MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The Palace, an iconic hot spot in South Beach, has become the target of homophobic and transphobic threats. An Instagram user recently wrote a vicious message on the venue’s account.
“I hope y’all end up like Pulse.”
The user was referring to the June 12, 2016 massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando. It was Latin night. A gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53. The FBI deemed it a terrorist attack.
Thomas Donall, the owner of the Palace, said the hateful messages began after Angela Stanton-King, a conservative Republican politician from Georgia, got upset because parents allowed girls to interact with a drag queen during a public performance.
“It was all innocent fun for the girls,” Donall said. “I mean they were posing with a Madonna show.”
For decades, glamourous drag queens have been interacting with tourists. The rainbow flag flies high in support of the LGBTQ community. The queens bring their sparkle and glitter. Some of them sing. Others dance and perform acrobatics. Locals consider them the stars of Ocean Drive.
“It looked like a place that would be fun and entertaining,” Stanton-King said about her recent visit to the Palace.
That was until she saw little girls approach one of the drag queens on stage. Donall said Stanton-King witnessed one of the drag queens’ many family-friendly interactions and she took it out of context.
“These people have children in a [expletive] drag show,” Stanton-King said during the video she recorded at the Palace.
The video, which she shared with her nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram, was in line with her combative tone on social media. It shows her confronting a Palace employee: “I feel offended and disrespected by being a survivor of sexual abuse!”
Stanton-King said that she wants city officials to keep the drag queens away from children. Donall said there is no need to do that.
“I’m anti-sexual exploitation of children,” Stanton-King said about the public interaction the girls had with a performer under parental supervision.
Stanton-King has been accused of spreading falsehoods on social media before. As an author and reality television personality, she isn’t afraid of controversy. She is an avid supporter of former President Donald Trump. He pardoned her last year for her role in a car theft ring. She was convicted of federal conspiracy charges in 2004.
Stanton-King’s followers’ complaints to Miami Beach City Hall and hateful messages on social media come at a time when the Palace is dealing with the pain of the coronavirus pandemic.
Donall said Stanton-King’s influence even prompted a city official to ask him to change the drag queens’ artistic expression. A spokeswoman for the city said she wasn’t aware that the city had taken any official action against the Palace.
The wave of hate is starting to affect Donall and his staff.
“It’s really difficult for us and heart-wrenching ... I mean it just makes me ... really sick to my stomach,” Donall said.