For Joe Biden, the uproar his administration caused by calling parents "domestic terrorists" has been a controversy he never could shake. Since October, when Attorney General Merrick Garland threatened to sic the FBI on moms and dads who spoke up at school board meetings, the administration has been on the losing side of a very public PR battle. Now, the optics are worse. Just how much collusion was there between the administration and the National School Board Association (NSBA) in the weeks leading up to the letter? A lot more, it turns out, than any of us were led to believe.
When the firestorm started, it didn't take long for the NSBA to walk their letter back -- revealing that a number of their leaders had no idea it had been sent in the first place. There "was no justification for some of the language included in the letter," the group said. "We should have had a better process in place to allow for consultation on a communication of this significance." Garland, to most people's surprise, stood by his memo, insisting to angry Republicans in the House and Senate that the DOJ's overreaction was perfectly justified. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, meanwhile, continued to feign ignorance.
Now, thanks to new emails just released as part of a parents' group Freedom of Information Act request, we know that the president's top educator had at least some knowledge of the letter beforehand. In an October 5th email, NSBA Secretary-Treasurer Kristi Swett remembered that NSBA interim CEO Chip Slaven "told the officers he was writing a letter to provide information to the White House, from a request by Secretary Cardona." Slaven himself told the others that he'd been in talks "over the last several weeks with White House staff" who had "requested additional information on some of the specific threats."
It's a damning picture for the Biden administration, who has insisted for months that it didn't coordinate the attack on parents. As usual, the president's team has tried to lie itself out of the crisis, insisting as recently as the last 24 hours that Cardona had nothing to do with it. "While the Secretary did not solicit a letter from NSBA, to understand the views and concerns of stakeholders, the Department routinely engages with students, teachers, parents, district leaders and education associations," a spokesperson said.
House Republicans don't buy it -- or, at the very least, want to hear from Cardona's own lips. In a letter to the secretary's office, Congresswoman Mary Miller (R-Ill.) is demanding answers to very basic questions by this Friday. For instance, "Did you speak to anyone at NSBA about the September 29 letter before it was sent?" Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) piled on, calling for immediate hearings. "It is abundantly clear to me that Secretary Cardona must answer to the Education and Labor Committee, Congress on the whole, and especially the American people."
At the end of the day, Miller said, "[Cardona needs to] testify under oath so we can find out the truth. My experience with him is he knows how to wiggle and pivot and possibly even lie... [T]his is as an outrageous claim, and we need to know from him what actually happened. I don't think we should let this go any farther. What's happening in our country is outrageous."
Asked if she was surprised that Biden's administration was targeting everyday Americans, Miller said, "Yes... but I'd like to return the surprise to them. I want Americans to wake up and fight back and quit being passive. Get off the sidelines. The schools belong to us. We fund them. Those are our children and the schools are accountable to us. We want transparency in the curriculum. We want accountability. We don't want D.C. elites telling us how to raise our children and how to live."