FIRST ON FOX: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky met with parents just once leading up to the release of school reopening guidance last year. Now, new documents obtained by Fox News Digital reveal the parents featured in that meeting were primarily left-wing activists, including the head of a transgender-aligned group and others at organizations funded by Democratic megadonors.
Walensky frequently touted that they had consulted parents’ needs for the guidance despite her calendar containing the sole 30-minute meeting. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten used the event to attack Fox News Digital and other publications for reporting on the CDC’s closeness with teachers’ unions. In May 2021, Weingarten tweeted a screenshot of a CDC email showing the event, saying the outlets “are probably never going to let their readers know that the CDC met with parents too.”The parents who participated in the meeting, however, almost exclusively included a handful of liberal activists, according to the previously redacted emails obtained by Americans for Public Trust as part of their FOIA lawsuit against the CDC and shared with Fox News Digital.
Walensky’s private February 10, 2021, roundtable featured five participants, including Roz Keith, the founder and executive director of Stand With Trans, an organization for parents of transgender children, the documents show.
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner and Angelica Gonzalez also participated in the meeting. Rowe-Finkbeiner is the executive director of MomsRising, a progressive group that undertakes campaigns ranging from “workplace justice” to gun safety. Gonzalez, likewise, is affiliated with MomsRising, according to a tweet from the group.Heavyweight Democratic donors, meanwhile, finance the organization. MomsRising received $1 million each from George Soros‘ Open Society Policy Center and Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss’ Berger Action Fund in 2020, according to grants.
Another participant in Walensky’s closed press roundtable was Elena Hung, the president and co-founder of Little Lobbyists, which seeks “to protect and expand the rights of children who have complex medical needs and disabilities through advocacy, education, and outreach.”
Hung is also a national co-chair of Health Care Voter, which holds politicians accountable for their votes on healthcare issues. The group is a project of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a progressive nonprofit incubator at a massive liberal dark money network managed by Washington, the D.C.-based consulting firm Arabella Advisors.
The last parent on the call was Rachel Kobrin, a congregational rabbi.
“Since taking the reins of the CDC, Dr. Walensky has prioritized everything but following the science,” Caitlin Sutherland, executive director of Americans for Public Trust, told Fox News Digital.
“First, she colluded with the teachers unions to keep our schools closed, and now we learn that her ‘parent’ meeting was nothing more than placating the demands of liberal activists from dark money groups,” Sutherland said. “Maybe if the CDC spent less time appeasing activists and unions, kids could have returned to school faster and wouldn’t be facing devastating losses in learning.”
Jason McDonald, Walensky’s press secretary, told Fox News Digital that Walensky and other CDC scientists “attended dozen of engagements with a diverse range of groups and advocacy organizations ahead of the release of the COVID-19 schools guidance.”
“CDC experts met with parents at three, national PTA-hosted events on August 7, 2020, January 4, 2021, and February 12, 2021, where parents could ask CDC experts questions about the guidance and how to keep their children safe at school,” he said, adding that their experts fielded “17,276 calls and email messages from Americans asking about COVID-19 and schools between March 1, 2020, and February 11, 2021.”
During a February 12, 2021, press briefing for the release of the school reopening guidelines, Walensky said they had considered the “lived experiences, challenges, and perspectives” of parents and worked “to hear firsthand from parents.” She also suggested guidance changes occurred due to “sessions” that included parents.
“The latest guidance is based on science and outreach with teachers, parents and the Department of Education,” Walensky told NBC News. “CDC officials conducted comprehensive reviews of literature and extensively studied what happened during school openings in the fall and in Europe,” she said.
Walensky also referred to the guidance as a “long-needed roadmap” that included input from parents, The 74 reported.
However, Walensky’s internal calendar indicates she had only conducted the sole parents meeting with the far-left activists, which occurred just two days before the release of the school guidance. The 30-minute Zoom session allowed each participant three minutes to “introduce themselves and discuss their needs for safe school reopening,” her calendar shows.
The American Federation of Teachers and Weingarten, who said Fox News Digital would probably never report on the parents’ meeting, had instant access to Walensky and other high-level CDC officials. Teachers’ unions also influenced last-minute changes to the school-reopening guidance, Fox News Digital previously reported.
Kelly Trautner, American Federation of Teachers’ senior director of health issues, emailed Walensky a day before the CDC publicly posted the guidance. Within the email, she suggested the agency insert the line: “In the event high-community transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary.”
The email led to a flurry of activity from high-ranking CDC officials. The next day – on the day the guidance was released to the public – CDC chief of staff Sherri Berger flagged Trautner’s suggestion for “possible follow-ups.”
Minutes later, Walensky forwarded the email to the CDC’s director of preparedness and emerging infections, Henry Walke, who replied, “Yes, will work with team.”
Shortly after, Walke emailed Walensky with updated language for the guidance. “Super, thank you for doing that,” Walensky replied.
The emails further revealed that the AFT and National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, received a copy of the guidance before the CDC made it public. The CDC’s then-acting associate director for communications, Christopher Jones, also messaged Weingarten and Becky Pringle, NEA’s president, thanking them for their continued partnership and input.
The New York Post also reported on emails from Americans for Public Trust showing coordination between the Biden White House and the influential teachers’ unions on school reopenings.
In at least two instances, suggestions offered by the AFT were “adopted nearly verbatim” in the final text of a CDC document on reopening guidance, the Post reported.
The Biden administration later tightened school masking guidelines in May 2021 following threats from teachers’ unions, Fox News Digital previously reported.