Beto O'Rourke comes out against critical race theory in schools

Florida residents debate anti-CRT bill as state lawmakers prepare to vote

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Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke became one of the first Democratic Party leaders to explicitly come out against critical race theory (CRT) in schools.

O'Rourke spoke to a crowd of Texas in Victoria on Friday, where he was asked about critical race theory's appropriateness for being taught in grade schools. O'Rourke at first dodged the issue, telling a crowd member that the concepts of CRT are not being taught in schools at present.

"And I think you and I are probably on the same page as well. We don't see CRT being taught in our schools right now. It is a course that is taught in law schools," O'Rourke said.

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Immediately after his comment, a member of the audience asked if O'Rourke supported CRT in schools, to which the gubernatorial candidate said, "No, I don't think [CRT] should be taught in our schools."

CRT has proved to be a powder keg issue for Democrats for the past several years. Moderate lawmakers courting the middle of the political spectrum have attempted to distance themselves from the concept, which focuses on how power structures and institutions impact racial minorities, without outright condemning the ideology.

More progressive and left-wing Democrats have either doubled down on CRT as a positive contribution to students' education, or denied its presence in schools.

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In a report from the Manhattan Institute, data showed that CRT was a losing issue in elections, with all but the most left-wing voters.

"An overwhelming majority of voters of all political stripes oppose certain Critical Race Theory– inspired teaching methods, such as separating children by race into ‘privileged' and 'oppressed,’" the report read. "However, there are large partisan gaps over whether students should be taught that the U.S. is a racist country or whether the curriculum should focus more on race and gender."

FILE - Texas Democrat gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks during a campaign event in Fort Worth, Texas Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. O'Rourke said Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, that his campaign for Texas governor raised $7.2 million in the first six weeks of a race that could wind up as one of the nation's most expensive in 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File) (AP)

"Public opinion on culture-war issues tends to split the Democratic coalition while uniting Republicans, suggesting that culture-war issues are a risk that the Democrats must manage, while presenting an opportunity for the Republicans," the report added.

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe, who lost to Republican Glenn Youngkin, dismissed CRT as a "right-wing conspiracy theory" in the run-up to the 2021 election.

A woman had asked McAuliffe: "I was just wondering – with all of the Republicans talking about critical race theory, and they're making this huge deal about it, and it's all of the conversation with the news in Virginia. What are you going to say to all of those people making education about that?"

"That's another right-wing conspiracy," McAuliffe said. "This is totally made up by Donald Trump and Glenn Youngkin. This is who they are. It's a conspiracy theory."

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O'Rourke spoke at SXSW (South by Southwest) on Saturday, a music festival and media event in Austin, Texas.

(Beto O'Rourke (left) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (right).)

O'Rourke is facing current Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott in a bid for governor, who he slammed as a "thug" in his SXSW discussion.

"He's a thug, he's an authoritarian," O'Rourke said of Abbott on Saturday.

Fox News's Cameron Cawthorne , Sam Dorman, and Tyler O'Neil contributed to this report.

Timothy Nerozzi Fox News