Over the weekend, The Washington Post joined the Christopher Rufo smear campaign. He’s a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who has become the face of public opposition to critical race theory. The article’s misrepresentations led to a story “clarification” that doesn’t go far enough.
The article, written by “reporters” Laura Meckler and Josh Dawsey, is predictable and appalling in its failure to accurately define critical race theory and how Rufo has exposed it.
WaPo’s piece is a part of the left’s response to stinging critiques of the open racism embodied in critical race theory, which has led to Rufo and others being targeted in The Atlantic, The New York Times, NBC News, and on MSNBC and CNN. But in terms of how this report ranks on language manipulation and aversion to truth, Meckler and Dawsey’s article might very well top the bunch.
Yes, Insisting White Skin Means Privilege Is Racist
Before getting into the meat of the half-cooked smear, Meckler and Dawsey propose an insufficient definition of critical race theory (CRT).
Rufo alleged that efforts to inject awareness of systemic racism and White privilege, which grew more popular following the murder of George Floyd by police, posed a grave threat to the nation …Conservatives say analyzing these issues through a racial lens is, in and of itself, racist.
This is an inadequate descriptor for the movement that is overhauling American institutions. CRT does incorporate the idea of systemic racism, but is far more radical than employing a “racial lens.”
The writers skim over the reality that the left takes things a step further, communicating through the neo-Marxist ideology that white people are implicitly racist based on the skin color they were born into, and that those who do not submit to “antiracist” “equity” dogma are racist. This is yet another example of the left’s progressive-or-bigot binary.
“All of the arguments from critical race theorists are structured as a catch-22,” Rufo told The Federalist in an interview. “Or, as people call it today, ‘Kafka traps,’ the idea that no matter how you answer the question, you’re going to end up confirming their principles. So for example, if you disagree with a point of critical race theory, they’ll tell you that’s just an expression of your white fragility or your internalized white supremacy.”
Inaccurate Details about White House Order
After minimizing critical race theory and falsely framing Rufo’s objections as an unwillingness to discuss race, the Post report only gets worse from there. The writers deceptively reference the sequence of events that lead to President Donald Trump signing an executive order banning “race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating in the Federal workforce or in the Uniformed Services,” as well as for federal grants and federal contractors.
This happened after Rufo appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show and called on Trump to ban CRT at the federal level.
“The reaction to Rufo’s appearance that evening on Fox News was swift,” the writers described prior to clarification. “The next day, Trump demanded action and, Rufo was soon in the White House for a meeting. Two days later, his budget chief issued a memo laying the groundwork for the federal government to cancel all diversity trainings. An executive order followed.”
This timeline is inaccurate. Rufo appeared on Fox News on Sept. 1, 2020, and called for Trump to sign an order banning racial extremism in federal agencies and contracts. Subsequently, budget chief Russell Vought released a memo on Sept. 4, and the executive order was signed on Sept. 22. It was not until Oct. 30 that Rufo visited the White House.
False Twitter Connotation
The attempt to misrepresent Rufo was likewise on full display in the Post’s characterization of tweets he made in March. He wrote:
We have successfully frozen their brand—’critical race theory’—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category. The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.’ We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.
Meckler and Dawsey claim “his goal was to conflate any number of topics into a new bucket called critical race theory,” but Rufo says they misconstrued his points.
“I don’t mean to say that we should have unrelated things labeled ‘critical race theory,'” Rufo said. “That’s not at all what I mean. What I’m saying is that if someone is reading the newspaper and they see that there’s the kind of BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] only income program in Oakland, or they’re only distributing COVID vaccines to minorities in Vermont, or that they’re demolishing standardized testing and competitive admissions in Virginia — all of those things can be understood through the framework of critical race theory.”
Rufo continued, “So, when someone sees those items, rather than attacking them individually to try to understand them, we’re providing them a framework. We’re providing them a lens. We’re providing them an ideology, critical race theory — so they can understand the connections between those two things. And then we can attack critical race theory at its ideological roots, rather than trying to fight one by one and in whack-a-mole about these individual stories.”
‘Reporters’ Target A Real Journalist to Protect Power
Perhaps the most egregious from a journalistic integrity standpoint, Meckler and Dawsey mischaracterize and conceal information Rufo uncovered through his investigations.
The first pertains to a Treasury Department training in July 2020. The Post writers submit to — of all people — the opinions of a federal spokesperson to mount its opposition to Rufo’s finding that white people were described as racist.
The federal documents Rufo published explicitly say “virtually all White people, regardless of how ‘woke’ they are, contribute to racism” and that “Whiteness” on its own “includes white privilege and white supremacy.” Nonetheless, the Post writers declare “the document does not say that all White people are racist.” Apparently the word “virtually” is their out, but theirs is clearly an intentional mischaracterization of the actual document.
Secondly, the writers claim Rufo’s piece on Sandia National Laboratories — a nuclear weapons laboratory operated by the federal government — provides “no evidence” that employees were forced to apologize for their skin color in letters to women and minorities.
“Rufo also alleged that the program ‘forced [participants] to write letters of apology to women and people of color,’ but there is no evidence of that,” Meckler and Dawsey spins.
The Post writers assert Rufo is fabricating information, clinging to the arbitrary notion that such letters were actually mere “statements” that gave people a “better appreciation for other people’s perspectives.” In fact, Rufo’s claims are supported by obtained documents from the federal training.
Thirdly, the Washington Post states that Rufo’s investigation of FBI “intersectionality” workshops was a mischaracterization of the documents and “spoke about how various identities ‘combine and multiply to result in unique forms of discrimination.'”
The Post’s objection to Rufo’s description of these workshops as discussing “intersectionality” — the idea that there is a hierarchy of identity and class resulting in discrimination — is solely based on the idea that the government did not use that precise term.
Fourthly, the Post writers claim Rufo reported a “power and privilege” training at an elementary school that did not occur. The principal of the school confirmed it did, and the documents Rufo provided in City Journal are indisputable evidence.
WaPo Issues ‘Clarification’
The incoherent and poorly sourced Post article was “clarified” Monday evening. The publication fixed information about the Fox News portion, adjusting the timeline of events. Also, the elementary school portion was fixed, as the superintendent confirmed to the outlet the training had indeed occurred and was canceled afterward.
In an email obtained by The Federalist, Post editor Mike Semel mentioned the clarification to Rufo. Semel admits the publication botched the elementary school reporting, but says the Post will not adjust the portion of the story falsely relaying the context of Rufo’s tweet.
“The school officials in California got back to us, and as you note, we have updated the story again with that additional information,” the email states. “Again, we were transparent with our readers that the story has changed with the new material. As far as your quote goes, we stand by Laura’s reporting and have confidence in her notes. If you dispute it, you are welcome to write a letter to the editor. I think we took your objections seriously and in good faith, as the story updates indicate.”
Regardless of the hit job, The Post’s Vice President of Communications Shani George told The Federalist the outlet stands by the story and that it was “fairly reported.”
— Gabe Kaminsky (@Gabe__Kaminsky) June 22, 2021
In a follow-up, George claimed that merely “the timeline was made clearer to readers and the story was updated with new reporting,” denying the Post effectively made several corrections. It remains unclear why the Post claims it issued a mere “clarification,” not a “correction,” when it clearly corrected false information it had originally published.
“From the very beginning it was clear to the reporter Laura Mackler was only out to conduct a hit piece against me,” Rufo said. “She’d already made up her mind about the story she wanted to write. And then she was backfilling with these really tendentious and flimsy and frankly pathetic smears that, in the last 36 hours, have collapsed.”
“The piece was fundamentally dishonest,” Rufo added. “It was hyper-partisan and the reporter, frankly, is a hack.”