Family’s Life Turned Upside Down by Viral Misleading Image

[Editor’s Note: Charlotte McConnell identifies as non-binary and prefers the pronouns they/their.]

Charlotte McConnell woke early on Nov. 9 to call their husband before the halls of the psych ward they were staying in filled with the bustle of therapy groups, doctors, and patients coming and going. They looked forward to hearing about their two young sons, work, and life beyond the walls of Dominion Hospital.

Group therapy was scheduled for later in the day and could serve as a safety net should his wife need it, so Patrick McConnell figured it was the best possible time to break the news.

McConnell had become an overnight pariah in far-right corners of the internet, for a quote they never said, about a crime their son didn’t commit.

“Mother of Loudoun County Bathroom Rapist Blames Victim: ‘You’re 15, you can reasonably defend yourself,” the headline of one article read. It was posted by “Team Tucker Carlson,” featuring a photo of McConnell, and shared across the internet.

Six months prior, a teen sexually assaulted a schoolmate in a bathroom at Stone Bridge High School. Distorted accounts of the incident spread nationwide; critics pointed to the assault as a consequence of the wokeness that enveloped Loudoun County and the people elected to run it. Pundits on the national news erroneously reported that the assailant was transgender, allowed in the girls’ bathroom thanks to a controversial policy, which in fact had not yet been implemented.

McConnell had delivered public comments during School Board meetings numerous times over the past several years. A media member snapped a photo of McConnell during a May meeting, donning one of the rainbow masks they’d sewn to raise money for the group Equality Loudoun. McConnell, who had just come out as nonbinary, wore their hair short. The top of a tattoo, representing McConnell’s sons, was visible under a Black Lives Matter tank top.

“Originally, the media was posing this rapist as being nonbinary. I really felt they were trying to connect those dots,” McConnell said.

The photo had been cherrypicked by bloggers and conservative outlets to represent the mother of the teen assailant.

“Of course. And of course it looks like this,” tweeted conservative critic John Cardillo to his quarter of a million followers.

His tweet was retweeted over 4,000 times.

Similar accounts shared the photo and headline as well. 

McConnell, battling chronic illness and mental health issues, said the powerlessness they felt not being able to defend their family from the hospital was overwhelming. 

“My husband was getting calls from friends across the county. He had to say, ‘yes, that is Charlotte. That’s where we live. But that’s not our story,’” McConnell said. “I was furious.”

McConnell was most upset that people who knew their family had associated the headline with their 10-year-old son. 

“My son knows about consent. He knows about his body,” McConnell said, through sobs. “That my son would do such a thing.”

The McConnell family is reeling from the anger and pain caused by the misrepresentation.

“I’m worried that one day I will walk down the street and somebody will say, ‘oh, aren’t you the mother of that rapist?’” McConnell said, adding that they are having their tattoo altered so it isn’t recognizable from the photo. The rainbow pride mask, for now, is retired from McConnell’s wardrobe. 

But there is no recourse for using McConnell’s likeness and misidentifying the family. None of the blogs or online sites captioned the photo using McConnell’s name, where otherwise willful misrepresentation might amount to defamation. The implication of the photo, though, is unmistakable to McConnell.

“There needs to be more intention, because there are people behind these pictures. It should say, ‘not pictured above.’ It did not specify my name, but it was obviously me. To the point where people are calling. And to think that for one second about my son…” McConnell trailed off, as words met sobs.

Following the incident, the McConnell family is planning to move out of Virginia. McConnell, who ran in the special election for the 33rd Senate District in 2018, doesn’t want to leave Loudoun.

“I love Virginia. I love Loudoun. I am a queer patriot … but I’m at the point where I’m scared to live here.”

Activist and advocate Charlotte McConnell misrepresented as the mother of a teen who raped a classmate.

16 thoughts on “Family’s Life Turned Upside Down by Viral Misleading Image

  • 2021-12-28 at 5:23 pm
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    Welcome to the horrors visited upon private people by those who make a buck or grab a rating point or generate a click off your misfortune. That’s what this country has become. Turn off social media and Fox News and this particular ring of Hell disappears…

    • 2021-12-29 at 10:50 am
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      If you see this as an issue with the far right only, you are part of the problem.

  • 2021-12-28 at 6:22 pm
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    This belongs on the opinion page or in an editorial. It is not really about education. But I have come to expect that from this reporter. One layer of the irony here is that this horrible situation is one of the tragic consequences of poor journalism. I hope that strikes home.

    And of course, this kind of horrific error is precisely what civil courts are made for. I hope this troubled person and their family find some relief in the courts and find a quiet place to retreat and recover.

  • 2021-12-28 at 7:15 pm
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    I remember this valiant person publicly commenting at the Aug. 10 school board meeting. Charlotte did so much to help dispel the myth of Trans predators. So sorry to read about all the pain & suffering visited upon them. I’d hate to see Charlotte leave Virginia. That’s what the harpies would like to see. But I totally underestand the safety concerns. I wish for Charlotte & all of Loudoun a much better New Year!

    • 2021-12-29 at 10:46 am
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      Tom, there are no safety concerns for Charlotte. None. This is simply more fake “threat” allegations with no factual basis.

      Charlotte clearly has mental health issues. And the left has lied about the identity of the rapist who was clearly identifying as trans/non-binary.

      It’s so unfortunate that our local papers push propaganda and Loudoun residents have to rely on national outfits to get accurate information on local affairs.

      • 2021-12-30 at 9:12 am
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        My name isn’t Tom. Please stop it with the nonsense. Happy New Year Loudoun!

  • 2021-12-29 at 12:22 am
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    It’s not surprising that the media only care about correcting “fake news” when their allies on the left are affected. Also not surprising that this article does the VERY THING it is complaining about–trying to hang something on the wrong person. “Team Tucker Carlson” is not affiliated with Tucker Carlson or Fox News,an important fact left out of this article.

  • 2021-12-29 at 9:50 am
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    I’m more confused than ever after reading this article? What exactly are “Trans Rights?” I understood that the Constitution of the US guaranteed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Furthermore, there are a number of amendments that specifically reference rights guaranteed by said Constitution.

    I don’t see where any of this persons rights were violated. She can wear whatever she likes, she can say whatever she wants, she can identify as a squirrel if she wants. If a news article intimated she was the parent of a child who committed a crime and it was in error, that’s unfortunate. Did the news article identified her child as transgender and he is not ? Or he is but he’s not the assailant? Or he is the assailant but he is not transgender? Its not clear. But censorship and errors in reporting happen on a daily basis.

    They are clearly free to live their life any way they want but to demand that the rest of world take a knee to their beliefs and ideology isn’t how it works.

    • 2021-12-30 at 9:36 am
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      Transgender rights?
      In many states, the trans panic defense allows assault or even the killing of a transgender woman by his or her date.
      In many states, medical care for transgender people can be restricted. Whether it’s transgender specific care or not.
      In many states, transgender students are forced to use the wrong bathrooms (many simply don’t use bathrooms at school because of this).
      In many states, there are no employment rights for transgender people.
      In many states, transgender women are placed with male inmates. Yah, then they’re pretty much continuously raped.
      In several states, transgender athletes are forbidden from sports.
      In several states, it is illegal to provide gender-affirming care to transgender youth.
      In many states, it’s impossible or very difficult to modify identity paperwork to reflect gender. Note – even after surgeries.
      Transgender people are treated as second class citizens. Under Trump, highly decorated combat veterans were forced out of the military. They were doing their jobs trying to provide for their families.

  • 2021-12-29 at 10:03 am
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    “Charlotte McConnell woke early on Nov. 9 to call their husband before the halls of the psych ward…” Misuse of pronouns makes for a difficult read. It’s no wonder “their” kid is messed up with the example he gets at home.

  • 2021-12-29 at 12:44 pm
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    Funny that the crowd bearing false witness is led by Christian extremists. I’ve been saying all along that the disinformation effort in Loudoun is being led by hate groups. One hallmark of a hate group is the willingness to distort facts and outright lie in furtherance of their views.

    Charlotte McConnell is a good person. A fighter. I love and respect her deeply. To see her and her family attacked this way sickens me.

  • 2021-12-29 at 1:02 pm
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    1. This is not a news article. A news article leads with who, what, where, when and how.
    2. This binary “they/them” nonsense is an affront to proper grammar and logic. I had to read this article three times to figure out that Charlotte and her husband weren’t both in the hospital.
    3. People are male or female. There’s nothing else. Please follow the science on that.
    4. Charlotte is definitely the victim of today’s sloppy “blogger journalism.” I’d be furious, too, if my picture was used in a story about someone else. The insinuation that her son was the assailant is very clear and I do wish she had some recourse for the trauma it’s caused her family.
    5. Charlotte is also the victim of today’s insane “transgender” culture. I wish she could understand that God made her a female and she’s beautiful exactly the way she is… as a mom, a wife, and a woman.

    • 2021-12-29 at 7:40 pm
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      Charlotte doesn’t identify as trans or non-binary. See how insinuation works? She’s simply an advocate. She identifies as female. Is a mom. And has two little boys.

      Wow.

      • 2021-12-30 at 4:13 pm
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        [Editor’s Note: Charlotte McConnell identifies as non-binary and prefers the pronouns they/their.]

        Should brush up on reading I Am.

  • 2022-04-29 at 10:12 am
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    The son was found guilty. They may not believe he would do it but obviously a judge/jury did believe it.

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