News →

PolitiFact VA: Youngkin's claim that McAuliffe asked the FBI to go after Virginia parents is deliberately false

Person speaking into microphone
Glenn Youngkin stumps at a campaign event in Chesterfield County. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Speaker: Glenn Youngkin
Statement: “Terry (McAuliffe) calls in his friend Joe Biden to actually put the DOJ on Virginia parents.”
Date: Oct. 6
Setting: TV interview

Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin is making baseless claims that his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, has urged the White House to ”sic the FBI” on Virginia parents attending local school board meetings.

“Terry calls in his friend Joe Biden to actually put the DOJ on Virginia parents,” Youngkin said during an Oct. 6 interview on Fox News. DOJ, or the Department of Justice, oversees the FBI.

Youngkin made the accusation again in an Oct. 6 interview on Fox News Radio. “Now that parents have stood up and said ‘Terry, we’re rejecting this whole philosophy,’ he goes and gets his friend Joe Biden to dispatch the Department of Justice and the FBI to try to silence parents in Virginia who are standing up for their children,” Youngkin said.

“...If you don’t agree with his big government policy to put government and politicians and bureaucrats between you and your children, if you don’t agree, he’s going to get his friends to sic the F.B.I. on you,” he added.

And Youngkin made a similar statement during an Oct. 5 radio interview on WLNI in Lynchburg.

 “The frustration that parents are feeling is when Terry McAuliffe puts government between them and their children,” he said. “And that's exactly what parents have been asking for, a role in having their voices be heard. And now we see Joe Biden and Terry McAuliffe attempting to silence parents completely by intimidating them by force.”

Background

Youngkin’s statements were triggered by U.S.Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Oct. 4 order that the FBI work with local governments to help handle what he called a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against school board members and educators.

School systems in Virginia and across the nation have seen angry protests against mandatory mask wearing for students, transgender accomodation policies and the alleged teaching of critical race theory. 

Garland’s order came six days after Biden received a letter from the National School Boards Association asking for “for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation.”

The letter footnoted news articles about 20 different intimidation attempts against school officials around the country. It included a June 23 TV report about an abruptly ended Loudoun County, Va. school board meeting where one person was arrested and another ticketed for trespassing.

Garland’s order has drawn backlash from conservatives across the country who, like Youngkin, call it a liberal effort to weaken parents’ influence on education policies.

Youngkin has been highly critical of Virginia’s Board of Education, accurately claiming that it has weakened school accreditation standards and inaccurately saying it has allowed critical race theory to be taught in all schools.

Youngkin has launched a TV ad criticizing McAuliffe’s statement in a Sept. 28 debate that, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Youngkin’s “proof”

McAuliffe’s campaign said McAuliffe never encouraged Biden or anyone in the White House to address security for educators and school boards. Youngkin’s campaign failed to provide us with any evidence to the contrary.

McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, often says he has a close relationship with Biden that has benefitted Virginia. McAuliffe served a previous term as governor from 2014 to 2018 that overlapped with Biden’s tenure as vice president from 2009 to 2017.

Youngkin’s campaign sent us two tapes of McAuliffe saying, during the 2020 presidential race, that Biden had been his go-to man when the state needed federal help. “When he was in the Obama-Biden White House, everytime we needed help I called Joe Biden,” McAuliffe said on one occasion.

Youngkin’s campaign also sent videos of McAuliffe saying three times in the spring that, if he’s elected, he would call Biden to seek a waiver from the Affordable Care Act that would allow Virginia to expand its health insurance exchange.  

“We still have 700,000 Virginians who are without access to healthcare...,” McAuliffe said on May 22. “So as governor what I’ll do — the first thing I’ll do — is get us a Section 1332 waiver here in Virginia.”

Youngkin’s campaign said that since McAuliffe has always relied on Biden, it’s reasonable that he would have called the president to ask for FBI protection of educators. “All the evidence points to Terry McAuliffe supporting Joe Biden’s menacing attempt to intimidate concerned parents,” campaign spokesman Matthew Wolking wrote in a statement.

McAuliffe has not publicly taken a position on Garland’s order.

Wolking also pointed to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who said on Oct. 8 that McAuliffe was “running on (Biden’s) agenda.” Psaki, however, was answering a question about Biden’s falling popularity in Virginia — not about Garland’s order.

We should note that PolitiFact National on Oct. 11 gave a False rating to U.S. Sen. Rick Scott’s claim that "Joe Biden’s attorney general wants the FBI to go after parents for speaking out at school board meetings to protect kids from radical curriculum like critical race theory."

PolitiFact pointed out that Garland specifically said that "spirited debate" is protected. His memo targeted threats that go beyond passionate speech, and said nothing about critical race theory. The line between sincere debate and words that intimidate isn’t always clear, and there is a concern that officials might apply an overly broad interpretation. In the past, courts have ruled against that sort of loose approach to defining what constitutes a threat. Nothing in Garland’s memo says that is part of the plan.

Our ruling

Youngkin says, “Terry (McAuliffe) calls in his friend Joe Biden to actually put the DOJ on Virginia parents.”

McAuliffe says he never contacted Biden or anyone in the White House to request FBI protection for educators facing increasing protest for school policies on health and social issues. Youngkin provides no proof to the contrary.

This is a made-up claim by Youngkin on a highly charged issue, and he’s said it at least three times. We rate Youngkin’s statement Pants on Fire!

Sources

Glenn Youngkin, Fox News interview, Oct. 6, 2021 (2:08 mark)

Youngkin, Fox News Radio interview, Oct. 6, 2021 (41:05and 43:23 marks)

Youngkin, WLNI interview, Oct. 5, 2021 (3:33 mark)

U.S. Department of Justice, “Justice Department Addresses Violent Threats Against School Officials and Teachers,” Oct. 4, 2021

The Washington Post, “Garland asks FBI to address recent ‘disturbing spike’ in threats against educators,” Oct. 5, 2021

WUSA9, “Crowds of protesters rally against Loudoun County School Board,” Sept. 29, 2021

National School Boards Association, Letter to President Joe Biden, Sept. 29, 2021

NBC4, “‘The Meeting Has Degenerated': 1 Arrest, 1 Injury at Loudoun Schools Meeting on Equity,” June 23, 2021

PolitiFact Virginia, “McAuliffe helped ease school accreditation standards as governor,” Aug. 18, 2021

PolitiFact Virginia, “Youngkin offers little proof critical race theory is in 'all' Virginia schools,” Aug. 10, 2021

Youngkin, TV ad, Sept. 29, 2021

Email from Terry McAuliffe’s campaign, Oct. 11, 2021

McAuliffe, Biden campaign speeches, 2021

Statement from Matthew Wolking, Youngkin campaign spokesman, Oct. 11

Jen Psaki, White House briefing statement, Oct. 8, 2021

PolitiFact, “Rick Scott wrongly warns FBI coming after loud parents at school board meetings,” Oct. 11, 2021