For those of us who choose to live in the real world, flipping on Fox News can be a lot like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia but instead of discovering a snowy wonderland populated with magical creatures you find yourself submerged in a fever swamp overrun by bigots, reactionaries, and unhinged conspiracy theorists.
One of the more pernicious denizens of the upside-down Fox News world is Laura Ingraham, host of The Ingraham Angle, a far-right program that regularly traffics in racism, xenophobia, and plutocratic propaganda. She is a person who, without caveat, is working every day to make the United States an uglier, more divisive place. And while deranged segments are her stock and trade, sometimes she airs one that is so deeply insane that it stops you dead in your tracks.
Last night, Ingraham hosted a former teacher named Rebecca Friedrichs on her show. The conversation started off with the two of them bashing teachers unions, a longtime pastime for right-wingers which has enjoyed a powerful resurgence in recent weeks as Republicans aggressively push to fully reopen schools this fall despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The reckless campaign is part of a broader effort to convince Americans that all is well in their country in the hopes that the illusion of normalcy will bolster Trump’s reelection chances.
For Friedrichs though, simply smearing teachers unions with the usual GOP talking points wasn’t enough and she quickly tilted into full-blown, tin-foil hat, Qanon-style conspiracy peddling. She claimed that the pushback against the dangerous school reopenings is actually a “smokescreen” for a perverse sexual agenda.
“Laura, here’s why. Sadly, these unions are actually using our schools to sexualize our children and to train them in anti-American ideology,” said Friedrichs earnestly. “They do this with a coalition of over one hundred eighty organizations, including, sadly, the CDC, Planned Parenthood, and Black Lives Matter Incorporated.”
The inclusion of such a grab bag of Republican bugaboos made it immediately clear that Friedrichs was only interested in stirring up conservative paranoia, but she wasn’t done there.
“It is shocking what they’re teaching our children online through virtual learning. They are teaching our children to sext, to view pornography,” she went on. “They are hooking them up with online sex experts. So, what they are doing is grooming our children for sexual predators to use them. This is child abuse.”
“I have an editorial about this tomorrow online in The Washington Times, people can read and learn all the details. This is one of the big reasons that unions want to keep our schools closed. Because they can’t sneak these evil lessons past loving teachers who have no idea by keeping them virtual,” said Friedrichs.
This kind of lunatic rant would be shameful during normal times but at the height of a deadly pandemic, it’s downright evil. The only reason teachers are discussing virtual education right now is because they don’t want to die and they don’t want their students to die. Conservatives are desperate to obscure this fact and so they have to conjure up absurd narratives like this to mask their own mercenary intentions.
Fox News guest warns that teachers are "grooming our children for sexual predators" pic.twitter.com/Tn49sOlmnO
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) July 15, 2020
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Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.