A Republican operative with a hand in driving the critical race theory panic in Virginia is appearing on right-wing media to promote his group’s midterm TV advertisements, which push racist smears against migrants, fearmonger about violent crime, and spread transphobia.
Ian Prior, a former Trump administration staffer and Republican operative, is the strategic adviser for Citizens for Sanity, a conservative nonprofit that is spending millions on midterm ads to “restore common sense to America.” In 2021, Prior regularly appeared across right-wing media as a concerned Virginia parent objecting to supposed “critical race theory” in Loudon County schools. These appearances often overlooked his background as a Republican strategist who has worked in lead communications roles in the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Senate Leadership Fund, and the Trump administration under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In addition to his work with Citizens for Sanity, Prior also runs Fight for Schools, a Virginia-based super PAC dedicated to supporting “common sense candidates” who oppose critical race theory. He is also a senior adviser for America First Legal, a conservative legal group led by former Trump adviser Stephen Miller that is currently backing election-denial lawsuits in Pennsylvania and running radio ads in Georgia accusing President Joe Biden of racism against white Americans.
Right-wing media provide Prior the perfect cover to identify his background as he pleases to suit his agenda. Now that his professional work doesn't hinder his message, he is willing to disclose his background in politics, rather than misleading audiences to believe he’s simply a concerned father and not an experienced Republican strategist.
Citizens for Sanity first gained major attention after it ran ads during the Major League Baseball playoffs, where its racist ads depicted “hordes of immigrants headed for the U.S. border where they will soon be ‘draining paychecks, wrecking schools, ruining hospitals, and threatening your family.’”
On Steve Bannon’s War Room, Prior was introduced as “one of the senior advisers to Citizens for Sanity.” Here, Prior advertised the group as an effort to create “conversation, because it’s important these things be addressed, that they be changed.”
To Prior, this means returning to xenophobia, racism, and transphobia. Prior claimed on War Room that the group is trying to “raise awareness” about pressing issues, though there is nothing new or thus far unknown about Citizens for Sanity’s issue set; the topics it is “raising awareness” about have been a focus of mainstream right-wing media for months, if not years.
The group also runs racist, transphobic, and xenophobic billboards nationwide, including with what Prior called “satirical” billboards ridiculing progressive causes, such as “Protect Pregnant Men from Climate Discrimination,” and “Drug Cartels Deserve Support Too.” As Prior mentioned, Citizens for Sanity drew public criticism during the World Series.
Bannon then showed another Citizens for Sanity ad warning that Biden is driving Russian president Vladimir Putin to start “nuclear armageddon.” The ad shows a toddler playing outside while audio of newscasters and political figures discussing the threat of Russia using nuclear weapons plays in the background. The ad ends with a mushroom cloud-style explosion followed by the line “Joe Biden has driven us to the brink of nuclear war.”
According to Prior, Citizens for Sanity created the ad because “nobody is talking about” Russia approaching nuclear warfare. To Prior, the ad is “bringing attention” to an issue that apparently no one is talking about.
Again introduced as the strategic adviser for Citizens for Sanity, Prior appeared on Real America’s Voice’s Just the News on October 7 to give his take on Republicans’ chances at winning congressional seats. When asked later on about public response to the group’s ad on violent crime, Prior responded that “I think we’re seeing a lot of people saying, ‘Yes, we need more of this. We need this, you know, everywhere, to wake America up.’”
Prior also appeared on Timcast IRL on October 27. Here, he forewent his background in politics, again returning to his identification as a Loudoun County resident who “joined a lot of parents” who were “pushing back on the school system.” Prior then said this activism created momentum for the issues being debated in the midterms. He said that COVID-19 lockdowns presented the opportunity to “start activating all these people, and you cannot unring that bell right now,” arguing that energy gained from the critical race theory panic could now fuel outrage over gas prices, inflation, the “threat of war with Russia over Ukraine,” and transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney.