Facebook announced Friday that former CNN host and education reform activist Campbell Brown will be leading its news partnership team.
Brown wrote in a statement on her Facebook page that she will “help news organizations and journalists work more closely and more effectively with Facebook. I will be working directly with our partners to help them understand how Facebook can expand the reach of their journalism, and contribute value to their businesses.”
Brown’s hiring should raise eyebrows given her close ties to Betsy DeVos, the president-elect’s nominee to lead the Education Department. DeVos is a Michigan-based billionaire heiress who has poured millions of dollars into organizations supporting school vouchers and charter schools.
One of the organizations DeVos funds is The 74, an education reporting website Brown founded to, among other things, push for education reform. Brown also sits on the board of the DeVos-backed group American Federation for Children, a nonprofit that advocates for the expansion of school vouchers and whose electoral arm spends heavily in state legislative elections.
The former CNN host is hardly shy about her relationship to DeVos. In late November, shortly after Trump announce the pick, Brown wrote a post defending her on The 74. Calling DeVos a “friend,” Brown said she is a “decision-maker, thick-skinned, never long discouraged by setbacks and impervious to hostile criticism.”
Responding to those who are skeptical of DeVos’s heavy spending to influence education policy, Brown wrote that “the suggestion that Betsy’s work with children is ideologically or financially driven would be disputed, I’d guess, by just about everyone who has spent time alongside her during the past 30 years as she founded, helped run and advised education groups and initiatives that have helped improve education across the country — including thousands of teachers and poor families.”
But improvement is hardly what happened in Michigan, a charter school hub. DeVos lobbied heavily to expand the schools, arguing that school choice would improve quality. Yet the state’s charter schools have consistently performed poorly, and even some proponents of charter schools admitted that her efforts failed. “The bottom line should be, ‘Are kids achieving better or worse because of this expansion of choice?’” Michigan State Board of Education President John Austin, a backer of charter schools, said to Politico. “It’s destroying learning outcomes … and the DeVoses were a principal agent of that.”
Despite Brown’s claim that DeVos is not ideologically driven, DeVos herself doesn’t deny it. “My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee,” she wrote in Roll Call in 1997. “I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.”
The announcement comes on the heels of numerous other conservative personalities being hired by major news networks in the age of President Donald Trump — for example, Fox News’s Megyn Kelly joining NBC News and former Fox News anchor Greta Van Sustern getting an MSNBC show.