American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten, who not too long ago campaigned against online misinformation, has been caught attributing fabricated quotes to journalist Christopher Rufo.
During an interview with MSNBC, the teachers union leader talked about Rufo, who shared his insight on the parent-led movement seeking alternatives to public schools “a couple weeks ago, at the college that Betsy Devos founded, Hillsdale College.”
Hillsdale College was founded by Freewill Baptists as Michigan Central College in 1844 and assumed its current name nine years later when it moved to Hillsdale, according to the school. Former Education Secretary Betsy Devos was born in 1958, 114 years after the school’s founding.
Weingarten moved on to read a quote she claimed to be taken from Rufo’s April 5 speech at Hillsdale. “To get to universal school choice, you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust. To sow and grow that distrust, you have to create your own narrative frame, and have to be brutal and ruthless in pursuing it,” she said, allegedly quoting Rufo.
In response, Rufo accused Weingarten of dishonestly stitching together two unrelated quotes and presenting them as one continuous quote.
The journalist pointed to the actual video footage of his speech as proof. According to the video uploaded to Hillsdale’s official YouTube channel, Rufo said: “I think you want to create the conditions for fundamental, structural change, to appropriate some language. For example, school choice—to get universal school choice, you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust. Because in order for people to take significant action, they have to feel like they have something at stake.
“I think that the public schools have done a remarkable job at doing that, specifically the public school teachers unions,” he continued. “They shut down schools for more than a year. In some districts, half of all kids never showed up to online learning.”
About seven minutes prior to the universal school choice discussion, Rufo addressed an outrage over big companies pushing their leftist agenda on children and encouraged the audience to be “very aggressive” in pushing back.
“What we’re seeing, I think as the first step, is a narrative and symbolic war against companies—like Disney, for one example,” he said. “You have to be very aggressive. You have to fight on terms that you define. You have to create your own frame, your own language and you have to be ruthless and brutal in pursuit of something good.”
After being called out for doctoring quotes, Weingarten doubled down on her remark, suggesting that the fabricated quote is in line with what Rufo would have said.
“He doesn’t care about truth, he cares about attacking public ed,” she wrote on Twitter.
Earlier this year, the AFT announced a partnership with media credibility rating company NewsGuard. The teachers union said it purchased licensed copies of NewsGuard’s “anti-misinformation” browser extension for the union’s 1.7 million members, who will then be able to share it with the tens of millions of students they serve.
“For years, educators have fought battles against suspect sourcing, with their students often misled by dubious outlets and spam sites posing as ‘news,’” the AFT said in Janurary. “NewsGuard offers a practical solution, alerting students and educators to those sites while also providing a valuable lesson in media literacy.”
A study by conservative media watchdog Media Research Center (MRC), however, suggests that NewsGuard has an “extraordinary” political bias that makes left-wing news outlets more likely to get a better rating. According to the study, outlets rated “left” or “lean left” by media bias review company AllSides received an average NewsGuard score of 93, while sites considered “right” or “lean right” by AllSides had an average NewsGuard rating of 66.