U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) on Friday tweeted comments accusing a Black anti-rape activist, along with other feminists and journalists who write about women’s health, of promoting a “racist” agenda by accepting awards from Planned Parenthood.
Huelskamp fired off five tweets attacking 19 journalists and activists—several of whom are women of color—who either accepted a 2015 Maggie Award for Media Excellence from Planned Parenthood, or who merely attended the ceremony this week.
The award is given in 15 categories to “journalists, activists, and social media innovators for their exceptional coverage of reproductive rights, social justice, and women’s health care issues.”
“I fight for Life while @ArielAzoff @wagatwe @lolololori & @jennyalyse push racist Planned Parenthood’s death agenda #prolife,” read one of Huelskamp’s tweets, which was still online at the time of publication. The other four tweets followed the same format.
One of the women mentioned in that tweet, Wagatwe Wanjuki, received the “Social Media Campaign” Maggie Award for her activism against campus rape.
Wanjuki, a Black woman, campus rape survivor, and former Rewire employee, coined the #SurvivorPrivilege hashtag after George Will wrote a controversial column suggesting that victims of sexual assault on college campuses enjoy a “coveted status that confers privileges.”
Wanjuki fired back at Huelskamp on Twitter.
“Using me as a tool to make a political statement for your personal gain is racist,” Wanjuki tweeted.
She also called out the congressman for “publicly trying to shame and embarrass me for accepting an award I received to help survivors,” and for his indifference to Black rape survivors in other contexts. Wanjuki added that after her rape at Tufts University and subsequent expulsion, Planned Parenthood was the only place she could get health care.
“I didn’t think it was him [Huelskamp], at first I thought it was a satirical account or something,” Wanjuki told Rewire. “But then I saw the little blue check [indicating a verified Twitter account], and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is actually real life. I can’t believe this.’”
Wanjuki noted that two of the women mentioned in the tweet with her, Lori White and Ariel Azoff, are colleagues of hers at Upworthy and were her guests at the ceremony, not award recipients.
Some Maggie Award recipients whom Huelskamp called out as promoting the “racist” agenda of Planned Parenthood were given awards for their work on such diverse topics as racial justice, a profile on a transgender woman in Uganda, accurate sexual health information for teens, and a feminist video series. Others covered the topic of abortion from a variety of viewpoints, from personal storytelling, to profiling an abortion provider, to exposing the false information provided by anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers.”
“We live in the kind of country where a [Planned Parenthood] event for journalists who write about women’s health has to hide the location for ‘security,'” noted another award recipient, Mic.com’s Elizabeth Plank, in a tweet on Thursday.
Prior to naming the Maggie Award recipients, Huelskamp tweeted a link to a piece on RedState.com that named the recipients and called them “bought and paid for” by Planned Parenthood.
The RedState post asserted that the journalists it named “don’t cover” the recent series of deceptively edited videos about Planned Parenthood’s legal fetal tissue program, despite the fact that several journalists who accepted awards have written explicitly about the issue.
RedState founder Erick Erickson is known for making sexist remarks, most recently comparing pregnant women to “female animals.”
As Rewire’s Imani Gandy has noted, attacking Black women’s reproductive health rights in the guise of anti-racism is a common and offensive anti-choice trope. A related tactic is to use false narratives about Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger, as Huelskamp did after tweeting about the Maggie Award recipients.
Wanjuki said it was “upsetting” to be personally attacked by a sitting U.S. congressman, and found his comments offensive as a Black woman and a sexual assault survivor.
“To use a survivor as some sort of example is in really poor taste, and shows that they didn’t even bother to look at the issue to see what I’ve done and what I’ve gone through,” Wanjuki said. “And it’s just very clear that they’re using race when it’s convenient to them as part of their agenda.”