Analysts and fact-checkers came for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe after he falsely said his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin was trying to get Black-authored books banned from schools in an appearance on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.”
Toni Morrison’s award-winning “Beloved,” used as reading material in some schools, includes graphic depictions of sex, violence and bestiality while describing the horrors of slavery. Youngkin sided with parents who have shared concerns about the novel in wanting to be notified of the reading assignment before their children are exposed to it.
But, according to McAuliffe, the bill would allow parents and Youngkin to “take books out of the curriculum.”
“He is closing his campaign on banning books,” McAuliffe told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd. “He wants to ban Toni Morrison’s book ‘Beloved.’”
McAuliffe then suggested his opponent had racist intentions in targeting Morrison’s writing.
“He’s going after one of the most preeminent African American, female writers in American history, won the Nobel prize, has the presidential medial of freedom,” McAuliffe said. “And he wants her books banned. Out of all the hundreds of books you could look at, why did you take the one, Black female author? He’s ending his campaign on a racist dog whistle just like he started the campaign when he talks about election integrity.”
As several social media users noted, McAuliffe’s “book ban” claim has even been debunked by The Washington Post, recalled the Youngkin campaign.
The legislation supported by concerned parents, House Bill 516, requires schools to notify parents about explicit material, allow them and students to review the questionable material, and provide nonexplicit material as an “alternative.”
“This is a lie,” radio host Jason Rantz wrote, before criticizing the editorial standards of “Meet the Press.”
Todd pushed back a bit on this point, telling McAuliffe the bill’s proponents say it’s not about banning books, but about alerting parents to material “that not all of them would be crazy about.” He asked the Democrat if that too was “out of bounds.”
McAuliffe stopped for a pause and appeared to adapt his answer.
“That’s not out of bounds, but if you look at what the bill would be, they ultimately would have led to books being removed from our classrooms,” he said.
McAuliffe has leaned in to this line of attack even as new Fox News polling shows the Democrat being surpassed by Youngkin, with a majority of voters saying they trust the Republican more on education.
“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” McAuliffe said at his debate against Youngkin earlier this month. The controversial soundbite was replayed in several Youngkin campaign ads.
One strategy McAuliffe has shifted on, however, is whether or not to make the election a referendum on former President Trump. After months of evoking the former president’s name and tying Youngkin to him, McAuliffe backtracked over the weekend and said the race was “not about” Trump.