CNN’s Jake Tapper parroted misleading talking points promoted by the campaign of Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for governor, in a segment on his daytime show on Tuesday.
Glenn Youngkin, McAuliffe’s Republican opponent, recently released an ad knocking McAuliffe for vetoing a bill that would have mandated that schools notify parents when instructional materials featuring explicit sexual material were to be used in the classroom. If a parent did not wish for their child to be exposed to the material, the bill mandated that “nonexplicit instructional material and related academic activities,” be provided to the student.
The ad features Laura Murphy, a parent whose son’s experience with Toni Morrison’s Beloved during McAuliffe’s first term as governor led to the passage of the aforementioned legislation. Beloved is an award-winning novel set in the pre-Civil War South, largely centered around the horrors of slavery. It includes violent, sexually explicit content, including graphic descriptions of rape.
McAuliffe’s campaign has alleged that Murphy’s presence in the ad is a “racist dogwhistle,” despite the fact that neither Beloved nor the topic of race is mentioned in it, and asserted that Youngkin supports “book bans,” despite the fact that the bill in question — supported by 18 Democrats, and 14 members of the Black Legislative Caucus in the Virginia General Assembly — did not ban books of any kind.
These facts did nothing to dissuade Tapper or CNN political reporter Eva McKend from aiding McAuliffe in his deceitful aims in the aforementioned segment, entitled “GOP candidate’s new ad targets iconic book. Hear what he left out.”
Tapper began by introducing the ad and playing a few excerpts from it. “Now what Murphy and Glenn Youngkin don’t tell you in that ad is that her son was a high school senior and the book that she wanted banned was Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel Beloved.”
Enter McKend, who asserted that Youngkin’s campaign rallies were filled with “parents and grandparents that are ticked off at their local school boards” who “don’t like how the history of racism and the impact of racism is taught in Virginia public schools.” The reporter went on to call Beloved “an important book in American history, actually is based on a true story, tells the harrowing history of slavery in this country,” with Tapper chiming in to exclaim “yeah!”
“I mean yes, of course parents should have input and this is an issue where Glenn Youngkin has found traction, but at the same time this ad specifically is about the book Beloved,” said Tapper, before reading the following tweet from CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates.
I find it so odd that anyone could think it is possible to teach the truth about slavery in America, and leave out the barbaric, misogynistic, racist, and cruel parts. That's not education, that's selective amnesia. #Beloved https://t.co/YlQF0UA2RD
— Laura Coates (@thelauracoates) October 26, 2021
The entire segment is constructed such that viewers are left with three distinct, but manifestly false impressions: That Youngkin supports book “bans,” that the ad was a “dogwhistle” about the intersection of education and race, and that it is somehow representative of the Republican nominee’s broader position on the question of how the history of racism should be taught.
At no point has Youngkin professed to be in support of a blanket book ban, much less one targeted at Beloved or other texts about the United States’ racial history. He has expressed support for the bill that McAuliffe vetoed, but even if said bill was passed and its provisions were exercised in the context of the assignment of Beloved, other materials which address the same topics would be distributed to students whose parents objected to the assignment.
Tapper might defend himself by noting that he specified that Murphy was the one who wanted the ban — she did want it temporarily removed from the curriculum until an opt-out system was implemented — but since neither he nor McKend provide any information about the legislation itself, it would be easy to assume that Youngkin too is in favor of a ban. McAuliffe’s campaign has certainly made every effort to advance that assumption, arguing that the Republican’s “closing message” is “book banning and silencing esteemed Black authors.”
Youngkin has advocated a history curriculum that “will teach all of our history: The good and the bad,” and stated that “America has fabulous chapters and it’s the greatest country in the world, but we also have some abhorrent chapters in our history, we must teach them.”