On June 18 2021, Twitter discourse about a viral video of an “Illinois father” discussing critical race theory expanded to suggest the man in the video was Candace Owens’ brother:
This is literally Candace Owens’s brother.
I’m giving you an E for Effort and a T for Nice Try. https://t.co/rJtjplCPbD
— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) June 18, 2021
That tweet included a retweet from @DailyCaller, one of many sites spreading the same video (for example, disinformation blog Hannity.com embedded it in an item titled “VIRAL VIDEO: Father DEMOLISHES Critical Race Theory at Illinois School Board Meeting”):
“How do I have two medical degrees if I’m sitting here oppressed?”
An Illinois parent rips into Critical Race Theory at a school board meeting
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) June 17, 2021
We addressed the general relevance of the inauthentically weaponized discourse around critical race theory on June 14 2021:
An inauthentically organized, corrosive disinformation campaign taking direct aim at social resilience and anti-racism pushes has taken over school boards throughout the United States in what appears to be a highly coordinated national push — which as of June 2021 has made its way from local school boards all the way into state laws.
These hastily-written, often highly vague laws ban critical race theory, which has been an established academic concept for more than four decades[.]
Throughout June 2021, the topic of critical race theory was everywhere — as was disinformation about its origins, purpose, and pedagogy. In fact, few seemed able to even define what this concept might be; all they knew was they were against it:
Who is Candace Owens?
Candace Owens is a right-wing pundit and a frequent disinformation purveyor.
She grew up in Stamford, Connecticut:
What’s Up with the ‘Illinois Father’ Video?
Around June 17 2021, a clip of a man identified as Ty Smith began circulating; Smith then appeared on Fox News to discuss the footage.
Among the claims made by Smith in the viral video was one that he earned “two medical degrees,” although we are unclear what that has to do with a graduate-level academic movement:
When you talk about critical race theory which is pretty much going to be teaching kids how to hate each other, how to dislike each other. It’s pretty much what it’s all gonna come down to. You’re going to deliberately teach kids ‘this white kid right here got it better than you because he’s white’ and you’re gonna tell a white kid ‘the black people are all down and suppressed. How do I have two medical degrees if I’m sitting here oppressed?
The next regular Board of Education meeting will be at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at the District 87 office (Educational Services Center, 300 E. Monroe St.).
On June 10 2021, Cities 92.9 (WRPW) published “A Heated District 87 School Board Meeting Sees High Turnout,” which included an embedded video of Smith speaking. In that post, WRPW identified Smith as a right-wing radio host with a show called Cancel This, and it reiterated the claim that Smith “has two degrees in medicine”:
Race teachings at D87
Ty Smith, from Cities 92.9’s Cancel This, spoke out against Critical Race Theory and masks, Smith has two degrees in medicine and is a parent.
In the blurb, “Cancel This” linked to another page on WRPW’s cities929.com, providing a short summary of Smith and his Saturday afternoon radio show:
Listen for a prospective [sic] you will not find anywhere else on radio! Ty grew up in the tough neighborhoods of Decatur, and knows first hand the struggles people in poverty have. He will dive into why the media’s message to disadvantaged people is wrong, and what we should be telling those struggling.
In addition to a radio show, Smith hosted the verified YouTube channel “Modern Renaissance Man,” with over 161,000 subscribers. His channel’s “About” page was fashioned as something of a résumé — but it didn’t mention a single medical degree, much less two:
-live chat discussions
On June 17 2021, Smith uploaded the footage and titled it “Breaking! Black father destroys Critical Race Theory extended video. Please share! Help change USA”. Further, in a 2018 “Intro” video, Smith described himself as a “health intellectual,” but not as a doctor.
Who is Candace Owens’ Brother and Where Does Ty Smith Come In?
In March 2021, a viral fake tweet attributed to Owens referenced a brother.
Consequently, tabloid items titled “Who is Candace Owens’ brother?” were published — but none appeared to address the identity of Owens’ brother; instead, all mainly focused on the phony tweet.
After @DailyCaller shared the video embedded above, one Twitter user shared an Instagram screenshot purportedly identifying the viral Illinois father as the brother of Candace Owens:
“An Illinois parent” pic.twitter.com/9VPpm1fO9t
— Hillary “2 Summer Holidays” Notar (@RGeorgeism) June 17, 2021
That screenshot accurately represented an October 12 2020 post by Smith to his Instagram account @m0dernrenaissanceman, showing Smith and Owens at an outdoor event location tagged to the White House:
Smith captioned the image:
Well since someone had to rat me out! Yes she’s @realcandaceowens my sister and I’m her crazy big brother! Thanks inviting your brother lil sis!
On the same day, Smith shared a very similar photograph with Owens. A caption for that image indicated that Smith was likely using “sister” in a non-literal way:
Keeping my “little sis” @realcandaceowens laughing is how she stays in good spirits to take on the world
Comments on the first post appeared to have been posted by followers of Smith’s videos or other content, and they replied in a manner suggesting that his selfie with Owens was unexpected, enviable, and a “photo op”:
So jealous you got to meet her. 😍
Bro. You are so lucky getting to meet these awesome people like Brandon Tatum and Candace Owens
Fabulous! I got a photo op with her back on Jan of last year!
Google searches attempting to link Candace Owens and Ty Smith beyond their October 12 2020 photographs together were not productive, and we found no indication that Smith was literally her brother.
So, What’s the Windup Here?
After video of an “Illinois father” boasting “two medical degrees” slowly went viral, a side-rumor suggested that the man seen objecting to critical race theory (Ty Smith) was the biological brother of another Black conservative — Candace Owens.
This took place against the backdrop of an inauthentically organized, coordinated disinformation push regarding critical race theory using pundits and personalities without disclosing their connections.
The main piece of evidence linking Smith to Candace Owens was an October 12 2020 Instagram post in which Smith — possibly fibbing to increase engagement — claimed that Candace Owens was his “sister”; a second post used quotes around “little sis.” Owens is from Stamford, Connecticut, and Smith purports to be from Decatur, Georgia; we found no information suggesting that Smith’s post was anything more than a confabulation to imply a link to the more-famous Owens with plausible deniability built-in.
Finally, “Owens” appeared to be Candace Owens’ birth name (not her married name “Candace Amber Owens Farmer.”) It did not match Smith’s name or substantiate any claims the pair are at all related.