Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler awarded “Two Pinocchios” for White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claiming that gay Florida teachers can no longer show pictures of their spouses in classrooms.
Jean-Pierre faced backlash on Thursday after claiming that Florida’s “dystopian Don’t Say Gay law” goes so far as to have teachers’ licenses revoked over issues such as showing pictures of their families.
“Teachers in Florida have already faced the devastating consequences of the existing law. Under threat of having their licenses revoked, gay teachers have been forced to take down pictures of their spouses from their desks and censor their classroom materials. Censoring our classes is not how public education is supposed to work in a free country. Conservative politicians love to complain about the so-called cancel culture, all while threatening teachers with losing their jobs if they teach something that the MAGA extremists don’t agree with,” Jean-Pierre said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed during Thursday’s conference that Florida’s education law would revoke gay teachers’ licenses if they display pictures of their spouses. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Kessler noted that the claim was “in dispute” and that readers “believed that to be incorrect.” However, he argued that it was a “complicated issue” and only rated the claim two out of four Pinocchios following stories from Florida teachers such as Gracie Lindquist and Adarius Payne.
“The state, in a legal filing, said it does not ban photos, and a county that suggested a ban was in place quickly reversed itself. That would indicate at least Three Pinocchios. At the same time, the practical effect of the law appears to discourage teachers from displaying photos of loved ones, given the hassles encountered by Lindquist and Payne. That tips us toward Two,” Kessler wrote.
Though both Lindquist and Payne faced investigations regarding parental complaints over discussing or displaying images of their significant others, neither one lost their licenses. Kessler explained that following a legal filing from the LGBTQ rights organization Equality Florida, the state emphasized in 2022 that photos are unrelated to the education law.
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler gave Jean-Pierre’s claim “Two Pinocchios.” (Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
“Jean-Pierre erred by flatly saying that the law — ‘under threat of losing their licenses’ — forces teachers to remove photos that indicate they have same-sex partners. Florida, in fact, denied that was the case in a legal filing nearly a year ago,” Kessler wrote.
While Kessler acknowledged that the press secretary “erred,” he argued thte the law was having a “chilling effect” brought onto teachers.
“The White House press secretary would have been on more solid ground if she had emphasized that some teachers have said the law has had a chilling effect and that they have taken down photos to avoid getting into trouble. Lindquist and Payne recounted how a photo of their loved one prompted a question from curious students — typical of the give-and-take in classroom instruction — which eventually led to parental complaints. So while the photo itself may be permitted under the law, the teacher got into trouble because a photo was seen by students, prompting a discussion that briefly touched on same-sex relationships,” Kessler wrote.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has faced intense media backlash for the Parental Rights in Education law. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A report from the Washington Post by reporter Hannah Natanson back in January claimed that teachers could face felony charges based on simply displaying unapproved titles under Florida’s new education laws. However, the report later clarified that the felony charges were based on a pre-existing Florida law prohibiting the distribution of pornography to minors.