CBS Hammers ‘Devout Christian’ DeVos: The ‘Most Hated Member’ of Trump Cabinet

60 Minutes journalist Lesley Stahl on Sunday hammered Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, twice telling viewers that the “devout Christian” is the “most hated member of the Trump Cabinet.” The 13 minute segment was heavy on critics who despise DeVos. Stahl knocked the Education Secretary at every turn, bringing up her wealth and describing the journey “from her sheltered life in Michigan to her life now as a lightning rod in Washington.” 

The journalist began the segment this way: “Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a devout Christian grandmother from Michigan  who has spent most of her life trying to improve the quality of education for poor kids.” She added: 

 

 

So how in the world did she become one of the most hated members of the Trump Cabinet? She is dedicated to promoting school choice but her critics say she really wants to privatize the public school system that she once called, quote, "a dead end."

Later, Stahl underlined just how “hated” DeVos is: “Why have you become, people say, the most hated Cabinet secretary?” The proof for all this "hatred" seemed to be entirely anecdotal. 

The CBS reporter included numerous clips of critics, including this angry questioner at a Harvard event: 

So you're a billionaire with lots and lots of investments. And the so-called school choice movement is a way to open the floodgates for corporate interests to make money off the backs of students. How much do you expect your net worth to increase as a result of your policy choices?

Stahl circled back to just how disliked DeVos is: 

DeVos is the only Cabinet secretary protected by a squad of U.S. Marshals because she's gotten death threats. She's frequently met by protesters who accuse her of pushing an elitist agenda.

With no sense of irony, Stahl brought up the Me Too movement: 

The Me-Too Movement has come along at the same time. This is all feeding into it. We're not talking about colleges anymore. We're talking about men in positions of power in industry and government. Have you ever had an issue?

Maybe the network that employed Charlie Rose, a man dismissed after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced, isn’t in the position to press this point? 

CBS isn’t so tough on every cabinet member. In 2016, the network invited former Attorney General Eric Holder to opine on the “danger” of the “not smart” Donald Trump. That same year, Stahl pounded Donald Trump for a 60 Minutes interview. In 2004, she tossed softballs to then-Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry (another future cabinet official). 

A partial transcript is below. Click “expand” to read more: 

60 Minutes
3/11/18
7:22pm ET

[Partial transcript] 

LESLEY STAHL: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a devout Christian grandmother from Michigan  who has spent most of her life trying to improve the quality of education for poor kids. So how in the world did she become one of the most hated members of the Trump Cabinet? She is dedicated to promoting school choice but her critics say she really wants to privatize the public school system that she once called, quote, "a dead end."

Now, after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, her portfolio is expanding. Monday, President Trump is expected to appoint her as head of a new commission on school safety charged with developing policies to prevent school violence.   

Betsy DeVos visited the school in Florida on Wednesday, but like almost everywhere else she goes, she faced criticism. Some of the students sent out angry tweets: "You came to our school just for publicity and avoided our questions." "Betsy DeVos came to my school, talked to three people, and pet a dog." Many of the students are frustrated at the administration for talking about school safety, but not acting.  

DEVOS: I give a lot of credit to the students there for really raising their voices, and I think that they are not going to let this moment go by.

STAHL: They want gun control.

DEVOS: They want a variety of things. They want solutions.

STAHL:  Do you think that teachers should have guns in the classroom?

DEVOS: That should be an option for states and communities to consider. And I hesitate to think of, like, my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Zorhoff, I couldn't ever imagine her having a gun and being trained in that way. But for those who are-- who are capable, this is one solution that can and should be considered. But no one size fits all. Every state and every community is going to address this issue in a different way.
                    
STAHL: Do you see yourself as a leader in this-- in this subject? And what kind of ideas will you be promoting?

DEVOS: I have actually asked to head up a task force that will really look at what states are doing.  See there are a lot of states that are addressing these issues in very cohesive and coherent ways.

STAHL: Do you feel a sense of urgency?

DEVOS: Yes.

STAHL: 'Cause this sounds like talking. Instead of acting.

DEVOS: No, there is a sense of urgency indeed.

STAHL: The reason Betsy DeVos wanted to be Secretary of Education was so she could promote school choice — 

DONALD TRUMP: What a great looking class. 

STAHL: —  offering parents options other than traditional public schools – where 90 percent of kids go. She has proposed massive cuts in public education funding and wants to shift billions to alternative players like private, parochial and charter schools.

DEVOS: We have invested billions and billions and billions of dollars from the federal level And we have seen zero results.

STAHL: But that really isn't true. Test scores have gone up over the last 25 years. So why do you keep saying nothing's been accomplished?

DEVOS: Well actually, test scores vis-à-vis the rest of the world have not gone up. And we have continued to be middle of the pack at best. That's just not acceptable.

STAHL: No it's not acceptable. But it's better than it was. That's the point. You don't acknowledge that things have gotten better. You won't acknowledge that, over the— 

STAHL: But I don't think they have for too many kids. We've stagnated. 

Lesley Stahl: Okay, so there's the big argument. So what can be done about that?

...

STAHL: Question is: does her solution work? Do choice schools perform better than public schools? Naturally,  there are conflicting studies. It's complicated.

...

STAHL: Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they're doing?

DEVOS: I have not-- I have not—  I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.

STAHL: Maybe you should.

DEVOS: Maybe I should. Yes.

STAHL: DeVos is the only Cabinet secretary protected by a squad of U.S. Marshals because she's gotten death threats. She's frequently met by protesters who accuse her of pushing an elitist agenda. She often manages to offend, as when she called historically black colleges and universities "pioneers" of "school choice" – as though they had a choice.
At this commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University, students booed and turned their backs to her.

...

STAHL: Why have you become, people say, the most hated Cabinet secretary?  

DEVOS: I'm not so sure exactly how that happened. But I think there are a lot of really powerful forces allied against change.

STAHL: Does it hurt?

...

STAHL: Some of the criticism, she feels, is unfair, especially when it involves her wealth. She faced a hostile question about it during a speech at Harvard last year.

STUDENT AT HARVARD: So you're a billionaire with lots and lots of investments. And the so-called school choice movement is a way to open the floodgates for corporate interests to make money off the backs of students. How much do you expect your net worth to increase as a result of your policy choices?

...

STAHL: The Me-Too Movement has come along at the same time. This is all feeding into it. We're not talking about colleges anymore. We're talking about men in positions of power in industry and government. Have you ever had an issue?

DEVOS: I can recall a number of moments in the past-- several decades ago that I think today would just be viewed as unacceptable. Yeah.

STAHL: It's been an unlikely journey and balancing act for grandmother Betsy DeVos, from her sheltered life in Michigan to her life now as a lightning rod in Washington.
 


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