On Tuesday, an ACLU North Carolina lobbyist, Kristie Puckett Williams, made graphic, sexually harassing comments to conservative radio host Pete Kaliner during a Twitter discussion regarding N.C. Senate Bill 49, the Parents’ Bill of Rights. Puckett Williams, deputy director of engagement at the ACLU of N.C., tweeted at Kaliner criticizing his support of the bill and used more graphic directions for performing sexual acts (which can be seen in edited screenshots below).
Carolina Journal reached out to ACLU of N.C. to inquire if Puckett Williams was still employed by them, which they confirmed. In a written statement, they stuck by her right to make the comments. They declined to issue any criticism of Puckett Williams or her comments.
“Statements made by employees of the ACLU of North Carolina do not reflect the opinions or policies of our organization,” ACLU of N.C. said in their statement. “We respect the right of everyone, including employees of ACLU of NC, to exercise the constitutional right to free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment, which includes the right to express their views as individuals on their own personal social media platforms.”
Not everybody was convinced by the statement, though.
“The ACLU’s response is a great defense of the First Amendment, but no one is wondering if Congress should pass a law to stop these types of tweets,” said Donald Bryson, president of the John Locke Foundation. “The question is whether or not the ACLU truly believes that a public advocate, hired by them, can say whatever they want to anyone at any time while representing the organization. It’s bad lobbying, bad politics, and a bad look when that same person is attacking a bill about codifying rights for parents.”
Others wondered how the reaction may have been different if the genders were swapped. Pete Kaliner, in comments to Carolina Journal, said he hadn’t even thought of that angle, since he doesn’t really “seek to be offended.” But he said that if a male lobbyist had made those kinds of comments to a female media personality, it would have likely been a “big story.”
“As an aside, if the ACLU is ever wondering why some of their legislative priorities don’t get a lot of support in the General Assembly, I have an idea of what that might be the case,” Kaliner added.
Williams has been an advocate for freeing violent prisoners. Her work on some legislation regarding incarcerated pregnant women has been celebrated by Gov. Roy Cooper, who made her a speaker at a bill-signing event. She has also been celebrated by Attorney General Josh Stein and given the Dogwood Award.
Carolina Journal spoke to her at a rally for prisoners in December 2021, where she defended freeing prisoners, even the most hardened.
“Most of those people were involved in violence with someone they knew and loved,” she said. “One-time actions, bad decisions, heated situations. We are not talking about the serial killers or rapists, but let’s talk about them. How do we know what they need if we are just locking them away? How do we know that we can’t disrupt and interrupt that pattern of behavior if we haven’t tried? Regardless of what they are there for, outside of mental health and substance use issues, if they are there for any crime, those crimes are trauma-related. The unhealed trauma is what drove those behaviors.”
Her explicit back-and-forth with Kaliner is below:
The ACLU-NC organization has been public in their opposition to the Parents Bill of Rights, which, among other things, would ban sexuality-based curriculum discussion in kindergarten through fourth grade.
The piece has been updated to include comments from Pete Kaliner.