DeSantis administration sent undercover agents to an Orlando drag show and they found nothing wrong with it. The state is still trying to punish the venue.

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to Iowa voters on March 10, 2023.Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • Undercover agents were sent by the DeSantis administration to spy on a drag show, the Miami Herald reported.

  • The agents found nothing "lewd" about the show, according to their now-revealed report.

  • Still, Florida is moving ahead with a complaint against the venue to strip its liquor license.

Undercover state agents were sent by the administration of Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to spy on an Orlando drag show — and they found nothing "lewd" about it, according to the Miami Herald.

Yet, Florida has moved to revoke the venue operator's liquor license, alleging in an official complaint that the venue violated state law "by allowing performers to expose genitals in a lewd or lascivious manner and by conducting acts simulating sexual activity in the presence of children younger than 16 years of age."

Undercover agents who attended the December 28, 2022 show titled, "A Drag Queen Christmas," at Orlando's Plaza Live recorded the performance on their state-issued iPhone's and spotted three children at the drag show, according to the Herald, which obtained and published an incident report from the agents.

"Besides some of the outfits being provocative (bikinis and short shorts), agents did not witness any lewd acts such as exposure of genital organs," the agents wrote in their report, according to the newspaper. "The performers did not have any physical contact while performing to the rhythm of the music with any patrons."

The brief incident report noted that the agents also saw a sign: "While we are not restricting access to anyone under 18, please be advised some may think the context is not appropriate for under 18."

Even though the undercover agents reported that nothing lewd had happened on stage, Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation filed a complaint on February 3 against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation, the organization that operates the Plaza Live venue.

The complaint said that the drag show "featured numerous segments where performers engaged in acts of sexual conduct, simulated sexual activity, and lewd, vulgar, and indecent displays."

The Florida department alleged in the complaint that the show simulated "masturbation" and that performers' "prosthetic female breasts and genitalia" and "buttocks" were "intentionally" exposed to the audience.

The agency is trying to strip the venue of its liquor license.

DeSantis' office, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation did not immediately respond to requests for comment by Insider on Monday.

A Florida drag queen told Insider before the Miami Herald report was published that they were concerned about rumors of undercover state agents showing up at performances.

"Their job is to make us look bad," Mr Ms Adrien — who asked to go by their stage name — told Insider.

The drag performer added, "It feels like a setup. It's like if you sent anybody undercover to any comedy show to catch the comedian dropping an F-bomb and then out of context go, 'You see, look how dangerous this is.'"

"They're just trying to paint a picture that isn't real," they said. "And they're hitting us in our wallets, where it counts. They want us to broke and they want everybody to be afraid of us."

Meanwhile, Equality Florida, an LGBTQ rights organization, told Insider in a statement on Monday that the "previously undisclosed records from state agents confirms what we've known all along: Governor DeSantis' manufactured moral panic about drag shows is about generating right wing hysteria in service to his presidential ambitions."

"He is weaponizing state agencies, sending investigators to harass small business and performers, then discarding the reports of agents when it doesn't fit his agenda," the group said, adding, "Free states don't wield the power of government to punish small businesses for respecting the right of parents to determine what entertainment is best for their families."

The organization continued, "DeSantis' war on the LGBTQ community is all about politics and his own desperate desire to be President of the United States."

DeSantis has not yet announced a 2024 White House bid, but he is widely considered to be mounting a presidential campaign.

The DeSantis administration recently targeted the Hyatt Regency Miami after one of its facilities hosted "A Drag Queen Christmas" with minors present in the audience. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation filed a similar complaint against the hotel and is moving to revoke its liquor license.

Last summer, the state filed another similar complaint against a Miami restaurant.

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