WaPo: Arne Duncan Offered to Meet Matt Damon at the Airport Before Protest

Washington Post education columnist Valerie Strauss reported Monday that people in the Obama administration made several desperate attempts to lobby actor Matt Damon just before he spoke at last month's "Save Our Schools" rally in Washington D.C., blasting an emphasis on standardized tests and insisting he would never have become a movie star under that kind of education system.

Citing unnamed sources in sensitive spots, Strauss claimed "Duncan was willing to meet Damon at the airport when he flew into the Washington region and talk to him on the drive into the city, according to the sources. Damon declined all of the requests."

This the way Democrat politics work. Liberal actors parachuting in for protests get White House political officals and cabinet secretaries hovering for a chance to prevent any rumbles in the liberal media. The media was obviously pro-Obama enough that the Damon protests didn't attract network news coverage. The cable channels offered some buzz, including Larry O'Donnell on MSNBC on August 2 claiming "Matt Damon takes on the political myth of the incompetent public school teacher clinging to tenure and ruining education in America."

Strauss had more:

Damon flew to the teachers march on the day of the event from Vancouver, where he has been filming a movie called “Elysium.” He came at the request of his mother, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a child development expert and professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., who was involved with the rally.

Damon refused to meet with administration officials before the march.

His criticism of Obama administration policy has clearly been on the White House’s radar.

Damon spoke out earlier this year on education reform. In a March interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, he said President Obama had disappointed him on a number of issues and criticized an administration-encouraged initiative to link teacher evaluation to the standardized test scores of students. It’s a bad idea, and Damon said so.

Two months later, President Obama noted Damon’s dissent. In his comic address to the White House Correspondents dinner in May, Obama said:

“I’ve even let down my key core constituency: movie stars. Just the other day, Matt Damon -- I love Matt Damon, love the guy -- Matt Damon said he was disappointed in my performance. Well, Matt, I just saw ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ so...right back atcha, buddy.”

Fast forward to July. Leaders of the teachers march, who had tried for months through letters and blogposts to get the attention of the White House, were, on July 28, suddenly invited to a meeting with administration officials for the next day, the day before the march. The offer was declined, the leaders said, because they were busy with an education conference at American University and preparations for the rally. They asked if administration officials could meet with them after the march, but the answer was “no.”

The Post publicized the Damon protest on July 31 on page A4, which in classic Post fashion, was a rally of "public education advocates," not a bunch of lefties who thought Obama was too centrist:


The speakers included a long list of longtime education advocates and a few Hollywood celebrities whose mothers are teachers or public education advocates.

"The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart sent his support by jumbo-size screen rather than driving to the march because, he said, "the dog ate his car."

Actor Matt Damon elicited cheers when he commiserated with the crowd. "This has been a horrible decade for teachers," he said. "The next time you feel down or exhausted . . . please know there are millions of people behind you."

With that send-off, they marched off the lawn, up 17th Street and around the White House, many chanting, "Education under attack! What do we do? Stand up, fight back."

They also joked as they tested the microphones: "No testing, no testing, 1, 2, 3."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis