Since its launch this summer, education reform advocate and former broadcast journalist Campbell Brown's “non-partisan education news site,” The Seventy Four, has published 11 pieces from contributor Eric Owens. Owens, the education editor at the conservative Daily Caller, has a long history of penning racially insensitive, sexist, and transphobic attacks on students and teachers, and has continued to publish this offensive content since becoming a The Seventy Four contributor.
Brown Launched The Seventy Four, A “Non-Partisan News Site,” To Cover Education
Campbell Brown Launched “Non-Partisan News Site,” Geared Toward Education Reform, In June. Brown announced the launch of The Seventy Four -- a reference to the fact that there are 74 million children in the U.S. -- at the end of June. She made the announcement on her personal website, describing the site as “a non-profit, non-partisan news site about education,” and stated:
Our mission at The Seventy Four is to lead an honest, fact-based conversation about how to give America's 74 million children the education they deserve. [CampbellBrown.com,6/23/15]
Brown Said The Seventy Four Is An Effort To Combat “Misinformation And Political Spin” With “Investigation, Expertise, And Experience.” The Seventy Four describes its work as an attempt to “challenge the status quo,” and “expose corruption and inequality” by providing investigative reporting on a public education system “in crisis.” From the site's “About Us” page (emphasis added):
Our public education system is in crisis. In the United States, less than half of our students can read or do math at grade-level, yet the education debate is dominated by misinformation and political spin. Our mission is to lead an honest, fact-based conversation about how to give America's 74 million children under the age of 18 the education they deserve.
Our stories are backed by investigation, expertise, and experience. The Seventy Four's reporting aims to challenge the status quo, expose corruption and inequality, and champion the heroes who bring positive change to our schools. [The74Million.org, accessed 10/28/15]
WSJ: Brown's Site Will Combine Journalism And Advocacy, Is Funded By “Proponents of Charter Schools.” In a feature article about Brown's new site, the Wall Street Journal detailed how the former broadcast journalist became an education activist and strong opponent of teachers' unions after leaving the media industry. The article also noted The Seventy Four's funding connections to philanthropic organizations who support education reform efforts:
Since turning to advocacy in the years after she left CNN in 2010, Ms. Brown became a lightning rod for criticism from the teachers' union and its supporters who have seen her efforts - most notably a push to reform tenure rules in New York - as part of a thinly-veiled campaign aimed at union busting.
Ms. Brown has denied wanting to destroy the union, and says she just wants to reform a system she says fails to adequately serve children. She says the site will be non-partisan but won't shy away from advocacy.
“Sometimes there aren't two sides to every story,” she said. “If the union is standing for something that is clearly wrong, we will hold them accountable, but if we believe the union is right on something, we will support them.”
Ms. Brown's husband, Dan Senor, sits on the board of StudentsFirstNY, which advocates for charter schools among other issues. Joel Klein, head of the Amplify digital education unit at The Wall Street Journal's parent company News Corp, is also on the board.
The site - which will launch July 13 with 13 employees -- is well-funded, with an annual budget of $4 million. Its finances will rely solely on philanthropic donations, and it won't sell any advertising - a departure from one of the mainstays of typical news organizations. Its founding backers -- Bloomberg Philanthropies (former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's philanthropic organization), the Walton Family Foundation (the philanthropic group for the family that owns Wal-Mart), Jonathan Sackler, and the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation -- are all proponents of charter schools, an approach the teachers union has resisted. [Wall Street Journal, 6/23/15]
Wash. Post: Is Brown's Site About News Or Advocacy? “Answer Appears To Be Yes.” In its coverage of the launch of The Seventy Four, the Washington Post also pointed out Brown's long and contentious relationship with teachers' unions, and highlighted her views on what it means to be “non-partisan”:
Is it news, or is it advocacy? In the case of the Seventy Four, a new news site focused on education, the answer appears to be yes.
It will, [Brown] insists, take a “nonpartisan” approach to contentious issues roiling education, including teacher tenure, the expansion of charter schools and the use of taxpayer funds to support vouchers for private education.
Of course, it depends on what your definition of “nonpartisan” is.
Brown -- who has advocated on behalf of charter schools and is opposed to tenure for teachers -- says she doesn't consider education restructuring “to be a partisan issue. I don't like the word 'partisan,' because people think it means Democrat versus Republican, and that's not us. I agree we have a point of view; it's a nonpartisan point of view. It's a clear point of view, and that is that the public education system, in its current form, is broken, and there's an urgency to fix it.” [Washington Post, 7/14/15]
The Seventy Four Has Featured 11 Pieces From Contributor Eric Owens Since Its Launch
The Seventy Four Lists Eric Owens As A Contributor. Owens is billed on the site as a “contributor,” and his work for Yahoo, Fox News, and The Daily Caller is noted. The site currently lists a total of 11 pieces published with Owens' byline since July. His writing has largely focused on education topics such as teachers' unions and charter school policies. [The74Million.org, accessed 10/28/15]
At The Daily Caller, Owens Has A Long History Of Mocking LGBT Students
Owens Has Repeatedly Dismissed Transgender Protections And Pushed Myths About Transgender Bathroom Use. In February 2014, Owens accompanied a Daily Caller article headlined, “Maine's supreme court foists choose-your-own-bathroom policy on entire state” with a photo illustration of a woman screaming from behind a shower curtain, which the Daily Caller had previously used for another Owens-authored piece deriding transgender protections. Owens wrote:
The supreme court of Maine has issued an opinion declaring that transgender children in the state's public schools must be allowed to choose their own bathrooms despite their genitalia or how uncomfortable other students may feel about it.
The 5-1 decision, which came down on Thursday, marks the first time any state's high court has ruled that transgender kids can use the bathroom with which they identify rather than the one matching their biological trappings, reports the Bangor Daily News.
The case, which originated in 2009 and stagnated for years in Maine's courts, involved a fifth-grade student who wanted to use the girls' bathroom. School officials said no because the student was not, in fact, a girl. [Daily Caller, 2/1/14]
Owens Called A University Forum On Anti-Gay Hate Speech A “Re-Education Camp.” In October 2013, Owens wrote that a forum on anti-gay hate speech at the University of Mississippi following an incident of homophobic harassment was a “re-education camp,” and used a screen shot from the movie A Clockwork Orange to accompany the story. [Daily Caller via Media Matters, 10/8/13]
Owens Dismissed Transgender Student's Reaction To Bullying As A “YouTube Meltdown” And Noted Her “Various Male Appendages.” In a September 25, 2013 article for The Daily Caller, Owens wrote about a transgender student who faced transphobic backlash after being crowned homecoming queen at her California high school. The teen posted an emotional response video on YouTube. Owens took the opportunity to mock the student, who he also referred to with the incorrect gender pronoun, for her “YouTube meltdown” and derided the notion that someone “with various male appendages” would even identify as a girl. [Daily Caller, 9/25/13]
Owens Mocked Transgender Students “Running For Homecoming King, Queen, Whatever.” In a September 2013 Daily Caller article, Owens repeatedly misgendered two transgender high school students while mocking the notion that schools should recognize the students' gender identities. His article began, “This week in transgender high schoolers running for homecoming king, queen, whatever.” Owens also referenced the students' genitalia, writing that one student “apparently still has a vagina.” [Daily Caller, 9/11/13]
Owens: Transgender Students Are Making “A Big Fuss” Over Fight For Equal Treatment. In July 2013, Owens lamented the trend toward increased acceptance of transgender students, highlighting the case of a suburban Los Angeles school district where a transgender male successful pushed schools to allow transgender students to use facilities like restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities:
It's all the rage these days for transgender students (or their parents) to sue or make a big fuss because their genitalia doesn't match the bathrooms and locker rooms they prefer to use. [Daily Caller, 7/28/13]
Owens Has Dehumanized Students And Teachers At The Daily Caller While Writing For The Seventy Four
Owens: “Smoking Hot” Teacher Latest Example Of Teachers Punished For Being “Too Sexy.” In an October 23 article for The Daily Caller, Owens wrote about a “smoking hot” Utah middle school teacher who recently faced controversy over several photos on her Instagram account, comparing her to a Massachusetts teacher's aide who had posed on a modeling website “crouched nude in a yoga position with her butt tossed in the air,” and highlighting the Daily Caller's 2014 coverage of a Spanish teacher who had previously posed in Playboy magazine:
And who could possibly forget The Daily Caller's favorite Spanish teacher, Cristy Nicole Deweese? Last year, Deweese was sacked after students figured out she had once posed gloriously nude as Playboy's “Coed of the Month.” “That's my Spanish teacher!!!” reads a representative comment under a YouTube clip featuring the young teacher. Deweese just turned 18 when she removed her clothes for the once-cool men's magazine in February 2011. [Daily Caller, 10/23/15, 1/23/14]
Owens Has Repeatedly Dismissed The Alleged Assaults Of Underage Students, Writing They Were “Victimized” “With Sex,”“Naked Selfies, Harvard Admission Promise,” And “Trips To Disneyland.” In an October 6 article for The Daily Caller, Owens' headline made light of underage victims of alleged sexual misconduct, noting that two accused perpetrators “victimized male students with sex.” An August 21 article with a similar theme characterized the alleged sexual assault of a minor by a guidance counselor as “pursuit,” an “ultimately unsuccessful slog,” and a “gambit.” On August 12, Owens wrote that a high school teacher facing charges of having sexual intercourse with a minor had “victimiz[ed] teens with sex, trip to Disneyland,” and referred to the alleged assault as a “frolic.” [Daily Caller, 10/6/15, 8/21/15, 8/12/15]
Owens: Underage Victims Of Sexual Abuse Are “Paramours” And “Star-Crossed Lovers.” In an August 27 Daily Caller article, Owens wrote that a female high school teacher facing charges of sexual abuse, rape, and sodomy engaged in “an alleged summer fling with her teen paramour,” and referred to a second teacher facing charges of engaging in a sex act with a minor as half of a pair of “star-crossed lovers” having a “tryst.” [Daily Caller, 8/27/15]
Owens: College Students Are “Traumatized, Risk Averse WUSSES,” “Weak-Willed, Fragile, Gutless.” In a September 29 Daily Caller article, Owens highlighted a Psychology Today opinion piece from a professor as “proof” that “a generation of helicopter parenting” has led to a “national pantywaist crisis currently besetting America's college campuses.” The article began:
America's college students are delicate, immature wusses who become traumatized, get the vapors and seek professional counseling any time they face adversity or -- God forbid -- earn a grade lower than a “B.” [Daily Caller, 9/29/15]
Owens Defended Sign Saying “Illegals Go Home” Posted At High School. In a September 4 Daily Caller article, Owens highlighted a news story from North Carolina about students who had created “slogans concerning America's ongoing immigration debate and then made posters.” Several of the displayed posters featured hate speech, which Owens characterized as simply “opposing immigration,” and mocked statements that the signs were racist:
Reeck's assignment asked students in her civics and economics class to create bumper sticker-type slogans concerning America's ongoing immigration debate and then make posters.
One of the student-made signs read “Illegals Go Home.” A second one contained the words “America is for Americans.”
A large majority of the attendees at the hastily-arranged community meeting appeared to be appalled that students in a civics class would express their objections to America's current immigration policy in concise bumper-sticker form.
The meeting, scheduled for 30 minutes, ended up lasting until past 9 a.m. because parents and people who live in the area refused to leave until they had a chance to stand up and speak.
“School is supposed to teach knowledge, not hate. That's not okay,” parent Valeria Gamez declared at the meeting, according to WLOS.
Bianca Figueroa, from all the way down in Hendersonville, flatly equated the anti-immigration views expressed on the signs with racism.
“There are so many racist people out there, and if you make it okay at a public school, you are going to make it okay everywhere,” Figueroa said in the meeting, according to the Citizen-Times. “So, honestly, what most of these people (attending the meeting) want is just to stop it here.” [Daily Caller, 9/4/15]
Owens: White Privilege Is A “Crackpot, Racist Concept” Embraced By “The Remote Backwaters Of Academia.” In response to a blog post at the Huffington Post on the term “white privilege,” Owens described white privilege as a “radical and bizarre political theory” promoted by “America's education sector,” writing on July 22 that:
“White privilege” is the radical and bizarre political theory that white people enjoy a bunch of wonderful privileges while everyone else suffers under the yoke of invisible oppression.
The crackpot, racist concept is currently all the rage amid the fever swamps of the American left.
“White privilege” has bubbled up in recent years from very remote backwaters of academia. It has become fairly mainstream across much of America's education sector. [Daily Caller, 7/22/15]
Owens: Transgender Children Are “Tomboys.” In his most recent Daily Caller piece focusing on transgender issues, Owens mocked a San Francisco school's decision to move to gender-neutral bathrooms, consistently misgendered transgender people cited in the article, and called transgender students “tomboys”:
In San Francisco, a city where streetlight poles are so corroded by urine that they are collapsing and nearly killing people, officials at Miraloma Elementary School have decided that the important thing is to make boys and girls use the same bathrooms.
The [San Francisco] Chronicle is calling the event part of a big “national trend” and crediting Caitlyn Jenner and his reality television show for the new bathroom reality at the grade school.
Miraloma Elementary principal Sam Bass said the bathroom change is because between six and eight students have decided they are transgender, or are tomboys.
“I think most people don't think about how difficult it can be -- going to the bathroom -- for someone like my son,” a parent who would only give her name as Jae told the newspaper.
Jae's first-grade son was born a boy -- and is a boy -- but has long hair and likes to wear clothing designed for girls. [Daily Caller, 9/8/15]