Kirk Cameron and his buddies harassed a TN library until its director got fired
Hendersonville Public Library director Allan Morales offered to resign to stop the barrage of threats directed at his staff
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A Tennessee library director has been fired after right-wing personalities, including Christian evangelist and former TV star Kirk Cameron, made him out to be a villain who tried to disrupt Cameron’s event. (He did no such thing.)
On Wednesday, the Sumner County Library Board voted 4-3 to fire Hendersonville Public Library director Allan Morales. It was the only significant item on the agenda.
It should also be pointed out that Morales may have sacrificed himself to protect the library staff. (More on that later.)
It’s the latest skirmish in Cameron’s months-long effort to vilify public libraries. Back in December, Cameron falsely claimed libraries were censoring him even while welcoming drag queens and hosting LGBTQ-friendly events. The publishers of Cameron’s new book wanted public libraries to sponsor events in which he would read his book to kids. In practice, that meant advertising the events on their websites and marketing the readings as they do other children’s events. Many of them said no.
Public libraries are under no obligation to use their resources to promote people or books that espouse hateful messages. A drag queen reading a story about inclusion and acceptance wouldn’t be a problem, but a bigot wanting to use the library’s resources to preach intolerance wouldn’t be given the same platform.
Just about all these libraries, however, had no issue renting space to Cameron to host his own events, just as they would anyone else who agrees to follow their rules. I even made a video about this at the time:
Here’s the important thing to know about Cameron’s tour: He’s not actually interested in reading books to a few dozen kids at a time. He’s using his book to generate media attention for himself and his larger cause. That means if a library says they don’t want to promote his events, he’ll claim it’s persecution. If they don’t give him the exact space he wants, he’ll say they’re attacking his faith. If fewer people than expected show up, he’ll just exaggerate the numbers.
His whole schtick is pretending he’s the good guy facing off against evil. It doesn’t matter what the reality is.
The mistake made in Hendersonville is that library officials didn’t share their side of the story because they wanted to remain above the fray. That allowed Cameron and his allies to shape their own (false) narrative about what happened.
Here’s the story as best I can piece together: Cameron was slated to speak at the library on Saturday, February 25. When right-wing commentators began encouraging people to attend the event, the estimated attendance of “thousands” was much larger than the library could accommodate. So they initially moved the event to a local church called the Fire Place Fellowship:
No big deal. The event would still continue. The church simply had a larger capacity. Within a day, however, the event was moved back to the library. (The reasons for the change are unclear. The Hendersonville Standard, a local newspaper, has since removed two stories from those days from their website.)
Whatever the reason, the library announced the change on Facebook and seemed fairly supportive of what Cameron was doing. They asked people to be “patient with the space limitations” but that they were “excited” to host the event.
Nothing about that post suggested any bad blood between the two sides. (It’s honestly far more accommodating than it needs to be.)
Still, by the end of the week, that got twisted into a very different story. FOX’s Maureen Mackey (whose beat apparently involves reprinting anything Cameron says) put it this way:
A Brave Books spokesperson told Fox News Digital on Saturday, "A head official at the library threatened to cancel the event… The official at the library tried to say that too many people would be coming, and the library couldn’t handle it. As soon as the library's board of directors and the community heard this, they were against this decision and the library staff backed down."
The article offers no proof that anyone “threatened to cancel” the event but the space issue was a legitimate concern! A library, like all public buildings, have limitations on how many people they can have inside. If they believed “thousands” of people would attend, then that’s a very real concern regardless of what the event is!
Cameron’s publisher was acting like the library shutting down the event because they couldn’t handle the crowds amounted to persecution. Really, it may have just been about safety. But somehow, the library found a way to resolve the issue.
Problem solved, right? Of course not. Just to throw more fuel on the fire, Riley Gaines, a swimmer best known for whining about trans athletes, attempted to film a promotional video for the event inside the library… then flipped out every time she heard noise. She claimed the staffers were doing it deliberately, though it’s not clear Gaines or anyone else had reserved any space in the library to film the videos.
“I’m in front of the camera and I’m filming my piece and all the sudden the staff started blaring music,” Gaines told us. “And so I asked them, ‘hey guys we have sixty more seconds … I just need to film this one time and then you guys can play all the music you want.'”
“And so these older women, librarians, came out from behind the desk and they said ‘well, actually we’re not turning the music off. We’re using the music, this is how we cope, with the stress that you’re putting us under. We don’t have to turn the music off because it’s for our mental health,'” she added.
While the librarians’ words aren’t corroborated anywhere else, Gaines is under the false impression that she can force everyone else to be quiet when she’s trying to use the library space to film propaganda. The arrogance is unbelievable. It just led to more backlash against the library from the conservative mob.
Despite all that, the event took place in the library that Saturday. Plenty of people showed up. Cameron should have thanked the library for accommodating him.
Instead—predictably—his team still found reasons to complain and milk the publicity machine.
Gaines, [Missy] Robertson, and [Brave Books’ Zach] Bell told [the Daily Wire] the staff also made it “difficult for people who were there to attend the event.” Riley explained that they wouldn’t let the attendees enter through the main entrance which she said they closed to people who were there for the event. She said the staff then made attendees “enter through a side door.”
Robertson said after the public library opened, the staff “made everyone stand out in the cold and rain.” She said when she left “there were hundreds of people and families lined up down the sidewalk, around the building and down the street standing in the cold.”
Bell told us they estimate that 700 people showed up for two book readings and said he wasn’t sure why the staff made the families stay out in the cold and rain until they all could filter into the conference room that held 300 people at a time.
“We weren’t trying to be divisive … he [Morales] wanted to give us as little access to the library as possible, just the room that we had rented,” Bell shared.
To summarize, Cameron’s team rented one room and the library gave them access to… the one room that they rented. Cameron’s team got mad about that.
And then the staff made sure people attending the event could get to the room through a side entrance, presumably so everyone else wanting to come into the library could still use the main entrance. Cameron’s team got mad about that.
And then the library tried not to violate any fire codes by limiting access to the space to the room’s capacity. Cameron’s team got mad about that.
Bell didn’t mention that families were told to stay outside in the rain because the library wasn’t open at the time. Cameron’s team got mad about that.
Making matters worse, the Right latched on to one comment made by Morales, the library’s director, when he realized the crowd size would be much bigger than expected.
Trent Talbot, CEO of Brave Books, told Fox News Digital in an emailed statement over the weekend, "A Hendersonville library director pushed back on our Freedom Island Tour event, calling it more than a story hour, a movement — and he's right. This is a movement," he added, "and we are fighting for the hearts and minds of our children as well as our institutions like the library system."
The context is missing there. If the room was rented under the guise of a book reading, and then the library director realized Cameron was bringing along a member of the anti-LGBTQ Duck Dynasty show (Missy Robertson) and an anti-trans activist (Riley Gaines), then it’s fair to say the room was rented under false pretenses. This wasn’t about reading a book to kids. This was about hosting a right-wing event. This wasn’t going to be a small book reading. This was going to be a MAGA rally by a different name.
It’s easy to see how someone might make a flippant comment about a “movement” coming to the library, but Cameron’s publisher suggested it was something far more nefarious than intended. Cameron, who is happy to lie to further his conservative Christian faith, has never been known to take the ethical high road given the chance to throw progressives under the bus.
Even Hendersonville Mayor Jamie Clary, who said he “enjoyed” Cameron’s event “tremendously” and praised the anti-trans Gaines as a “role model” for his kids, pushed back against the FOX propaganda:
If I am going to praise people who live their values, I need to live my values as well. I need to speak up for others.
The library staff has been vilified unfairly. Fox News, a national outlet with nobody in Hendersonville this past week, took a comment from the publishing company that was terribly inaccurate. I spoke with library staff several times last week and have interacted with them many times previously. I never saw any sign that they disagreed with Kirk Cameron's message. From everything I experienced, their concerns throughout the week were the patrons of the library and the safety of the people attending the event.
The library staff canceled some regular events yesterday to accommodate Kirk Cameron's event. They came in early. They were pleasant to everybody I saw them interact with.
I appreciate the people who made this event happen: Kirk Cameron, Riley Gaines, John Isbell, the county library board, county commissioners, the library staff, and the police officers. The only group I take issue with is Fox News.
It was a meek defense of the library and it didn’t help. Right-wing media outlets published multiple articles about the so-called harassment of Cameron and his allies. That’s why it wasn’t a surprise when, this past Tuesday, the staff received a bomb threat via email.
Even though the event was over, the library’s staff was dealing with the aftermath of the Christians who used their space.
And then, on Wednesday, the library board fired Morales for what happened during the Cameron event. A local news channel explained that Morales was punished due to what Cameron’s team was saying about the library:
Morales lost his job because of viral accusations by actor and author Kirk Cameron, former swimmer Riley Gaines and "Duck Dynasty" personality Missy Robertson.
"To terminate him so publicly. That was not right. That's not right, that I know for sure," [said Morales’ sister Marilyn] Kleist.
"That is shocking, and it's sad and it has literally divided a community. It has, you know, branded the library team in ways that only told one side of the story," said Kleist.
She makes an important point: We’re only hearing one side of the story, and it’s the side that knows exactly how to amplify conservative outrage. The library staffers and government officials have no clue how to respond in kind, and they seem to think there’s value in staying neutral and not saying anything substantive. There isn’t. If Cameron and his allies lied, the library staffers ought to say so. It’s pathetic that the board of directors fell for a right-wing hit job. It makes it sound like Morales did something wrong when, by all accounts, the event went extremely smoothly despite all the obstacles created by Cameron’s team.
Kleist said she hoped Cameron and his allies would show up to defend her brother, but, of course, they were long gone. They’re like arsonists who set a fire then run away before the flames get too high. No one should expect better from people famous for their faith-based bigotry.
There is one detail, however, that has received surprisingly little attention.
WKRN News 2 obtained an email from Morales to the library board in the wake of the bomb threats in which he made some suggestions for how everyone should move forward.
The news station’s report actually downplays the content of his message:
“If this continues, someone might get hurt,” wrote the library director in an email obtained by News 2.
He also wrote that there have been multiple threats to the library since the event, he wants an increased police presence at the library and is calling on the county lawyer to send a cease and desist letter to the event host.
A screenshot of the email tells a bigger story:
Notice one of the suggestions (#6) made by Morales: “I have offered my resignation prior to help diffuse [sic] this thing…”
He seems to be saying that he’ll take the fall and play the bad guy if that’s what it takes for right-wing zealots to stop threatening the lives of his staff. If that’s accurate, it would be an incredible act of bravery and would explain why library board members decided to fire him despite plenty of evidence showing Morales going above and beyond for Cameron.
That email didn’t come up during Wednesday’s meeting of the Sumner County Library Board, but several members of the public spoke positively about Morales and his contributions to the community:
There’s no video of the board explaining their votes because that conversation occurred during an executive session. It’s not clear whether the four members who voted to fire him did so reluctantly or whether three members voted the other way because they didn’t want to sacrifice a perfectly fine library director to appease conservative extremists.
Morales did not respond to a request for comment. If he gave up his own job to protect his staff, though, because Kirk Cameron and his allies left a trail of faith-based terrorism in their wake, it would be a stark rebuttal of everything conservatives are saying in their media bubble.
Conservative Christians are the first people to claim they're being persecuted when ever they're prevented from forcing their beliefs on others. They are also the first people to persecute others given the chance. Cameron, having failed to make the transition from child actor to adult, has staked out a new career as a professional victim. His behavior here is reprehensible, but when people convince themselves they're operating under divine sanction they can justify anything.
I've had the honor to be married to a librarian for half a century, and there are no more dedicated and constantly beleaguered guardians of free speech and free thought than these underappreciated civil servants. I've never seen them as broadly and viciously attacked as they have been in the last two years. They have been protecting the rights of the public for decades, and now they need and deserve the support and protection of the public in return.
I have come to reeeeaallly hate Kirk Cameron, far beyond the dismissive disdain I used to feel about him. He's a lieutenant in the Christian nationalist army.