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Maurice Cunningham: Key Takeaways of Moms for Liberty on ‘60 Minutes’

Reason and common sense triumphed over ignorance, extremism, hate, and fear-mongering in Beaufort, South Carolina. Moms for Liberty’s brand is now toxic and widely despised.
Moms for Liberty co-founders Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich flopped in their "60 Minutes" interview on Sunday. Screenshot "60 Minutes."

On Sunday night, 60 Minutes presented its report on Moms for Liberty and the campaign to get 97 books banned from the public schools of Beaufort, South Carolina. It highlighted Moms for Liberty’s dishonest conduct and the inability of two of the three co-founders to answer simple questions about the group’s disgusting and dangerous attacks on educators and librarians.

First, the bad news about how Moms for Liberty achieves its goals. It took just one individual to protest the 97 books and get them temporarily removed. Then, Beaufort commenced a process that involved “146 community volunteers, plus teachers and librarians” who met for a year to read, discuss, and make recommendations for the books. Ninety-two of the books were returned to the shelves. The win for Moms for Liberty is in the chaos one individual caused an entire community. Moms for Liberty is designed to cause maximum mayhem as a tactic to undermine and destroy public education.  

Moms for Liberty is only good at breaking things. It creates fear among school board members, administrators, teachers, librarians, and even other parents. Dick Geier, vice-chair of the school board in Beaufort, a Republican, and retired Army colonel, explains what his community had to deal with. 

The board wanted to follow established procedures but a few activists, agitated by conspiracy theories, threatened librarians and board members calling them “groomers” – extreme rightwing hate speech meant to brand opponents as molesters grooming children for sex.

We’ve had a parent come in and tell a librarian that, “You are violating a state statute by providing pornography to a minor. I’m going to the sheriff. I’m going to have you arrested,” and storm out. Now that’s not just happened once, that’s happened multiple times at multiple schools. I even got an email saying, “OK, the sheriff said no, the solicitor said no, I’m going to the FBI!” 

How to spread fear and panic?

But in a tactic of outrage politics, Moms for Liberty takes a kernel of truth, and concludes these examples are not rare mistakes but a plot to sexualize children.

READ: Moms For Liberty Bucks County Leaders Think Public Schools Are Trying To Bring Pedophilia Into The Classrooms

A lot of journalistic accounts of Moms for Liberty’s attacks on educators let the Moms leave their sickening attacks hanging there. But Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes was meticulously prepared. He demanded answers from the two co-founders, Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice. Pelley directly challenged them on their talking points about “gender ideology” and calling educators “groomers.” Descovich and Justice were unprepared, ducked the questions, and simply could not justify the nauseating tactic of labeling teachers as pedophiles and groomers. 

Let’s take “gender ideology” first:

Tiffany Justice: Parents send their children to school to be educated, not indoctrinated into ideology. 

Scott Pelley: What ideology are they being indoctrinated into?

Tina Descovich: Let’s just say children in America cannot read.

They often dodged questions with talking points.

Scott Pelley: You’re being evasive.

Tiffany Justice: 21% of–

Scott Pelley: What ideology–

Tiffany Justice: –Hispanic students are reading on–

Scott Pelley: You’re being–

Tiffany Justice: –grade level.

Scott Pelley: –evasive. 

Scott Pelley: What ideology are the children being indoctrinated into? What is your fear?

Tiffany Justice: I think parents’ fears are realized. They’re looking at these books where sexual discussions are happening with their children at younger and younger ages.

Now let’s do “groomers.”

We wanted to know about the messages on moms’ “X” account, which adopts the extremist smear with “if they don’t like being called groomers, they should stop trying to groom our kids.”

Scott Pelley: What are you trying to say?

Tina Descovich: Well, I’m going to say that if– we’d have to see the exact tweet. Tiffany manages our Twitter account.

So, we read more exact tweets from their account. This targets a librarian. “You want to groom our children and we’re supposed to give you love?” Again, Justice and Descovich went to their talking points.

Scott Pelley: I’m just asking what do you mean by that? What do you mean by grooming?

Tiffany Justice: Parents want to partner with their children’s schools. But we do not co-parent with the government.

Scott Pelley: “Grooming” does not seem like a word that you want to take on.

Tiffany Justice: You know, we did some polling. And we asked– we really wanted to know, where are the American people on this issue of parental rights and what’s happening in our schools? 

When pressed on the use of two terms they have repeatedly publicized to slander educators, neither Descovich nor Justice could offer any definition of what those terms mean. But Beaufort knew the intent: to demonize and traumatize LGBTQ children and those who support them.

Moms for Liberty is an “obedient franchise” of the extremist umbrella group Council for National Policy and is overseen by CNP members the Leadership Institute and Heritage Foundation. Leadership Institute offers state-of-the art political training, best in the business. And Descovich and Justice could not answer questions they should have known were coming.

Third co-founder Bridget Ziegler was apparently unavailable for comment, but 60 Minutes rightfully noted her three-way sex scandal. 

INTERVIEW: Author Laura Pappano on Her New Book ‘School Moms’ and the Fight to Save Public Education from Extremists

Let’s show some love for Beaufort, South Carolina. 

“Ultimately, Beaufort confronted fear and ignorance with civility and knowledge.” Ruth Naomi-James “works for the schools and has a 16-year-old student.” She was a book reviewer:

Ruth-Naomi James: I’m a combat veteran, right? There’s no way I went to Iraq thinking that when I moved back home, I would have to do this to make sure that the freedom that we fight for in this country is taken out of the hands of students and parents.

 Dick Geier saw right through the book haters:

Dick Geier: Parents have the right to determine what their children are taught and what they’re allowed to read. No doubt about it. But what we’re having a problem with is parents that want to determine what other parents’ rights are for their children to read what they want.

Exactly. Moms for Liberty wants to control what all our children can read and study in school. Let’s give Dick Geier (my new hero) the last word:

Dick Geier: Diversity brings tolerance. The more you understand what other people think and realize that what they say is important, but who they are, what their story, what their background is. The more you know that, the more you see the power of diversity. And then, be kind, and be understanding. And don’t make judgments because you haven’t lived their story. They have.

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Picture of Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham, PhD., J.D., is author of Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization. He is a retired professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

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