Fox News host falsely accuses attorney general of perjury over school board comments

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Fox News repeated falsehoods from a House Republican attack against the attorney general.

Fox News host Will Cain on Wednesday falsely accused Attorney General Merrick Garland of committing perjury before Congress and inaccurately claimed the Department of Justice is treating "concerned parents" as domestic terrorists and using the Patriot Act against them.

Cain's allegations are based on a letter sent by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the ranking Republican member on the House Judiciary Committee, to Garland on Tuesday. In the letter, Jordan falsely claims that an internal FBI memo provided to him by a "Department whistleblower" "provides specific evidence that federal law enforcement operationalized counterterrorism tools at the behest of a left-wing special interest group against concerned parents" and suggests that Garland "willfully misled the Committee about the nature and extent of the Department's use of federal counterterrorism tools to target concerned parents at school board meetings."

According to the Wall Street Journal, the memo was released to Republicans by an FBI agent "citing concerns that it could open the door for the bureau to collect information on parents."

The FBI memo details how it intends to handle related data, specifying the creation "of a threat tag, EDUOFFICIALS, to track instances of related threats."

The FBI told the Baltimore Sun that it regularly uses such tags to track trends, categorizing them for the purpose of sharing information with other law enforcement agencies. The FBI has used threat tags in response to drug crimes and human trafficking.

"These whistleblower documents reveal, at a minimum, that Attorney General Merrick Garland perjured himself before Congress," claimed Cain on "Fox & Friends First." "But more importantly, how about the Department of Justice using the Patriot Act to turn on American citizens, concerned parents over their children's education? This is not acceptable in the United States of America, never has been, never will be, certainly isn't today. We need to clean house."

Jordan's version of events has been promoted and amplified by other congressional Republicans, including Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Republicans have been attacking Garland and the Department of Justice since Garland issued a memo on Oct. 4 directing federal law enforcement to coordinate with local authorities to investigate threats and intimidation of officials at local school board meetings, shown to be increasing as conservatives ramp up attacks on mask mandates, gender inclusivity, and anti-racism curricula in schools.

Garland testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Oct. 21, "I can't imagine any circumstance in which the Patriot Act would be used in the circumstances of parents complaining about their children."

A fact check published that same day by PolitiFact, before the second memo was released, noted that other Republican claims that the Patriot Act is being used against parents by the Justice Department are false.

The memo provided to Jordan does not confirm the allegations made by Republicans and by Fox News. It instructs officials to meet with federal, state, local, and tribal leaders to investigate "threats of violence" or instances in which school officials or parents feel "fear for their safety."

The memo additionally asks for law enforcement engagement to "identify trends, strategies, and best practices to accomplish discouraging, identifying, and prosecuting those who use violence, threats of violence, and other forms of intimidation and harassment."

Cain concluded his segment, "Attorney General Merrick Garland offered zero evidence of credible threats, violent, anything, towards school board members or staff. Nothing to back up this horrendous charge."

But there have been multiple reports across the country of violence at school board meetings, which is what initially prompted the National School Boards Association to seek federal help to deal with the problem.

In September, NPR noted instances of mobs of people "yelling obscenities and throwing objects" at meetings, and reported that in one school district "a protester brandished a flagpole against a school board official."

The outlet further noted that one school board was faced with a protester making a Nazi salute, while others have seen arrests for disorderly conduct and aggravated battery and received death threats.

In Loudoun County, Virginia, a man was arrested at a school board meeting after the board affirmed its commitment to fighting for gender and racial equity.

Loudoun County has been the subject of many Fox News segments as the network has demonized schools for handling topics such as gender equity and the history of racism in the United States.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.