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In December 2019, when then-President Donald Trump was facing his first of two impeachments, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie launched the nonprofit Right Direction America to defend him. The 2022 campaign of far-right Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a hardcore Trumpista, donated $100,000 to the nonprofit earlier this year during Trump's second impeachment — and journalist Roger Sollenberger, in an article published by the Daily Beast, stresses that the donation raises some questions.
"While that donation may not sound out of the ordinary, it stands out for a number of reasons," Sollenberger reports. "For one, the size of the donation is curious: It's double the amount of Gaetz's second-largest donation ever, and it's $22,000 more than the campaign's combined gifts to close ally Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). For another, the nonprofit appears to have done nothing now for more than a year. And even odder is the Gaetz campaign's own explanation — which experts say raises questions of legality."
According to Sollenberger, the Gaetz campaign's stated reason for donating to Right Direction America differs from the mission of Christie's nonprofit.
"Christie billed the group as a vehicle to drum up public support for Trump during his first impeachment trial in the Senate," Sollenberger explains. "But that's not why the Gaetz campaign says it donated to Right Direction America. A campaign spokesperson told The Daily Beast that the organization supports former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who two weeks prior to the Gaetz donation, had announced her 2022 campaign for governor of Arkansas."
Sollenberger notes that "there's no public record of RDA supporting Sanders for governor, and there isn't activity of any kind since August 2020."
"According to the Federal Election Commission's database, RDA has received money from no political group other than the Gaetz campaign," Sollenberger reports. "For someone who's so strongly backing Sanders that he would make a $100,000 donation to a group purportedly in support of her, there's strangely no record of any direct donations to the Sanders campaign from the Gaetz campaign, nor from the beleaguered congressman himself — unlike with DeSantis. The campaign did not reply when presented with that information."
Robert Maguire, director of research for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, discussed Right Direction America with the Beast and said that public information "does raise the question of how legit this nonprofit organization is."
Maguire told the Beast, "When you see a webpage like that, that has nothing — no press clips, no projects, no events, no contact information, no address, nothing to identify it as a group with an office where people go to work, or produce actual work — the first question is: What do they exist to do? How are they validating their nonprofit status?"
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For months, Fox News hosts have been trying to convince Americans not to take basic steps to curb the spread of the coronavirus. But the network's own polling shows that its disinformation has not swayed most voters.
On Sunday, the network released a poll of registered voters that showed strong support for both mask usage and COVID-19 vaccination. By a 69 percent - 28 percent margin, those polled said they "believe wearing face masks helps reduce the spread of coronavirus" — consistent with scientific evidence — and by a 65 percent - 29 percent margin they agreed that the vaccines are "safe and effective."
The survey also showed large majorities back mandates for both. Respondents supported requirements that teachers and students (67 percent -31 percent) and workers and customers (66 percent - 31 percent) wear masks; that teachers be vaccinated (61 percent - 36 percent); and that all government workers be vaccinated (58 percent - 40 percent).
By a 56 percent - 41 percent margin they also back President Joe Biden's requirement that businesses with 100 workers or more conduct weekly coronavirus testing for any unvaccinated employee.
The Fox News poll results mirror other recent polling that has indicated most Americans want to see face mask and vaccination requirements, especially in light of recent case spikes due to the delta variant of the coronavirus.
But the network has devoted a significant amount of programming to undermining COVID-19 safety efforts.
Last week, prime-time host Tucker Carlson called for "mass resistance" against vaccine requirements and defended unfounded anti-vaccine social media posts by rap star Nicki Minaj, suggesting that the musician was unfairly "being bullied" over them but was bravely "still resisting."
According to a Media Matters for America analysis, during the two-week period from June 28 to July 11, 57 percent of the network's 129 segments on vaccination "included claims that either undermined or downplayed immunization efforts."
Fox hosts have also ridiculed mask usage and urged viewers to call out those who wear them. In April, Carlson said, "Your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from your response to seeing someone beat a kid in Walmart. Call the police immediately. Contact Child Protective Services. Keep calling until someone arrives. What you're looking at is abuse, it's child abuse, and you are morally obligated to attempt to prevent it."
Republican lawmakers have also pushed an anti-vaccination and anti-mask agenda.
On Friday, 24 Republican state attorneys general threatened to sue to stop Biden's vaccine and mask requirement for large employers.
Several GOP-controlled states are under federal investigation for policies prohibiting local school mask requirements.
And in July, House Republicans repeatedly tried to shut down the chamber to protest mask requirements, even after multiple members of the caucus tested positive for the virus.
On Sunday, Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves defended vaccine refusers, telling CNN that Biden's mandates are "an attack by the president on hardworking Americans and hardworking Mississippians who he wants to choose between getting a jab in the arm and their ability to feed their families." Mississippi currently has the highest COVID death rate per capita in the country.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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