Newsmax host Eric Bolling on Wednesday ran with a supposedly explosive story about Chicago suburban high school districts implementing “race-based grading” systems that would tip the scales against white students.
There’s just one little problem: it isn’t true.
Earlier this week, a “local” media outlet called West Cook News reported that “Oak Park and River Forest High School administrators will require teachers next school year to adjust their classroom grading scales to account for the skin color or ethnicity of its students.” According to the story, Black students in the district could “no longer be docked for missing class, misbehaving in school or failing to turn in their assignments.”
Considering the current right-wing moral panic over critical race theory and “woke” schools, it didn’t take long for the story to go viral as a number of high-profile conservatives shared it on social media. Additionally, the story was given a boost when a number of MAGA websites aggregated it, including Breitbart.
It wouldn’t be long, though, before the claim completely fell apart.
The school district released a statement this week noting that it “is not true” that it has announced a “race-based grading system” for the upcoming school year. Furthermore, according to OPRFHS, the article contained a “variety of misleading and inaccurate statements” while mischaracterizing a recent school board meeting.
In his “Can We Still Govern” Substack newsletter, political scientist Don Moynihan dug in and found that the only evidence West Cook News “provided about the proposed policy change was a powerpoint deck presented at a May 26 school board meeting.” That slide, meanwhile, did not support the story’s central claims that a policy change had been made or that Black students wouldn't be docked for missing class or turning in their assignments.
Raising additional alarms is the fact that the story has no reporter credited to it as the only byline on the article is LGIS News Service. Moynihan pointed out that Local Government Information Services is a right-wing publisher that runs a large network of local news sites, all of which rely largely on automated or paid content. The media empire, run by conservative businessman Brian Timpone, is funded in part by Republican campaigns as political operatives can and do pay to place news articles favorable to candidates or lawmakers.
While the story had been revealed to be bogus well before Bolling’s show The Balance aired on Wednesday afternoon, he nonetheless centered an entire segment on the false claims about the district.
“Think about this for a second,” the Newsmax star declared. “Students, depending on their race, will not be held accountable for unexcused absences or failing to do their homework, misbehaving, or being disruptive.”
Rather than bring on a parent from that school district to discuss this story, Bolling instead brought on Terry Newsome, who lives in “nearby” Downers Grove. Newsome made news late last year when he protested the presence of LGBTQ+ books in his children’s school district, calling one book a “child pornographic sketchbook.”
After Newsome compared the so-called “race-based grading system” to affirmative action measures in the Chicago police department, he then mentioned that the Oak Park school district says it isn’t implementing any policy changes. He didn’t believe the district, however.
“In Illinois, most of the schools…they look you in the face and say we aren't teaching CRT. This pornography isn’t pornography because it falls under LGBTQ,” Newsome exclaimed. “So they released a statement saying they aren’t teaching it but the PowerPoints and all the material they reviewed said they’re going to be grading based on race!”
Newsome and Bolling would then spend the rest of the segment railing against Illinois schools while an on-air graphic blared: “CHICAGO HS IMPLEMENTING RACE-BASED GRADING SYSTEM.”
Perhaps it isn’t that shocking that Newsmax would continue to fall for a false story. This is the same network, after all, that was twice duped by pranksters into interviewing a fake Paul Wolfowitz to discuss Afghanistan.