Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet dove headfirst into the classroom culture wars by claiming that teachers "are inclined" toward pedophilia and that students are being "groomed" for sexual abuse — while offering no evidence to back up his charges.
Echoing attack lines that Republican politicians have been using of late to push legislation that would ban discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms, Mamet insisted "we have to take back control."
"What we have is kids not only being indoctrinated but groomed, in a very real sense, by people who are, whether they know it or not, sexual predators," Mamet said Sunday during a FOX News interview. "Are they abusing the kids physically? No, I don’t think so. But they are abusing them mentally and using sex to do so. This has always been the problem with education. Teachers are inclined, particularly men because men are predators, to pedophilia.”
Mamet, who has been hitting the airwaves to promote his new book, "Recessional: The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of a Free Lunch," did not cite any source to back up his claims nor was his assertion challenged by host Mark Levin.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called Mamet's remarks "a repulsive demonization of the very people who have been the lifeline to our kids. "
"This demonization of teachers is dangerous for our educators and for their students, and it must stop," Weingarten said in a statement. "In the meantime, teachers will keep doing their jobs to create opportunity and joy for every child in this country, and that overcomes anger, fear and gross misinformation every time.”
NBC News reached out several times to Mamet, whose mother was a teacher, via his lawyer for further comment. There was no response.
David Finkelhor, who heads the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said that "it is well established that a majority, but not all sexual abusers, against children are males."
"Schools, however, are not particularly high risk environments for sexual abuse by adults," Finkelhor wrote in an email. "More of the adult sexual abusers in a child’s life come from family, family friends, acquaintances and neighbors."
Also, Finkelhor added, "providing sexuality education in school based on professionally designed curricula is not a typical 'grooming' scenario."
"Grooming occurs when adults try to create an intimate one-on-one encounter with a child," Finkelhor wrote. "Sexuality education in schools that includes information about appropriate and inappropriate behaviors is crucial for preventing sexual abuse because many families don’t do a good job of this."
Mitchell Garabedian, the "Spotlight" lawyer who led the charge against predatory Roman Catholic clergymen in Boston, also weighed-in on Mamet's assertions.
"Pedophiles are present wherever children are, whether it be in the neighborhood, school, boy scouts, religious institution or any other area or entity," Garabedian said in an emailed response to a question from NBC News. "The inclination to sexually abuse a child does not belong primarily to one occupation. And that is why thorough supervision of adults is so important."
Mamet, whose classic play "American Buffalo" is back on Broadway with a star-studded cast, is just the latest right-wing ideologue to use the same bogus claims to build public support for bills like the one recently signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that detractors have dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
DeSantis' press secretary Christina Pushaw went as far as calling the bill "anti-grooming" legislation last month on Twitter.
That Florida bill includes an explicit ban on teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity to kids in kindergarten through third grade and places limits for older students on materials that are “not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”