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R.I. state Senator Tiara Mack faces criticism for twerking on TikTok

A silly moment on the Fourth of July spiraled into a viral event that painted the progressive politician in a negative light among her critics, but garnered plenty of support from her fans

Rhode Island state Senator Tiara Mack in a screenshot from her viral Tiktok video posted on July 4, 2022.Screenshot via Tiktok

PROVIDENCE — State Senator Tiara Mack got more than just a little attention after she shared a video of herself, in a tiny yellow bikini, doing a headstand and shaking her backside on a Block Island beach.

Or, as the kids say: twerking upside down for a thirst trap.

“Vote Senator Mack!” she sing-songs into the camera at the end of the video, which she posted on TikTok Monday afternoon, from an account identifying her as a state senator.

Soon after, @LaurieinRI shared the video on Twitter. “Just waiting for the Glocester Ancient and Horribles parade to start, and someone sent me something Horrible for sure,” she tweeted. “This is Senator Tiara Mack. She argued hard to bring Anything Goes Sex Ed to your 11 year old.”


Hours later, @LibsofTikTok took notice, and honed the criticism of Mack’s progressive platform, focusing on the bill she sponsored that would require sex education courses in Rhode Island to “affirmatively recognize pleasure based sexual relations, different sexual orientations and be inclusive of same-sex relationships.”

Just before 10 p.m. Monday night, the senator was on Twitter, complaining that the video had sparked criticism. “Twerking upside down really makes the conservative, unhinged internet accounts pop off on a Monday,” she tweeted.

But while supporters flocked to TikTok to express admiration, the criticism on Twitter seemed to come from all across the political spectrum. Some complimented her body. Many called her unprofessional. More than a few said her behavior was insulting, especially to Black women. Others wondered whether she was being appropriate, given that she’s a sitting senator.

“I’m not a conservative and I’m disappointed,” @nikki_1968 noted on Twitter. “Where do we draw the line on the behavior of public figures?”

Mack responded on Tuesday morning by criticizing the media, though at that point no major media outlets seemed to have picked up on the video.


That changed on Tuesday, when Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and far-right darling Ann Coulter weighed in.

Another sitting state senator, Jonathon Acosta, directly addressed the elephant in the room.

“It’s public that I’m out here casually drinking, smoking weed, and spending as much time shirtless as the summer sun will allow and it’s not an issue because I have a penis,” he tweeted.

And others pointed to her success as a Senator, and suggested that critics back off.

By Tuesday afternoon, Republicans in Rhode Island were using the video to fundraise for Mack’s opponent, Republican Adriana Bonilla. Hours later, Mack’s supporters were also fundraising off of the controversy. And Mack returned to Tiktok for a series of videos clapping back to her critics.

“Do not hop on to the internet in 2022 as if the insurrection did not happen,” she said in one video. “Go talk to an insurrectionist. Go talk to y’all’s old president. Don’t come to me with this nonsense.”

“I have an Ivy League degree, and I’m a sitting state senator,” she said in another. “It’s not about what I’m wearing, it’s not about what I’m doing. They don’t respect me regardless.”

When asked about the video on Tuesday, Governor Dan McKee seemed confused.

“I have not seen it. What was the term you used? Twerking? I don’t even know what that means,” McKee told reporters Tuesday.


Lylah Alphonse can be reached at lylah.alphonse@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @WriteEditRepeat.