Former President Barack Obama issued a rare public statement on Monday condemning what he calls “profoundly misguided” book bans in an “open letter” to librarians.
Obama sought to show “his support to America’s librarians in an era of rising book challenges and growing personal attacks against those who resist them” and reiterate the “importance of communities being able to have access to information via libraries.”
On Tuesday’s show, Megyn was joined by Christopher Rufo, author of America’s Cultural Revolution, to discuss what Obama gets wrong in his letter and how the American Library Association (ALA) has been “hijacked” by ideologues.
Obama’s Open Letter
There has been a renewed focus on the books and reading materials that children are able to access at school and in libraries. Parents have attended school board meetings and vocally fought for the ability to ensure the content children are being exposed to is age appropriate, which might mean moving certain titles out of the children’s section.
This has led many on the left to accuse Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), groups like Moms for Liberty, and concerned parents of advocating for ‘book bans.’ Megyn said the notion even seeped into her own kids’ classroom. “He goes to a non-woke school – we selected it for that reason – but there was this one woke teacher who sneaked in and he said to my son’s class, ‘Oh, the right is banning LGBTQ books in schools across America, and it’s terrifying,’” she shared. “Of course we set our son straight, but this is in a non-woke school – imagine what the messaging is to kids… in the regular schools.”
As she explained, no one is banning books. “They’re not banned,” she emphasized. “They’re kicked out of elementary schools and young education centers, but you can get them, sadly, at the public library, you can get them on Amazon.”
Obama’s letter was written in concert with the American Library Association and its ‘Unite Against Book Bans’ campaign. It reads in part:
“Today, some of the books that shaped my life—and the lives of so many others—are being challenged by people who disagree with certain ideas or perspectives. It’s no coincidence that these ‘banned books’ are often written by or feature people of color, indigenous people, and members of the LGBTQ+ community…
In a very real sense, you’re on the front lines—fighting every day to make the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions, and ideas available to everyone. Your dedication and professional expertise allow us to freely read and consider information and ideas, and decide for ourselves which ones we agree with…”– Barack Obama, July 17, 2023
Megyn was unmoved. “His letter speaks to these sweet dear old librarians, who I’m sure have absolutely no political agenda,” she quipped. “We’re all racists and transphobes if we don’t want books about little boy blow jobs in our children’s elementary schools? This is so dishonest.”
The Truth About the ALA
The letter was pushed far and wide by the American Library Association, which may recall from a recent episode of The Megyn Kelly Show. Earlier this month, Megyn spoke with Kirk Cameron about the lengths the organization has gone to in an effort to thwart his national “See You at the Library” next month.
Cameron and faith-based book publisher Brave Books have been encouraging families to reserve rooms at their local libraries on August 5 to “pray, sing, and read Brave Books and other books of virtue.” Brave Books obtained a recording of ALA Director Deborah Caldwell-Stone giving a presentation in which she indicated the organization was looking to “exploit loopholes to block Brave Books story hours.” In the clip, she can also be heard offering tips on how to limit meeting room reservations connected to the event in an effort to “keep control of your library.”
Rufo said the situation is further proof that the ALA has been “absolutely hijacked by left-wing activists and ideologues.” Caldwell-Stone is claiming to be “open” and “tolerant,” he noted, when in reality she is “scheming to subvert the intention of the First Amendment” that requires libraries “to offer viewpoint-neutral meeting spaces and other facilities.”
While public libraries may have a mandate to provide “equal access,” Rufo said they make every attempt to skirt the rules. “It’s really ridiculous on its face to say… parents, and public school administrators, and public school boards – who are elected in a democratic process – are not allowed to restrict pornography in a kindergarten classroom,” Rufo said. “It flies in the face not just of common sense… but also… the real true meaning of the First Amendment, which was designed to protect substantive speech and debate about public issues, not to protect the publicly funded activists from jamming pseudoscience and race scapegoating into your child’s curriculum.”
How to Fight Back
Rufo has been on the frontlines of these culture wars for years now, and he said the best method to fight back against the ‘book banning’ narrative is to confront the content head on. “Show the books, show the pages, show the illustrations, and make them not defend this rosy abstraction but make them defend the specific content that is being pushed on kids,” he explained.
This tends to get people squirming. “All of a sudden, people – even like former President Barack Obama – would be very uncomfortable if you showed them the pornographic material, the material of racial scapegoating, and… say, ‘Do you want your kids learning this? Do you want other kids to learn this? Why are you forcing this on families that disagree,’” he shared. “That’s always a really fun strategy, and I find it quite delightful to watch them squirm.”
Megyn said you can look no further than the book Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, which has become a rallying cry on the left, to prove Rufo’s point. “I’m just looking at Gender Queer, which is the book that ‘gets banned,’ and it’s filthy,” she explained. “It’s got erotic scenes of men having sex, illustrations of minors performing oral sex, a drawing of a man masturbating a young boy’s penis, shots of blood all over thighs from a period, and like graphic descriptions – this is disgusting.”
Ultimately, Megyn found Obama’s letter to be misguided. “It’s just absolutely alarming that somebody like the former president of the United States would feel the need to defend this,” she concluded. “I don’t know if he didn’t do his homework or what – either way it’s inexcusable.”
You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Rufo by tuning in to episode 589 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.