FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—Senate Republicans are pressing the nominees to lead the Smithsonian Institution about their views on recent woke and politically-charged policies, programs, and actions from the taxpayer-backed national museums. 

In a letter first obtained by The Daily Signal, nine senators referenced examples of drag performers, religious discrimination, and promoting race-based narratives in questions to the three nominees. 

“In order to ensure that the Smithsonian Institution is not distracted from its mission by choosing to offer divisive, ideological content, we respectfully ask you to commit the Smithsonian’s nonpartisan, unifying message by answering the following questions before you are confirmed by the Senate,” reads the letter, led by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

The Smithsonian Board of Regents nominees include Toni Bush, a News Corp executive nominated to a first term; and two other renominated incumbent board members: Roger Ferguson, former CEO of TIAA Financial Services and former chairman of Swiss Re America Holding Corp.; and Michael Govan, CEO of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

“As you know, the Smithsonian has been entrusted since 1846 with a unique mission to support the ‘the increase and the diffusion of knowledge’ for the American people and received over $1 billion in taxpayer funds annually to advance that goal,” reads the letter. Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Eric Schmitt of Missouri, Roger Marshall of Mississippi, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Rick Scott of Florida, and Ted Cruz of Texas joined Lee in signing the letter.

The existing Smithsonian Board of Regents, rather than the president, selects the nominees. The Senate has confirmed the nominees together through a resolution, rather than through the traditional confirmation process.

The letter gives four examples of Smithsonian museums taking politically-charged actions.

“The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian hosted an event on June 23 to feature ‘indigenous drag performers,’ for a night of ‘extravaganza of dance, music and humor,’” the letter notes. “This event is advertised for ‘kids and families’ and does not appear to have any age restrictions.”

The letter asks the nominees several questions about each situation. In this case, it asks, “Do you think taxpayer dollars should be subsidizing drag shows?”

The letter continues, “According to recent reports, the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum, which was established by Congress … plans to include materials featuring biological men who claim to be women in an effort to be inclusive.”

The senators ask the nominees, “Do you think it is appropriate for the American Women’s History Museum to include biological males when Congress did not authorize this inclusion?”

The letter also notes the treatment of pro-life Catholics at a Smithsonian museum. 

“In January 2023, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum allegedly kicked out a dozen Catholic high school students who were wearing hats inscribed with a pro-life message reading, ‘Rosary PRO-LIFE,’” the letter states. “The students were allegedly told to either remove their hats or leave the museum. The museum has since apologized for the incident.”

The letter inquires, “Do you condemn this religious bigotry and discrimination against pro-life Americans?”

The senators also ask the board nominees about racial narratives.

These Smithsonian documents arguably promoted critical race theory, an approach to history, civics, and other disciplines that encourages students to find “systemic racism” throughout American institutions and to reexamine every aspect of life through a race-based lens that assumes white people are oppressors and black people are oppressed.

In July 2020, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History published the claim that ‘if you are white in America, you have benefited from the color of your skin,’ and a ‘fact sheet’ asserting that ‘white culture’ dominates the ‘institutional power in America’ and is defined by a commitment to the following ideas:

a. Self reliance

b. The nuclear family

c. Objective rational and linear thinking

d. Hard work is the key to success

e.  Plan for the future

f.  Quantitative emphasis

g.  Be polite

The letter asks, “Do you agree with the NMAAH’s ‘fact sheet’ on white culture?” and “Do you think it’s appropriate for a publicly funded institution to endorse pseudo-scientific racist materials?”

The Smithsonian Institution did not respond to a Daily Signal inquiry for this story as of publication time. 

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