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Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum found herself admitting on Tuesday that it was a “little bit of a misnomer” to claim critical race theory was being taught to young Virginia children after one parent called out such misinformation on Fox’s airwaves.
Hours before the polls closed in the closely watched Virginia gubernatorial race, MacCallum sat down with two Loudoun County mothers—a Democrat and a Republican—who had already cast their ballots, asking them about the issues they found most important in this election.
Naturally, since much of the national media conversation about the Virginia race has centered around education and curriculum—specifically in Loudoun County—both women brought up schools.
Brooke Corbett, a mother of three who voted for Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, said she “got a window into our children’s education” during the pandemic, adding that there were “some concerning things” she saw. Specifically, the mother claimed she “started hearing about critical race theory,” which she had “never heard about” before.
“After some investigation, some FOIA requests that I’ve started seeing on the news, a lot of taxpayer money, my taxpayer money, our taxpayer money, had been invested in some teacher training and that would be rolled into the student curriculum that I didn’t agree with,” Corbett continued. “A lot of it looked not only off, but it looked like—it bothered me. It was controversial. There’s aspects that look racist. So I had a hard time with that.”
MacCallum, who has helped push Fox’s year-long obsession with so-called critical race theory in schools, agreed with Corbett while also bemoaning that schools are “watering down the standards” for students.
That’s when Mara Stengler, a mother of two who voted for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, jumped in to offer some pushback.
“I don’t think people truly understand what critical race theory is,” Stengler stated. “Younger children are not being taught critical race theory. They can’t understand critical race theory. They’re being taught history.”
Using as an example how one Loudoun County parent expressed anger that their child was taught that Christopher Columbus killed many indigenous people, Stengler noted such information was merely history.
“That’s what Christopher Columbus did,” she added. “So I have a hard time—I think kids have to learn history; the good, the bad, the ugly.”
After saying she “would have to do a fact-check” on Stengler’s Columbus remarks, MacCallum then conceded that perhaps Fox News has taken some liberties with its portrayal of critical race theory in K-12 schools.
“Critical race theory sometimes is a little bit of a misnomer because what is happening is there’s sort of a reformed thinking and approach to history that teaches that the country was founded in racism,” the Fox News anchor said. “You can say critical race theory is like a legal theory that is found more in colleges.”
She added: “So maybe giving it that label has thrown some people off. But it doesn’t mean that there’s not things being taught that they’re teaching kids things that they are inherently victims or oppressors.”
Stengler, for her part, told MacCallum that they’d “have to agree to disagree” as she had “different thoughts and feelings on that.”
Virginia schools, meanwhile, say that critical race theory does not appear in any educational or training material for students. PolitiFact found in August that while CRT—a broad set of ideas about systemic racism largely constrained to legal and graduate studies—has been widely discussed by educators in the state, there is “no evidence that critical race theory is being taught” in the state’s schools.
Furthermore, critical race theory is not mentioned in the state’s standard of learning and a number of local school boards have specifically said they do not teach it.