If you were paying attention to Virginia's mainstream media coverage last week, well, first of all, I'm sorry, that's a deeply unpleasant experience for anyone any day of the week.
But more than most, last week's coverage saw a weapons-grade incident of complete and total fake news, all of it directed at (and now here's a huge surprise) the Republican governor of the state, Glenn Youngkin.
It all started with allegations that the entire superintendent community of Virginia—comprising 133 superintendents spread out across the state—had come out in one unanimous voice in opposition to Youngkin's education policies, specifically his prohibition of critical race theory in the state's schools as well as his setting up of a "tip line" for parents to phone in complaints about teachers and principals.
Here's a high-profile report on the controversy from the Washington Post (emphasis added):
All 133 Virginia public school division superintendents have urged Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) to scrap the "tip line" set up to let parents complain about teachers and principals and have asked him to stop his campaign against the teaching of "divisive" content in schools.
Wow! "All 133 superintendents!" That kind of unanimity is a jaw-dropper, right? Here's the local Richmond Times-Dispatch (emphasis again added):
In a blunt letter representing the views of all 133 state superintendents, the school leaders challenged a recent report by Youngkin education officials that criticized ongoing efforts to address racial and socioeconomic disparities in education as "discriminatory," and that sought to downplay the role of systemic racism in fostering those disparities.
Again, wow: Every single one of these superintendents is opposed to Youngkin's early signature education policy! That has to mean something!
We simply do not have time or space to catalogue the full effect of these reports, but rest assured that the news spread far and wide, very quickly, with pretty much every single liberal in Virginia gleefully celebrating Youngkin's having turned the entire superintendent community again him, while countless smaller media outlets reported the news as fact:
That Twitter thread is worth reading in its entirety if only because it demonstrates the sheer avalanche of pundit and partisan and and media reportage on the so-called unanimous opinion of the 133 superintendents.
There's just one problem: It was fake. Like, completely fake. Totally fake. And no less than the leader of superintendents in Virginia himself has confirmed it!
A letter published last Friday on behalf of Virginia's school superintendents to Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow represents a majority of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) board, not the feelings of all 133 superintendents, VASS President Dr. Zebedee Talley Jr. told John Reid on WRVA on Wednesday. The letter criticized the Youngkin administration's removal of equity material, and Democrats and initial media reports suggested that the letter represented unanimous support from the superintendents. That led to a week of outcry from Virginia Republicans and conservative media.
"I think people have taken this and just gone way off course," Talley told Reid.
"It simply expresses some concerns, and it is not all 133 superintendents who feel this way. If you get 10 people in the room, you know, two people don't agree on everything," Talley said.
Okay excuse me for a moment while I, you know, laugh for forty minutes straight.
You got to love it. Major news brands, local affiliates, 150-year-old newspapers—none of them could be bothered to call up this organization for simple comment before running their ridiculous reports.
And now they're scrambling to save face on the matter. Here's WaPo:
CLARIFICATION: This article was clarified to explain that the letter to the state superintendent of schools from the Virginia Association of School Superintendents was written on behalf of the state's 133 school superintendents and was approved by the board, but not signed by every member of the group.
And the Times-Dispatch:
Clarification: A letter from a group representing the state's school superintendents that criticized efforts by Gov. Glenn Youngkin's administration to target "divisive concepts" and equity initiatives was crafted by the group's board and does not necessarily reflect a consensus of the 133 superintendents, according to its executive director.
I'm sorry, but are those not the lamest "clarifications" you could possibly imagine? First of all, you don't need a "clarification" for a mistake of this magnitude, you need a correction.
And in any event the language of the "clarifications" is so weaselly that it's a wonder it was printed in the first place. "Not signed by every member of the group...does not necessarily reflect a consensus..."
Give me a break.
As ever, we are reminded that the best thing you can do if you find yourself holding a piece of mainstream media in your hands is...
Toss it in the garbage.
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