling to stand by and watch while books are banned by schools,” P!nk said in a statement. “It’s especially hateful to see authorities take aim at books about race and racism and against LGBTQ authors and those of color. We have made so many strides toward equality in this country and no one should want to see this progress reversed. This is why I am supporting PEN America in its work and why I agree with them: no more banned books.”

At the Miami and Sunrise, Florida, concert stops on November 14-15 as part of her 2023 Trustfall Tour, P!nk will give away four books that have appeared in PEN America’s Index of Banned Books: “The Family Book,” by Todd Parr, “The Hill We Climb,” by Amanda Gorman, “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison, and a book from “Girls Who Code,” founded by Reshma Saujani. 

The singer announced the collaboration in an Instagram live with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel and New York Times #1 bestselling author Amanda Gorman. Fans can go to to find out more about how they can fight book bans.

“We are thrilled to be working with P!nk on this important cause,” said Kasey Meehan, director of PEN America’s Freedom to Read Program. “Every child deserves access to literature that reflects their lives. Rampant censorship is depriving kids of the chance to see themselves in books and learn about the world and its history.”

Following a new wave of censorious legislation and policies, Florida overtook Texas during the last school year with more books banned in public school classrooms and libraries than any other state in the union, according to PEN America’s newly released data. Amid a 33% spike in book bans nationally, Florida now ranks first in the nation and accounts for more than 40% of all documented bans. 

While Florida is in the lead, its speech-constricting laws and policies have become a national template, helping to fuel a movement that has led to nearly 6,000 instances of book bans by PEN America’s count since 2021. Black and LGBTQ+ authors and books about race, racism, and LGBTQ identities have been disproportionately affected in the book bans documented by PEN America. 

Continue Reading


Moms for Liberty members call deputies on Florida librarians

In addition to the librarian at Jay High School, Moms for Liberty points the finger at Ruth Witter, the head librarian for the county



On October 25, 2023, Jennifer Tapley, a member of the Santa Rosa County chapter of Moms for Liberty and a candidate for school board, contacted the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office, and claimed they had evidence that [local] librarians were distributing "pornography." Tapley was accompanied at the Sheriff's Office by Tom Gurski, who is also active in the local Moms for Liberty chapter. (Screenshot/Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office Body Cam footage)

By Judd Legum | MILTON, Fla. – Two members of Moms for Liberty, a right-wing activist group, have reported several Florida school librarians to law enforcement. They claimed they had evidence that librarians were distributing “pornography” to minors and requested that law enforcement officers be dispatched.

This represents a serious escalation of the tactics deployed by members of Moms for Liberty against school librarians. 

On October 25, Jennifer Tapley, a member of the Santa Rosa County chapter of Moms for Liberty and a candidate for school board, contacted the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office. “I’ve got some evidence a crime was committed,” Tapley said in an audio recording of the call obtained by Popular Information through a public records request. “Pornography given to a minor in a school. And I would like to make a report with somebody and turn over the evidence.” Tapley made the call from the lobby of the main office of the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office in Milton, Florida.

She told the dispatcher that she did not want to provide her name because she was “afraid of people getting mad at me for doing this.” Tapley said that she would tell the Deputy Sheriff her name, but she didn’t want “any public records with her name on it because then people could look it up.” 

In an interview with Popular Information, Tapley said she was “scrolling through Facebook” this summer and saw “a video of a mom reading a book” that was “really disgusting.” She later learned that there was a Moms for Liberty chapter in her area addressing the issue and joined the group. As a member of the group, she learned that local schools had “some really shocking pornographic books in our libraries.” 

Tapley was accompanied at the Sheriff’s Office by Tom Gurski, who is also active in the local Moms for Liberty chapter. Soon, Deputy Sheriff Tyler Mabire and another officer arrived and interviewed the pair. 

“The only reason we are here: A crime is being committed. It’s a 3rd-degree felony. And we’ve got the evidence,” Gurski said in a body cam video of the interview obtained by Popular Information. “The governor says this is child pornography. It’s a serious crime,” Tapley added. “It’s just as serious as if I handed a playboy to [my child] right now, right here, in front of you. It’s just as serious, according to the law.” The video has been edited to protect the identity of a minor:

The “pornography” at issue is actually a popular young adult novel, Storm and Fury, by Jennifer L. Armentrout. The book, which is 512 pages, is mostly about humans and gargoyles fighting demons. The main character of the novel, Trinity, is 18 years old. There are some passages with sexual themes, including a few makeout sessions, and one where the main character almost has sex. In the 2020-21 academic year, the Florida Association of Media in Education (FAME), a professional association of Florida librarians, recommended Storm and Fury on its “Teen Reads” list. FAME says books on the list “engage” teens and “provide a spur to critical thinking.” Barnes and Noble recommends the book for readers 14 to 18. It was also recommended for students by the School Library Journal.

Armentrout told Popular Information that it was surprising to learn we are “living in an era where, apparently, some adults find it appropriate to contact the police over a fictional book involving gargoyles.” She said Storm and Fury “is very close to my heart, as the main character has the same degenerative eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa, as I do.” Armentrout said she wrote the book “to educate people on a little-known disease in a fun, suspenseful, and adventurous way.” The purpose of the book, Armentrout said, was not to “incite sexual excitement.”  

Tapley told Popular Information that any book that has a “sex scene” is pornography and not “appropriate for minors.” She did acknowledge that there may be exceptions for “extreme classics.” But the books Moms for Liberty is targeting, Tapley says, are “without significant literary value.” 

Florida law, however, only bans distributing a book or other material with sexual content if it is “harmful to minors,” a standard established by Supreme Court precedent. Under Florida law, a book is only “harmful to minors” if it  “[p]redominantly appeals to a prurient, shameful, or morbid interest” and is “patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material or conduct for minors.” Storm and Fury, a book that is predominantly about fighting demons, is routinely recommended by adults for high school students. 

Gurski told the officer that Storm and Fury was checked out from Jay High School “by a 17-year-old, which is important because she is a minor.” Tapley showed the officers the book, with the offending passages marked with orange sticky notes.

In Santa Rosa County schools, once a book is challenged for sexual content, the policy is to take it out of circulation within five days, pending a review. Tapley alleged, “we have already turned in this book,” but the Jay High School librarian did not remove it. That allegation appears to be incorrect. Storm and Fury does not appear on lists of challenged books in Santa Rosa County maintained by the school district and Tapley

In addition to the librarian at Jay High School, Tapley points the finger at Ruth Witter, the head librarian for the county. Tapley presents the officers with a printout of Witter’s Facebook page and claims it is proof that “she [has been a] member of Santa Rosa County Stop Moms for Liberty since May.” She explains that “Moms for Liberty is trying to… get rid of these books” and “fights for parents’ rights.” Meanwhile, Tapley alleges, Stop Moms for Liberty “are the people who are against Moms for Liberty.” 

Tapley claims that, by following the Santa Rosa County Stop Moms for Liberty group, Witter is “fighting us actively.” She also connects this to alleged “death threats” against Moms for Liberty members, without elaborating. Tapley does not mention that Witter also follows several conservative pages on Facebook, including Fox Nation and a Republican candidate for local office

The librarian at Milton High School is also singled out by Tapley for posting in a Facebook group called Emerald Coast SWEEP, a local chapter of the group Red, Wine, and Blue. Tapley describes Red, Wine, and Blue as “a very liberal activist group of people fighting for abortion rights” that opposes the removal of books from public school libraries. Tapley says the Milton librarian is seeking “liberals” to join the school’s book review committee, which Tapley claims is “illegal.”

Asked if she would like to see librarians criminally charged, Tapley told Popular Information that it “depends on if there’s an intent.” She said her hope was that the Sheriff would tell the librarians, “you can’t do this,” and “if you continue to do this, then there would be charges.” Tapley added that she “didn’t really want to see anybody have their life ruined.” 

In an interview, Tapley downplayed her role at the Sheriff’s Office, claiming she was not “seeking out any books and trying to go to the police with it or anything.” She described her role “as a helper.” She only put her name on the report “so that somebody else could be protected.” In an email, Tapley said she “had no interactions with the Sheriff’s Office beyond accompanying a citizen there” and “any reporting that states otherwise would be unfactual.”

Popular Information has posted the full video from the Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Office on YouTube.

“To see the orchestrated campaign to remove books from schools escalate to a police station is shocking,” Kasey Meehan, a Director at PEN America, a non-profit dedicated to free expression, told Popular Information. “Professional librarians apply sensible measures to curate their collections for diverse audiences of readers, and they should not be punished for making knowledge accessible to students that falls well short of the well-established legal standards for obscene materials.” Stephana Ferrell of the Florida Freedom to Read Project described the tactics of Moms for Liberty members in Santa Rosa County as an effort to “bully the district into sacrificing access to protected speech.”

Popular Information contacted Mariya Cakins, the chair of Santa Rosa Moms for Liberty, for comment. Cakins said that she would be happy to speak, but the request needed to be routed through the national Moms for Liberty organization. The group never responded to that request. Popular Information was unable to identify reliable contact information for Gurski. 

The efforts of Tapley and Gurski to initiate an investigation by the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office appear to be unsuccessful. According to a document obtained through a public records request, the Sheriff’s Office quickly referred the report to Daniel Hahn, the director of safety at Santa Rosa County Florida School District. The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office then closed the case. 

Gurski, however, is having better luck with other law enforcement agencies. 

Florida police department has open criminal investigation of Florida librarians

“Approximately ten days ago, I had a book in my hand that was issued by the Milton school library, which is not your jurisdiction,” Gurski told Deputy Mabire at the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office. “I went to the Milton police station. Submitted an affidavit and the evidence of that particular book. And they have that now for investigation.” Gurski said he considered the book pornography. 

Tapley says the book reported by Gurski to the Milton police was another young adult novel, Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. The book is a romantic comedy and has some sexual situations and discussions. It also includes LGBTQ characters. It is recommended by Common Sense Media, an independent non-profit that evaluates media for parents, and Publishers Weekly for readers 14 and older. 

In response to a public records request, the Milton Police Department said it could not release any information regarding Gurski’s complaint about the book because there is an “open and active investigation pending State Attorney review.” 

The Vicki Baggett connection

Tapley told Popular Information that Vicki Baggett, an English teacher in Escambia County, has been “helping us.” Baggett, who Popular Information interviewed earlier this year, has challenged hundreds of books in public school libraries, including many that have LGBTQ characters or address racism. Baggett told Popular Information that she challenged When Wilma Rudolph Played Basketball — the inspirational story of a Black woman who overcame racial prejudice to become an Olympic champion — because it would make white students “feel uncomfortable” as “they are being white-shamed.” In a follow-up report, Baggett’s current and former students alleged that Baggett openly promoted racist and homophobic beliefs in class. Nevertheless, Baggett has been successful in getting numerous books removed from Escambia public schools. The Escambia school district is now facing a federal lawsuit from a group of authors and First Amendment advocates. 

Tapley described Baggett as “a valiant warrior for the kids, an amazing English teacher, and a wonderful Christian woman.” According to Tapley, Baggett has come to Santa Rosa County and “has been helping us see what’s in our libraries.” Many of the challenges in Santa Rosa County are duplicates of those Baggett submitted in Escambia County. “She’s been the catalyst really for a lot of this,” Tapley said. “She taught me how to do it.” Baggett initially submitted the challenges in Santa Rosa County herself, but those were rejected because she is not a resident. Many of those challenges have been resubmitted with Baggett’s name alongside a Santa Rosa County resident. 

UPDATE: Moms for Liberty activist accuses Popular Information of “Antifa-style tactics”

On Monday, Popular Information reported that activists with a Florida chapter of Moms for Liberty reported several librarians to law enforcement, claiming that they had committed felonies by distributing pornography to students. The “pornography” at issue was actually a popular young adult novel, Storm and Fury, that mostly involves gargoyles fighting demons. It is recommended for teens by the School Library Journal, a professional association of Florida librarians, and Barnes & Noble. 

Popular Information obtained a body cam video of the activists meeting with deputies from the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office. “The governor says this is child pornography. It’s a serious crime,” Jennifer Tapley, one of the Moms for Liberty activists, said. “It’s just as serious as if I handed a playboy to [my child] right now, right here, in front of you. It’s just as serious, according to the law.”

Tapley and the other activist, Tom Gurski, were not freelancing. Their reports to law enforcement were an official agenda item at a Moms For Liberty meeting last week. 

As of Tuesday night, the video had been viewed over 6.5 million times on social media. It has also generated a flood of local, national, and international media coverage, including the New York PostThe Daily BeastThe IndependentThe Tampa Bay TimesWMNF (Tampa public radio), and WEAR News (Pensacola’s ABC affiliate). 

Popular Information’s video featured on WEAR News, the ABC affiliate in Pensacola, Florida

Tapley, who is also a candidate for school board, was not pleased that she was being held accountable for her actions. On Facebook, she accused Popular Information of “Antifa-style tactics.” In another Facebook post, Tapley said she felt “sad for those who have fallen for the poorly-written tabloid hit piece vomited up by an activist lawyer with a name resembling a most unsavory vegetable.” 

Tapley also accused Popular Information of “distort[ing] and fabricat[ing] the ‘facts.'” This claim was rejected by the New York Post, a right-wing publication that normally provides favorable coverage of Moms For Liberty. “[Tapley] even denied the incident in a Facebook post – despite the body camera footage,” the New York Post reported.


Judd Legum is the founder and author of Popular Information, an independent newsletter dedicated to accountability journalism. You can reach Legum at [email protected].


The preceding article was previously published by  Popular Information and is republished with permission.

Continue Reading


Historic grand marshal, 200K+ at Orlando’s “Come Out With Pride”

Saturday’s “Come Out With Pride” parade turned downtown Orlando into the epicenter of unconditional love and respect, and it was loud



Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-FL) on Saturday, October 21, at Orlando’s Come Out With Pride Festival. (Photo Credit: Maxwell Frost/Twitter)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Downtown Orlando Saturday was thronged with over 200 thousand revelers for the 2023 “Come Out With Pride” festival and parade. Gathering at the festival grounds at Lake Eola, record numbers of LGBTQ+ Central Floridians celebrated Pride.

Openly gay former Democratic Florida House of Representatives member Carlos Guillermo Smith who had represented a portion of Orlando in Tallahassee told multiple media outlets: “Despite Ron DeSantis’ efforts to censor and erase our community, LGBTQ Orlandans are celebrating pride in record numbers. We marched for the freedom and equality of all Floridians, not just some.”

Democratic Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost, serving as the U.S. representative for Florida’s 10th congressional district and the first member of Generation Z to be elected to Congress, led a contingent of supporters in the parade later tweeting: “ORLANDO PRIDE WAS AMAZING!”

This year’s Orlando Pride saw a series of firsts in addition to record attendance. For the first time ever NBC News local affiliate WESH 2- CW18 WKCF TV covered the Orlando Pride Parade.

NBC News local affiliate WESH/CW18 WKCF TV Studios. (Courtesy Orlando Pride)

WESH NBC 2 reported: Saturday’s “Come Out With Pride” parade turned Orange Avenue and Central Boulevard in downtown Orlando into the epicenter of unconditional love and respect, and it was loud.

Just one example was Democratic Orlando Congressman Maxwell Frost, singing and dancing on a float with a full band that was heavy on drums.

He was just one of the politicians making it clear they wanted conservative Florida, especially Republican lawmakers, to hear them.

“This event is important because right now across the state there is a lot of hate but today is about love in the ‘City Beautiful’ Orlando, where we love each other no matter what, with music and everything,” Frost said.

Others pushed back on Republican-backed laws aimed at restricting transgender health, drag shows and workplace diversity training.

Former state representative Carlos Guillermo-Smith is running for the Florida Senate, and told WESH NBC 2 News, “Right now we’re seeing so many attacks on our community from Tallahassee, which is why you are seeing record turnout. They want us to be fearful, but our message is one of hope and one of love because love always wins.”

The youngest grand marshal in the Pride event’s 18-year history this year was 11-year-old Dempsey Jara, who told reporters that she would continue “standing tall” in her identity, despite the recent wave of anti-LGBTQ+ laws plaguing her state and the ongoing anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric from hate groups like Moms for Liberty.

The young trans-activist trailblazer told the gathered press corps that “Being transgender is not about a choice. It’s about being true to myself. It’s about embracing who I am even when the world tries to tell me otherwise. It’s about standing tall in my identity even when it’s really hard.”

Demsey’s schoolteacher mother Jaime Jara, 45, told the Orlando Sentinel:

“She’s been on this journey since she was five and she’s living her best life.

“She’s just always gravitated toward girl things, girls’ toys. She’d say, ‘I’m a girl in my heart and my brain’.”

Dempsey Jara, posting about the parade on the Instagram account that her parents run, shared footage from Saturday’s Pride with the caption: “Yesterday was the best day of my life!

“It’s not easy to be a constant target of hate, but I remain visible because I want other Trans kids to know there is such #joy in being your authentic self. Thank you, #Orlando, for showering me with so much love! #bewhoyouare”

Orlando’s Mayor Buddy Dyer, a longtime supporter and ally of the LGBTQ+ community noted on X (formerly Twitter): “What an incredible display of Orlando’s commitment to inclusion and vibrancy. During @OrlandoPride we show our support to our city’s LGBTQ+ community and showcase to the rest of the state and country that in Orlando, love will always be stronger than hate.”

Photo by Michael K. Lavers

Earlier this week it was learned that Pulse nightclub, where 49 people were massacred in an anti-LGBTQ+ shooting spree in 2016, has been sold.

WESH NBC 2 has confirmed with multiple sources that the city of Orlando is purchasing the property from owners Barbara and Rosario Poma and Mike Panaggio. The deal was struck about two weeks ago and will go before the Orlando City Council on Monday, Oct. 23 for approval. WESH 2 has confirmed the property is being purchased for $2 million, and that there is no opposition to the deal according to city sources.

Continue Reading