Wisconsin Library Worker Says Republican Candidate Threatened Her Over Gay Pride Book Display

Trump-endorsed Wisconsin Republican "terrified" teenage library worker with his objections, she said

Derrick Van Orden
Derrick Van Orden. Photo: Joe Scarnici/FilmMagic

A Republican congressional candidate in Wisconsin allegedly confronted a teenage library worker over a book display marking Pride Month in June, creating a "very uncomfortable, threatening" situation.

Library staff said the candidate, Derrick Van Orden, demanded that the display books celebrating gay Pride Month be taken down.

"His voice was loud, he was aggressive, he had his finger jabbing into (the book) constantly," Kerrigan Trautsch told the La Crosse Tribune about the June incident. Trautsch was 17 at the time of the incident.

Library director Nancy Ashmore told PEOPLE that Van Orden came to the library three times that day – the first time he complained about the Pride book display, the second time he got a library card and checked out most of the books, and the third time he returned the books.

"He's one of several people who complained, but because he's a politician, he got the most attention," Ashmore said. "He was upset when he came in the first time. When he came back later in the day, he was much more reasonable and calm."

Van Orden, 51, is running for Congress in Wisconsin's 3rd district, a seat currently held by Democrat Ron Kind. Kind defeated Van Orden in 2020; Kind announced that he will not run in 2022.

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Van Orden, a former Navy SEAL. Van Orden was on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol during the riot by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, but has denied reports that he entered the Capitol itself.

Ashmore said Van Orden objected to the book display — which featured children's books — being in the children's area of the library, and also told her the books were not factual. He specified one book, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, as being not true.

That book, by a staffer from HBO news show Last Week Tonight, is a parody of a children's book by former Vice President Mike Pence, and revolves around a rabbit marrying another rabbit of the same sex.

"He's quite right, it's not factual," Ashmore said of Van Orden's objections. "But it's not supposed to be. It's fiction."

Van Orden issued a statement to the Tribune saying he supports equal rights for the LGBTQ community.

Trautsch, who identifies as as member of the LGBTQ community, said she was terrified after the encounter with Van Orden.

Ashmore said Trautsch returned to her job as a library page, and is now heading off to college.

Ashmore also said other library patrons objected to the Pride month display, but many others emailed and called to support it.

"The display grows every year, because we keep getting more materials," said Ashmore, who has worked at the library for 30 years. "It will keep getting bigger. It's something we do every year, and we intend to keep doing."

Related Articles