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Tennessee Speaker appoints conspiracy theorist to develop state social studies standards
Last week, Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) announced that he had appointed Laurie Cardoza-Moore to serve on the Tennessee Standards Recommendation Committee to oversee “Social Studies materials being reviewed for use in classrooms statewide.” Cardoza-Moore, known for holding extremist views and promoting conspiracy theories, has called "U.S. history textbooks" currently used in classrooms the "greatest national security threat to the United States."
With her new appointment, Cardoza-Moore will have the power to “submit final recommendations for [Social Studies] standards to the State Board.” In a statement about her new position, Cardoza-Moore said, “[t]he materials we will be reviewing can only accomplish the mission of educating good American citizens if our Tennessee textbooks are devoid of left-aligned historic revisionism and the toxic material found in the antisemitic Critical Race Theory; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Social-Emotional Learning and Ethnic Studies.”
Cardoza-Moore homeschooled her five children and has criticized the existing public school curriculum for exposing children to “anti-Semitic, anti-American, anti-Judeo-Christian content in our public schools.” In a radio interview on the Tennessee Star Report, Cardoza-Moore said, "[i]t’s ruining our children’s lives. Our children are depressed and unless we as parents… stand up and speak up and take back control of our children’s education, we are going to lose this country."
In 2021, Cardoza-Moore was also appointed by Sexton to the Tennessee Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission, which is in charge of “recommend[ing] an official list of textbooks and instructional materials for approval of the State Board of Education.”
Sexton appointed Cardoza-Moore to important positions shaping state educational standards despite her repeated embrace of conspiracy theories. Over the years, Cardoza-Moore has promoted claims that 9/11 was an "inside job," that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, and that January 6 insurrectionists were actually “Antifa.” In 2011, Cardoza-Moore claimed that former President Barack Obama was causing "horrific tornadoes" because he made a speech that discussed the plight of Palestinians. Asked if she still held these views, Cardoza-Moore did not respond.
Cardoza-Moore has few academic credentials, which she has attempted to bolster by padding her resume. She refers to herself as “Laurie Cardoza-Moore, ThD.” But her “doctorate” is “an honorary doctorate degree in theology from the Latin University of Theology,” an unaccredited diploma mill. According to Chalkbeat Tennessee, the only degree Cardoza-Moore holds is “an associate degree from the KD Conservatory College of Film and Dramatic Arts in Dallas.” It's unclear how this qualifies her to set standards for millions of Tennessee students. Sexton did not respond to a request for comment.
Cardoza-Moore and 9/11 conspiracy theories
Cardoza-Moore is the founder and president of the nonprofit Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN), a Christian Zionist organization that claims to fight the “global war against antisemitism.” The group, which was once classified a hate group, has been a profitable endeavor for Cardoza-Moore. In 2019, she paid herself $145,000, paid her husband’s business $85,000, claimed $50,000 in occupancy expenses for her home, and spent $23,000 on meals and entertainment, among other things. The organization is also rated as a “two-star charity” on Charity Navigator, indicating that the organization “needs improvement.”
In March 2021, during a Tennessee State Senate hearing for Cardoza-Moore’s appointment to the Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission, Democratic Chair Raumesh Akbari asked Cardoza-Moore about PJTN’s statements questioning basic facts about the September 11 terrorist attacks.
According to Akbari, when reviewing a textbook passage, PJTN “suggest[ed] removing” a sentence stating that “members of al-Qaeda carried out” the September 11 attacks. PJTN cited a “plethora of evidence” for the suggested removal, stating, “This is a highly contested (per [A]rchitects and [E]ngineers for 9/11 Truth, and demolition experts) argument.” Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth was a group that falsely claimed that 9/11 was an "inside job" because they believed the impact of the planes into the World Trade Center towers could not have resulted in their collapse. According to Akbari, “the quote was pulled ‘directly from a review that [Cardoza-Moore] made.”
In response, Cardoza-Moore attempted to distance herself from the controversy. "I need to see the quote in the context that you’re pulling it [from]," Cardoza-Moore said. "Is that a Powerpoint presentation that I put together? Because I would never say that al-Qaeda didn’t participate.”
Cardoza-Moore and January 6 conspiracy theories
Cardoza-Moore also pushed false claims about the 2020 election and conspiracy theories about the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021. On December 9, 2020, Cardoza-Moore tweeted, “Calling on all citizens of the USA. Please contact your State Attorney General and let them know that as a citizen of your state, you want them to join the State of TX in the lawsuit filed against GA, WI, MI and PA for the fraudulent way their elections were held.”
On December 17, 2020, Cardoza-Moore responded to a tweet from former President Donald Trump claiming that there were “[t]remendous problems being found with voting machines.” Cardoza-Moore tweeted, “[w]hy aren’t these people being arrested? If the lawless get away with this, our Republic is lost! You’re a Churchill President Trump, PLEASE EXECUTE JUSTICE!” There is no evidence that any widespread voter fraud occurred in the 2020 election.
According to the Memphis Flyer, Cardoza-Moore also encouraged people to travel to D.C. on January 6, 2021, posting, “I’ll see you in DC on 1/6.” In a now-deleted post from December 28, 2020, Cardoza-Moore said, “Will you join me in DC to defend our Constitutional Republic? This is it! If we can’t defend our Constitutional Republic, we WILL LOSE IT! Make arrangements now!”
Cardoza-Moore continued to push conspiracy theories after the insurrection occurred at the Capitol on January 6, claiming that it was actually “Antifa” and not Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol. “Antifa stormed the Capitol! It wasn’t led by Trump Patriots,” Cardoza-Moore tweeted on January 7, 2021.
Cardoza-Moore defends plot to kidnap the Governor of Michigan
In spring 2020, Cardoza-Moore celebrated on social media as armed protesters stormed Michigan’s capitol to demonstrate against the state’s COVID-19 response. “ARE WE WATCHING THE BEGINNING OF A REVOLUTION IN AMERICA!” Cardoza-Moore wrote.
Later that year, when news broke that right-wing extremists were planning to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D), Cardoza-Moore also expressed support for the kidnapping plot.
“Am I missing something here? Didn’t the Founders address removing a tyrant from office in the Constitution?” Cardoza-Moore wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post. “Michiganders, it’s time to step up and defend your Constitutional rights!”
Cardoza-Moore and anti-Muslim bigotry
Cardoza-Moore is also notorious for spewing anti-Muslim rhetoric. She first came to public attention in 2010 when she led opposition to the construction of a Tennessee mosque and argued that the mosque was a “terrorist training camp.” That year, she also falsely claimed that 30% of Muslims are terrorists while speaking at a rally against the Islamic Center in New York City. She would go on to repeat this baseless claim on The Daily Show.
Aside from this, Cardoza-Moore has also spread rumors that Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
In 2021, during her confirmation hearing, Cardoza-Moore stood by her anti-mosque comments and falsely alleged that there were “absolutely” terrorists in the group. Despite this, she told Chalkbeat in 2022 that she’s not anti-Muslim.
Cardoza-Moore and racial discrimination
Endorsed by the right-wing parents group Moms for Liberty, Cardoza-Moore has also frequently accused schools of indoctrinating students—despite the fact that all five of her children were homeschooled.
Cardoza-Moore is also a staunch opponent of Critical Race Theory, calling it “anti-semitic.” She believes lawmakers should eliminate “socialist propaganda” from education and is against virtually any curriculum that makes mention of race or inequity.
During her hearing in 2021, she “declined to answer questions about her beliefs around teaching students about the nation’s history of colonialism and slavery.” At the time, she said this was because she was only reviewing math textbooks, “therefore her thoughts on history and social studies were not relevant,” the Tennessean reports. With Cardoza-Moore’s new appointment, however, she will be tasked with reviewing social studies standards.
Cardoza-Moore also doesn’t believe that systemic racism exists. In an email sent this month, she criticizes the incoming Tennessee education commissioner and writes, “To suggest that Americans are racist in 2023 because of our history is outrageous!”
“We, the majority of our society, have overcome that ideology. We elected a Black president; we have a Black Supreme Court Justice; we have Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Jewish leaders and on and on and on… Are there pockets of hate, racism, and antisemitism? Absolutely! Is it systemic? Absolutely not!”
According to Cardoza-Moore, acknowledging the country’s “systemic racism and social and financial inequity” is the “nightmare facing Tennessee.”