Topic: Media Research Center
When Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin took part in a town hall on CNN in March, Media Matters pointed out that it was largely about building up national name recognition for Youngkin, who has presidential ambitions:
On Thursday, CNN hosted a town hall for Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, giving the Republican a national platform to continue his crusade against trans inclusion and so-called “critical race theory.”
CNN’s town hall, moderated by anchor Jake Tapper, was advertised as “The War Over Education With Governor Glenn Youngkin” and aimed to address education as it “continues to spark debate and conversation across the country.” Ahead of the event, Youngkin published an op-ed on the CNN website in which the governor boasted about Virginia schools and spoke about the importance of parent involvement, including “direct input on education performance standards and proposed policies.”
While the event’s stated purpose was tackling “the issues that matter the most to families in Virginia and across the nation,” the platform CNN gave to Youngkin more closely resembled PR for the relatively new politician than a well-rounded discussion. Youngkin’s official Twitter account repeatedly promoted the town hall, sharing excerpts from the event.
The timing of this town hall is especially curious as Youngkin is rumored to be likely to join a crowded field of candidates vying for the 2024 Republican Party presidential nomination. Much like his multistate tour last year, Youngkin’s CNN town hall gives him the opportunity to boost his national name recognition — a particularly important task given that a Monmouth University poll from last month showed that 56% of GOP voters had no opinion or had not heard of him.
Media Matters went on to note that Youngkin's questioners gave him an opportunity to defend his right-wing policies (when he responded to the questions at all):
During the town hall, a high school band director asked Youngkin if he thinks state school boards have “an unspoken culture of racism and implicit bias against teachers of color within school districts.” In response, the governor lamented, “We’ve found ourselves in a moment where we're allowing ourselves to be pitted against one another in all things. And we all of a sudden find that everything has to be viewed through a lens of race. I don’t think we should ignore our past; I think we should know it.”
When asked by a teacher about the difference between “teaching CRT in the classroom and the teaching of historical injustices such as slavery and segregation,” the governor largely danced around the question, remarking that “we need to make sure that we are teaching all of our history, the good and the bad,” and fearmongering that Virginia students have fallen victim to “divisive concepts … that were forcing our children to judge one another.” Youngkin also asserted that CRT is “a philosophy that's incorporated in the curriculum.”
Later in the town hall, Youngkin fielded questions about his administration’s anti-trans policies, which he largely defended, pushing for so-called parents’ rights. While addressing a question from a teenage trans boy, Youngkin advocated for the sex separation of “biological girls” and “biological boys” in school sports, stating, “I think sports are very clear. And I don't think it's controversial. I don't think that biological boys should be playing sports with biological girls. There's been decades of efforts in order to gain opportunities for women in sports. And it's just not fair.”
As Wonkette snarked about the town hall: "Youngkin may have never run for office before throwing his hat in the gubernatorial ring in 2021, but he already excels at the politician’s skill of giving long-winded, rambling answers that don’t quite address the question he was actually asked."
By contrast, the Media Research Center is so ensconced in the right-wing bubble that it reflexively portrayed Youngkin as a victim for even appearing on CNN and insisted that all questions asked of him were hostile and biased. A March 10 post by Kevin Tober repeatedly raged that Youngkin wasn't given the kind of softballs he'd get if he appeared on, say, Fox News:
Thursday night's CNN Town Hall with Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin went exactly how you would expect this kind of event to go when a Republican is invited on. As our own Curtis Houck wrote on Twitter late Thursday night, a CNN Town Hall is "guaranteed to be a foot massage if you're a Democrat and [an] ambush if you're a Republican." Sadly, the latter happened to Youngkin as both Tapper and his hand-picked questioners from the audience asked a variety of nasty, partisan, and downright dumb questions.
You knew from the very first audience question that Youngkin was in for a long night when a self-identified Republican Virginia teacher named Michelle Wingfield began whining to the Governor that she's not paid enough. "If education is supposed to be such a high priority in Virginia, why are teachers, which as you know are so hard to come by right now, so underpaid?", Wingfield bemoaned.
Youngkin, who was respectful and patient throughout the entire ordeal calmly responded that during his "first year, we were able to pay teachers more and deliver on that promise. A 5 percent raise last year, another 5 percent raise this year for 10 percent over a two-year period."
Next, it was CNN moderator Jake Tapper's turn to be obnoxious by playing dumb on the topic of kids being taught the racist leftist ideology "Critical Race Theory" and harassing Youngkin about examples of what he considers "an inherently divisive concept that you think should not be taught in Virginia schools?"
"What do you say to a teacher who wants to teach any one of any number of scholars who say that the condition of black Americans today can be traced all the way back to Ft. Monroe in 1619?" Tapper said while he continued to harass Youngkin on the topic.
Then came one of the dumbest questions of the night. Tapper introduced a man named Tyron Barnes who sought to create a controversy over a problem that by and large doesn't exist by asking Youngkin if he thinks "there's an unspoken culture of racism and implicit bias against teachers of color within school districts nationwide."
Tober made sure to display his transphobia, sneering that the transgender teen who asked Youngkin a question merely "claimed to be a "transgender man" and that "Later on, Tapper joined in and became a trans activist himself by doing his fake "just asking questions" routine." He also accused another question of being a "fake Republican." But he said nothing about Youngkin needed to build name recognition for his political ambitions, which is why he agreed to do the town hall in the first place.
Tober clearly has a mandate from his employer to portray longtime target CNN as a bully and Republicans like Youngkin as victims, and that's exactly what he did here -- to the point of misrepresenting what actually happened at the town hall. That's tbe power of the right-wing media bubble's reality distortion field.