WASHINGTON, MICHIGAN - APRIL 02:  Kristina Karamo, who is running for Michigan Republican party's nomination for secretary of state, speaks at a rally hosted by former President Donald Trump on April 02, 2022 near Washington, Michigan. Trump is in Michigan to promote his America First agenda and is expected to voice his support of Karamo and Matthew DePerno, who is running for the Michigan Republican party's nomination for state attorney general. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, MICHIGAN - APRIL 02: Kristina Karamo, who is running for Michigan Republican party's nomination for secretary of state, speaks at a rally hosted by former President Donald Trump on April 02, 2022 near Washington, Michigan. Trump is in Michigan to promote his America First agenda and is expected to voice his support of Karamo and Matthew DePerno, who is running for the Michigan Republican party's nomination for state attorney general. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A conservative activist running to oversee Michigan’s elections, Kristina Karamo made a slew of incendiary comments in a since-deleted 2018 video posted to her website.

Need to Know

  • Karamo’s comments suggest that abusive sexual behaviors are somehow unique to people who are connected to the LGBTQ community, even though many heterosexuals and Christians have engaged in such behavior. 
  • A divorced mother of two and self-described Christian apologist, Karamo also criticized Christians and heterosexuals who’ve embraced sexual freedoms for their role in normalizing pedophilia and bestiality.
  • Karamo has also described gay people as “unnatural” and called churches that welcome LGBTQ individuals as “agents of Satan.” Her anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is especially dangerous at a time when Republican-led states across the country are rolling back the rights and freedoms of gay and transgender Americans with alarming speed. 

MICHIGAN—Kristina Karamo, the Trump-backed candidate for Michigan Secretary of State, believes that greater societal acceptance of people living together and having sex before marriage, as well as homosexuality, has led to a nation spiraling out of control.

A community college professor and conservative activist running to oversee Michigan’s elections, Karamo made her case in a since-deleted 2018 video posted to her website. 

“‘It’s okay, it’s normal to have premarital sex, it’s normal to live with your boyfriend for a few years to see if it’s going to work out, right?’ No. Because again, when you kick God out, nature hates vacuums, Satan fills right in. And that is what has happened in our society,” Karamo said in her 13-minute video. “And then when we start to say, ‘Oh well, if you want to have sex with somebody of the same sex, that’s okay too.’ And now, it has morphed into something worse.”

That “something worse,” according to Karamo, includes “pedophilia being normalized” and “bestiality being normalized.”

Tying pedophilia and bestiality to LGBTQ individuals is “terribly harmful,” according to Susan Freeman, an associate professor of gender and women’s studies at Western Michigan University. 

“It suggests that abusive sexual behaviors are somehow unique to people who are connected to the LGBTQ community, which is not the case,” Freeman said. “There are many heterosexuals, there are many Christians, there are priests, there are other people who engage in behavior that violates standards of consent.”

Jey’nce Poindexter is a Black, trans woman living in Detroit, where she’s a case manager at the Ruth Ellis Center and a vice president of the Trans Sistas of Color Project. To Poindexter, Karamo’s comments are especially dangerous because they perpetuate harmful stereotypes about members of the LGBTQ community that contribute to high rates of physical violence against them.

“If you keep us as the monsters in society, it’s very easy to abuse a monster. It’s very easy to separate yourself from someone who is the ‘other’ and you believe all these myths and these lies about,” Poindexter said. “There is no desire for me to have sex with an animal—not once, not ever.” 

LGBTQ people are nearly four times as likely than non-LGBTQ people to experience violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault, according to a 2020 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. 

Karamo spends a lot of time in the video—which was uncovered through old social media posts and the internet archive—singling out gay and transgender individuals, but she also points the finger at the rest of America for what she believes is the normalization of pedophilia and bestiality.

“We’ve been complicit in it since the 1960s when we began to normalize pre-marital sex. We have invited Satan into our nation with open arms because it gave us the room to engage in whatever sexual sin that we wanted to,” Karamo said. “We kicked God out of society in order to chase our exotic desires and that has had so many unintended consequences in our life and in our society.”

Karamo Blames Christians and Heterosexuals, Too

Karamo, a divorced mother of two and self-described Christian apologist, also criticized Christians and heterosexuals who’ve embraced sexual freedoms.

“So many people who claim to be Christians have no idea of the spiritual ramifications that sexual sin brings into your life and that of the nation,” she said. “Many people who are heterosexual engage in swinger lifestyles and threesomes and orgies and open relationships and say, ‘Oh well, you know, I’m just going to keep it in this little area of my life.’ No sweetie, you invited Satan into all of your life.”

This is a “very, very narrow” and outdated view of Christianity, Freeman said, and it’s one that many people reject. 

“There are so many ways in which practicing Christians embrace queer people, embrace trans people and reject this idea that there is narrowly prescribed biblical interpretation of how we’re supposed to conduct our sex life,” she said. “Talk of premarital sex, talk of fornication and adultery … It sounds like you’re watching an old time-y TV show or some kind of relic of the past where it just doesn’t really fit with how the majority of society looks at relationships today.”

Poindexter also took offense to Karamo’s comments as a Christian. 

“There is no desire for me to offend God or to come against him and to have an agenda against his will or his way. I am a constant prayer warrior. I am a child of God, I am an active church member,” Poindexter said. “I personally take offense to that because that’s also religious persecution. That’s also telling people that they do not have a way in which to connect with God.”

She also pointed out that Karamo’s vision of Christianity was not in line with Christ’s own teachings.

“The Word says that he hung and he dwelled with the lepers, with the whores, with the prostitutes, with the thieves, with the people that he knew who needed him the most,” Poindexter said. “So to hear someone preaching a message of disconnection, a message of ‘There is no place for you in God’s kingdom,’ a message of ‘Not only is there is no place for you, but we have to mount up in this army against you’ … that is a message of hatred and it is untrue.”

Karamo’s Comments Reflect a Rising Extremism Among Republican Politicians

Karamo, who did not respond to a request for comment, makes the “case” for the premarital sex and homosexuality-to-pedophilia pipeline by citing numerous passages from the Bible and highlighting a handful of comments and controversies about pedophilia, including a since-deleted TedX talk and scandalous comments from an Australian politician. She also points to positive media depictions of LGBTQ individuals as evidence of liberals trying to indoctrinate children into becoming gay or transgender.

The 2018 video is not the first time Karamo has made these sorts of incendiary comments. She’s previously complained about the “normalization of pedophilia,” dismissed transgender women trying to play women’s sports as “mentally ill adults playing dress up,” described gay people as “unnatural,” and called churches that welcome LGBTQ individuals as “agents of Satan.” 

She has also:

  • accused schools of being “government indoctrination camps” 
  • stated that evolution is a “fraud” and opposes its teaching in schools 
  • made anti-Semitic comments
  • attended a QAnon conference
  • and spread lies about the outcome of the 2020 election.

Karamo has furthermore expressed regressive beliefs about women’s role in society, and lamented that children are being raised alone.

“We know it’s true because of sexual immorality. It’s because men and women no longer honor God,” Karamo said during an episode of a podcast she hosted. “They honor their crotches, people honor their crotch, their crotch is their God, they just let it leave them wherever it goes.”

Collectively, these comments paint a clear picture of Karamo as an extremist, anti-LGBTQ candidate. But the kind of “moral panic language” she’s using isn’t anything new, either, according to Freeman. 

“This is merely a new twist on an old theme. Pick a decade, and you’ll find a moral panic that exploits fears and misunderstandings, such as the 1980s claim that AIDS was God’s punishment for gay people,” Freeman said. 

However, Karamo’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is especially dangerous at a time when Republican-led states across the country are rolling back the rights and freedoms of gay and transgender Americans with alarming speed. 

“Her preoccupation with children resonates with what has taken hold in Texas, Florida, and other states: legislation that aims to “protect” young people from queer and trans-affirming education, books, health care, supportive parenting, and more,” Freeman said. 

Even though 70% of Americans support gay marriage, a conservative minority is now targeting the rights of LGBTQ people with precision—and using language like Karamo’s to justify their actions. Over the past few months, conservative politicians, activists, and media pundits have aggressively smeared teachers, LGBTQ people, Democrats, and Disney as being pedophiles and child “groomers”—a term used to describe someone who gets close to and builds trust with a child or young person with the intent of sexually abusing them.

By baselessly accusing wide swaths of the population of being “groomers,” Republicans have laid the groundwork for their extreme, anti-LGBTQ agenda. According to an NBC News analysis, state lawmakers across the country have already introduced at least 238 bills this year that would limit the rights of LGBTQ Americans. Several of those proposals, including Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, have been signed into law.

RELATED: Critics Say Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law Would Unfairly Target LGBTQ Kids. A Michigan House Candidate Wants to Bring It Here.

Poindexter described these efforts as a way to single out and exclude the LGBTQ community from the protections promised under America’s founding documents. 

“Why are the [LBGTQ] community’s liberties and pursuit of happiness and all of these things that were talked about in the Declaration and the Constitution—why are those liberties not extended to community members only because of how we identify, only because of who we love?” she asked. “That’s the only reason that the hope and the dream and the love and the expectation of a good life isn’t extended to us. If that isn’t discrimination, I don’t know what it is. It’s sick and it’s twisted.”

A ‘Dangerous’ Threat to Michigan

Whether Karamo’s views hinder her in her campaign for Michigan Secretary of State remains to be seen. 

They didn’t stop former President Donald Trump and Michigan Republican Party co-chair Meshawn Maddock from endorsing her. In fact, Karamo’s lies about the outcome of the 2020 election are the reason why she received those endorsements. Karamo has also out-raised her Republican competitors and appears to be on her way to winning the party’s nomination at the state party’s nominating convention on April 22 and 23.

If she emerges victorious from the convention, she’ll face off against incumbent Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson this November. 

In a statement, Benson campaign spokesperson Liz Boyd said simply that Karamo’s “statements speak for themselves.” 

Both Freeman and Poindexter expressed concern about the possibility of Karamo winning and being in position to oversee Michigan’s elections. They believe her remarks in the 2018 video are indicative of someone with extremist, fringe beliefs who might not equally enforce laws and regulations. 

“Having someone in power that is willing to segregate and separate and drive more lines through the people than we already have existing within our broader communities today absolutely is dangerous,” Poindexter said. “I believe if she was placed in a position of power, she would use that power to carry out her beliefs and her stance and how she feels and that would have a negative impact on a lot of people.”