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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Kootenai GOP ad makes baseless insinuations about library ahead of election

A dramatized video ad paid for by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee falsely implies that North Idaho libraries are showing sexually explicit materials to young children. In the ad, a mother who was washing dishes drops a dish after her young daughter implies she was told about anal sex through library programming. The video is part of the Central Committee's campaign to support candidates challenging incumbents on the Community Library Network board in Tuesday's election.  (Screenshot of Kootenai County Republican Central Committee ad)

A dramatized video ad paid for by the Kootenai County GOP falsely implies that North Idaho libraries are showing sexually explicit materials to young children.

The video, posted to social media by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee over the weekend, is part of a campaign to support candidates Tim Plass and Tom Hanley in the Community Library Network board election Tuesday.

The ad depicts a young elementary school -age girl, perhaps 6 years old, who comes home from school to tell her mother, who is washing dishes, about her day. The girl, whose voice can be heard off screen, says she went to the library where “a funny lady” read to her in a “special room for kids.” The woman reading to her gave her a hug, she said, and her face felt “really scratchy, like Dad’s face.”

The girl then explains that the woman showed her a book with pictures of kids “doing things like kissing each other and some of them didn’t have any clothes on.”

Then the girl asks her mother, “What’s anal sex?”

The mother turns around in slow motion and drops a plate that shatters on the floor.

As the video fades out, a voiceover says, “Our library boards have allowed adult material to be displayed in the children’s sections.”

The voice directs viewers to visit, a website that lists books of concern in North Idaho libraries.

“Time for new leadership,” the voice says. “Vote May 16 for Tim Plass and Tom Hanley to protect our children’s innocence.”

Every premise in the video is wrong, said Trustee Regina McCrea who is defending her seat on the board.

There are no separate rooms for story time. Only librarians can conduct story time. And a library employee would never hug or inappropriately touch a child.

The video seems to imply that the woman who read to the girl was either a trans woman or a drag queen.

The Community Library Network has never had a “drag queen story hour,” which is a frequent rhetorical target that has been held at some other libraries, including at the Spokane Public Library.

McCrea and fellow incumbent Judy Meyer filed a defamation lawsuit last week against KCRCC precinct chairs Janice Camarena, Anita Dupzyk and Marjorie Desgrosseilliers for “false and misleading” statements in campaign letters they distributed to addresses in their precincts.

The letters claimed, “The two incumbents have knowingly allowed graphic books with text and pictures describing every imaginable sex act to be purchased and displayed to children.”

McCrea also objects to mischaracterizing books for teenagers as if they were for young children.

“Our librarians are not trying to confuse children or sexualize them in any way,” McCrea said.

The actual list of books keeps changing and has been a moving target, she said.

When asked to specify which book or books contain anal sex, KCRCC chair Brent Regan pointed to the “clean books” website.

Most of the books listed are categorized by the library for teens or young adults, not young children.

The website highlights a book called “Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human,” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan, which does mention anal masturbation.

The graphic novel uses realistic illustrations for sex-positive sex education and frank discussions of anatomy, body image, gender identity, consent, safe sex, masturbation techniques and ethical pornography use.

The book is in the Coeur d’Alene Library, which is not part of the Community Library Network, but the book can be loaned out to libraries in the network.

The publisher, Random House Graphic, recommends the book for ages 14 and up or grades 10-12.

The American Library Association named the book in its top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list in 2022.

“It normalizes discussion about subject matter that is important but often difficult to explore, and the tone is deeply nonjudgmental and reassuring,” an ALA review says. “Any teen who may have questions about themselves, their identity, and their body will find a frank and sex-positive resource guide that makes room for necessary conversations.”

A few of the listed books are for younger children, including one called “The Big Bath house” a picture book at Hayden Library about the public bathing customs of Japan.

Meyer said that book is an opportunity to learn about other cultures.

Library books are selected by consulting national trade publications like Kirkus Reviews. These organizations carefully vet materials for being age appropriate and would never contain pornography, Meyer said.

She called the ad “frustrating, disappointing, insulting and inaccurate.”

Sandy Patano, a founding member of the North Idaho Republicans, a moderate conservative group that opposes the KCRCC, called the ad disgusting and cynical.

“The KCRCC and the chairman will say and do anything to win,” she said. “I don’t think they’re trying to protect children. I think they are lying to people to protect their grip on power.”

She is concerned that parents and voters not familiar with the growing extremist fringe in the area could be misled.

Patano is most offended as a parent.

It is not clear whether an actual child was used to make the ad, or if it was an adult pretending to be the child’s voice. But if a child was used, Patano said that is deeply cynical.

“Who in their right mind would use a child to make a sex point in a political ad?” she said.

Both Patano and Meyer said they are afraid the KCRCC is trying to take over the libraries and the schools in order to wreak havoc as it has with the North Idaho College board and its accreditation crisis.

Pat Partovi, retired director of the Spokane Public Library, has been watching the national push to restrict books as it plays out in North Idaho and in Washington, in places like Liberty Lake where the city council has attempted to take control of the library board.

In Idaho, library board members are elected, while they are appointed in Washington.

“At least that gives the public an opportunity to weigh in if they are paying attention,” Partovi said.

She added she believes it is a parent’s right and responsibility to go with their children to the library and observe what books they check out. But they shouldn’t dictate what someone else does.

“We are publicly funded and we serve a diverse population,” Partovi said. “So we need to have something for everybody.”

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.