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Tag: critical race theory

Texas Governor Doesn’t Want King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech Taught In Public Schools

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Already trying to peel away voting rights in the state, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is also pushing a bill that would practically remove women and people of color from a portion of required social studies curriculum. Senate Bill 3 would no longer require teachers to teach civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream," the Emancipation Proclamation, and women's suffrage; What's worse the Senate in a 18-4 vote along party lines on Friday passed the governor's racist political vendetta branded as a ban on critical race theory.

The list of social studies elements stripped from required teachings includes "Native American history, work by civil rights activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, historical documents related to the Chicano movement and women's suffrage, and writings by Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass," according to The Texas Tribune.

Texas Senate Committee advances Critical Race Theory Bill | KVUE

Sen. Bryan Hughes, author of the bill, wrote in its text that a teacher or other school district employee may not "require or make part of a course inculcation" any concept that holds one race or sex superior to another, define a "hard work ethic" as racist or sexist, or assigns moral character with a particular race or sex. The bill would also prevent teachers and school employees from teaching that: "the advent of slavery in the territory that is now the United States constituted the true founding of the United States; or (...) with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality..."

The Senate bill follows earlier House legislation that similarly banned instruction that holds one race or sex superior to another or defines a "hard work ethic" as racist or sexist, or assigns moral character with a particular race or sex, and Abbott signed the bill into law during the regular legislative session. That legislation, however, added the requirement that diverse literature on race be included in school instruction. Abbott wants to change the law back to a version that doesn't include the diverse literature requirement, KVUE reported.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released the following statement obtained Friday by ABC-affiliated KVUE:

"Texans roundly reject 'woke' philosophies that espouse that one race or sex is better than another and that someone, by virtue of their race or sex, is innately racist, oppressive or sexist.
"Senate Bill 3 will make certain that critical race philosophies, including the debunked 1619 founding myth, are removed from our school curriculums statewide. Texas parents do not want their children to be taught these false ideas. Parents want their students to learn how to think critically, not be indoctrinated by the ridiculous leftist narrative that America and our Constitution are rooted in racism.
"Final passage of this bill into law will require the House Democrats who have fled the state to return to the House for a quorum. If they do not, this bill will die, but the Senate will pass Senate Bill 3 over and over again until the House finally has a quorum. I am grateful for Sen. Hughes' leadership on this important issue."

Hughes said in debate The Texas Tribune covered on the chamber floor that the Senate bill counteracts the "pernicious, wrong, harmful" effects of critical race theory. The race theory, however, is not taught in Texas schools and has been defined by scholars as a framework that suggests the U.S. legal system and laws that govern this nation are rooted in race and racism.

"When a fire starts in the kitchen, we don't wait for it to spread to the living room and bathroom, but we start to put it out," the Republican said. Democratic Sen. Juan Hinojosa countered with: "I don't see a fire in the kitchen."

Right-Wing Poll Shows Democrat Winning Virginia Governor’s Race

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A right-wing group's latest Virginia poll found that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe is leading Republican Glenn Youngkin. After the pollster tried to sway voters with a series of fearmongering attacks on McAuliffe, voters still backed the Democrat.

The American Principles Project, a dark-money group led by organizers of the failed anti-marriage equality movement, released a survey on Friday of 600 Virginia voters it deemed likely to participate in this November's election. It found former Gov. McAuliffe leading former investment firm executive Youngkin 46.4 percent -- 41.3 percent.

"Many political observers are already carefully watching Virginia as a bellwether for next year's midterms, and judging from this poll, Republicans should be cautiously excited," the group's president, Terry Schilling, claimed in a press release. "Despite Democrats' recent dominance in the state, Glenn Youngkin looks to be very competitive, thanks to widespread disapproval with the radical left-wing agenda being pushed by President Biden on down."

No Republican has won statewide in Virginia since 2009.

Schilling urged Youngkin and Republicans to put anti-LGBTQ attacks, criticism of the state's public schools, and fearmongering about anti-racism education "front and center" in the campaign.

But the poll's findings undermine much of his argument.

Among those surveyed, Virginians widely approve of President Joe Biden's job performance, 53.9 percent -- 45.2 percent. That number is almost identical to Biden's 54 percent -- 44 percent victory in the state last November.

It also found voters prefer Democratic candidates for the state House of Delegates by a margin of 45.4 percent -- 41.1 percent. Democrats hold a 55-seat majority in that 100-member body.

Though none of the people surveyed said they work for "the Virginia school system," 50.39 percent said they approve of the state's K-12 public schools, while just 35.5 percent disapprove.

When pressed about school reopening during the pandemic, just 44.4 percent said they want schools "fully open without mask mandates for students" for the 2022 school year. The majority (54.9 percent) said either that schools should reopen fully with mask mandates or that schools should keep the option of virtual learning. Youngkin has been pushing for a total return to in-person learning, regardless of COVID-19 safety considerations, since March, well before even most adults in the state were fully vaccinated.

The pollster asked several questions, trying to play up Youngkin's support for public funding for private and parochial schools and his support for a ban on teaching about "Critical Race Theory." But a minority of voters said either issue would make them more likely to support the Republican.

After hearing the group's attacks on McAuliffe, voters were again asked who they'd back. McAuliffe still was ahead 45.8 percent -- 42.9 percent.

In a radio interview on Friday, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam — who is unable to seek reelection under Virginia's one-term-in-a-row limit — called attacks on anti-racism education a "dog whistle" being used "to scare people in an election year."

"Critical race theory," he told WAMU, is "a graduate level academic subject that is not a part of our K through 12 curriculum in Virginia. I'll repeat that. It is not a part of our K through 12 curriculum. And what I'm interested in and what our administration is interested in is teaching an accurate version of our history."

This is not the first time the American Principles Project has tried to inject far-right social issues into political campaigns.

Last year, it spent millions of dollars on ads attacking Democrats over their support for LGBTQ equality.

"Biden and his fellow Democrats have pledged to use the power of the federal government to destroy women's sports and push young children into highly experimental and dangerous sex-change procedures," Schilling claimed in September. "In the coming weeks, we will be making sure voters in Michigan and nationwide know the extreme agenda Joe Biden and Democrats want to impose on the country."

The group devoted half of its $4 million investment in anti-transgender attacks to trying to defeat Biden and Democratic Sen. Gary Peters in Michigan. Both won anyway.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

‘Critical Race Theory’ Was Weaponized Against Obama In 2012 — And Flopped

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A few weeks before he died, Breitbart News founder Andrew Breitbart teased his masterplan to take down President Barack Obama ahead of the 2012 election. In part, the plan relied on associating Democrats with the little known academic study of systemic racism called "critical race theory" and rendering it radical and toxic enough to damage them in the upcoming election cycle.

"This election we're going to vet him from his college days to show you why racial division and class warfare are central to what hope and change was sold in 2008," Breitbart declared during a speech at Conservative Political Action Conference. "The videos are going to come out."

The most-hyped video among the ones Breitbart promised was ironically already publicly available and had been reported on during the 2008 election. It finally surfaced after Breitbart's death in early March 2012. The footage showed a law-school era Obama who was then the president of the Harvard Law Review talking about and hugging an academic named Derrick Bell at a 1990 protest. The video was supposedly evidence of Obama embracing — literally in this case — extreme anti-white views.

As Joel Pollak, then-editor-in-chief of Breitbart News, would tell CNN's Soledad O'Brien, "Derrick Bell is the Jeremiah Wright of academia. He passed away last year, but during his lifetime, he developed a theory called critical race theory which holds that the civil rights movement was a sham and that white supremacy is the order and it must be overthrown."

Ultimately, the smear attempt flopped. But it marked conservative media's first crack — led by Breitbart, Steve Bannon (who at the time was a board member of Breitbart News Network), and their employees — at poisoning the specific phrase "critical race theory" and seeding it in the wider public discourse.

This attempt may also partly explain why the current fear-mongering about critical race theory spread so fast and successfully. Right-wing media and activists, as well as their peers at conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan Institute, seem to know exactly what they are doing because they have dusted off the same playbook from 2012. And they even share some of the same funders.

Hug-Gate: Breitbart's Campaign Against Derrick Bell

Back in 2012, Breitbart and the rest of the conservative media apparatus were laser focused on painting Obama as a secret radical ahead of that year's general election — a tactic not all that much different from what they had tried in 2008. In fact, Andrew Breitbart's final written piece, published posthumously, connectedObama to famed leftist organizer Saul Alinsky.

Once the hug video was published, Breitbart flooded its homepage with stories about Bell and his supposed transgressions. Between March 7 and March 14, 2012, the site published dozens of video clips and articles purportedly exposing Bell, Obama, and critical race theory.

Then-Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro, a familiar face from the current discourse on critical race theory, painted Bell as a Louis Farrakhan-loving antisemite whose work Obama loved and assigned as reading in his law school classes.

On March 7, 2012, Shapiro authored a story headlined "Obama: 'Open Up Your Hearts And Your Minds' To Racialist Prof" in which he wrote: "This is just the beginning. And this video is a smoking gun showing that Barack Obama not only associated with radicals, he was their advocate."

Open up your hearts and minds -- Shapiro

Pollak and Shapiro also appeared on Hannity on March 7 to discuss their "exclusive" scoop.

On March 11, 2012, Shapiro penned a supposed critical race theory explainer in which he claimed that Obama's entire administration was "an ode to CRT."

In the months that followed, Shapiro's "CRT" motif was apparent in Breitbart's coverage of the administration. There were suggestions that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who graduated from Harvard Law in 1986, was suddenly an ardent proponent of critical race theory, as was deputy White House counsel Cassandra Butts.

At one point, Pollak suggested that then-Attorney General Eric Holder's infamous statement about the United States being a "nation of cowards" on race was evidence that Holder — and likely the rest of the Justice Department — were also under the spell of critical race theory.

In the end, the effort to paint the Obama administration as a bunch of secret radicals stationing critical race theorists at the head of every public institution was short-lived. Even reactionary Fox personalities like Geraldo Rivera and Bill O'Reilly panned Breitbart's big scoop in March.

Same funders, same playbook, different year

Fast forward to 2021 and right-wing circles are rabid with critical race theory outrage. Republican state legislatures are promoting legislation to curb it — even when they don't know what it is. School board meetings are being overrun by conservative activists who are organizing online. At every level, the GOP is betting on its new boogeyman to convert "racial anxiety into political energy" ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

And once again, Breitbart is publishing scores of articles about "critical race theory." Some are even written by the same guy, Joel Pollak, who was pushing the same narrative back in 2012.

Ben Shapiro, now one of the most popular conservative pundits in the country, is once again helping lead the right-wing media campaign against critical race theory. But this time his megaphone is bigger, broadcasting the same talking points about critical race theory to his millions of followers on major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Per Media Matters' internal data, Shapiro is responsible for 13 of the top 20 posts (receiving the most interactions) about critical race theory on Facebook since the 2020 election. Last month, we reported that among Facebook pages that post about politics, nearly 90 percent of the posts that mention critical race theory were by right-leaning pages.

There are even similarities in the dark money behind the 2012 and 2021 efforts. Robert Mercer (advised by Bannon, who became executive chairman of Breitbart after Andrew Breitbart's death) infamously financed Andrew Breitbart's early smear campaigns. His daughter Rebekah has donated large sums of money to two think tanks that seem to be behind the newest weaponization of critical race theory. Bannon, for his part, is now predicting the current anti-"critical race theory" campaign will not only win the House of Representatives back for Republicans in 2022, but may also prove to be a right-wing presidential winner in 2024.

Nearly a decade later, Breitbart News' failed smear of critical race theory is back — and this time it appears to be working.

Research contributions from Carly Evans.

Churches Are Challenged As Political Polarization Deepens

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

Most religious traditions follow a set of commandments, perhaps written down in a holy book. They differ in the particulars, but the sentiment can be boiled down to what's called the "Golden Rule" — treat others as one would want to be treated.

You don't need to subscribe to any faith; just strive to live with honor in a civilized society. But apparently, even that's too much for some folks who have other priorities.

This week, the welcome mat was out at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting. "Join us at the Nashville Music City Center for four full days of equipping, and inspiration," the invitation read. But that cheery message, and the words of Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC Executive Committee, that it's "a time for Southern Baptists to come together and celebrate how God is moving in and through our convention and churches," belied internal turmoil.

The SBC surprised some Tuesday when it elected Ed Litton as its president. In a close vote, Litton, who is seen as someone more interested in reconciliation than retribution, defeated Mike Stone, the candidate of those wanting to move the organization even further to the right. But in some ways, Litton's selection is only buying time for a denomination that is still divided over issues of racism and sexism.

Several of the SBC's signature leaders are walking to the exit doors, and they are not going quietly.

In a leaked letter, Russell Moore, who left his position as head of the denomination's public policy arm, accused leaders of disparaging and bullying victims of sexual abuse and failing to properly investigate their claims. Moore, who is white, had also described racist behavior he witnessed within the convention, followed by, he says, threats.

Beth Moore, the popular Bible study teacher and author (no relation to Russell), had long been at odds with many in the SBC over her criticism of Donald Trump's comments about women. The organization's handling of abuse accusations and its pattern of not listening to the women and girls who made them led her to declare this year that she was "no longer a Southern Baptist."

Two Black pastors ended their church's affiliation with the convention late last year after the leaders of six SBC seminaries released a statement that said"affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message."

One of the two pastors, Charlie Edward Dates, the senior pastor at Chicago's Progressive Baptist Church, wrote in an op-ed for Religion News Service: "When did the theological architects of American slavery develop the moral character to tell the church how it should discuss and discern racism? … How did they, who in 2020 still don't have a single Black denominational entity head, reject once and for all a theory that helps to frame the real race problems we face?"

Though it is the nation's largest Protestant denomination, the SBC has been losing members, so perhaps the election of Litton was an attempt to slow the debate and the exodus. If only many of its members had thought long and hard before throwing their lot in with Trump, who demands absolute devotion. Isn't there something in the Ten Commandments about that?

A Catholic Chasm

My own Catholic faith also is facing a headline-making reckoning.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its virtual meeting this week, had scheduled a vote on whether to permit its Committee on Doctrine to draft a document "to help Catholics understand the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist as the center of their Christian lives." Those spiritual words, from Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, the USCCB president, couch the intentions of a leading figure among the conservative cohort that would deny the second Catholic president, Joe Biden, the sacrament of the Eucharist because of his support for abortion rights.

The right to an abortion may be legal in the U.S., for now, but it is also a sin for Catholics.

That, of course, is true for Pope Francis. But he has warned conservative American bishops to avoid prioritizing an issue that has become a political litmus test. For Francis, it's complicated, though many U.S. bishops disagree. So much for all Catholics being controlled by this pope, with whom conservative Catholics have been feuding since he arrived at the Vatican.

A recent petition, organized by Faithful America and signed by 21,000 people, accused the bishops of weaponizing the Eucharist, and in a letter the group thanked the more than 60 bishops who opposed the USCCB vote. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who is archbishop of Washington, was one of them. So the president is in no danger of being turned away at a D.C. altar.

It's not a new debate, though John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, had to prove with words and actions that he would not let faith dictate his politics. Another famous Catholic politician, Mario Cuomo, had much to say on the subject, as he did on most everything.

In 1984, at the University of Notre Dame, no less, Cuomo, who died in 2015, said: "Better than any law or rule or threat of punishment would be the moving strength of our own good example, demonstrating our lack of hypocrisy, proving the beauty and worth of our instruction. We must work to find ways to avoid abortions without otherwise violating our faith. We should provide funds and opportunity for young women to bring their child to term, knowing both of them will be taken care of if that is necessary; we should teach our young men better than we do now their responsibilities in creating and caring for human life."

That would satisfy few today. As places of worship have reopened post-pandemic, the political divide in America has followed worshippers through the doors.

Misplaced Priorities

Would now be the time to act on other items on Pope Francis' agenda — climate change, migrants, poverty, racial justice and how to ease the grief of those who lost someone or something in this harrowing year?

What about the voting restrictions proposed in Texas that take special aim at Black churchgoers, with limits on Sunday voting, and seniors, who depend on these organized voting drives? And this is in a state that plunged its residents into endless crises during a freeze.

What about disabled voters, who worry these laws being enacted across the country limit access, preventing them from exercising their rights as Americans?

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose faith informed and inspired civil rights activism, once chided fellow ministers for failing to see the injustices in front of them. He might have a few relevant words.

As would the Rev. Dr. William Barber, who this week traveled to West Virginia to deliver a message to that state's Democratic senator, Joe Manchin — about voting rights and the minimum wage, poverty and power.

It was personal and political, and delivered with passion, as if on command.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

On Fox News, ‘Concerned Parents’ Are Actually GOP Activists

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Nearly a dozen of the Fox News guests the network has presented as concerned parents or educators who oppose the teaching of so-called "critical race theory" in schools also have day jobs as Republican strategists, conservative think-tankers, or right-wing media personalities, according to a Media Matters review.

Critical race theory is an academic legal framework which examines the systemic impact of racism in the United States. But "critical race theory," like "cancel culture" and "political correctness" before it, also functions as an umbrella term the right-wing movement uses to turn its mostly white adherents' racial anxiety into political energy.

In this case, a sophisticated, nationwide network of conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, media outlets, and GOP officials have seized on the term and, in the words of Christopher Rufo -- a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and a key player in the effort -- sought to render it "toxic" and apply to it "the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans." Republicans have proposed or passed a slew of legislation restricting "critical race theory" and hope to use it as a core part of their political strategy in upcoming local, state, and federal elections.

Fox, the leading propaganda outlet for the GOP, plays a key role in this strategy. The network has mentioned "critical race theory" nearly 1,300 times over the past three and a half months. The purportedly sinister spread of "critical race theory" provides a perfect framework for Fox's technique of highlighting local concerns to fuel the culture war. The network supercharges the individual, at times dubious, stories that filter up with the help of nationally backed local activists, other right-wing outlets, and social media. Fox has targeted the purported influence of "critical race theory" in corporate America, the military, and particularly schools, hosting parents, teachers, and other educators to talk about how they don't want it taught in their communities.

In several of those cases, the locals Fox has highlighted are also Republican strategists, conservative think-tankers, or right-wing media figures -- ties the network has downplayed or ignored altogether. This trend is particularly notable when Fox covers "critical race theory" controversies in Northern Virginia, a bedroom community for Washington, D.C., in a state where GOP gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin has sought to make his opposition a central issue in the fall.

"The first test will be here in Virginia," Fox chief Washington correspondent Mike Emanuel reported last month. "If this issue works in the governor's race in November, it will likely be part of the GOP campaign playbook in the midterm elections next year."

Republican strategists have every right to advocate for their children and their communities, if not to manipulate nationwide education priorities. But since Fox has identified opposition to "critical race theory" as central to the party's political strategy, the network has a responsibility to inform its viewers about exactly who it's talking to.

Ian Prior

Ian Prior

Fox has hosted Ian Prior at least 15 times to discuss various "critical race theory" stories, according to Media Matters' database of weekday cable news guests. Fox hosts and anchors have given him various introductions including "Loudoun County parent"; a "father" who "has gone from concerned parent, like many of you, to legal activist"; and "a Loudoun County, Virginia, parent and founder of"

Fight for Schools, which Prior leads, is a political action committee launched this year to support "common sense candidates" who oppose "critical race theory" in schools.

What Fox personalities tend not to mention is Prior's long career as a Republican political operative. He worked in top communications roles during the 2016 election cycle for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Karl Rove-fronted super PAC American Crossroads, and the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC that works to elect Republican senators which was founded by allies of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He then spent a year and a half as a top public affairs aide to Trump's first attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

Prior currently runs his own political communications consulting firm, is co-founder of a political newsletter, and is a senior counsel and spokesperson for Unsilenced Majority, "a grassroots conservative advocacy organization opposed to cancel culture in all forms" helmed by other Republican and right-wing media figures.

Prior had made dozens of appearances on Fox to discuss a range of issues before becoming a regular anti-critical race theory guest on the network earlier this year.

Quisha King

Quisha King

Fox host Tammy Bruce identified Quisha King as an "everyday American," "a Florida mom who took a bold stance against critical race theory" and as "that hero, the Northeast Florida co-chair of Moms for Liberty" during a June 11 appearance on Fox News Primetime; on-screen text also stressed her role as a "mom" and "parent." Anchor John Roberts likewise described King as "one mom" who is "going viral" for criticizing "critical race theory" and noted her Moms for Liberty affiliation during a June 14 segment on the "straight news" program America Reports; on-screen text during the segment also described her as a "mom of two daughters."

But King is also a Republican strategist. She was regional engagement coordinator for the Republican National Committee in 2020 according to her LinkedIn page, which states that she now runs her own political media consulting firm. On Twitter, she calls herself a "@gop 2021 Rising Star."

On Fox, King said teachers unions "want to remake America" and are "trying to raise up a generation that believes everything that they're pushing; they're trying to raise little woke Marxists" through "critical race theory," which she later added is actually "aligned with the KKK and true white supremacy."

Patti Hidalgo Menders

Patti Hidlago Menders

On June 4, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt described Menders and two other guests who oppose the supposed teaching of "critical race theory" in their schools as "three parents from Loudoun County, Virginia," and mentioned that she is "president of the Loudoun County Republican Women's Club."

Menders is also a Republican strategist. She is "Virginia State Strategist" for Majority Strategies, a GOP media consulting firm, according to her bio at the firm, which also calls her "the creator of the Loudoun Conservatives Care, a state PAC that fundraises for Republican candidates by organizing large scale events." Majority Strategies bills itself as "the only firm to work with every official GOP presidential nominee since 2000" and counts Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and two past Speakers of the House among its current or former clients.

Lilit Vanetsyan

Lilet Vanetsyan

Fox anchor Dana Perino described Lilit Vanetsyan as "one of the teachers who was at that school board meeting" in Loudoun County, Virginia, and suggested she was part of a "grassroots movement" during a June 9 interview on America's Newsroom. Bruce similarly identified Vanetsyan as a "Fairfax County teacher" when she was on the June 10 edition of Fox News Primetime.

Vanetsyan is also a right-wing media personality. She is affiliated with the Trumpist youth organization Turning Point USA and runs a "Teachers for Trump" Instagram account (which now largely posts about "critical race theory"). Vanetsyan was a reporter for the pro-Trump Right Side Broadcasting Network, according to a since-deleted bio on its website that calls her "a passionate educator who never hesitates to expose the public education system, the teacher unions, and the corrupt curriculum our children are spoon-fed." That bio also says Vanetsyan's goal is to open the "The Donald J. Trump School of Excellence" and quotes her saying, "If we want to change the world, we must start with the youth."

On Fox, Vanetsyan described "critical race theory" as an attempt to "indoctrinate our children."

Barry Bennett

Barry Bennett

On May 18, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade described Barry Bennett as an "AlexandrIa Little League parent and an informal adviser to the 2016 Trump campaign," and on-screen text throughout the segment identified him as a "Virginia Little League Parent."

Bennett, elsewhere described as a "senior adviser" to Trump's 2016 campaign, is also "one of the most prominent lobbyists of the Trump era," according to Politico. He co-founded Avenue Strategies with Corey Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign manager, after Trump's victory, billing the firm as "your sherpa through turbulent times" (Lewandowski left in 2017). After Trump's 2020 defeat, Bennett shuttered the company, which had been "loaded with lobbyists who had ties to Trump and the Republican Party," and founded Bennett Strategies, a government relations and political consulting firm.

Nicole Neily

Nicole Neily

Fox host Laura Ingraham introduced Nicole Neily as one of "two parents fighting against CRT in their schools" (Prior was Ingraham's other guest) and as "president and founder" of the organization Parents Defending Education during the May 26 edition of her prime-time show.

Neily has spent her entire career working in and for libertarian and conservative political advocacy organizations and think tanks, including stints at FreedomWorks, the Cato Institute, the Independent Women's Forum, the Franklin Center for Government and Public Policy, and Speech First, before launching Parents Defending Education in January.

Elizabeth Schultz

Elizabeth Schultz

Fox "news side" anchor Dana Perino introduced Elizabeth Schultz for a May 20 America's Newsroom interview by calling her a "former Fairfax County [Virginia] school board member." On-screen text echoed that description and also noted her affiliation with the group Parents Defending Education.

Schultz is also a former Trump administration official. She became locally notorious during her tenure on the Fairfax County School Board for voting against "expanding the school system's sex-education curriculum to include lessons on gender identity and transgender issues" and supporting armed teachers in classrooms. After losing a reelection bid in 2019, she became deputy director of the Office of Educational Technology at the Department of Education, according to her LinkedIn profile. In March, she joined Neily's Parents Defending Education group as a senior fellow.

On Fox, Schultz alleged that "our education system is being weaponized by school boards" that are "using taxpayer money to embed things like critical race theory." She plugged Parents Defending Education and its website and urged parents to "take back your schools."

Carrie Lukas

Carrie Lukas

Fox anchor Martha MacCallum introduced Carrie Lukas as a "a Virginia mom of five" on the April 27 edition of The Story. For much of the segment, on-screen text highlighted that she is a "VA mother," "parent," and a "Virginia mother of five," though the chyron briefly acknowledged toward the end of the segment that she is also "Independent Women's Forum President." She was interviewed alongside her daughter, an eighth-grader.

Lukas has worked at the Independent Women's Forum, a conservative think tank that says it works to "reduce government red tape and return resources and control to people," since 2003, according to her LinkedIn profile. She is also a contributor to National Review and the author of Checking Progressive Privilege, a book arguing that conservatives are "marginalized and stereotyped" in U.S. culture. She previously worked as a policy analyst for congressional Republicans and at the libertarian Cato Institute.

On Fox, Lukas said that instead of trying to "improve equity," Virginia should provide vouchers so that parents could use public funds to enroll their children in private schools.

Bridget Ziegler

Bridget Ziegler

Roberts introduced Bridget Ziegler as "the mother of three girls and a Sarasota County [Florida] school board member" on the June 10 edition of America Reports; on-screen text also described her as a "FL Mom" and a "Mother of 3 Girls."

Ziegler is also a Republican activist. She is a precinct committeewoman for the Republican Party of Sarasota County and a member of seven different local GOP organizations, according to her school board candidate bio.

On Fox, Ziegler said she is "so appreciative" of Florida's "great governor" Ron DeSantis for opposing the teaching of "critical race theory" in the state's schools. That "is why we call it 'Freedom Florida' here," she added, "because he's working and fighting for families to make sure that our children are going to be great, successful people and not be felt guilty by the content of their skin, or felt that they can't success because of the color of their skin, and that is exactly what this particular critical race theory or the anti-American issues that they are pumping into schoolhouses across America and in Florida [do]."

Deborah Flora

Deborah Flora

America's Newsroom anchor Bill Hemmer introduced Deborah Flora on June 3 as a Colorado "mother of two" who is also "president and founder of Parents United America." On-screen text also identified her as a "Douglas County School District mom." Flora later described Parents United America as "not political; it's nonpartisan. This isn't left or right; it's right and wrong."

Flora is also a right-wing media personality and activist. She hosts The Deborah Flora Show, a right-wing radio program airing on Denver's KNUS that brings on a variety of state and local Republican politicians and conservative activists. The station is owned by Salem Media Group, the right-wing radio giant that features hosts like Hugh Hewitt and Sebastian Gorka and reportedly pressured hosts to be more pro-Trump; former KNUS host Craig Silverman claimed in 2018 that his mic had been cut and he had been fired in the middle of his show for criticizing Trump (the station denied it). Flora is also "the Director of Public Policy for Salem Radio Denver." She became a right-wing celebrity in 2006 when she produced and starred in the anti-abortion film A Distant Thunder and later reportedly hosted "the first Beverly Hills 'Tea Party' rally" with the actor Pat Boone.

On Fox, Flora said that "equity policy is the same as critical race theory" and that it "divides … innocent children into oppressors and oppressed" which "damages both."

Joe Mobley

Joe Mobley

Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy introduced Joe Mobley on June 14 as a "father of three and U.S. Army vet" who had "rallied for education, not indoctrination" over the weekend in Loudoun County.

Mobley also hosts The Joe Mobley Show, a political self-help podcast that purports to teach conservative listeners how to respond to criticisms from liberals who engage in "massive misinformation campaigns" about them.

On Fox, Mobley agreed that "critical race theory" is racist, adding that its "singular purpose" is "to divide."

Research contributions from Tyler Monroe

Correction (6/17/21): This piece has been updated to correct a misspelling of Lilit Vanetsyan's name.

Poll: Fox’s Carlson Driving Republican Racial Agenda

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A recent survey by Punchbowl News and Locust Street Group found that 87 percent of GOP congressional aides considered Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson to be "the most influential Republican voice" outside of lawmakers and former presidents or vice presidents. The survey highlights the conservative star's meteoric rise in both right-wing media and Republican politics: The GOP has hitched its policy wagon to Tucker Carlson Tonight at the same time that Fox has gone all-in on branding Carlson as the face of the network. And the result is waves of culture war political posturing by Republicans that is informing everything from their tweets to legislation.

Fox has long been the communications arm for the GOP, and the revolving door between the Trump administration and the network laid bare the extent of the ties between the channel and Republican policymaking. With Donald Trump now out of office, the close relationship between Fox and the GOP continues -- with Tucker Carlson's monologues effectively becoming the party platform.

In April, the Republican Party released a memo outlining its intention to keep the party aligned with Trump and their mutual cheerleaders at Fox. The platform highlighted GOP priorities such as "anti-wokeness," the threat of China, and anti-conservative bias in Big Tech. The "traditional" issues of conservative politics -- taxes, deregulation, the national debt -- had disappeared, replaced by a list that reads more like a teaser for an hour of Fox News prime time.

Carlson has been curating the political priorities of his viewers for years. With an unofficial position as assignment editor to conservatism and a trademark "someone should do something" manner of presentation, Carlson has the ability to catapult virtually any topic to the top of the agenda. For instance, the recent panic over critical race theory that has seemingly possessed school districts overnight would have been impossible without Fox and Carlson. Notably, Carlson was responsible for platforming the harebrained drivel of Christopher Rufo, who served as director of the "initiative on critical race theory" at the Manhattan Institute and recently admitted that the goal of the hysterics is to turn the phrase into a dog whistle for myriad conservative grievances

In recent years, Rufo has made at least 15 appearances on Tucker Carlson Tonight -- the same show which has dedicated at least 71 segments to attacking critical race theory since June 5, 2020.

And it's not just Rufo using appearances on Carlson's show to get his message out; Republican politicians are also showing up to kiss the ring. In the last 18 months, they include GOP Sens. Josh Hawley (28 appearances), John Kennedy (13), Tom Cotton (8), and Marco Rubio (5), embattled Rep. Matt Gaetz (17), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (8), and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (6).

And Carlson has used their appearances to drive the manic coverage of a network that regularly sets the public agenda for GOP legislators. For example, a bill recently proposed by Republican state lawmakers sought to ban the teaching of critical race theory and enshrine "traditional history" in Texas' education system. Exactly what "traditional history" represents in this case, however, remains largely undefined. Instead, the bill and its components are a response to a fear manufactured by right-wing media. In other words, they echo long-standing tropes in the Fox cinematic universe: accusations that honest discussions about race are attempts at indoctrination or to rewrite history, suggestions that inclusive education is an attack on white students, and complaints that white people are the true victims of racism in America.

Curiously, the flurry of legislation in Texas and other states that would ban teaching "critical race theory" and other ideologies exists alongside ever-growing claims of anti-conservative censorship and repression that have swept Republicans over the course of the last year, with fearmongering from Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight at the center of both.

The contrived panic behind the Texas bill and others like it is emblematic of the legislative process of the modern GOP. In that process, Fox, led by frontman Carlson, latches onto an issue and carves it into the consciousness of viewers, leveraging their reach and influence to pull elected Republicans into the fold or drag them along if need be. Attacks on critical race theory are only the tip of the iceberg.

In just the first three months of this year, Fox News aired at least 72 segments on trans athletes, with Tucker Carlson Tonight once again setting the tone for the network's coverage. At the same time, a record-breaking number of anti-trans bills were also introduced in the United States this year, as at least 33states considered such measures and governors signed legislation against trans athletes into law in Arkansas,Mississippi, and Tennessee. Carlson himself gave cover to this extreme anti-trans legislation by lying about medical care for trans youth, and he even went so far as to describe the existence of trans people as "a challenge to the perpetuation of the species."

But the Fox host is also willing to attack Republican officials who didn't comply with his vision of the party platform. He savaged Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson in April for his initial veto of an anti-trans health care bill that the GOP leader described as a "step way too far." The month before, Carlson targeted South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem over "whether she was 'caving' to the NCAA by not signing a bill barring transgender women from competing in women's sports." Carlson followed up interviews with both Republican governors by continuing to criticize them in subsequent episodes, with right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ figures echoing his attacks.

Carlson has emerged as the unequivocal leader of the Republican Party's war on democracy. From his Fox perch, he often railed against the pandemic-led increase in mail-in voting throughout 2020, often getting facts blatantly wrong. Weeks before the election, he launched a conspiracy theory that a cabal of Democrats were planning to use such ballots to launch a coup, clearly setting the stage for what was to come.

When it turned out that Trump lost and Biden won, Carlson continued with the lies, only embarrassing himself further. He briefly criticized Sidney Powell's election conspiracy theories, only to later suck up toPowell associate, and Carlson's leading advertiser, Mike Lindell for pushing virtually identical lies about the election. Carlson was named in Dominion's lawsuit against Fox News. On January 4, Carlson claimed"virtually every power center on Earth" rigged the election for Biden.

And then the January 6 attack happened.

Carlson immediately set up his show as a spin room for a defense of the insurrectionists as people protecting their rights, declared that the attackers were not terrorists and it was not an insurrection, suggested that antifa was behind it, mocked people who feared for their life, launched a conspiracy theory about additional security after the attack, lied about white supremacist involvement, and demanded "answers" to his question while attacking efforts to establish an investigative commission.

Carlson then somehow hit a new nadir in recent days. Jumping off a blog post from a former Trump speechwriter fired after attending a white nationalist conference, Carlson claimed that the federal government was behind the January 6 attack on the Capitol building. Of course, he and his source were blatantly misreading charging documents, but Carlson was undeterred.

The claim was immediately picked up by some Republicans. Embattled congressional representatives Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greencalled for an investigation into the FBI, a stark contrast to the established anti-commission position of Republicans. As conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones jumped on board, Carlson is suddenly leading a "truther" movement about the attack.

The canary in the coal mine for this particular conspiracy theory was Carlson laughing about a plot during the height of the pandemic by right-wing extremists to kidnap Democractic governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer.

And perhaps no area has Carlson's influence over GOP posturing been more clear than the COVID-19 pandemic. Carlson took the stance that COVID-19 should be apolitical and addressed with seriousness at the very start of the public health crisis. But then he spent the next 15 months acting as the misinformer-in-chief. After declaring the pandemic over in April 2020, Carlson joined other Fox hosts to promote untested antimalarial drugs; championed protests against coronavirus mitigation efforts; ignored the climbing U.S. death toll and baselessly suggested it may have been exaggerated; mocked warnings of future casualties; accused Bill Gates of attempting to engineer "mass social control"; claimed the CDC's vaccine distribution plan was "eugenics" against white people; denounced public health measures and the scientists who supported them; and helped turn face masks into a culture war flashpoint.

Carlson's influence throughout the pandemic was key to turning public health and safety measures into high-stakes battles for the soul of the republic -- not only in the minds of his audience but also among prominentelected Republicans.

More recently, Carlson has insinuated that the vaccines may not be safe or effective and that scientists who say otherwise are lying. Clips of Carlson promoting anti-vaccine rhetoric have spread widely across social media, earning millions of views on Facebook. His recent claim that the COVID-19 vaccine was killing dozens of people a day was the culmination of months of speculation and fearmongering.

So what does it mean that the most influential voice in Republican politics trafficks in white nationalism, conspiracy theories, and outright falsehoods while at the same time wielding the power to shape public and legislative opinion? The GOP now largely has to deal with issues on Fox's terms, and Carlson's bad-faith hysterics over critical race theory, transgender people, the coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter, anti-fascism, immigration, and myriad other issues have created a climate in which legislative priorities do not match the tangible needs of the American people. Instead, conservative politics has been consumed by a feverish race to the far-right on issues that appear in Fox News' prime time -- with Tucker Carlson setting the agenda and enforcing the new party orthodoxy.