Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed President of the National Association of Scholars and author Peter Wood to the newsmakers line to discuss what prompted his new book, 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project.
Leahy: We are delighted to be joined on our newsmaker line by Peter Wood. He’s the President of the National Association of Scholars and the author of 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project. Welcome, Professor Wood.
Wood: Well thank you for having me.
Leahy: Well, look, I was watching CSPAN the other day, and there you were making a logical response. Very compelling. I was delighted to hear you talk about your response to The 1619 Project. Tell us a little bit about The 1619 Project and what’s wrong with it.
Wood: About a year and a half ago, in August of 2019, The New York Times ran a special edition of its Sunday magazine. They titled it The 1619 Project. So literally what the project is, is it’s a 100-page newspaper supplement. What it did was declared that the real history of America began in the year 1619, when a ship brought 20 some slaves to what was then Jamestown, Virginia. That was the claim made.
And from that point on, according to The New York Times, and its principal author of this a woman named Nikole Hannah-Jones, America was a slaveocracy. That was the beginning of White supremacy and the beginning of 400 years of misery, oppression, exploitation of black people by White people. This wasn’t just an ancient history lesson, though.
The claim was that everything that’s happened since then has been through the filter of White supremacy. So The 1619 Project goes on to declare that America’s founding principles were a sham and illusion that were never intended to be taken seriously. That the American Revolution was fought by the White colonists in order to preserve the institution of slavery from the threat that the British might abolish slavery.
That Abraham Lincoln was a racist who created the Civil War in order to exile Blacks from off the shores of North America and on and on. This is kind of an elaborate fantasy that tells the tale of things that truly never happened and distortion of things that really did happen.
Leahy: How can such distortion of fact be presented by The New York Times as fact and then be sent into virtually every one of our K-12 public schools around the country?
Wood: Well, it’s a wonderful instance of how propaganda works. You set up some lies and you repeat them endlessly. You pay people to repeat them for you, and then you recruit people who don’t know any better to amplify them. So what The New York Times did was link with the Pulitzer Center to turn this into a curriculum and then recruit school districts around the country and history teachers to start teaching it. And that’s exactly what they’ve done.
The New York Times has spared no expense. Many millions of dollars. It did a television advertising campaign for the first time in the history of that newspaper. It has been presenting it as fact to all the world. And low and behold, the Biden administration has bought into it. So we now have a presidential endorsement, as well as all of the apparatus that a wealthy newspaper can bring to the table.
Leahy: So I guess you’re based in New York City yourself now aren’t you? Isn’t the National Association of Scholars in New York? Are you based in New York?
Wood: I certainly am. My offices are on Madison Avenue, right in the heart of Midtown. So I’m in the belly of the beast.
Leahy: You are in the belly of the beast. By the way, I’m just going to put a plugin here for this. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Nashville, Tennessee has become a center for conservative media. The Daily Wire with Candace Owens, run by Ben Shapiro is in Nashville. Sean Davis of The Federalist is in Nashville. Out Kick the Coverage with Clay Travis and Jason Whitlock are here in Nashville. Of course, The Tennessee Star Report is in Nashville. I’m just going to give an open invitation to the National Association of Scholars to please consider moving to Nashville.
Wood: (Chuckles) Well, stranger things have happened. I have noticed that Nashville, Tennessee has become one of the islands of sanity, relatively speaking, in this dire time.
Leahy: More specifically, it would be Middle Tennessee in the state of Tennessee. The city of Nashville is a little bit woke, but you can come here and help fix that. By the way, just in case you’re considering it, we have no state income tax in Tennessee. (Wood moans) Nor is there any city tax. So just think about it. How did you decide that you’re going to take the effort to put together 1620: A Critical Response.
Wood: Well, it wasn’t a hard decision. For my sins I get The New York Times delivered to my door every morning. So I woke up that morning and read what was in this magazine. It was a jaw-dropping experience. I know enough American history to recognize falsehoods when I see them. So the next day, I called my staff together at the National Association of Scholars.
That was before we’ve been shut down and sent to the four winds. And we decided that we needed to make a concerted effort to repute this thing. We started calling up historians and getting them on tape and interviewing people about it. And after a few months of that, it was clear that there was enough going on that something more was needed. So I began working on that book.
Leahy: So the book 1620 A Critical Response to the 1619 Project as a counterpoint to what happened in 16 19 in Jamestown, Virginia, when 20 African Americans or Africans were brought to Jamestown, you focus on 1620 when something else happened.
Wood: Yes. In November of 1620, a small ship had made its way across the Atlantic had been blown off course and ended up off the coast of Massachusetts. We know that ship is the Mayflower. It had on board about 102 passengers. And of those, fewer than half were people that we now call Pilgrims. The rest were settlers that were hoping to become farmers in Northern Virginia.
They were very unhappy to be off the coast of Massachusetts and declared that they were going to go their separate ways. The religious centers, the pilgrims that originally were from Holland thought that was a bad idea. They negotiated. They quarreled. But ultimately they came up with a short agreement that we call the Mayflower Compact, which set up rules.
Basically, they decided since they were now outside the territory controlled by England, they were going to have to be self-governing. And that meant figuring out a way to live together despite their religious and political differences. So what that did was it became something like an early version of the Declaration of Independence. It was a charter for how to govern themselves. Despite their differences, it pointed to basic religious freedom.
They decided they were going to tolerate one another. They were going to live under the rule of law, and they were going to respect those laws by electing their own leaders and legislating their own rules. That Mayflower Compact eventually became the template model for how Americans would govern themselves. First in New England and around the rest of the country. It’s set up the pattern of a small town that was essentially self-governing and never got forgotten.
Leahy: Exactly. Now, Here’s what’s interesting. My question to you. So your pushback on 1620 was published in November. What has been the response to your pushback?
Wood: Well, the conservative response has been tremendous. The book has sold very well and is getting lots of interviews like this one. The response from The New York Times has been crickets. Of course, they don’t take notice of anyone who criticizes them. I would say that it’s becoming clear to many millions of Americans that this thing is in their schools. Their kids are coming home with very strange stories about the American past. Almost everybody now has heard of critical race theory and these ideas that America is a slaveocracy or White supremacy has invaded everything and that implicit racism is everywhere.
The 1619 Project was the launching platform for those ideas where this stuff first entered the mainstream, so to speak. So I think we have a culture war. The old culture war is back with a vengeance. This time around it’s trying to throw sand in the eyes of Americans. To understand our past we have to understand it as a place that is fundamentally and deeply unfair, and that racism is at the heart of everything that goes on. I think there’s an appetite by Americans to push back against that.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed retired attorney and blog creator of Misrule of Law Mark Pulliam to the studio to discuss the inconsistencies between Tennessee universities and their conservative legislators.
Leahy: And that’s governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem. A rising star in the Republican firmament. And she’s talking about Joe Biden’s reckless decision to cancel this Keystone pipeline. We are talking with Mark Pulliam in studio who is a blogger and a refugee from California. And then later a refugee from the People’s Republic of Austin Texas who’s come to East Tennessee and is sending out warning signs about the complacency of conservatives which needs to be addressed here.
But we’re talking a little bit about how the country will survive the next two years of the Biden administration between now and the midterm elections. One of my theories Mark is that we need in those 35 states where freedom is still possible, by the way, California is not on the list of those 35 States. You’re shaking your head. you agree with that.
But in those 35 states, we need to return to federalism. We need those states, the state legislators, and the governor’s states to be strong proponents of state sovereignty and push back against the usurpations of the national federal government. Kristi Noem in South Dakota I think it’s done a very good job of that. She didn’t do any lockdowns.
And is a great rising star. At CPAC I think she was in the top four-five of potential presidential candidates. My question to you you’ve lived in California recently. You’ve lived in, Texas and now you live in Tennessee. How would you rate the governors of those states in terms of their exercise of authority pushing back against the usurpations of the national federal government?
Pulliam: Well federalism is important. And in Washington, we have gridlock. We’ve got Chuck Schumer. We got Nancy Pelosi. We got a lot of complicated problems and it’s hard to get things done there. But in states like Tennessee where you have an overwhelmingly Republican electorate, where you have a Republican super-majority in the legislature, and where you have statewide elected officials who are all Republicans, we should be able to chart a different direction to run things differently.
And just because the federal government is in bad shape doesn’t mean that we cannot enact good policies at the state level. But we have to have the will and the resolve to do so. And what is disappointing and this was disappointing in Texas and I’m beginning to feel becoming disappointed about in Tennessee is that even though you have this Republican establishment that is in charge at the state level they don’t govern like Republicans should be governing.
Leahy: So when we talk about that, I think one of the areas that we’re talking about of air during the break has to do with how higher education here in Tennessee is being subjected to the kind of left-wing, critical race theory indoctrination that you are seeing in California, New York, and these other states. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Pulliam: Well, the legislature has plenary power over the state universities because they fund them. And the governor has a great deal of authority over state universities because he points to most of the members of the boards of trustees that oversee them. Nevertheless notwithstanding the fact that we’re paying for it, and we’re overseeing it across Tennessee at the flagship campus and at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, but at the other campuses, we see critical race theory.
We see the whole diversity agenda. LGBTQ. All of the elements of wokeness being woven into the curriculum. And our children are being indoctrinated right here in Nashville. At Tennessee State, Al Sharpton this semester is being paid $48,000 to be a lecturer and an adjunct professor in social justice. . . Why are the taxpayers and Tennessee paying him $48,000? He’s a despicable character and by bringing him in we are legitimizing him. But it’s not just Tennessee State. Its athletes taking a knee and being praised by University administrators.
Leahy: This is East Tennessee?
Pulliam: Well, not just East Tennessee the women basketball players at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. And at the men’s basketball players. In fact, all of the athletes at the University of Tennessee marched during the George Floyd protest, and this was during a COVID shutdown at the time. And the university administrators applauded it.
Leahy: That was back in the summer. But the one in the news now is the East Tennessee State University men’s basketball team took a knee recently to protest the national anthem.
Pulliam: And the coaches are defending them. And when the GOP legislators senators wrote a letter criticizing it the university administrators are pushing back and saying oh you’re violating these athletes’ First Amendment rights even though most of them are on taxpayer-paid scholarships. They’re wearing taxpayer-provided uniforms. They are representing the state of Tennessee.
Leahy: So is it a first amendment right? You are an attorney.
Pulliam: No. I think that what student-athletes do on their own time. That’s a First Amendment Right. What you do on the court while you are literally representing the state is rules can be set.
Leahy: So let me just stop. I think that’s a very good point. So the First Amendment basically gives freedom of speech but doesn’t require that people have an opportunity to hear you necessarily and you can go on a soapbox and say whatever you want. But if you’re working for an employer or if you’re representing an employer or an institution there are rules and regulations that bind your conduct at that time. Is that right?
Pulliam: Yes. And for all intents and purposes, they are employees performing a job when they are athletes playing basketball. And so what they do in their capacity as basketball players is subject to management and regulation by the state. and making people stand respectfully during the national anthem I think is part of that. The NFL is making people do that. If you want to take a knee stay in the locker room etc. There’s no reason why the University of Tennessee can’t do it or others.
Leahy: So let’s talk about that a little bit. And this is kind of one of the things that I find interesting. So in theory, it’s the state legislature that sets the law in the state?
Leahy: Signed by the governor.
Pulliam: And appropriates all the money.
Leahy: So here’s what I find. So the state . . . when we talk to the state legislators, it’s about two-thirds Republican in the House. It’s more than that in the Senate like I think 27 Republicans and six Democrats in the state senate. But if you talk to them they all are very conservative and very supportive of the Constitution. As an example, there’s a law that says the Constitution will be part of the curriculum.
But if you go in and you try and find that curriculum and find teachers telling teaching it, you don’t really find it in the way that the state legislature intended. We know this because as you know, we’ve done this Constitution Bee for four years now going on five written a book about it. Complimentary text Guide to the Constitution the Bill of Rights for Secondary School Students.
We are not getting a lot of teachers in public schools that really care to use that content, even though it hits all of the elements that the state legislature says should be hit in teaching the Constitution. So we see a lot of times the state legislature will say this is what should be done. But the implementation of it doesn’t seem to happen that much.
Pulliam: Well speaking of how a conservative legislature should manage taxpayer-funded universities. So five years ago there was a controversy at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville regarding gender-neutral pronouns and sex week activities.
Leahy: The sex week, we did a lot of stories on it. But they were really kind of bizarre.
Pulliam: Well it’s no more bizarre than a lot of other stuff that’s part of this curriculum. Well, so it got controversial the legislature defunded the diversity office. It got a lot of attention $400,000 taken out of the budget. What people didn’t realize it was only for one year. So after one year that the vice-chancellor of diversity is back.
All of the money is back. And in fact, it’s gotten a lot worse. Now, they have diversity officers in every academic department. Every department has to have a diversity plan. Critical race theory is being promoted throughout the school. And so they sort of pushed away a lot of this controversy by taking some action, but it was illusory action.
Leahy: We’ll have more with Mark Pulliam blogger at the Misrule of Law and Refugee from California here on The Tennessee Star Report.
Listen to the full first hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Mark Pulliam” by Mark Pulliam.