Fox News regularly features “parents” criticizing the teaching of so-called “critical race theory” in schools, while concealing that those guests are also right-wing political activists. The network uses this coverage to try to help the Republican Party weaponize the issue to win elections in Virginia and elsewhere. On Wednesday, America’s Newsroom, Fox’s “straight news” morning show, did it again, highlighting three such individuals, each described only as “Fairfax County Parent.”
“Tempers flaring, Fairfax County, Virginia,” co-anchor Bill Hemmer said at the top of the segment. “Defending the right to speak out about what is taught in their kids’ schools. Have a listen.” Hemmer’s framing aligns with recent messaging from Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, who is campaigning against “critical race theory” even though Virginia education officials say that legal framework for discussing race isn’t taught in its schools.
Fox then aired three clips of interviews with individuals who were identified with on-screen text as “Fairfax County Parent.” One is a former Trump administration official; one is a surrogate for Youngkin; and one is the founder of an organization that is suing the Fairfax school district.
First up was Elizabeth Schultz, who told Fox’s audience, “They feel like they are in charge of us, and I think it is responsible for citizens to stand up and speak up about how their taxpayer dollars are spent.”
Schultz is actually a former member of the Fairfax County School Board who became locally notorious for her right-wing views and later became a Trump Education Department official. She is currently a senior fellow at Parents Defending Education, a right-wing group headed by a fixture of right-wing think tanks.
Next was Suparna Dutta, who criticized “nefarious corruption” on the school board.
Dutta chairs Educators for Youngkin, which is “a coalition of teachers, parents, educators, and community members across Virginia that are committed to restoring excellence in education,” according to a campaign press release.
Next Fox aired a clip of Harry Jackson, who said the board has “instill[ed] fear within the parents.”
Jackson is reportedly a founder of the Coalition for TJ, a group of parents that is suing the Fairfax County School Board in federal court over admissions standards at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. The group is represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian legal organization backed by an array of right-wing funders. Earlier this week, Jackson was the subject of a positive profile by conservative Wall Street Journal columnist William McBurn.
At the conclusion of the segment, Fox’s anchors explained why this criticism matters.
“The reason why this is so significant is because education will be an issue in this governor's race in Virginia three weeks from yesterday,” Hemmer said.
“National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar says it is the dominant issue,” co-anchor Dana Perino replied.
As I noted yesterday, Fox’s obsessive coverage has played a key role in the GOP’s effort to get “critical race theory” onto the agenda and help Youngkin’s campaign for Virginia governor.