March 9, 2024 - 2:00pm

The social media account Libs of TikTok (LOTT) has grown into a major player in American politics, and it is even influencing Democratic senators.

Pennsylvania senators John Fetterman and Bob Casey withdrew their request for $1 million in federal funding for an LGBT community centre this week after a LOTT tweet revealed that the venue allows its space to be used for BDSM and kink-themed “play parties”. The post, shared by Republican members of Congress, has so far received 4.7 million views.

The swift backlash was enough to persuade both senators to drop the funding request, with Fetterman saying he expected Republicans to kill the funding if he didn’t reluctantly pull the request himself. “I’m new here, but I wasn’t aware that Democratic values and priorities are dictated by Libs of TikTok,” the politician wrote.

This episode serves as the culmination of LOTT’s slow transition from online personality to major political influencer. The account, run by Chaya Raichik, first rose to national prominence in 2022, with Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan sharing her posts on air. LOTT’s output focused on videos shared by school teachers’ own social media accounts, describing the ways they bring identity politics, particularly on LGBT issues, into their classrooms while teaching young students.

Those clips played a major role in dictating the tone of the culture wars from 2022, as parents became increasingly concerned about sexually explicit content being taught to schoolchildren. Numerous school boards flipped from Democratic to Republican control that year, with Covid policies and LGBT curriculum debates driving much of the fight.

Raichik has claimed responsibility for multiple teachers losing their jobs after she shared their videos to her massive audience. For example, one teacher was fired after LOTT shared photos showing her allegedly filming OnlyFans content in the classroom. Another resigned just this week after a LOTT post drew attention to him wearing a pink dress to school on Valentine’s Day.

Until recently, the account primarily influenced Republicans. It was widely credited with inspiring a wave of state legislation restricting school lessons on gender and sexuality, most notably Florida’s 2022 Parental Rights in Education law.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, frequently shared and interacted with LOTT posts in the months preceding the passage of the legislation, much to the chagrin of progressive activists. Pushaw recommended following LOTT in multiple tweets, and credited the account with “opening [her] eyes” about teachers discussing sex and LGBT issues with children.

Buoyed by her larger profile, Raichik went on to be a speaker at CPAC in 2023. More recently, she was appointed to Oklahoma’s library media advisory committee after her account drew attention to several books marketed to young adults which contain graphic illustrations of sex acts. LOTT’s influence is, by all appearances, poised to keep growing. 

is UnHerd’s US correspondent.