American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten claimed Monday that antisemitism and homophobia were “rolled into” criticism of her, while also claiming that she sought to reopen schools in 2020.
Weingarten claimed that the criticism of her stemmed from an attack on her being Jewish and a lesbian during an interview with Julia Manchester, the national political correspondent for The Hill. She also claimed that she pushed to reopen schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite opposing efforts to do so.
“If I let them bully me, what about every educator, what about every worker, what about every vulnerable student?” Weingarten said. “And the other thing I’ve come to learn is if you’re a member of a minority group … There’s lots of antisemitism. I happen to be married to a rabbi and I happen to really believe in my faith, and there’s a lot of homophobia, and I happen to be the first out lesbian as a labor leader in the country, ever. And so this kind of attack of identity, that’s all rolled into it, too.”
Weingarten called plans by the Trump administration to re-open schools in July 2020 as “cruel,” according to The Guardian. Weingarten claimed Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida would cause “millions of Floridians” to die because of his “ignorance” when he opposed COVID-19 lockdowns in 2021.
“If it was on the level, it would be different, but what we know about it is it is an intention to undermine the very institutions that help educate kids, protect democracy and pluralism in this country and help people have a better shot at the American dream,” Weingarten said. “And so, all of us do stupid things and you know, I’ve done stupid things, and I’ve made misjudgments. But how do you actually take someone who from April 2020, tried to reopen schools because we knew it was important but said they have to be reopened safely so we protect everyone, just like we try to protect everyone from ,you know, gun violence, from respiratory issues. How do you lie about me like that? And so, what I learned was they’ll smear because they’re trying to divide and create mistrust and distrust.”
The AFT claimed that Republican criticism of the union for trying to keep schools closed down was a “smear” campaign in an October report. The AFT and National Education Association (NEA) collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to craft guidance for reopening in-person education, according to emails obtained by Americans for Public Trust.
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