By Froma Harrop / syndicated columnist
Kristine Hostetter is a fourth-grade teacher in San Clemente, Calif. Her husband has been a big promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory, and she appears to be supporting his lunatic efforts. As the story is being told, liberal parents and students temporarily forced Hostetter’s removal from the classroom. In response, local conservatives have accused them of persecuting a teacher for her political views.
But that’s not how the story should be told. The real issue isn’t her politics. It is whether displays of ignorance make her unqualified for the job. This is a problem for our times, when so many Americans embrace beliefs that are not only based on lies but also crazy.
To label these views as mere political opinion is to savage the idea of there being a reality. That millions of voters share Hostetter’s contention that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump does not confer its respectability.
While on this subject, let’s not define these demented talking points as “conservative.” That’s unfair to sane conservatives who accepted the election results, even when many wished they were otherwise. And it needs repeating that many conservatives found Trump appalling, especially after he fueled the Jan. 6 rampage on the Capitol.
Hostetter makes for an interesting case. That she protested against covid-19 restrictions was her right. Even if you considered the public health orders necessary, there were defensible arguments for opposing them. Not defensible was Hostetter’s public badgering of people who wore masks near her town’s beach.
Hostetter was in Washington, D.C., for Trump’s heated harangue on the Ellipse during which he denied Joe Biden’s win. That event may have been an exercise in group psychosis, but attendees who did not engage in the violent attack that followed broke no laws. Had it been established that Hostetter actually entered the Capitol, she would have been complicit in an insurrection, which is a crime.
As for implications that she indulges in racism, Hostetter has not been known to voice it. On the contrary, Black and Latina former students say they never heard such ugly sentiments, and they remember her fondly. That others in her right-wing circles hold such repugnant views need not reflect on her.
But Alan Hostetter, Kristine’s husband, has gained some fame as a promoter of dangerous QAnon idiocy, and in this, she’s helped him. QAnon advances the theory that a secret cabal of Democrats runs a global child sex trafficking ring. Also that God sent Trump to save American civilization. Alan, who founded the American Phoenix Project, apparently holds that covid-19 doesn’t exist.
On Jan. 5, Alan publicly called for executing politicians who allegedly plotted against Trump. The FBI was so alarmed by his cry for “war tomorrow” against “vipers” in Congress who refused to overturn the election results that it raided the Hostetter house.
The evidence that Kristine has joined him in this bizarre talk is not a slam dunk. But it’s pretty troubling that she sat on the stage with him as he pushed the paranoia; more so that she was listed as the chief financial officer of the organization and has raised money for it.
Perhaps most disturbing is that she has personally peddled the stolen-election lie. You have to wonder whether she’s so intellectually challenged that she believes it. But if she knows it’s a falsehood — and that it threatens our democracy — then she lacks the character to influence children.
Again, the concern does not revolve around some ordinary political disagreement. It’s around whether people endorsing beliefs so divorced from reality can be trusted to teach children. I think they should be kept away from our classrooms.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.