Fox News is twisting the truth about the American Rescue Plan to fearmonger about critical race theory
With the help of a conservative dark money group, Fox is continuing to sound the alarm over fabricated threats
After months of blasting multiple individuals and institutions for promoting so-called “critical race theory,” Fox News is yet again twisting the truth about CRT to sow distrust in President Joe Biden’s administration and the American Rescue Plan. Fox is now accusing over a dozen states of using COVID-19 relief funds to promote CRT in schools, using shoddy research from a conservative dark money group to back up its claims.
On Thursday, Fox released a report claiming 13 blue states, including California, New York, and Illinois, spent money from the American Rescue Plan’s $122 billion provision to elementary and secondary schools on resources that allegedly promote critical race theory and related concepts.
In order to receive these emergency relief funds, education agencies were required to provide their reopening plans, spelling out how the funds would be used to maintain equity and ensure "that essential resources are meeting the needs of students who have been subject to longstanding opportunity gaps in our education system.” States like New York and Illinois noted their intention to use anti-racism training, social-emotional learning, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to safely bring students back to schools amid the pandemic, which Fox falsely framed as core tenets of CRT.
In reality, CRT is an academic framework taught at the graduate level that seeks to explain racism’s continuous legacy in U.S. institutions. However, right-wing provocateurs have spun an entirely new definition of CRT to encompass myriad concepts related to race and bury discussions about social justice. Fox’s criticism of state plans to center practices such as social-emotional learning, anti-racism, and DEI can be traced back to right-wing media’s campaign to obscure each practice’s benefits in minimizing inequities and suggest they fall under the seemingly infinite umbrella of CRT.
Reporting from Fox on the alleged use of COVID-19 relief funds to spread CRT relied on research coming from a group called One Nation. Headed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) former chief of staff Steven Law, One Nation is a dark money group with a history of undermining key aspects of the Biden administration by creating deceptive ads, including spending $10 million to attack Build Back Better. One Nation’s eight-figure funding may be shrouded in anonymity as the nonprofit is not legally required to disclose its donors, but reporting shows that the group is bankrolled by conservative megadonors, fossil fuel companies, and pharmaceutical interest groups.
Fox’s sloppy condemnation of school reopening plans made with students from all backgrounds in mind represents only a drop in the ocean of right-wing media’s incessant, empty obsession with eradicating CRT from schools and attacking public education. Here’s a look at Fox’s desperate straw-grasping to sound the alarm over the latest made-up threat and amplify its own faulty reporting:
- Nicole Neily, president of the astroturf anti-CRT group Parents Defending Education, appeared on Fox & Friends First to criticize the Biden administration’s “appalling” initiative to “address social, emotional and mental well-being ... and address things like inequities” with the use of funds from the American Rescue Plan.
- Fox & Friends’ three co-hosts attacked the legislation, saying that it's the “single biggest culprit” of inflation, that it's leading to rising crime rates, and that it's “indoctrinating kids,” in what co-host Ainsley Earhardt referred to as a “bait and switch.”
- To open a segment about the relief funds and alleged CRT spending, Fox’s “straight news” America Reports anchor Sandra Smith asked the audience, “How would you like your hard-earned tax dollars to be spent pushing critical race theory?”
- Fox News correspondent Jason Chaffetz used the story to proclaim, “I don't even believe there even should be a federal Department of Education” after commenting that the COVID-19 relief funds exist only so Democrats could pass “their wish list” of items, like CRT resources.
- One Nation President Steven Law was interviewed on the April 29 edition of Fox & Friends and said COVID-19 relief funding was deceptively being used to “close children’s minds” instead of opening schools. Law and co-host Steve Doocy went on to bash the American Rescue Plan, claiming progressives took advantage of the pandemic as an opportunity to “break the piggy bank and support a variety of left-wing priorities” in addition to “luxury hotels and ski slopes.”
- Host of Fox program The Next Revolution Steve Hilton made a guest appearance on Fox’s “straight news” show America’s Newsroom, accusing Democrats of advocating for the American Rescue Plan only to “push their ideological agenda in schools.” In Hilton’s rant, he also attacked higher education and universities for allegedly using their resources to push a "far-left woke-ist agenda,” which he claimed is “driven by activists and unions.”