Christopher Rufo, the Seattle-based anti-critical race theory activist who has been the subject of several recent mainstream media profiles, is calling foul on a Washington Post story written about him that he described as a “hit piece” and evidence of “how the media lies.”
The Post’s story published Saturday morning with the headline “Republicans, spurred by an unlikely figure, see political promise in targeting critical race theory.” It focused on how Rufo, a 36-year-old documentary filmmaker-turned-activist, has led the opposition to critical race theory, which has come to dominate conservative politics over the last year.
But Rufo has taken issue with the story, and he’s leveled several criticisms of it. According to Rufo, the Post’s story – like most mainstream media reporting on critical race theory, or CRT – offers readers a sanitized version of the radical movement. And in at least two cases, he says, the Post was wrong when it reported that his allegations are not supported by the evidence.
Rufo, a senior fellow at the center-right Manhattan Institute, posted a rebuttal on Twitter over the weekend, detailing what he described as “five flat-out lies … that are easily disproven.”
The Washington Post's @laurameckler spent three weeks preparing a hitpiece against me.
In this thread, I will expose five flat-out lies, from the fabrication of a timeline to multiple smears that are easily disproven by documentary evidence.
This is how the media lies.🧵
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) June 20, 2021
On Twitter, Rufo said the Post’s national education writer, Laura Meckler, “spent three weeks preparing a hit piece against me,” and added “This is how the media lies.”
In an email to National Review, Post spokeswoman Shani George said, “This story was accurately and fairly reported, and we stand by it.” However, she acknowledged that paper has made a couple of updates to the story since it was first published.
The first alleged “lie” that Rufo points to seems to be more a disagreement over how the Post describes critical race theory. According to the Post, “critical race theory holds that racism is systemic in the United States, not just a collection of individual prejudices.” And where “Progressives see racial disparities in education, policing and economics as a result of racism,” conservatives “say analyzing these issues through a racial lens is, in and of itself, racist.”
Rufo said on Twitter that the Post’s description of critical race theory is “deeply misleading.” CRT, he said, “is, in fact, a neo-Marxist ideology that promotes extreme concepts such as ‘spirit murder,’ ‘anti-capitalism,’ ‘all white people are racist,’ ‘abolish the white race,’ and the ‘decolonialization’ of American society.” He said the Post ignored background information about critical race theory that he provided to reporters.
Rufo made similar claims to National Review last week, pushing back on an NBC News story that described critical race theory as simply “the academic study of racism’s impact” and a “catch-all” term activists and parents use to refer to “equity programs, teaching about racism or LGBTQ-inclusive policies.” The NBC News report failed to mention the theory’s Marxist roots or that its adherents often call for radically altering the American and capitalist systems.
“They take the sloganeering and euphemisms of so-called anti-racism at face value,” Rufo told National Review. “They report on concepts that are highly contested, like anti-racism, systemic racism, intersectionality, etc., without attempting to engage with them critically, and really excluding any of the very valid criticisms of those ideas.”
In his Twitter thread, Rufo accuses the Post of getting the timeline wrong about his involvement in former president Donald Trump’s executive order last year ordering federal agencies to stop training sessions based on critical race theory. The Post has added a clarification online.
“The way we described the timing of Christopher Rufo’s Fox News appearance was imprecise, and we made changes to clarify the sequence of events,” George said in her email.
Rufo accused the Post of falsifying a direct quotation, claiming that he said it is “so obvious” that it was his strategy to “conflate any number of topics into a new bucket called critical race theory.” Rufo denies he said that, and he has called on the reporters to either produce audio from their phone interview with him backing the quote or to retract it. In fact, Rufo said that during his interview he specifically refuted that interpretation of a March tweet he made about CRT.
The last two “lies,” that Rufo accuses the Post of telling are about specific allegations he has made that the story said are either “not supported by the evidence he produces” or are “stretched beyond the facts.”
In one case, the Post pushed back on a Rufo allegation that the U.S. Department of Treasury provided training to employees that taught that “all white people are racist.” The Post claimed that documents posted on Rufo’s website do not say that “all White people are racist.” That appears to be technically true, but in response, Rufo posted screenshots on Twitter allegedly from the training session that included a link to a video with White Fragility author Robin DiAngelo. According to the screenshot, DiAngelo “talks about how White people struggle to own their racism,” and “she asserts virtually all White people, regardless of how ‘woke’ they are, contribute to racism.”
“To say that all white people contribute to racism and that white identity is inherently linked to white supremacy is to say that all white people are racist,” Rufo wrote on Twitter.
Rufo also claims that the Post questioned the accuracy of his reporting on the teaching of a “power and privilege” training session for third graders at a California elementary school. The school board president told the paper that the program was canceled after parents raised concerns, and that “Classroom instruction with these materials never went forward.”
In Rufo’s interpretation, the Post was alleging that the training never occurred at all, though it’s not clear that’s what the story said. Rufo said the training session was taught to the children until parents complained and the “principal agreed to suspend future lessons.”
George, the Post spokeswoman, said they have updated the story to include information from the superintendent of the California school district who acknowledged that the training was presented once before it was canceled.
While Rufo has been critical of the Post’s reporting, he has praised a recent profile in The New Yorker. According to The New Yorker, in Rufo’s view the anti-racism seminars spreading around the country don’t “just represent a progressive view on race” but are instead “expressions of a distinct ideology – critical race theory – with radical roots. If people were upset about the seminars, Rufo wanted them also to notice ‘critical race theory’ operating behind the curtain.”
“You’ll be surprised to hear this,” Rufo tweeted, “but this New Yorker profile is an accurate, fair, and thoughtful account of my fight against critical race theory.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a statement from the Washington Post.
You'll be surprised to hear this, but this New Yorker profile is an accurate, fair, and thoughtful account of my fight against critical race theory.
My sense is that many center-left liberals are starting to turn on CRT. https://t.co/TqNiS7tODo
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) June 18, 2021