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Mount Rushmore is in peril, according to the North Carolina Republican Party.
That’s what the party said in the subject line of an email it sent to potential donors on Feb. 24.
"The left is determined to erase Mount Rushmore from our history books and the stakes couldn’t be higher — the future of our nation’s revered leaders is in your hands!" the email said.
It continued: "You need to act fast to support preserving and protecting Mount Rushmore for generations to come! It’s time to put the radical left in their place and stand up for the legacies of our founding fathers."
Mount Rushmore, completed in 1941, features the faces of former Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln carved into the Black Hills mountains in South Dakota.
The monument’s conception isn’t exactly the stuff of fairy tales. The U.S. government seized the land from Native American tribes, despite previously signing it away to them. The sculptor also had ties to white supremacy groups, including the Ku Klux Klan.
U.S. history, and how it’s taught, has become a political touch point.
While some on the left have advocated for more transparency about the nation’s complicated history on slavery and human rights, some leaders on the right have pushed against those efforts, saying they want to protect the reputation of America’s founding fathers. After some used the term "woke" as a call to stay wary of racism, conservatives have used it as a pejorative to describe teachings that might shed a negative light on U.S. institutions.
In Florida a couple of years ago, the state Board of Education adopted a law that forbids the teaching "that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons." In North Carolina, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in 2021 vetoed a GOP bill that would have banned public schools from teaching about systemic racism or white privilege. That bill was recently reintroduced and is advancing through the legislature. Some have also expressed qualms with textbooks containing images that they say are inappropriate.
But, prior to the North Carolina GOP’s email, PolitiFact was unaware of any controversy over efforts to teach the history of Mount Rushmore. The email offered no citations about what it was referring to, and the party didn’t respond to PolitiFact NC’s requests for comment.
The email included links to a webpage featuring large text that says "Save Mount Rushmore," with the caption: "The Left is trying to erase Mount Rushmore from our history books, and we need your help to stop them!"
We searched for news stories related to the NCGOP’s claims. In January, Fox News reported on a South Dakota congressman’s bill to protect the monument from destruction. The lawmaker filed the bill in response to comments made by leaders of the The Oglala Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes in 2020, Fox News reported. Last year, former NBA player Jalen Rose invoked the monument’s history when calling for Mount Rushmore to be retired as a complimentary term in sports. And in 2020, a historian published an opinion article in the Los Angeles Times titled, "Could the racist past of Mt. Rushmore’s creator bring down the monument?"
But we found no evidence of any elected leaders or political groups attempting to remove mentions of Mount Rushmore from history books.
North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction is unaware of any effort to remove Mount Rushmore from grade school learning materials, spokeswoman Blair Rhoades said in an email. Democratic leaders in the state Legislature also said they didn’t know of any such attempts.
Todd Barlow is chief of staff for state House Minority Leader Robert Reives, D-Chatham. Barlow said he searched bills dating back to 2015 and couldn’t find any proposed legislation that would remove references to Rushmore or its four presidents from state curriculum.
"Leader Reives is not aware of any conversation or effort among Democrats to do anything like what is alleged in that GOP fundraising solicitation," Barlow said in an email.
An email from the North Carolina Republican Party said "The left is determined to erase Mount Rushmore from our history books."
We found no evidence that elected leaders or political groups — at a national or local level — are pushing to "erase" Mount Rushmore from history books.
Also, conservatives often accuse liberals of being "woke" for wanting to teach the ugly side of U.S. history. If "the left" were upset about the history of Mount Rushmore, logic dictates that its activists would want its history to be included in textbooks — not excluded.
We rate the claim False.
Email sent by the North Carolina Republican Party on Feb. 24, 2023.
History.com, Mount Rushmore, updated Jan. 15, 2019.
National Archives, "Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868)," updated March 29, 2022.
National Review, "House Republicans Introduce Measure to Protect Mount Rushmore amid Activist Criticism," Jan. 18, 2023.
Los Angeles Times op-ed, "Could the racist past of Mt. Rushmore’s creator bring down the monument?" July 3, 2020.
Associated Press, "Florida bans ‘critical race theory’ from its classrooms," June 10, 2021.
Washington Examiner, "Republicans file bill to protect Mount Rushmore from being torn down," Jan. 18, 2023.
Smithsonian Magazine, "The Sordid History of Mount Rushmore," October 2016.
PolitiFact, "What does it mean to be ‘woke’?" March 7, 2023.
Fox News, "GOP moves to protect Mount Rushmore from activists looking to rename it or tear it down," Jan. 18, 2023; "‘Mount Rushmore’ term is ‘offensive’ and should be ‘retired,' ESPN’s Jalen Rose says," Aug. 5, 2022.
WRAL, "Bill limiting how race is taught in K-12 schools advances in NC House," March 14, 2023; "Lt. Gov. Robinson wants 'sexually explicit' LGBTQ-themed books removed from NC schools," Oct. 10, 2021.
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