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Fox News Lied About Critical Race Theory In 2021-- Over And Over Again

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Over the last year, conservatives spun “critical race theory” (CRT) into a key phrase in the national cultural and political landscape, marking a new battle in the unceasingculturewars. Right-wing media and hundreds of right-wing Facebook groups helped, using empty but dangerous and often racist rhetoric to depict CRT as a threat and energize the Republican base.

Critical race theory is a decades-old academic framework, typically taught in graduate-level courses, that explores how racism is structurally embedded in U.S. institutions. However, conservatives have co-opted the phrase to bash any discussion of systemic racism and racial justice efforts. In particular, right-wing activists have attacked curricula in K-12 classes, where critical race theory is not generally taught. Anti-CRT advocates instead push for children to be miseducated by a whitewashed version of history that ignores systemic racism and the culturally diverse history of the country, including contributions of Black people and other people of color. The push against CRT has also converged with anti-LGBTQ movements, with many of the same tactics used to attack LGBTQ inclusion and specifically target trans individuals.

Right-wing media’s manufactured hysteria about CRT has helped spawn bans on books and on teaching certain concepts in many states and school districts, undermining educational standards for American students. As of December, 29 states have introduced bills or taken other steps to limit how public school teachers can discuss racism and sexism in the classroom, and 13 states have enacted such restrictions. This strategy is part of a long history of white backlash against racial justice movements in which right-wing media have gleefully led the way. Right-wing attacks on public education also dovetail with a larger conservative push to privatize K-12 schooling.

Republicans’ electoral strategy around CRT dates back to at least the 2012 election, when conservative media figure Andrew Breitbart tried to accuse then-President Barack Obama of embracing “anti-white” views by linking him with prominent critical race theory scholars. A decade later, GOP candidates in state and local elections in 2021 (sometimes successfully) embraced anti-CRT rhetoric to sow panic among their voter base and gain support for their campaigns. Hysteria over CRT has also triggered discord in school board meetings across the country, inspiring dozens of recall efforts and spurring anti-CRT figures to run for school board seats. In some cases, right-wing activists and parents have harassed and sent death threats to school board members and administrators, driving some to resign. Meanwhile, Fox News has already framed CRT as a “new hot-button issue” going into the 2022 midterm elections.

A feedback loop of astroturfing campaigns, cozy relationships between conservative activists and right-wing media, and online disinformation has spread lies that undermine public education and obscure the truth about structural racism in America.

Here are some examples by the numbers:

  • Fox News started its CRT narrative in the summer of 2020 and has been hammering it for nearly18 months. Fox News has hosted Chris Rufo, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and one of the primary drivers of the CRT panic, at least 52 times since July 2020. Rufo started ginning up controversy around critical race theory at the time of the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020. Earlier this year, he admitted that conservatives have opportunistically “appropriated” the CRT label for political purposes.
  • Fox News mentioned CRT over 3,900 times in 2021 — including at least 900 times in June alone.
  • Fox News mentioned CRT at least 260 times during the week of the 2021 election, October 31 to November 6.
  • Fox News has mentioned CRT over twice as much as MSNBC and CNN combined in 2021.

Here's How Fox News Turned CRT into a Boogeyman

critical race theory

Molly Butler / Media Matterss3.amazonaws.com

  • Between March 1 and June 30, Fox News ran nearly 80 segments on anger over CRT in a single Virginia school district, amounting to 4 1/2 hours of airtime.
  • Fox News has also interviewed at least 15so-calledconcerned parents -- who are actually right-wing anti-CRT activists -- without identifying their political connections. These political operatives appeared on Fox shows at least 119 times in 2021 alone to talk about CRT.
  • Fox News filmed at least one choreographed campaign stop with a local right-wing anti-CRT politician, passing the segment off as a network correspondent meeting with regular people in a diner.
  • Anti-CRT group Moms for Liberty has appeared on or been favorably mentioned by right-wing media at least six times. Moms for Liberty's co-founder has attempted to derail desegregation efforts in a Florida school district, and the group recommends a book by a slavery sympathizer as a “helpful” text “when discussing the founding documents” of the U.S.
  • From June through October, right-wing network One America News (OAN) aired at least 15 attacks on local school boards nationwide related to CRT.
  • In the four days after the Justice Department announced it would offer assistance to local authorities aiding school board members who were facing increased threats due to the anti-CRT outcry, Fox News aired at least 60 segments on the news.
  • On its daytime programs from April 23 to April 30, Fox News ran at least 12 segments on a false claim that so-called woke administrators in Virginia were cutting advanced high school math classes as part of a confrontation over “controversial ideas surrounding equity and race.”
  • After Fox’s Tucker Carlson interviewed the founder of the anti-CRT group No Left Turn in Education, who has espoused blatantly toxic and bigoted views, the group’s Facebook page went from fewer than 200 followers to over 30,000 followers in just one day.
  • At least 116 Facebook groups specifically opposing CRT have amplified right-wing ideological agendas related to school policies and even organized protests at board meetings.
  • From the November 2020 election through May 17, nearly 90 percent of Facebook posts about CRT came from right-wing pages posting about U.S. political news.
Article reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Right-Wing Media Won’t Stop Lying About Afghan ‘Hanged’ From Chopper


Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Multiple right-wing media figures, outlets, and social media users falsely claimed that a viral video showing a man in Afghanistan suspended from a helicopter was an execution by the Taliban. Other footage of the flight showed the man alive and well, and reportedly he was attempting to fix a flag.

This narrative is just one example of multiplefalsehoods spread by conservatives to attack President Joe Biden following his decision to withdraw U.S. military forces from Afghanistan.

As Media Matters previously wrote, Fox News host Sean Hannity aired the footage on the August 31 edition of Fox News' Hannity, falsely claiming it showed the Taliban dangling a hanged man from a Black Hawk helicopter in Afghanistan. But Hannity's claim had been debunked before his show aired.

Conservative media personalities and politicians — including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) — also repeated the false claim on Twitter, using it to criticize the Biden administration's decision to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Cruz later deleted his tweet, writing that the information in it "may be inaccurate."

A tweet by Rep. Jason Smith that reads "On the day that we see innocent people hanging from an American helicopter, the Biden Administration decides to pull out early leaving behind hundreds of Americans and even more innocents to die at the hands of the Taliban. It's unacceptable and heartbreaking."

A Fox anchor along with multiple contributors and guests have also engaged with the false claim, as have other right-wing cable channels like One America News Network and Newsmax, other media organizations and users on fringe social media platforms.

Fox News and Fox Business

  • On August 30, a day before Hannity himself pushed this lie, Hannity guest Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) said that "we had a video today of one of our Blackhawk helicopters with somebody hanging from it as it moves through the sky."
  • Also on August 30, guest Elliot Ackerman said on The Ingraham Angle that "we just saw the Taliban flying a Blackhawk helicopter above Kandahar with a dead body hanging from its bottom."
  • On August 30, Fox Business guest Stephen Yates said: "We have today the Taliban hanging someone from a helicopter."
  • On August 31, Fox Business guest Sam Brown said, "We're seeing the reality of the Taliban now flying Blackhawk helicopters over Kabul, hanging their enemy."
  • Later the same day, Fox contributor Katie Pavlich said on The Five, "They are hanging people from our helicopters." Pavlich repeated this later in the show, saying the Taliban have "been using" weapons left behind "to execute our allies who helped us on the ground. … They hung a guy with a helicopter."
  • That evening, Fox Business anchor David Asman was discussing the helicopters U.S. forces left behind and said: "At least one was used yesterday in horrific fashion to hang a human being. We don't know the circumstances of that. We don't know who that person was that was hanging from the helicopter. But in one of the typically sick dimension of the way that these -- the Taliban think, or whoever was piloting that helicopter, that's how they used it."
  • And on September 1, Fox News contributor Charles Hurt said on Fox Business, "The image of our Blackhawk helicopter flying around Kabul with the body of what appears to be a dead person hanging from the bottom of it -- those images get seared into people's minds, and they never forget it."

Newsmax

  • On the August 31 edition of the morning show Wake Up America, Newsmax's Alex Kraemer showed and read a tweet claiming that the Taliban "are now hanging innocent civilians from [helicopters] for the world to see." Later in the show, co-host Rob Finnertysaid: "We saw someone hanging from a helicopter on video. This person was dead."
  • During Newsmax's August 31 midday show John Bachman Now, the host said there are "U.S. Blackhawks reportedly being flown by the Taliban with people hanging from them."
  • Later that day on American Agenda, Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield said the Taliban were "flying people hanging from Blackhawk helicopters yesterday." Later in the show, former Trump spokesperson Jason Miller referenced people in Kabul risking being "flown around the city hanging by their neck off of a helicopter."
  • On September 1, Finnerty repeated this lie on Wake Up America, saying: "We saw somebody hanging from a U.S. military helicopter over Kabul just a couple of days ago."

One America News Network

  • On August 31, the host of OAN's In Focus with Stephanie Hamill said: "There's video circulating online of them in an American helicopter with a man hanging by his neck off of the helicopter." Her guest, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), replied: "That's sick. That is sick."
  • Later on Real America, host Dan Ball previewed the video he claimed shows "the Taliban flying one of our Blackhawk choppers in Kandahar with a body hanging from it" with a long-winded warning about graphic content. He added: "Now, have we vetted it all out? Can I confirm it happened yesterday? I don't know when it happened. It's all over the web. It's from Kandahar. I can't read what that says, but we're getting this from multiple sources of folks that were there on the ground. They confirm it's one of our choppers, they confirm it's from Afghanistan. I don't know who's hanging there, but -- you want to see this stuff come over here? And I'm not trying to fearmonger one bit. I'm keeping it real, folks."

Other right-wing outlets and social media

  • On August 30, Gateway Pundit shared a screenshot of the video on its website along with tweets containing versions of the video, incorrectly claiming that "today the Islamists used US helicopters to hang 'traitors' in Kandahar Afghanistan" and argued that the Taliban was "openly mocking" the U.S.
  • On August 31, the New York Post published the video on its website along with an article that said "it is not immediately clear exactly how [the person in the video] is attached or if he is alive." The piece then quoted "some journalists" who it says "insisted that it showed someone who had been hanged — and then paraded in the skies."
  • The video of the helicopter and screenshots from the video also spread on several fringe right-wing social media platforms between August 30 and September 1, including Gab, 4chan, and Patriots.win. This content was also shared widely among right-wing users on the messaging app Telegram. Many of these posts criticized the Biden administration, with one Patriots.win user claiming, falsely, that the Taliban was "flying [a] Biden-provided Blackhawk helicopter…while hanging someone from it." This post quoted a tweet stating that "it's an absolute shitfest to see the Taliban now actually flying US BlackHawk helicopters, hanging people by the throat from them!! The American President will never be forgiven for this!!"
Research contributions from Leo Fernandez and Bobby Lewis