Teachers’ Union Boss Met with Bannon in March, Calls Him ‘Formidable Adversary’

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten speaks about education, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, at the National Press Club in Washington. Weingarten addressed students needs to succeed and the pitfalls of an anti-public education agenda. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
AP/Cliff Owen

The Intercept reported Wednesday that American Federation of Teachers (AFT) boss Randi Weingarten met Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon while he was serving as White House chief strategist this March.

The unofficial and previously undisclosed meeting at a Washington restaurant left Weingarten, in the words of Intercept writers Rachel Cohen and Ryan Grim, “Shook.” “I came out of that conversation saying that this was a formidable adversary,” Weingarten told them.

Weingarten, leader of one of the largest public employee unions in the country, has been a consistently critical of the White House’s education agenda but has also worked to slam the legitimacy of the populist right.

“I think he sees the world as working people versus elites. And on some level, he’s thought about educators as working-class folks,” Weingarten told The Intercept of Bannon.

But Weingarten, ostensibly a labor leader, took explicit issue with Bannon not embracing identity politics as inseparable from collective bargaining. She explained:

But what he doesn’t do is think about the other side of educators, as people who fiercely believe in equality and inclusion. It isn’t an either/or philosophy. The [Martin Luther] King philosophy of jobs and justice is not the Bannon philosophy, let’s put it that way … He’s trying to figure out where the friction is, and how to change the alignment. I think that’s really what he was trying to do.

As The Intercept notes, the meeting only took place because Bannon had the magnanimity to overlook that, under Weingarten’s leadership, the AFT joined with sham “anti-hate” group the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to smear his name in an open letter to the then-President-elect Donald Trump written days after Trump’s Bannon-engineered election triumph. Weingarten and director of the SPLC’s “Teaching Tolerance” program, Maureen B. Costello, erroneously wrote that Bannon was an “‘alt-right’ hero” and that his appointment had “been cheered by the Ku Klux Klan, the American Renaissance [sic] and other white supremacist groups.”

The same letter blamed Trump and the campaign on which Bannon had served as CEO for a litany of “hate crimes” and harassment, many if not most of which have since been proven to be hoaxes perpetrated by leftists. Weingarten and Costello wrote:

We are especially troubled by incidents taking place in schools and on college campuses—places where we do everything we can to ensure our children are safe and nurtured, and have the opportunity to grow and learn free of intimidation and hatred. But now we are hearing reports of children chanting “build the wall” at classmates, Muslim students and educators harassed for their clothing, male students intimidating their female classmates and swastikas painted on classroom doors.

Not content with the letter, Weingarten renewed her smear in her comments to The Intercept. “This is one smart guy,” Weingarten said, “but I was pretty clear with him about my criticism of the white nationalism philosophy.”

The left-leaning website was quick to validate Weingarten’s criticism, using her apparently privileged position on the identity politics victimhood totem pole. “For Weingarten, who is Jewish and a lesbian, Bannon’s ‘alt-right’ politics are more than an abstract threat,” they write.

Despite Weingarten’s anti-populist sentiment and dismissiveness towards of Bannon’s economic nationalist philosophy, she was reportedly disappointed in the lack of turn out for Hillary Clinton among the teachers she ostensibly represented. “Frankly I was always concerned about whether the country was ready to have a female president,” Weingarten told USA Today after the election. “There was an intensity of hatred that male political figures never get. So I think we’re never really going to understand it.”


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