New York Times column blasted for portraying Randi Weingarten as champion of keeping schools open

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Media top headlines December 17

In media news today, NBC anchors hit Nancy Pelosi for comment on lawmakers trading stocks, Elon Musk fires back at MSNBC’s Joy Reid, and an Atheist Washington Post columnist says she would ‘feel nothing’ if her mother aborted her.

A New York Times column praising teachers union head Randi Weingarten as a figure who worked to keep schools open over the past two years was criticized as “gaslighting” Friday.

Michelle Goldberg, a left-wing voice on the Times’ largely progressive columnist roster, called Weingarten “misunderstood” and said the president of the American Federation of Teachers was the unfortunate target of “anger at public schools.”

Parents across the country have been frustrated by the damage done to students by lockdowns and remote schooling, and Weingarten’s about-face on school openings after threatening strikes in 2020 if certain safety measures were not met has been fiercely criticized.

“But those who fault Weingarten for closed schools misunderstand the role she’s played over the last 20 months. Rather than championing shutdowns, she’s spent much of her energy, both in public and behind the scenes, trying to get schools open,” Goldberg wrote. “And she’s been trying, sometimes uncomfortably, to act as a mediator between desperate parents grieving their kids’ interrupted educations, and beleaguered teachers who feel like they’re being blamed for a calamity they didn’t create.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Critics of Weingarten erupted on Twitter over the article.

Weingarten was resistant to re-opening schools in 2020 and was repeatedly accused of putting union members’ needs above children as she repeatedly hedged on the issue. 

Communications obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by conservative group Americans for Public Trust showed numerous emails between top CDC officials and the union just days before the administration released school reopening guidelines in February. 

The lobbying efforts were a reported success, as the New York Post found at least two instances when “suggestions” were used nearly word-for-word within the CDC’s guidelines.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The CDC had been prepared to allow in-school instruction regardless of transmission rates, but at the suggestion of the union, the guidelines were adjusted to include a provision that said, “In the event of high community-transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary.”

As recently as this summer, Weingarten was noncommittal, saying we’re “going to try” to open schools fully, five days a week.

Goldberg was among the “elite liberals” who now feel lengthy school closures in major cities like New York were a mistake., she said.

She quoted union officials around the country who downplayed the effects of remote learning and school closures but presented Weingarten as someone who always viewed shutdowns as a “crisis.”

Long a proponent of universal masking in schools, despite low transmissibility among children, Weingarten also sent a letter to the CDC asking for an “off-ramp” from masking.

She portrayed opponents of critical race theory like the Manhattan Institute’s Chris Rufo as damaging the school choice movement, which teachers unions widely oppose, and suggested they believed racism “doesn’t exist.”

“You’re going to tell Black people that racism doesn’t exist in this country, and you’re going to expect that somebody’s going to embrace you for that?” she asked. 

Former Fox News’ Evie Fordham and Sydney Shea contributed to this report.

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