Politico was forced to update a story after baselessly implying that the Florida Department of Education hired a consulting firm for services promoting critical race theory.
Because MGT Consulting is “well-versed in critical race theory” and has created “Racial Equity Plans” in other states, the article suggested it was hypocritical for the Florida Department of Education to maintain contracts with the firm since Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has spoken out against the divisive and racist roots of critical race theory.
Bryan Griffin, a deputy press secretary for DeSantis, called the hit piece a “bogus story” and confirmed to The Federalist that “there is absolutely zero CRT work funded by the state of Florida.”
Before publishing the story, Politico reporter Matt Dixon questioned Griffin about a list of contracts between MGT Consulting and the Florida Department of Education, which Griffin noted were “unannotated.” “Our office couldn’t possibly speculate about each of these contracts, nor assume the intended purpose of each engagement,” Griffin responded to Politico.
“We especially aren’t interested in speculating under the assumptions you presented based on work they have done in completely different states,” he added. The Politico article cited MGT’s work in creating a “Racial Equity Plan” for the city of Golden, Colorado, and its contract for a study in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Politico also claimed the firm has “done extensive work for Florida government entities, including using ‘race and gender’ data that was ‘used to shape policy designed to increase diversity in [state university] institutions.’” That was apparently in reference to a data project MGT conducted for the Board of Regents of Florida’s State University System, not the Department of Education. “Collecting data based on demographics is much different from pushing an ideology like critical race theory,” Griffin told The Federalist. “It would be false to say that’s CRT because it’s not.”
The only other example of an alleged MGT contract Dixon provided to Griffin that was even in Florida was one with the Florida Department of Management Services, according to emails reviewed by The Federalist. The contract doesn’t detail racial or gender issues beyond a section about “creating opportunities for woman-, veteran-, and minority-owned small business enterprises to participate in procurements and contracts,” and descriptions of MGT’s work for other clients in an attachment.
In an email to Griffin, Dixon revealed his purpose in pursuing the non-story, noting that “the [DeSantis] administration has in the past defended instances of people supporting philosophies it does not. … Wasn’t sure if this was another example of that.”
“At all trying to email us [instead of the relevant agencies] was some sort of a gotcha attempt on his side,” Griffin told The Federalist.
Politico published the story without comment from the Florida Department of Education, after apparently emailing the department’s former head of communications, according to current Communications Director Alex Lanfranconi.
“It’s completely irresponsible to imply we’re paying MGT for any work regarding Critical Race Theory. There is no evidence of this accusation whatsoever and it is entirely false,” Lanfranconi told Politico after the story was published. “We’ve never contracted with MGT for anything related to Critical Race Theory since Governor Ron DeSantis took office.”
“The Department does not police the work our contractors complete for other clients,” he added. “Providing sporadic examples of MGT work in other states for unrelated organizations and attempting to connect it with the Florida Department of Education is dishonest and disappointing.” Politico added part of Lanfranconi’s response to its article post-publication but did not attach an update or correction note.
The Federalist reached out to Dixon for comment, including whether his article meant “to imply that the Florida Department of Education is paying MGT to do work directly related to critical race theory, or simply that the department happens to contract with a firm that does CRT-inspired work for its other clients?” but Dixon did not respond by publication time.
Elle Reynolds is an assistant editor at The Federalist, and received her B.A. in government from Patrick Henry College with a minor in journalism. You can follow her work on Twitter at @_etreynolds.