Ryan Walters and Steve Deace
Molly Butler/Media Matters

Oklahoma's top education official has a cozy relationship with BlazeTV host Steve Deace, who likens public schools to “Satan’s youth ministry”

State superintendent Ryan Walters has pushed right-wing propaganda in Oklahoma schools about race and LGBTQ people

Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters seemingly has an on- and off-air relationship with BlazeTV host Steve Deace, who has a history of making extreme comments attacking public education and LGBTQ people. Walters, who was elected to his current position in November 2022, has repeatedly appeared on Deace’s BlazeTV program and described himself as “a big fan of the show.” In one appearance, Walters even thanked Deace for “responding to late night calls and texts that I've given you throughout the last couple of years.”

As superintendent, Walters has pushed right-wing content into Oklahoma schools, including partnering with conservative propaganda organization PragerU on content for public instruction. Walters has also used right-wing media outlets such as Fox News to direct vitriol at public school teachers, as well as using social media to amplify attacks from an anti-LGBTQ influencer that were followed by bomb threats against Tulsa schools.

  • Deace has compared public education to “Satan’s youth ministry” and is openly hostile to the LGBTQ community

    • Deace has repeatedly likened “government education” to “Satan’s youth ministry” while promoting FreedomProject Academy, an online school associated with the John Birch Society. During an ad read for FreedomProject Academy, Deace referred to public schools as “Satan’s youth ministry,” said the organization has “really perfected online learning,” and that it is “built on classical curriculum with Judeo-Christian values.” “Let’s take back our children's education,” Deace said during another segment promoting the online school. “No more soul murders and mind rapes, which is what goes on way too much within Satan’s youth ministry.” [BlazeTV, The Steve Deace Show, 4/18/23, 6/6/23; Deseret News, 2/21/23]
    • Deace has repeatedly called teachers unions “demonic.” [X/Twitter, 2/20/223/9/23, 5/4/23]
    • In a web column, Deace suggested that there are “trans terrorists” spreading the so-called “trans contagion” into public schools who should be executed using “millstones.” Deace declared: “Time to fire teachers. Time to level charges against rogue attorneys. Time to impeach judges. Time to shame into the stone age parents subjecting their precious children to such filth. Make millstones great again, I say,” referencing a biblical form of execution. [TheBlaze, 8/31/23; LiteraryDevices.net, accessed 10/4/23]
    • Deace frequently attacks LGBTQ people on his BlazeTV show, describing them as “undesirables” and their rights as “state-sanctioned debauchery.” Deace has compared LGBTQ culture to cancer, referring to the movement as a “rainbow tumor.” In another episode, Deace and his co-hosts fantasized about Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis winning the U.S. presidency and “holding a rainbow flag burning ceremony on the South Lawn every morning.” [Media Matters, 6/30/23, 7/21/23, 5/31/23]
  • Walters is a “big fan” of BlazeTV and has both an on- and off-air relationship with Deace, including interviews, “late night calls and texts,” and helping to break a production strike on Deace’s movie

    • Days before the runoff election for the GOP nomination for state superintendent in August 2022, Walters appeared on Deace’s show to promote his campaign, vowed to take away teachers’ licenses if elected, and told Deace that “we love you here in Oklahoma” and “I'm a big fan of the show.” Deace noted that the two “had connected for the last couple of years just casually because you're a fan of the show and of TheBlaze.” Walters told Deace that he would take away administrative licenses for teachers pushing “sexual filth to our kids” and warned that “if we lose this war on our kids” and “allow the left to control these institutions, I mean, this is end-game scenario here.” Deace called Walters a “badass secretary of education," saying that he wanted to give Walters a “little positive encouragement and publicity to push him across the finish line so he can keep taking ass and keeping names.” Following the interview, the show’s producer Aaron McIntire asserted that Walters and other politicians “have to take scalps,” and co-host Todd Erzen declared that Walters “had me at ‘we're going to take teachers' licenses away.’” [Oklahoma Watch, 6/30/22; BlazeTV, The Steve Deace Show, 8/16/22, 8/16/22, 8/16/23, 8/16/22
    • A week after he was elected superintendent in November 2022, Walters appeared on Deace’s show and thanked him “for all the help you've given me.” After Walters told Deace that he “can't thank you enough for all the help you've given me” and for “responding to late night calls and texts that I've given you throughout the last couple of years,” Deace, who had introduced Walters as a “friend of the show,” replied, “We'll call it even” and “Don’t disappoint us.” [BlazeTV, The Steve Deace Show, 11/15/22]
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    Citation From the November 15, 2022, edition of BlazeTV's The Steve Deace Show

    • Walters appeared on Deace’s show on May 4 of this year and compared a teachers union to a “terrorist group.” Deace pushed Walters further, asking why he is “even negotiating with the demonic teacher unions at all.” During the interview, Deace again noted that Walters is a “frequent listener of the show over the year” and lavished praise on him, telling the audience that “you're listening to a future star here” and to “keep an eye on him. Remember this name.” [BlazeTV, The Steve Deace Show, 5/4/23 5/4/23, 5/4/23
    • Deace has claimed to have influence with Walters on policy and messaging. In the November interview with Walters just after he won his race, Deace remarked that “you came to me about” campaign messaging around the issue of school choice. Deace claimed that he provided “counsel” to Walters to instead “make the entire thing a referendum on groomers.” Walters agreed and said that voters need to understand that the left thinks “that pornography, transgenderism, critical race theory should be injected into your school.” Deace ended the interview by saying, “We look forward to seeing what you do with this authority and having fun watching them react to it.” And during another episode of his show, Deace remarked that Walters in the past “would ask me for my thoughts on this or thoughts on that” because he is “a big fan of the show.” [BlazeTV, The Steve Deace Show, 11/15/22, 11/15/22, 4/5/23; TheBlaze, 12/9/21]
    Video file

    Citation From the November 15, 2023, edition of BlazeTV's The Steve Deace Show

    • Deace has repeatedly credited Walters with helping to end the production strike on his self-described “Christo-fascist propaganda” movie Nefarious and called Walters “an unsung hero to how we got this movie made.” In an interview with the movie’s directors, Deace described how he had a “relationship” with Walters and sought help when production of Nefarious was shut down, claiming that Walters connected him to the governor and attorney general of Oklahoma and “enlist[ed] help for us to get this movie shot and finished.” During an interview with Walters himself, Deace said that Walters “went to war for us to give up the political and legal cushion that we needed to finish filming our movie.” Walters effusively praised Nefarious’ message that demons are waging spiritual war against humanity and mentioned his attendance at the premiere, saying, “Folks are getting to see on the big screen what we are up against, what evil looks like in today's time, what Satan is doing in the world today. It is an absolute incredible film.” [BlazeTV, The Steve Deace Show, 8/16/22, 11/15/22, 4/5/23, 5/4/23; Media Matters, 6/5/23]
    Video file

    Citation From the May 4, 2023, edition of BlazeTV's The Steve Deace Show

  • Walters has pushed right-wing propaganda in Oklahoma schools about LGBTQ inclusion and race, recently approving PragerU material for public instruction

    • According to The Oklahoman, Walters’ 2022 campaign for Oklahoma state superintendent focused on “culture-war issues” and his track record as a “leading voice in Oklahoma against ‘woke ideology,’ critical race theory and transgender identities.” Walters previously served as Oklahoma’s secretary of education under Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt from September 2020 until April 2023 — holding both positions simultaneously for several months. [The Oklahoman, 11/8/22; The Associated Press, 9/10/204/11/23]
    • As superintendent, Walters has railed against teachers unions and called for the removal of individual teachers, demonized the LGBTQ community, and advocated for allocating state funds to Christian charter schools. Just this year, Walters has called teachers unions “terrorist organizations,” adopted regulations prohibiting school libraries from circulating books with “sexualized content,” and denied the role race played in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre when discussing his state’s public school history curriculum. Walters has also thrown the weight of his office behind challenging conventions of the separation between church and state, with Oklahoma becoming the first state to publicly fund a religious charter school. [NBC, 8/23/23; Media Matters, 7/12/23; Time, 8/1/23; KOCO, 9/20/23]
    • Walters recently approved PragerU Kids — which is widely criticized for including right-wing propaganda, such as distorted histories about slavery in its history lessons — as curriculum for Oklahoma public schools. In one supposedly educational video, for instance, a cartoon version of Fredrick Douglass describes slavery as a “compromise to achieve something great.” [MSNBC, 9/7/23; Media Matters, 9/8/23; NBC, 8/10/23
    • Walters shared a social media post from an anti-LGBTQ influencer that targeted a librarian at a Tulsa school, and bomb threats followed. In August, shortly after Walters used his verified social media account to share a post from anti-LGBTQ social media account Libs of TikTok that attacked a Tulsa-area school librarian, the school district was flooded with bomb threats, including threats specifically referencing the librarian. That didn’t stop Walters from publicly praising Libs of TikTok founder Chaya Raichik in a recent post on X (formerly Twitter), describing her as “a champion and a watchdog for Oklahoma parents and kids.” Walters also hinted at an upcoming collaboration between Raichik and his office, adding: “Stay tuned for future announcements.” [NBC, 8/29/23; Rolling Stone, 8/30/23; X/Twitter, 10/4/23]
    • Walters’ office recently banned a Black reporter from interviewing him about his controversial decision to partner with PragerU Kids, but appeared on several right-wing media programs to tout the decision. When a reporter for The Black Wall Street Times requested an interview with Walters, a spokesperson denied the request, citing social media posts from the publication’s editor-in-chief criticizing Walters’ approval of PragerU materials. Walters has also expressed hostility toward mainstream media outlets. In one recent instance, Walters chastised the press for “willingly” printing “lies” and characterized local media as a “true enemy of taxpayers and an enemy of every parent and child in the state of Oklahoma.” [The Black Wall Street Times, 9/6/23; NonDoc.com, 5/26/23]
  • While serving as Oklahoma’s education secretary and state superintendent, Walters has been a frequent guest on Fox News and other right-wing media, and associated with a prolific anti-LGBTQ bigot

    • As Oklahoma's secretary of education in 2022, Walters appeared on far-right conspiracy theorist Tim Pool’s podcast and claimed that there is a “crazy left-wing ideology being pushed in our schools” and “we’re going to be a state that fights back.” A Media Matters review of Pool’s podcast guests that year found that he regularly hosted anti-LGBTQ bigots, white nationalists, and other extremists. [Timcast IRL, 9/15/22; Media Matters, 12/20/22]
    • Walters appeared on BlazeTV founder Glenn Beck’s program to discuss the bathroom policy for trans students in an Oklahoma school district. Walters urged the school district to prohibit trans students from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, and in his appearance discussing the issue, he also pushed “school choice,” claiming that the “Biden administration is attacking charter schools now” to “force indoctrination.” [BlazeTV, The Glenn Beck Program, 4/21/22; The Oklahoman, 4/18/22]
    • Walters appeared on Fox & Friends to attack a Tulsa school superintendent as “a social justice warrior who’s more concerned about going woke than being a superintendent” and claimed “pornography” was in textbooks. “We’ve got folks in positions of power and administrators that are more focused on a woke ideology and an agenda rather than making sure kids can read and write,” Walters said. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/29/22]
    • Soon after winning his state superintendent election, Walters appeared on Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s prime-time show and claimed that “Joe Biden and the far left have declared a civil war on our classrooms.” Walters cited “critical race theory and the transgender education” as evidence. [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 11/11/22]
    • On Fox & Friends, Walters attacked teachers unions and claimed that “they actually prefer to push books like the Constitution and the Bible out of our schools. … It’s outrageous. They are Marxists at their core.” Walters again promoted “school choice” and also claimed that the “teachers unions don't want the best teachers to make more money.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/22/23
    • On America’s Newsroom, Walters accused Biden and Nancy Pelosi of treason for allowing “the Chinese communist government's infiltration of our schools.” Walters said that “the actions of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi to allow the Chinese communist government's infiltration of our schools is treasonous” and claimed the Chinese government had “funded the Confucius Classrooms inside American schools, which by their own words is a propaganda campaign of a soft-power attempt to undermine the American Constitution and American values.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 9/20/23]
    • On Fox News’ Jesse Watters Primetime, Walters said that we’re at “war for our kids’ minds” and touted his decision to approve PragerU Kids material in Oklahoma schools. Host Jesse Watters opened the interview — which was centered around attacking a “drag principal” — by declaring that “inclusivity has become a clear and present danger.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 9/8/23]
    Video file

    Citation From the September 8, 2023, edition of Fox News' Jesse Watters Primetime

    • Walters has associated with anti-LGBTQ influencer Chaya Raichik, including posting a photo together and amplifying her posts on X. Shortly after Walters shared a post from Raichik's Libs of TikTok account targeting a librarian at an Oklahoma public school, the school reportedly received numerous bomb threats, including threats specifically referencing the librarian. Walters also posted a photo with Raichik and praised her for having “done more for transparency and accountability in schools than most elected officeholders.” [X/Twitter, 9/11/23; Rolling Stone, 8/30/23
    • Walters appeared on PragerU founder Dennis Prager’s program to defend and praise the outlet’s far-right content after many Oklahoma public schools declined to use the curriculum. Notably, the interview came after it was reported that Walters’ office had banned a Black media outlet from interviewing him on the topic. Walters told Prager that, “your product is allowing our kids to have that conversation, to be exposed to that type of curriculum, and that’s why they hate it so much. Because it undermines their very ability to control our kids doing indoctrination in our schools.” [Salem Radio Network, The Dennis Prager Show, 9/18/23; The Black Wall Street Times, 9/6/23]