Mississippi state Senator Jeremy England has responded to comments about a photo of him in a pink Halloween costume. The Republican lawmaker says he intentionally wore what he considers a “very embarrassing” Halloween costume to raise money for breast cancer research.
In the original 2020 photo, England wears a shiny pink bodysuit with a fluffy pink tutu, sporting hair dyed pink. After it circulated, some critics even called England an anti-LGBTQ+ slur. England says that he was “being bullied” and was “receiving threats” in a Facebook post on Wednesday following the post’s spike in popularity.
In actuality, England was posed for a photo while he was participating in a 2020 fundraiser for Men Wear Pink. The fundraiser is held by the American Cancer Society, with an initiative intended to raise awareness for breast cancer to end the illness.
“So now I find myself being personally attacked,” England wrote in the post. “If you know me, you know that I am honest. You know that I am a Christian, a devoted husband and father, and I am humbly honored to serve as Senator for District 51. I have no shame in the pictures being shared, I only wish it was being shared to help raise money for breast cancer awareness as intended.”
The news comes as a tense GOP primary is underway in Mississippi. England currently backs Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann for re-election as the state’s second-highest-ranking official. Someone in support of one of Hosemann’s opponents tweeted the pink image with the caption, “Hosemann and his groomer weirdos.” (The tweet has since been deleted.)
“I consider that to be some of the worst, dirty form of politics—which is, of course, where we are now in this race,” England said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The word “groomer” has become a smear to falsely claim that LGBTQ+ people—or anyone ignoring gender norms, as England is only wearing pink—are encouraging pedophilia.
England has used the smear campaign against him and Hosemann to garner more attention for breast cancer fundraising. While the photos were the talk of the town in Mississippi, England restarted another Men Wear Pink online fundraiser to raise more money for breast cancer research. It has raised over $5,000 in the past four days.
England also shared an incident in which state Senator and fellow Republican Melanie Sojourner sent him the tutu photo with no context. Sojourner is also the campaign manager for Hosemann opponent Chris McDaniel.
“It was obvious that she was sending that to me as a threat,” England said.
In another interview with The Associated Press, Sojourner says that the text exchange was “absent of any intention to threaten and/or bully Sen. England.”
“As the jokester of the Senate chamber, Sen. England’s newfound decorum is both ironic and bizarre,” Sojourner said. “Sen. England is crying foul purely to score political points for his enabler in chief, Delbert Hosemann.”
During the Nov. 7 general election this year, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor—which could be either McDaniel or Hosemann—will face Democrat D. Ryan Grover.