During the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, the press and political pundits frequently made use of the term “gaslighting” to describe Trump’s approach to the truth. Countless articles (and even a book) outlined the myriad ways Trump obfuscated, lied, and misled the public. “Gaslighting” was the runner-up for 2018 word of the year.
What a difference a change of administration makes.
Not only have outlets like the Washington Post announced that there is no need to keep an exhaustive, fact-checking database of the Biden Administration’s lies as it did for Trump, but many publications have proven themselves eager to carry water for Democrats and their most devoted special interest groups.
Consider the recent P.R. campaign being waged by the teachers’ unions. After more than a year of public schools in union-dominated areas remaining closed thanks to the efforts of people like American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, the unions have suddenly pivoted to proclaim their intention to get kids back in classrooms. “The Biden administration and teachers unions are mounting a campaign to return American children to classrooms five days a week,” Politico noted this week.
The New York Times also gave flattering coverage to Weingarten’s about-face, quoting her statement, “There is no doubt: Schools must be open. In-person. Five days a week.” Weingarten added, “The United States will not be fully back until we are fully back in school. And my union is all in.” The Times, in a wild understatement, described Weingarten as “a close ally of President Biden,” which, indeed, she is.
So close, in fact, that she influenced the C.D.C.’s guidance on school reopening some months ago, advocating for continued school closures based on bogus claims that it was unsafe for teachers to return to the classroom. So close, that the First Lady refers to Weingarten as a “friend” and thanked her publicly for her “leadership”—all while half of the country’s public school students languish at home, suffering significant learning loss and social-emotional challenges.
In the Times’ eagerness to promote The Amazing Randi’s school comeback tour, the newspaper once again left unexplored the fact that Ms. Weingarten’s union has been the major stumbling block to schools reopening. The AFT and the National Federation of Teachers, along with the major unions representing school principals, have held public school children hostage for more than a year, even as private school students and non-union-dominated public schools districts have been in-person since last August.
Weingarten’s attempts to gaslight the public by claiming she’s been eager to reopen schools should be treated with the same disdain that media’s elite treated Trump’s dishonest statements.
And yet, throughout the pandemic year, New York Times education reporter Eliza Shapiro churned out pieces that uncritically regurgitated every teachers’ union talking point while ignoring facts that undermine the union’s narrative (and rarely talking to public health or medical experts who could have easily rebutted the unions’ claims, or to parents who were eager to send their kids back to school in-person).
Her most recent foray into reporting on schools in New York implied that the scientific evidence indicating that it is safe to reopen schools is a recent discovery. “Though it is now clear that virus transmission has been extremely low in schools,” she wrote this week, “only 50,000” students decided to return to in-person learning for the final month of classes. In fact, overwhelming evidence of the safety of in-person learning in schools has been available since last summer.
Not every reporter has been derelict with regard to coverage of school closures. Reporters at the New York Post and conservative media outlets have treated union claims with appropriate skepticism. And ProPublica published this excellent piece by reporter Eric Umansky (who also happens to be a public school parent in New York). Unlike Times reporters, Umansky actually bothered to talk to public health experts about the legitimacy of the school system’s COVID restrictions and followed the science rather than following the ideological messaging of AFT press releases.
Schools aren’t the only area where the Biden Administration has proven itself unwilling to speak truthfully to the public (see also: inflation, gas shortages, the crisis at the border). But as evidence of the harm caused to children from extended school closures continues to mount, the teachers’ unions, their Democratic allies, and their sycophants in the media should be held accountable for their prolonged and deliberate effort to mislead and dissemble.
Trump might have lost, but unfortunately, gaslighting is here to stay.