Following Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the race for Virginia’s governorship, Sinclair Broadcast Group correspondent Kristine Frazao acknowledged that critical race theory is not taught in Virginia’s public schools. This comes after Sinclair repeatedly insinuated that critical race theory is widely taught at the K-12 level, and after Youngkin ran on banning it from the state’s schools.
On November 3, when covering Youngkin’s victory, Frazao noted that he “spoke out against … critical race theory.” She then acknowledged it “has been discussed among educators but is not actually taught in Virginia public schools.”
Frazao’s report, which led with this acknowledgement that critical race theory has been a fake issue all along, aired on dozens of Sinclair-owned or -operated local TV stations, including on the morning and evening editions of Sinclair’s news show, The National Desk. Several of these stations air in markets that include Virginia: WJLADT, WRLH, WXLV, and WSET.
Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent explained how Youngkin relied on right-wing media outlets, such as Sinclair, to spread lies about critical race theory:
For months, Youngkin and his allies have pumped that raw right-wing sewage directly into the minds of the GOP base, behind the backs of moderate swing voters, via a right-wing media network that has no rival on the Democratic side.
Consider critical race theory, or CRT.
Let’s acknowledge that Youngkin isn’t using CRT as just a base motivator. He campaigns on it in swingy areas, and this will be partly a referendum on whether the issue can lure back the suburbs.
But to focus only on that misses the full story. Youngkin and his allies have transmitted some of their most visceral and hallucinogenic versions of the anti-CRT demagoguery straight to the base via right-wing media.
Among these are Youngkin’s ugly falsehood that CRT has comprehensively infested Virginia’s school system.
Indeed, Matt Gertz of Media Matters estimates that Fox News ran up to 100 segments on CRT in Virginia last spring, even though it isn’t taught in Virginia schools.
Sinclair’s national programming didn’t promote hysteria over critical race theory as often as Fox News -- in part because Sinclair doesn’t operate a 24-hour cable news channel. But at least some of the segments it did air on the subject were broadcast directly into Virginia newscasts and on Virginia stations.
- On May 7, The National Desk’s morning edition 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. Klacik said critical race theory is designed “to make people feel less confident and inferior.”
- On June 3, The National Desk interviewed Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch -- a right-wing political organization that has pushed lies about voting and the 2020 elections. He claimed critical race theory was helping to “turn kids into racists, or at least they suggest that they’re racist.”
- On June 23, Sinclair national correspondent James Rosen covered a raucous school board meeting in Loudoun County, Virginia. During his segment, he used an invoice to suggest that the school system was teaching critical race theory to students.
- On June 24, The National Desk interviewed Virginia anti-critical race theory activist Ian Prior, who is also a longtime Republican political operative and runs his own political communications consulting firm. Prior returned to the show at least once more on August 11.
Sinclair repeatedly aired unchecked GOP lies about critical race theory throughout 2021 and hosted a town hall on the topic, streamed from its Washington, D.C.-area station, which featured multiple anti-critical race theory activists.
It remains to be seen whether Sinclair will continue to acknowledge that critical race theory isn’t actually being taught in schools in future coverage of this right-wing wedge issue.