He claims he’s “only” acting as a parent worried that his kids’ education is too pro-Black, but by wild coincidence, Ian Prior is also a top Republican operative waging a GOP-strategic culture war in a GOP-targeted locale.
Media Matters found that Prior is one of almost a dozen Fox guests who have appeared on the network as concerned parents or educators opposing critical race theory – and who also just happen to have day jobs within conservative politics.
[Prior has a] long career as a Republican political operative. He worked in top communications roles during the 2016 election cycle for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Karl Rove-fronted super PAC American Crossroads, and the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC that works to elect Republican senators which was founded by allies of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He then spent a year and a half as a top public affairs aide to Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
Prior currently runs his own political communications consulting firm, is co-founder of a political newsletter, and is a senior counsel and spokesperson for Unsilenced Majority, “a grassroots conservative advocacy organization opposed to cancel culture in all forms” helmed by other Republican and right-wing media figures.
VICE News did a deep dive into how Prior’s “regular Dad” persona meshes with Republican objectives, especially with regard to Loudoun County, Virginia, where he resides. “My driving motivation is not the fact that I’m a Republican; it’s the fact that I’m a parent and I have to send my kids to these schools that I pay for, and I don’t want them coming home with a clouded view at a young age when they’re not ready to critically think for themselves,” he told VICE.
But Prior’s “driving motivation” as a parent perfectly syncs with the driving motivation of the Republican party, VICE points out:
Because Virginia is one of only two states that elects its governor the year after a presidential election, it has long been used for beta-testing messages and strategies ahead of the midterm elections.
And if Republicans are going to win the Democratic-leaning state, that means making inroads in places like Loudoun County.
The wealthy suburban territory, about an hour outside Washington, D.C., is emblematic of the kind of fast-growing, fast-diversifying and well-educated areas that have swung hard away from the GOP in recent years—and that Republicans know they need to win back.
As VICE also points out, the anti-CRT movement fits in nicely with Republican sensibilities and the party's overall messaging. The same people who can’t stand the thought of their kids learning about critical race theory are the same folks who can’t stand transgender kids in school athletics and can’t stand schools being too sensitive to pupils’ health by closing during the pandemic.
Media Matters caught Fox admitting that Virginia’s war against critical race theory is very much part of a larger Republican mission.
“The first test will be here in Virginia,” Fox chief Washington correspondent Mike Emanuel reported [in May]. “If this issue works in the governor's race in November, it will likely be part of the GOP campaign playbook in the midterm elections next year.”
Prior doesn’t seem very good at providing evidence of his kids' school brainwashing them into racial over-sensitivity. More from VICE:
When asked if his daughters have been subject to CRT-influenced teaching, he used an example that he’s used in speeches: that his second-grade daughter was taught about Christopher Columbus’ genocidal history in a violent video that’s meant to be shown to older students.
When asked for a second example, all he could come up with was another video that was available on his kindergarten-aged daughter’s school laptop, which wasn’t assigned and which she hadn’t viewed, about last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.
The sad and dangerous thing, though, is that the “concerned” parents in Loudoun County turned the last school board meeting into an unhinged shoutfest in which two people were arrested. Prior told VICE he was not at that meeting. But there’s no quote from him condemning the unruly behavior, either.