Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sat down for an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday night — and it immediately set off a wave of criticism and bafflement online.
In a number of tense exchanges, DeVos appeared to stumble through responses to questions about her views on education, school funding and even her own popularity.
The performance drew a chorus of derision from critics on social media.
DeVos is an advocate for school choice policies, which bolster alternatives to traditional public schools, such as charter, magnet and parochial schools.
Her nomination as the secretary of education was one of President Donald Trump's most controversial picks, despite her limited media exposure. In the "60 Minutes" segment, interviewer Lesley Stahl said that DeVos was considered "one of the most hated members" of Trump's Cabinet — a status she herself appeared to tacitly acknowledge in the interview, although she used the word "misunderstood" to describe herself.
Asked about the interview in a White House briefing on Monday, press secretary Sarah Sanders said the Trump administration is focused on "actual policy that can help protect the safety and security of school kids across this country." When asked whether the president saw DeVos's interview, Sanders said that she was "not sure" if Trump "saw the whole thing or not."
Here are the most attention-grabbing excerpts from DeVos' "60 Minutes" interview:
- DeVos argued that public funding for education should be going toward students and not in "school buildings, not in institutions, not in systems."
- She added: "In places where there have been, where there is, a lot of [school] choice that's been introduced — Florida, for example — the studies show that when there's a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually, the results get better, as well."
- But DeVos couldn't say whether such results have been borne out in Michigan, her home state and one in which DeVos invested millions of dollars toward school choice initiatives. "I don't know. Overall, I, I can't say overall that they have all gotten better."
- She continued: "I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them ... Michigan schools need to do better. There is no doubt about it."
- Asked if she had seen the worst-performing schools in her state, DeVos said no. "I have not, I have not, I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming ... Maybe I should, yes."
- Asked why she has become "the most hated Cabinet Secretary," DeVos said she wasn't sure — but seemed to agree with the premise. "I'm not so sure exactly how that happened. But I think there are a lot of really powerful forces allied against change. ... I'm more misunderstood than anything."
- DeVos, who rescinded Obama-era guidance on so-called Title IX protections against sexual assault on college campuses, said she doesn't know if the number of false rape accusations are as high as the number of actual rapes. "I don't know. But I'm committed to a process that's fair for everyone involved."
On Monday morning, DeVos followed up her "60 Minutes" interview with an appearance on NBC's "Today," where she was asked to respond to the latest instance of Trump's use of coarse language at a public speaking engagement.
"I would probably use different language myself, and I think we all have an opportunity and a responsibility to be examples to our kids ... that would include the president as well," she said.