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We’re Here. We’re Queer. We Live in Sevier: Responses to Institutionalized Homophobia in Sevier County

Sevier County, Tennessee is known for many things. First, it is recognized as the birthplace of and genesis for the career of Dolly Parton. It is also known for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and for being a major tourist attraction. But it will also now be known as home to Warren Hurst.


Sevier County Commissioner Warren Hurst made national news in October when he decried the fact that openly gay Pete Buttigieg was running for president stating, “We’ve got a queer running for president, if that ain’t about as ugly as you can get.” Said Hurst, a 30 year member of the county commission. He went on to say that, “a white male in this country has very few rights.” The remarks led to protest where many local residents responded with messages of love for all people and warnings against intolerant leadership within the county [Full disclosure: the author of this post attended the protest].

Sevier County Courthouse in Sevierville

The Sevier County Courthouse was the site of recent protests against homophobic and racist comments by Commissioner Warren Hurst. Source: Brent Moore via Wikipedia.


In the past year, Tennessee has had its share of controversies related to political opposition to the state’s LGBTQ community. In addition to Hurst’s comments, this has included a local district attorney refusing to prosecute in domestic violence cases of LGBTQ couples, and a Knox County Sheriff Officer saying that the state should arrest and execute all LGBTQ people. While these and other comments have been met with wide condemnation from many residents, politicians, business leaders, and entertainers, not everyone opposed Hurst or these others in the statements that they made. In order to get a closer look as to what the commissioner’s defenders are saying, we go to Social Studio.


After creating a topic profile using the keywords “Hurst” and “Sevier,” we see that there are more than 700 tweets on the topic in the past few days. To help narrow down further, we look at the Sentiment and see about half of the post have a positive sentiment while half have a negative one. We will look at the positive results.


A review of the sentiments suggests that an overwhelming number of messages were opposed to Hurst. Some messages did defend him on first amendment grounds, but we did not come across many examples of direct support for Hurst except for comments from a white nationalist group.

The few defenders of Hurst on social media did so on first amendment grounds with the exception of some white nationalist groups. Source: Twitter


If you wanted to do a deeper analysis into what is being said in the tweets, you could download the information as CSV file and do more indepth analysis. That is one of the many resources available through Social Studio for your research. If you have not already done so, check us out today!