Topic: Media Research Center
When the National School Boards Association sent a letter to President Biden expressing concern over increasingly violent attacks against school board mebers over mask mandates and manufactured right-wing outrage over critical race theory, The Media Research Center knew what it had to do: dishonestly frame the letter as an attack on parents purporting to be concerned about their children. That's the frame Kyle Drennen used in an Oct. 1 post:
On Thursday and Friday, CBS Evening News and NBC’s Today show both hyped an outrageous demand from the left-wing National School Boards Association (NSBA) that the Biden administration treat parents protesting at school board meetings across the country as acts of “domestic terrorism.” Rather than call out the extreme overreaction, the networks eagerly touted the wild attempt to get the federal government to go after concerned citizens.
“Cry for help. A shocking turn in the fight over vaccine and mask mandates in school,” co-host Savannah Guthrie proclaimed at the top of NBC’s Today show Friday morning. She then parroted the incendiary rhetoric coming from the NSBA, a group loaded with Democratic Party donors: “School boards across the country calling on the White House to send federal agents to protect them from angry parents, saying their protests should be treated as domestic terrorism.”
Minutes later, fellow co-host Hoda Kotb declared:“There are some very shocking images of parents and protesters pushing back and now school boards from coast to coast are demanding help.” The footage that ran on screen showed one individual getting into a scuffle with another man at a school board meeting, the rest of the supposedly “shocking images” were of protesters peacefully holding up signs or chanting.
Of course, the NSBA never asked that all parents who spoke at school board meetings, and Drennen is lying by suggesting otherwise. The letter cited specific instances of extremism:
An individual was arrested in Illinois for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct during a school board meeting. During two separate school board meetings in Michigan, an individual yelled a Nazi salute in protest to masking requirements, and another individual prompted the board to call a recess because of opposition to critical race theory.
In New Jersey, Ohio, and other states, anti-mask proponents are inciting chaos during board meetings. In Virginia, an individual was arrested, another man was ticketed for trespassing, and a third person was hurt during a school board meeting discussion distinguishing current curricula from critical race theory and regarding equity issues. In other states including Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Tennessee, school boards have been confronted by angry mobs and forced to end meetings abruptly.
In Ohio, an individual mailed a letter to a school board member labeling the return address on the envelope from a local neighborhood association and then enclosing threatening hate mail from another entity. This correspondence states that, “We are coming after you and all the members on the ... BoE [Board of Education].” This hate mail continues by stating, “You are forcing them to wear mask—for no reason in this world other than control. And for that you will pay dearly.” Among other incendiaries, this same threat also calls the school board member a “filthy traitor,” implies loss of pension funds, and labels the school board as Marxist. Earlier this month, a student in Tennessee was mocked during a board meeting for advocating masks in schools after testifying that his grandmother, who was an educator, died because of COVID-19. These threats and acts of violence >are affecting our nation’s democracy at the very foundational levels, causing school board members – many who are not paid – to resign immediately and/or discontinue their service after their respective terms.
It didn't matter that the MRC's potrayal of the letter had no real basis in reality -- it had a narrative, and it could make use of it. Kristine Marsh pumped up the dishonest narrative the same day as Drennen's piece:
As parents protest across the country against school mask mandates and dangerous political ideologies like Critical Race Theory being taught to their children, the liberal media has been out to demonize these concerned parents as menaces to society.
Such was the case Friday morning, as CNN invited the president of the National School Boards Association on to stoke fear against parent protesters, or as CNN called them, “angry mobs.” (Yes, this is the same network that refused to use that word or “riot” during violent left-wing riots last Summer.)
The complete dramatic chyron read on screen, “Intense Threat: Schools Beg Biden for FBI Protection Against Angry Mobs.” Angry parents probably just didn’t sound scary enough.
NSBA President Viola Garcia was on the program after she wrote a letter to President Biden yesterday demanding that the feds treat parent protesters as “domestic terrorists.”New Day host Brianna Keilar was very sympathetic to Garcia, even doing her a favor by hiding that gross part about calling parents “terrorists” from the interview.
The NSBA didn't call all parents "terrorists", and Marsh knows it. Like Drennen, she's lying by suggesting otherwise. Yet she repeated her lie in an Oct. 6 post: "Last week, the National School Board Association president called on President Biden to get the FBI involved in policing parents at school board meetings, labeling them as 'domestic terrorists.' This week, Attorney General Merrick Garland happily gave in to this demand."
So dedicated was the MRC to its bogus narrative that it lashed out when the falsity of it was proven. A curiously anonymous Oct. 6 item ranted:
The Associated Press is being criticized on Twitter for getting a fact-check wrong on a hot topic.
Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, detailed the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) request that the federal government crackdown on anti-critical race theory. Rufo highlighted the NSBA’s labeling of parental protests as “domestic terrorism.”
The Associated Press quickly pushed back against the story, and issued a fact-check saying the NSBA “is not asking the Biden administration to label parents who protest school policies domestic terrorists.”
“Contrary to false claims circulating online, the National School Boards Association didn’t ask President Joe Biden to label protesting parents ‘domestic terrorists,’ and there’s no indication Biden or the Justice Department called them terrorists, either,” the AP tweeted.
The fact-check is easily disputed by the NSBA’s own letter, however, which suggested to the Biden administration that parent protests "could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism." The letter also recommended prosecution of the parents under the "PATRIOT Act."Attorney General Merrick Garland reportedly responded to the letter and instructed the FBI to monitor such protest, citing violent "threats."
Conservatives on Twitter slammed the AP for the incorrect fact-check.
How dare the AP call out the MRC's dishonesty! But note that the anonymous MRC writer cited no specific instances in which the NSBA letter stated it was calling parents who merely speak out at meetings "domestic terrorists" -- all that was offered up was that the idea was merely "suggested."
And of course "Conservatives on Twitter slammed the AP"; that's the mob response the MRC wants to provoke whenever the AP blows up a cherished right-wing narrative. But the AP fact-check was not "wrong" or "incorrect" -- it was very correct, and the MRC was lying. And it lied again in an Oct. 10 post -- also anonymously written -- complaining that 'Facebook is allegedly using a debunked fact-check from The Associated Press to censor posts for criticizing critical race theory." Again, the MRC offered no specific text from the letter explicitly demanding that parents who merely protest be labeled terrorists.
Why did the MRC writer of those posts choose to remain anonymous? Perhaps because he or she didn't want to put their name on an obvious lie.
Once again, the MRC's narrative became more important than the truth. Not a good look for an organization that claims to be all about "media research."