Youngkin ad features mother who pushed to have 'Beloved' banned from son's curriculum

Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin released a new ad on Monday featuring a mother who pushed to have the 1987 novel "Beloved" banned from her son's English curriculum in Fairfax County roughly eight years ago. 

Laura Murphy is the centerpiece of the 60-second ad, titled "McAuliffe Shut Us Out," which details her push to require schools to tell parents if books in their child's curriculum contained explicit content and allow students to opt out of reading the material. Murphy said she met with lawmakers, who agreed with her on the issue. 

"It was bipartisan. It gave parents a say, the option to choose an alternative for my children," Murphy said. "But then Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed it twice. He doesn't think parents should have a say. He said that. He shut us out." 

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Murphy, whose son Blake Murphy was a high school senior at the time, did not detail that the content in question was the Toni Morrison novel, which tells the story of former slaves after the Civil War and depicts some of the horrors of slavery in graphic detail. However, a resurfaced Washington Post article from 2013 featured an interview with Murphy and her son. 

Blake Murphy told the publication that the book was "disgusting" and "hard for him to handle," adding that he eventually gave up on it. 

Murphy said she did not want the book banned completely, rather until new policies that addressed explicit material for students were put in place. 

“I’m not some crazy book burner,” Murphy said. “I have great respect and admiration for our Fairfax County educators. The school system is second to none. But I disagree with the administration at a policy level.”

Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe has argued that the legislation would have led to censorship and the banning of books. He released a statement on Monday that said "book banning and silencing esteemed Black authors is a racist dog whistle." 

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“I have long said that Glenn Youngkin is using our schools and children as political pawns to advance his and Trump’s dangerous, out-of-touch and bigoted agenda here in Virginia. Doing so is disturbing, disgusting and disqualifying," McAuliffe said. "Do not be deceived, this is yet another example of Glenn Youngkin’s full embrace of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBaldwin calls Trump criticism following 'Rust' shooting 'surreal' Haley hits the stump in South Carolina Mary Trump files to dismiss Trump's lawsuit over NYT tax story MORE, and Virginians will reject both Youngkin and Trump at the polls next week.”

Youngkin's campaign fired back, citing 18 Virginia Democratic lawmakers who supported the legislation that McAuliffe vetoed. 

"The bipartisan bills McAuliffe vetoed would simply have notified parents of sexually explicit reading assignments and given them the choice of having their own child receive an alternative," Youngkin's campaign said. "McAuliffe continues to confirm every day that he wants to silence parents because he doesn’t believe they should have a say in their child’s education."

The latest back-and-forth comes as Youngkin and his GOP allies have sought to make education issues a major piece of their campaign message one week out from Election Day.