Officials at a New Hampshire high school are pushing back after Republican Senate nominee Don Bolduc perpetuated a widely debunked conspiracy theory that litter boxes are being made available for students who identify as cats.
Bolduc, a retired Army general who is challenging Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan, made the outlandish claim during a campaign event in North Hampton last month, according to audio obtained by CNN. He’s made similar comments on at least one radio show before.
“Guess what? We have furries and fuzzies in classrooms,” Bolduc told the crowd of supporters, referring to a subculture centered on anthropomorphized animals. “They lick themselves, they’re cats. When they don’t like something, they hiss — people walk down the hallway and jump out.”
Bolduc said schools “let children lick themselves and then touch everything. And they’re starting to lick each other,” adding, “I wish I was making it up. I honestly wish it was a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit.”
Bolduc claimed that schools in Claremont, Dover, and Derry were “putting litter boxes” around classrooms for children there to use. He named Pinkerton Academy, in Derry, specifically, prompting the school this week to release a statement calling the baseless allegations “entirely untrue.”
“It has come to our attention that at a recent event ... Don Bolduc named Pinkerton in false claims suggesting that unhygienic, disturbing practices are taking place in our classrooms and spaces on campus,” the school tweeted.
Pinkerton Academy officials also invited “all political candidates” to speak with administrative members or visit the campus “so they can inform themselves about our school before making claims about what occurs here.”
Dover School District Superintendent William Harbron also refuted the claim, and told the Concord Monitor that there are no litter boxes in any classrooms.
At least 20 conservative candidates and elected officials have spread the bizarre hoax that schools are providing litter boxes in classrooms, or making other accommodations for students who identify as cats, according to a report from NBC News.
The investigation determined that there is no evidence that any school has deployed litter boxes for such use. Only one school district — Jefferson County in Colorado, where Columbine High School is located — was found to stock classrooms with small amounts of cat litter, along with other emergency supplies. But the items are there in case students are locked down in a school shooting situation, NBC News reported.
The spread of the urban myth by high-profile figures and on social media comes amid the culture war over gender identity that has embroiled schools nationwide. Alongside the extreme rhetoric, a raft of anti-LGBTQ legislation affecting students at public schools has been supported by Republicans in recent years.
Despite the viral rumor being shot down repeatedly, Bolduc said he was “not backing down” about the accusation against the schools that he made, NBC News reported on Wednesday. He said school officials need to “prove” that the claim about the litter boxes is false.
Bolduc, who was endorsed by former president Donald Trump on Monday, has peddled a number of conspiracies, including denying the outcome of the 2020 election, during the Senate race. An Emerson College polling survey released Friday showed that incumbent Hassan maintains a 4-percentage point lead over Bolduc.