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‘My bad’: Teachers’ union president Randi Weingarten apologizes for circulating fabricated Florida banned book list

A social media post circulated by Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, claimed that “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Of Mice and Men,” “The Outsiders,” and “1984” were among 21 other books on “Florida’s Anti-Woke banned book list.” The post garnered over 23.2K retweets and received over 135.4K likes on Twitter. Like the novels it contained, the list was also a work of fiction.

On Sunday, after it was revealed that the list was fraudulent, Weingarten tweeted: “I should have double checked before I retweeted this list. My bad.”

u201cI should have double checked before I retweeted this list. My bad. Looks like some of the books werenu2019t banned. Book bans are very real & dangerous.u00a0For an accurate list go to red, wine & blue https://t.co/ohR4ntMYZW & pen america https://t.co/r5AZbNgoTQu201d

— Randi Weingarten u262eufe0fud83cuddfaud83cudde6ud83cuddfaud83cuddf8 (@Randi Weingarten u262eufe0fud83cuddfaud83cudde6ud83cuddfaud83cuddf8)
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Political strategist Frank Luntz was among the first to confront Weingarten online, pointing out her original post provided no source for its claims.

Weingarten, now beginning her eighth term as AFT president, responded: “We thought it was checked. My bad and I deleted…”

Bryan Griffin, press secretary for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, confirmed the inauthenticity of the list in an email to Snopes. “The image is fake,” he wrote, “This is just a completely fictitious list made by people potentially living in an alternate reality … Some of the listed books are specifically mentioned in Florida’s Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards.” The B.E.S.T. standards were introduced in Florida under DeSantis in 2021.

Speaking to specific titles included on the list, Griffin noted in a tweet that Florida recommends reading “To Kill A Mockingbird,” but it was banned elsewhere — “by a progressive district in California, along with other classics, in 2020.”

u201cFalse. The State of Florida has not banned To Kill a Mockingbird. In fact, Florida RECOMMENDS the book in 8th grade. (FL Standards linked, page 160). However, the book was banned by a progressive district in California, along with other classics, in 2020).nhttps://t.co/5JQelH8XZKu201d

— Bryan Griffin (@Bryan Griffin)
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Matt hill, district superintendent of the Burbank Unified School District, clarified that the books in question were not banned in his “progressive district,” but made “no longer mandatory reading.”

In 2022, the Seattle-based Mukilteo School Board similarly removed “To Kill a Mockingbird” from its curriculum after teachers and parents alleged it was racially insensitive.

Jeremy Redfern, deputy press secretary for DeSantis, noted that while “the state sets guidelines regarding content,” local school districts “are responsible for enforcing them.”

DeSantis signed a bill (HB 1467) into law on March 25, 2022, permitting Florida parents to contest library books and reading lists they considered objectionable.

Advertised as the “strongest curriculum transparency legislation in the country,” HB 1467 requires book selections to be “free of pornography and prohibited materials harmful to minors, suited to student needs, and appropriate for the grade level and age group.” Additionally, the law provides for “the regular removal or discontinuance of books based on factors specified in the bill, including those removed because of an objection by a parent or resident of the county.”

In March, Moms for Liberty’s Brevard County chapter identified 10 books the group believed were in violation of the Florida statute, not one of which was on the list Weingarten circulated. Among the titles flagged for perceived obscenity were: Elana K. Arnold’s “Red Hood”; Alice Sebold’s “Lucky”; and Juno Dawson’s “This Book Is Gay.”