In the aftermath of Virginia's 2019 election, when Democrats took control of both houses of the state legislature, an IT engineer named David Gordon announced a plan to help Republicans regain control of state government.
The Virginia Project, Gordon pledged in the mission statement for the new political action committee, would "force the Democratic Party to play defense, disrupt their narratives, and counter their long-view of strategy of incremental and continuous gains."
By March 2021, the Virginia Project would have a potent issue. Anxiety over critical race theory, a field of study developed by legal scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw and others, was being fanned by conservative politicians, media personalities and local activists across the country, with detractors charging that school administrators were stealthily incorporating new ways of considering race and equity into school curricula.
The Virginia Project launched a "Program on Un-American Activities," which charged that topics like "critical theory, critical race theory, queer theory, equity, transgenderism, cancel culture and other forms of Cultural Marxism" were being wielded as "ideological subversion" against the United States.
The PAC squarely took aim at a key battleground in the new culture wars — Loudoun County, the wealthiest county in not only Virginia but the entire country, just outside of Washington DC.
Loudoun County Public Schools has acknowledged a history of discrimination against Black and Latinx students, and an energetic cross-section of school board members, teachers and parents has committed to promoting what it believes are more equitable practices. Meanwhile, a local parent named Scott Mineo was ramping up a new organization called Parents Against Critical Theory, or PACT, to fight the perceived implementation of critical race theory. PACT and the Virginia Project joined forces on March 3 to present a webinar entitled "What is Critical Race Theory and Its Impact on Loudoun County Schools" that casts the district's efforts to improve equity as a detrimental force that, as one presenter put it, is "now actually running our government."
Sensing a formidable alliance taking shape, parents on the other side of the debate drew up a list of opponents that was shared in the private Facebook group Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County. Screenshots of the Facebook thread were leaked, and critical coverage from the conservative website the Daily Wire and Fox News soon drew unfavorable attention to the school district.
Violent, racist and degrading emails and social media posts directed at teachers, school board members and parents quickly ensued.
Meanwhile, the Virginia Project issued letters threatening litigation against a school board member and a parent involved in efforts to promote equity. There is no evidence that Mineo or Gordon were responsible for any of the emails or social media posts, or encouraged anyone else to make them. Mineo and Gordon's organizations have denounced threats. In an April 22 press release, PACT declared it was standing with the school board "against any type of threatening or vile communications." A lawyer for the Virginia Project, albeit in a letter threatening a lawsuit against one of the parents, wrote that "all such threats and all people issuing any such threats are not in any way connected with or condoned by TVP."
Loudoun County is rapidly diversifying, with the white population dropping from 69.5 percent in 2010 to 63.1 percent, according to the most recent census estimate. White students in Loudoun County Public Schools have gone from being a majority of enrollment — 57.8 percent — in 2010 to only 43.4 percent today. Although white students are no longer the majority, they still make up the largest racial cohort.
In 2013, the school district launched a survey to gauge parents' input on a range of social and cultural issues. Based on the results, schools Public Information Officer Wayde Byard told Raw Story: "We undertook an equity effort, training staff, which is majority white. During the staff training, critical race theory was discussed. It was not the basis for the training. It was not indoctrination. It was not put in the curriculum."
Asked to provide evidence that Loudoun County Schools is teaching critical race theory, Parents Against Critical Theory founder Scott Mineo provided Raw Story with an invoice from a consulting group that shows the district was billed $3,125 in June 2020 for five hours of coaching support itemized as "follow-up meetings focused on critical race theory development."
Broadly summarized, according to a slide in a presentation by the consulting group that provided the training, critical race theory "analyzes the role of race and racism in perpetuating social disparities between dominant and marginalized racial groups."
"Being against critical race theory doesn't mean that someone holds the position of a white supremacist," he said.
The administrators and teachers at Loudoun County Public Schools are reckoning with tangible evidence that the district has discriminated against Black and Latinx students. Following an investigation into a complaint filed by the NAACP Loudoun Branch, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced in November 2020 that "there is reasonable cause to believe that Loudoun County Public Schools' administration of the Academies of Loudoun program resulted in a discriminatory disparate impact on Black/African-American and Latinx/Hispanic students who applied to the Academy of Engineering & Technology and the Academy of Science programs in the fall 2018 admission cycle for enrollment in the 9th grade class of 2019-2020."
As the controversy over equity at Loudoun County Public Schools unfolded, Mineo has been catapulted into the national media, with appearances on Fox News' "Fox & Friends."
A "Fox & Friends" story headlined "Evidence of race indoctrination in Virginia classrooms is clear, Loudoun County parent says," ran on April 8, featuring an interview with Mineo. Introducing the segment, co-host Steve Doocy put the onus on Mineo, saying, "A Virginia parents group is fighting to keep critical race theory out of their classrooms in Loudoun County, Virginia. They've released evidence that, they say, proves the controversial curriculum is being used in their schools."
The evidence presented was a slide headlined "White fragility" that, ironically, appears to have proved its point as a focus of ire for conservative media and activists. The slide includes this quote: "Since white people are in a state of privilege with regards to racial issues (meaning they can choose not to think about racial issues that don't affect them) they may respond to the whole discussion of race with discomfort."
A slide in the presentation on critical race theory by the Virginia Project in the March 3 webinar co-hosted with Mineo's group claims that beneath the outward goals of "dismantling systems of oppression and structural racism," there is a hidden agenda "to undermine our constitution and individual sovereignty" and that it "erases history and culture and replaces it with a 'new, more equitable and equal' future." The slide concludes, "Critical theory is essentially a religion. Call it wokism, neo-Marxism, neo-racism or identity politics; it utterly lacks in humility and forgiveness and is practiced with religious zealotry."
For his part, Mineo shared a presentation with a slide that uses controversial and conspiracy-charged language to describe organizations that he says are responsible for promoting critical race theory. The presentation attacks the NAACP as "Black supremacists, anti-white and BLM supporter"; Black Lives Matter as a "domestic Marxist terrorist organization, black supremacists, anti-white, pro-segregation, anti-police, funded and controlled by white liberals"; and the National Education Association as "anti-education, anti-student, radical social justice warriors."
Sensing a threat to equity efforts in the school district, a group of parents opened a thread in the Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County private Facebook group "to compile a document of all known actors and supporters" in "the anti-CRT movement," as one parent put it.
Mineo's name was the first to be added in the March 13 Facebook thread.
All told, the parents working to promote equity compiled 50 names, including spouses, according to screenshots provided to Raw Story by the Virginia Project.
No evidence has been publicly presented indicating that the names of critical race theory opponents were published outside of the private Facebook group, or that anyone's addresses were listed on the Facebook thread. A screenshot reviewed by Raw Story shows that Jamie Neidig-Wheaton, the administrator of the group, turned off comments seven weeks ago, which would have been around March 16, the day the Daily Wire story came out.
The day after the Daily Wire article was published, a teacher named in the story received an email from an anonymous account that said, in part: "Really? You fucking ugly piece of dog shit…. How dare you and your merry band of dumb cuts and pussy 'men'! Fuck you and your list! Eat shit and die."
Another person wrote from an encrypted email account: "I saw your fat face in a Daily Wire article. I hope you die of a massive heart attack very soon. You aren't fit to teach how to lick a postage stamp, much less indoctrinating kids on how to judge people based on the color of their skin."
Scott Mineo and David Gordon, his webinar co-host at the Virginia Project, also found themselves on the receiving end of hostile email posts.
One Facebook user posted a photo of coffin samples for sale on Facebook Marketplace, writing, "I'd put them on the porches of my enemies as a warning… lol jk (kinda)," according to a Facebook screenshot. Then, in a comment, she specified: "Right now it'd be dropped off at the PACT leaders houses and the VA project dingbat David Gordon."
Other messages were far worse.
In April, two school board members, Vice Chair Atoosa Reaser and member Beth Barts, publicly shared a hideously violent and racist email they received.
"Don't be surprised when you low-IQ, poorly educated, and morally bankrupt pinko traitors are dragged from your beds in the middle of the night and hanged by the neck until dead by the righteously angry parents of your community," the email reads. "I will be cheering them on. White men built all the best things in the world. Every other civilization is inferior."
The writer goes on to describe laughing when he watched George Floyd die, closing, "You're welcome, you ungrateful subhuman torture-deserving vermin."
Mineo's group immediately issued a statement on its website denouncing the email, stating, "We completely reject anyone that wishes to help us that shares this type of mindset."
Gordon told Raw Story: "It didn't come from us. I wouldn't associate with anyone who does anything like that." But in a follow-up email, Gordon said he suspects the email was contrived to support false accusations against the Virginia Project. "Everyone assumed it was made up by one of the 'anti-racist' group members because it's so over the top, and just the kind of desperation move they are inclined to," he wrote. "Another possibility is that it's just some random shitposter in their mom's basement."
The two opposing sides have remained bitterly divided .
Citing a post by a member of the Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County who allegedly urged others to "hack and shut down or hijack websites" of anti-critical race theory groups, a lawyer for the Virginia Project warned administrator Jamie Neidig-Wheaton in a March 24 letter that "some of their actions violate Virginia criminal code, and some of their behavior subjects the culpable individuals to civil liability for compensatory and punitive damages."
Reached for comment, Neidig-Wheaton said, "My only request is that readers look at my church's antiracist pledge, and consider their commitments as Americans, and if they are Christians, consider their commitments as Christians."
In a similar letter to school board member Beth Barts, Philip Bradfield, a lawyer based in Newport News, wrote on behalf of the Virginia Project: "This letter is a formal demand that you immediately and completely cease to participate in, promote, request, call for, or solicit any and all behavior described above, including listing names, addresses, employers, etc. of perceived political enemies, hacking or hijacking websites of perceived political enemies, or other criminal/fraudulent activity online which is calculated to or tends to embarrass, humiliate, or harm the business, job, career, reputation, health, or life of another."
Screenshots of the Facebook thread do not include any addresses.
Bradfield alleged in the letter that Barts urged members of the Anti-Racist Parents of Loudon County Facebook group to push fellow board members to "call out statements and actions which undermine our stated plan to end systemic racism at LCPS."
Asked if the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office is investigating potential crimes committed by members of the private Facebook group, spokesperson Kraig Troxell told Raw Story: "Although we cannot provide specific details due to the active investigation, we can confirm a number of complaints surrounding messages posted by a social media group , as well as messages sent in response. The LCSO continues to examine the law in relation to these messages, and work with social media platforms to clearly identify these and other related communications."
The Virginia Project has portrayed parents, teachers and school administrators in Loudoun County as subversives, using inflammatory language and wording suggestive of conspiracies.
Re-booting the March 3 webinar on March 16 after the Daily Wire article began to cause waves, Virginia Project founder David Gordon said: "This presentation is done as part of our program on un-American activities, which was kind of named tongue in check, but it proved its name immediately when this very un-American group of critical-race-theory terrorists — there's really no other word to use for them — came after us.
"And now we have the entire political system lining up to put a stop to these people," Gordon continued. "And we're gonna sue everything and anyone connected to it. So, very good times are ahead."
In an interview with Raw Story, Gordon defended the use of the term "terrorist" to describe the opposing group.
"It's appropriate to the temperature they set," he said. "If you look up the definition of terrorism, it's violence for political objectives." Alluding to the accusation that members of the Anti-Racist Parents Facebook group have engaged in "hacking or hijacking websites of perceived political enemies," Gordon added, "They are commonly associated with terrorism."
The Virginia Project paid the Bradfield Injury Law Firm $2,500 in March, according to campaign finance reports on file with the Virginia Department of Elections. A donation request on the Virginia Project website suggests that if people are interested "in supporting legal action" but wish to remain anonymous, they should send checks directly to the Bradfield Injury Law Firm.
"If you are interested in supporting legal action against the perpetrators in this case, but do not wish to be identified as required in compliance reports, sending a check directly to our legal counsel does not count under law as a contribution to our political action committee and is not subject to reporting," the PAC says on its website. "We prefer contributions to our Civil Rights Defense Fund as these can be used for additional activities such as FOIA requests, but we understand that many are concerned with the risk of retaliation from 'woke' cults and 'woke' employers that appearing on a compliance report may subject them."
Gordon told Raw Story that he asked the PAC's treasurer to ensure that the arrangement was in compliance with Virginia law, adding that contributions directly to the law firm don't need to be reported because, while the Virginia Project is a partisan organization, the case involving Loudoun County Public Schools is not a partisan matter.
"Chris Marston, our treasurer, is also the general counsel of the Republican Party of Virginia," Gordon said. "That's as authoritative as my advice can possibly get. What I was told was that this is completely in compliance with Virginia law. I am paranoid about compliance. Of course, our political opponents will come after us."
The Virginia Project's campaign finance reports indicate that the PAC raised $33,159 from October 2020 through March 2021, and that Gordon paid himself $6,550 during that period, not counting expenses for food, gas and expenditures listed as "dental treatment for consultant's injury."
Gordon acknowledged to Raw Story that he lives in South Carolina.
Asked why, as a resident of South Carolina, he feels invested in the political future of Virginia, Gordon said, "I am a subject matter expert on the dysfunctionality of the Virginia Republican Party. I know how to fix it."
Consistent with the characterization of the Loudoun County equity advocates as un-American "domestic terrorists" bent on subverting the republic, the Virginia Project has also promoted the false claim that the Capitol riot was staged by unnamed left-wing agents.
"The Capitol riot is a Charlottesville hoax redux — all the players were left wingers, including all relevant elected officials — and also the alleged 'right wing' boogeyman they set up for preplanned violence," the Virginia Project tweeted on Jan. 15. "This is standard Democrat MO for many years."
Beyond its work with the Virginia Project, Parents Against Critical Theory has also recently announced a collaboration with 1776 Action, a 501(c)4 organization that is currently running an advertising campaign featuring former Housing & Urban Development Secretary and Ben Carson and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to counter critical race theory and the 1619 Project. A recent Fox News article quotes 1776 Action President Adam Waldeck as saying "his group plans to be active in Loudoun County."
The new partnership with 1776 action, alongside the recent appearances on Fox News, raises Parents Against Critical Theory founder Scott Mineo's profile and puts him in a better position to raise money.
Mineo told Raw Story that his activism is motivated by a conviction that matters of race and equity should not "be discussed in a manner that victimizes a kid in 6th grade as an oppressor."
He did not directly address a question about whether schools hold a responsibility to address historical oppression of people of color and persistent systemic racism.
"It's hard for me to answer because it's a very general question," he said.
While Mineo insisted that his opposition to critical race theory does not make him a "white supremacist," Facebook posts he appears to have authored under the username "Vito Malara" prior to the launch of Parents Against Critical Theory repeatedly express views that are anti-Black and anti-Muslim. Mineo acknowledged authorship of some of the posts, and did not deny that he is the owner of the "Vito Malara" account, which remains active.
One post from 2017 falsely implies that all Black children born out of wedlock do not have fathers in their lives.
"More than 72% of black children in the African-American community are born out of wedlock," Mineo wrote as "Vito Malara." "That means absent fathers. Ok, now we know that 72% of black kids are fatherless. So it begs the question, if they have no idea who their fathers are, how in the hell can they possibly claim their family members were slaves."
Asked about the statement last Tuesday, Mineo said, "When you're talking about a fatherless environment, maybe it was a hit-and-run. Those aren't my stats.
"It's a household that doesn't have a father in it," he continued. That is false: A controversial 2013 statement by CNN anchor Don Lemmon refers to out-of-wedlock births, not children in households without a father.
"I stand by my words," Mineo said. "You can't tie me to white supremacy."
He added, "Would a racist allow his daughter to date a minority? No."
In another post from 2017, "Vito Malara" described a group Black teenagers accused of assault as a "pack of savages." Mineo did not confirm authorship of the post.
At least two posts made the claim that Muslims refuse to assimilate when they immigrate to the United States and western Europe.
"My son's girlfriend is Muslim," Mineo said, when asked about one of the posts. "Whatever."
In another 2017 post, "Vito Malara" wrote: "These people will not assimilate, they only assassinate. How can anyone defend an ideology, not a religion, where the brainwashed murdering losers worship a man, a pedophile named Mohammad who married a 6-year-old girl."
Mineo indicated earlier this month that his views on Muslims have changed since then.
"What I believe now is if you're a radical Islamic terrorist, there's no place for you here," he said. "If you're a contributing member of society, then fine. To try to paint me to some kind of narrative, it's not going to work."
David Gordon with the Virginia Project told Raw Story he was not aware of the Facebook posts, while indicating he was not interested in reviewing them.
"I don't really care because it's not material to anything I'm doing," he said. "There are no posts by Vito or whoever he is in the presentation we did with Scott. It's academically sound, and it adheres to the facts."
Mineo told Raw Story that his experience leading Parents Against Critical Theory has taught him to be more diplomatic.
"I know I have to be more careful with my words," he said. "It's not a bad thing. It forces you to think.
"That's why I'm open to sit down and talk to anyone," he continued. "I have to be able to hold a position without being called a white supremacist. If you're going to call me a white supremacist, you better have some pictures of me walking around with a freaking hood. Because I'm not. I'm not. I know what I am."