CBS Sunday Morning elevated far-right “parental rights” organization Moms for Liberty during a segment about book banning that left out some crucial details: the group's routine harassment, extremism, and violent threats against librarians and school officials; details from the co-founders on what books they want in schools; and the role far-right media played in their rise.
On April 23, CBS Sunday Morning hosted a segment about book banning, with CBS correspondent Martha Teichner welcoming Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice, co-founders of Moms for Liberty, which masquerades as a “parental rights” organization.
Descovich and Justice are right-wing media sweethearts and favorites of disgraced former Trump advisor Steve Bannon.
CBS’ negligent reporting helps Moms for Liberty spread a revisionist history of the group that falsely characterizes it as a friendly organization spreading a positive message. Positive PR from media outlets like CBS is uniquely valuable to the organization because it allows the group to maintain a public facade of respectability and innocence, despite instances of bigotry, harassment, and threats.
CBS ignored Moms for Liberty’s documented pattern of harassment and extremism
On CBS Sunday Morning, Descovich and Justice presented a heavily distorted version of Moms for Liberty, painting the group as “joyful warriors,” but there’s nothing joyful about the havoc Moms for Liberty has wreaked on schools throughout the nation.
Moms for Liberty members have been linked to numerous incidents of harassment and threats around the country, including threatening gun violence against librarians, accusing opposing groups of being “pedophile sympathizers,” and even hijacking a dead woman’s Facebook page to lead a harassment campaign against a mother who opposed the group’s efforts.
Despite a documented pattern of disturbing harassment from Moms for Liberty members and leadership, Teichner described the group’s tactics as playing “hardball with a smile.” Later in the segment, Teichner described book-banning efforts by groups like Moms for Liberty as “a war where bookshelves are battlefields and both sides want to capture the same flag.”
CBS failed to adequately press Moms for Liberty’s co-founders on what books they want in libraries
During the segment, Teichner asked Justice and Descovich, “What kinds of books do you want in schools?” After Descovich broadly said that they want “books that educate children,” Teichner pointed out, “that’s a generalization,” but didn’t push back when Justice then asserted, “Books that don't have pornography in them — let's start there. Let's just put the bar really, really low. Books that don't have incest, pedophilia, rape.”
The truth of the matter is that Moms for Liberty is attempting to heavily censor any literature or curriculum that threatens its hard-right ideology. Media Matters has documented that the group has simultaneously advocated for placing right-wing propaganda in public school libraries while waging its censorship campaign. Nationally, Moms for Liberty also recommends text from a slavery sympathizer.
CBS inflated Moms for Liberty’s membership and ignored the role far-right media played in its rise
The segment also seemed to grossly overstate Moms for Liberty’s membership numbers while ignoring the critical role right-wing media, particularly Steve Bannon, played in elevating the group to the national stage within weeks of its launch.
During the segment, Teichner said, “The group now claims 275 chapters in 45 states” and has “115,000 members and counting,” but as Media Matters reported last summer, the group has seemingly inflated its membership numbers. What’s more, the organization’s founders also told The Washington Post last fall that its numbers include not just members but also “supporters."
CBS' segment on book banning provided Moms for Liberty with valuable false credibility and elevated the group’s dangerous message to a mainstream audience, while omitting critical details of its hateful history. This segment is the latest example of the network's inadequate coverage of extremism. CBS — and mainstream media in general — must fairly and accurately cover Moms for Liberty and other coordinated attacks on public education.