Reprinted with permission from Media Matters
Fox News host Sean Hannity disclosed during his radio show on Friday that he had made peace with a fellow right-wing radio host whose content mill had warned that Hannity's "feverish support of the vaccine" against the novel coronavirus betrayed his conservative audience.
"By the way, I talked to our friend Wayne Dupree," Hannity said of the Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist, who described the grieving parents of murdered children as "crisis actors." "And he put up a nice tweet saying, 'You know what, somebody on my staff put that article up, I didn't see it,' and he rightfully corrected it."
Hannity's remark closed the books on a multi-day saga during which the Fox host had offered a vaguely pro-vaccine comment, only to backpedal wildly after drawing largely unearned praise from mainstream journalists and a backlash from the right. The incident demonstrates how Fox's cowardly refusal to defy the right-wing media's incentive structure by promoting the COVID-19 vaccine is now risking the lives of its viewers.
On his July 19 Fox program, Hannity urged viewers to "take COVID seriously" and said that he "believe[s] in the science of vaccination." It was a fairly banal comment and came in the middle of a lengthy segment in which Hannity denounced universities that require their students to get vaccinated.
But Fox's coverage of the COVID-19 vaccines has been so abhorrent and irresponsible that an out-of-context snippet of the monologue circulating on Twitter went viral on Monday night, as commentators rushed to praise Hannity's segment as a divergence from the network's norm. Over the following days, mainstream news outlets incorrectly highlighted the remark as an endorsement of the vaccines, and even cited it as evidence that "Suddenly, Conservatives Care About Vaccines," as a headline in The Atlantic put it.
Fox's PR team appreciates this sort of coverage because it helps shield the network from the accurate assessment that it serves as a conspiracy theory-addled right-wing propaganda outlet that is more than willing to endanger the lives of its viewers. But for Hannity, who regularly lashes out at the mainstream press, this sort of praise is useless at best and actively harmful to his reputation at worst. Hannity's audience -- and the right-wing rivals who might try to poach away those viewers and listeners -- are what matter to him. And from them, the Fox host received little support.
Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, Hannity's Fox prime-time colleagues, spent the week engaging in frenzied attacks on the vaccination campaign. Carlson explicitly criticized CNN -- but implicitly undermined Hannity -- when he dingedthe network for having "a position on whether you should take" the vaccine two nights after Hannity's viral monologue.
Hannity received more direct right-wing criticism for his supposed support for vaccination from outside the network, and a post on Dupree's website went after his audience directly.
"Hannity is raising ire with a lot of his supporters because of his feverish support of the vaccine," the author wrote, highlighting a series of online comments from conservatives dismayed by the Fox host "pushing" the vaccine. Dupree himself subsequently shared the post on Twitter.
A July 20 post on Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist and radio host Wayne Dupree's website targets Sean Hannity's audience over his purported vaccine advocacy.
Hannity responded by vigorously backtracking. On July 22, he assured both his radio and Fox audiences that he "never told anyone to get the vaccine" and criticized mainstream news outlets for suggesting otherwise.
Hannity made it clear on his radio show that the Dupree post had struck a nerve. He said that the story had been flagged for him as important by one of his employees, and he seemed dismayed that Dupree, "who I've always liked," was coming after him.
"Wayne, we hope you are listening, and maybe you understand what's really going on here and stop listening to fake news," commented Hannity's producer, Lynda McLaughlin, before playing audio to clear Hannity's name.
Why would Hannity go to such lengths to respond to and assuage the concerns of a Z-list crank like Dupree? Because in the right-wing media, you gain an audience by producing propaganda drenched in conspiracy theories that assures conservatives that their grievances and intuitions are correct -- and you can lose it just as quickly if that audience thinks you've gone soft.
This dynamic has been playing out on Fox since November, when the network's fringe-right rivals stole some of its market share by presenting themselves as more supportive of former President Donald Trump's lies that the 2020 election had been stolen. Ever since, Fox hosts have desperately pandered to the most extreme elements of the right in hopes of slowing the bleeding and rebuilding their audiences.
The vaccination effort has proven no different. Fox hosts could play a critical role in informing their viewers about the vaccine and helping to convince them to take it. They have a moral responsibility to try. But if they were to do so, a constellation of smaller, more adamantly anti-vax right-wing outlets is ready to lash out at the market leader and siphon away some of their viewers. So instead, they pander to the anti-vaxxers.
It's a vicious cycle. And it's getting Fox's viewers killed.
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Reprinted with permission from Alternet
The Department of Justice arrested and charged over 500 people who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, many in a coordinated effort to overturn a free and fair election. DOJ expects to charge about 100 others as well.
"The investigation and prosecution of the Capitol Attack will likely be one of the largest in American history, both in terms of the number of defendants prosecuted and the nature and volume of the evidence," the U.S. attorney's office in D.C. wrote in March, when the list of people to be charged was estimated at about 400, The Washington Post reported at the time.
On Tuesday, as the newly-minted U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack launches, holding its first day of events, four far right wing House Republicans – some of whom has been linked to white nationalists – will be holding a different type of event.
Instead of working to uncover and piece together all the information about what happened on Jan. 6, including what led up to the attempted coup, four GOP representatives – Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene – will hold a press conference on the "treatment" of the January 6 "prisoners," suggesting they are "political prisoners," which is false.
The four extremists will hold that press conference Tuesday at 1 PM, "demanding answers on the treatment of January 6 prisoners" from Attorney General Merrick Garland, per a press release.
"This is taking place on the same day as the January 6 select committee's first hearing," Forbes' Andrew Solender reports. House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy "is also holding a presser ahead of that to counter-program."
"The lawmakers have all pushed a baseless conspiracy theory that federal agents were behind the attack, with Gosar also casting slain rioter Ashli Babbitt – who was shot by law enforcement while trying to breach the House chamber – as a martyr," Solender says in a Forbes article.
INBOX: GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene are holding a presser outside the… https://t.co/GQ3iwUW7Vv— Andrew Solender (@Andrew Solender)1627327671.0
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Reprinted with permission from American Independent
A bipartisan infrastructure deal backed by President Joe Biden could be key in addressing climate change, one climate expert says, even if talks on the bill have been slowed by GOP pushback.
Evan Endres, climate and energy policy manager for The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania, told The American Independent Foundation on Monday that his state has a "complicated carbon puzzle that needs to be solved" and that a set of bipartisan infrastructure investments being considered by Congress could be one part of the solution.
Last month, Biden and a bipartisan group of senators agreed on a $579 billion framework for those investments in transportation, broadband, and water systems infrastructure. Although negotiations on the exact language of the bill have stalled, discussions are ongoing.
The framework includes funds to invest in electric vehicle infrastructure, electrify school and transit buses, upgrade the power grid, and clean up pollution.
Addressing those issues alone would be a boon to Pennsylvania, Endres said. "A lot of positive things are being discussed — concrete climate solutions that would create jobs and opportunity in Pennsylvania," he said.
Electrification of trucks and "heavy duty equipment," for instance, would jumpstart the state's economy directly, he explained.
"Mack Trucks, an American stalwart brand, makes an electric truck right here in Pennsylvania, at the Lehigh Valley Operations in Macungie ... heavy duty electric trucks you might see in a municipal trash fleet," he said. "A lot of the support for heavy duty electrification of equipment speaks directly to a brand that's part of the heart and soul of Pennsylvania."
He also noted that investments in battery and storage capacity could benefit the state. "We're a major exporter of electricity to other states," Endres said. "The more we can improve storage, the more we can export renewable energy."
As of now, the state is not only emitting greenhouse gases at home — it is also sending it out to other states.
"We're fifth in the nation for carbon emissions, we're a major exporter of energy to most states in the mid-Atlantic. We're the second largest net exporter of electricity behind Texas," he said. "Not only are we a large carbon emitter, but we're exporting that carbon-intensive electricity to other states who are also working to solve the carbon problem, the climate problem."
Endres is similarly bullish on provisions to deploy renewable energy generation efforts on the same lands that were once used for coal mining.
"That's something that should excite Pennsylvanians, particularly communities close to those formerly mined lands," he said. "You're bringing a new economic stimulation, development to those same lands through renewable energy, solar energy. That's a great intersection for those areas."
With a bipartisan infrastructure package passed, he added, more jobs will follow. "That tech requires a lot of construction, jobs for pipefitters, electricians, building trades, laborers," he said.
Endres also flagged another area that could lead to a jobs boost: cleaning up abandoned oil and gas wells.
The state's fossil fuel legacy, he said, includes "an unfathomable number of abandoned oil and gas wells. It's not uncommon to hear of hunters in the woods in Pennsylvania stumbling on an open well emitting methane as a pollutant — maybe it was drilled 80 or 90 years ago and no one is responsible."
Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection has documented about 9,000 of those orphaned wells — but estimates the number that need to be capped is in the hundreds of thousands.
"Going through, finding these things, capping them safely," Endres said, is "not only a climate solution but a big job that will require engineers, technicians, people who know how to work safely with open gas wells, people being out in the field to identify, tag them, and assess the priority."
He added, "It's a big problem and a climate liability. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than just carbon emission."
In all, the bipartisan package is a series of "really great first steps" and some "really great second steps," but ones that need to be hurried along soon.
"There's a lot of promising change happening. What we need is the kind of policy and investments that put a little gasoline on that fire of change," he concluded, before adding jokingly, "...Or flip the switch on the solar panels."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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