In recent weeks, the conservative local TV conglomerate Sinclair Broadcast Group’s morning news show has interviewed only Republicans to talk about critical race theory, an academic theory that the right has twisted into a political controversy.
In reality, critical race theory details how racism and white supremacy are systemic in American society. But in these interviews on Sinclair’s supposedly “commentary-free” morning news show The National Desk, anchor Jan Jeffcoat allowed Republican guests to fearmonger that critical race theory has been “imposed” on multiple facets of American society and to misrepresent the theory itself -- asserting that such ideas devalue Black people and portray all white people as racist.
These complaints are part of an ongoing GOP campaign to exploit “critical race theory” as a wedge issue in upcoming elections -- a strategy that is already playing out nationwide. In more than 20 states, Republicans are effectively trying to prevent teachers from acknowledging that systemic racism exists, and they have launched politicized campaigns to censor the teaching of American history. Sinclair’s decision to only interview Republicans about this topic for its morning news show while twisting what critical race theory is about plays straight into this GOP campaign to fabricate outrage over it -- particularly at the local level.
Critical race theory explains the hidden racism embedded in U.S. societal structures and how it continues to affect us
Critical race theory is a decades-old academic discipline that explores how the history of racism in America still has an effect on modern life and society. One well-known historical example is the practice of redlining, which contributed to de facto racial segregation in housing and still has terrible consequences to this day. New reporting has shown that this kind of systemic racism can be hidden all around us -- from the NFL presuming that Black athletes “start with worse cognitive function than whites and other non-Blacks” when it came to payouts for brain injury claims to disaster aid payments often favoring white people over Black people.
Sinclair’s national morning news program pushed unchecked GOP lies about critical race theory
Sinclair is known for forcing reporters to read right-wing screeds on the air and for broadcasting “must-run” right-wing propaganda segments from former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn that nobody wanted to watch. But it also has other avenues to spread conservative misinformation to local TV news audiences. One of these is through Sinclair’s three-hour weekday morning news program, The National Desk, which has recently been covering GOP efforts to censor American history and ban the teaching of critical race theory in multiple states by interviewing only Republicans. This program debuted in January and airs on 68 Sinclair stations, and it has included conservative misinformation from the very beginning.
On May 7, Jeffcoat interviewed failed Republican congressional candidate Kim Klacik about critical race theory -- after falsely teasing the segment as an interview with an “expert” on the subject. During the interview, Klacik, who now has her own Republican political action committee, called critical race theory “a conspiracy theory” and claimed it’s designed “to make people feel less confident and inferior.”
On May 26, Jeffcoat interviewed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton about his state’s effort to ban what it defines as critical race theory from being included in schools. Paxton referred to critical race theory as “teaching of this idea that white people are all racist and that children's behavior is sort of systematically racist.” He also claimed that it teaches that “people are somehow unequal” and promotes “disunity.”
On June 3, Jeffcoat interviewed Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch -- a right-wing political organization that has pushed lies about voting and the 2020 elections. Fitton’s interview focused on documents from a Maryland school district that his organization obtained, and he claimed that a critical race theory-based curriculum there was “attacking … the skin color of children” and helping to “turn kids into racists, or at least they suggest that they’re racist.”
And on June 10, Jeffcoat interviewed Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) about multiple topics, one of which was legislation he’s co-sponsoring to “prevent federal dollars being spent on critical race theory in schools or government offices.” During the interview, Donalds claimed critical race theory has infiltrated America’s military, federal agencies, corporations, and schools through “diversity and inclusion” training.
Sinclair’s interviews followed the example of Fox News in distorting critical race theory and ginning up outrage over the fabrications to help Republicans win the next election cycle
It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Sinclair’s The National Desk interviewed Republican activists or officeholders to push a distorted view of critical race theory. The right-wing Fox News Channel has been obsessed with attacking critical race theory, mentioning it over 500 times in just 11 months while pushing the same lies and distorted definitions as these Sinclair interviews.
The admitted goal of this controversy fabricated by conservatives is to foment anger to increase turnout of Republican voters during upcoming elections. And the decision by Jeffcoat to interview Republicans to gin up outrage over critical race theory instead of actual experts to explain it plays perfectly into this strategy.
These right-wing lies about critical race theory are already affecting schools
According to The Hill’s ongoing list, 21 states have introduced, passed, or enacted legislation banning the teaching of critical race theory. And local news stories are full of school board meetings where parents, deluded by right-wing media lies, rant about supposed Marxist indoctrination and invoke critical race theory as a boogeyman for any school discussion of race when it’s not even being taught in public school districts.
Republicans have already formed a political action committee to target school board elections and support candidates “who oppose public schools teaching critical race theory and the 1619 Project, which details the history of slavery,” as Axios reported in May. They are also buying ads on social media to lie about the topic and raise funds and support for GOP candidates.
Right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation has joined in this fearmongering campaign, hosting an event attacking critical race theory, which featured a speaker who has spread the antisemitic “cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory and other extremism. A former Trump official even recently released an “A to Z guide on how to stop critical race theory” for duped parents to use, which echoes white nationalist “replacement” language.
So far, the trend of Sinclair’s The National Desk interviewing only Republicans to promote distorted views of critical race theory and censoring the teaching of American history fits squarely into the GOP’s electoral plans.