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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By now, it’s a pattern: Conservative politicians, after failed or menially important careers in public service, turn to cable news to make a real name for themselves, parlaying the illusion of power and influence into book deals, “consulting” positions, and TV shows.

As Eric Boehlert put it, it is “conservatism as an ATM.”

It isn’t anything new, but this past week of tragedies, including the Dallas shooting and the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, brought these “professional commentators” to the surface, mainly to scapegoat the activism of the Black Lives Matter movement, explicitly or otherwise, for the ambush in Dallas.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee personifies this phenomenon. The ultra-conservative evangelical politician and pastor got his own show at Fox News after his governorship ended, then quit his show to run a second presidential campaign, then returned to the network as a commentator after his campaign failed. It’s a new breed of “revolving door.”

Huckabee appeared on Fox News Saturday to argue that more white people have been shot by police officers this past year than minorities,” ignoring the fact, obvious to him, that proportional to population size, black men are shot by police far more often.

When the Washington Post pointed out the inaccuracy of his statement, Huckabee took things even further. “My comments were 100 percent factual. The pure facts also reveal that 94 percent of those killed by police are men, so by your ‘proportional’ standards, the real movement in America should be ‘Male Lives Matter,” Huckabee said.

But it’s not just big-name conservatives like Huckabee. Building a controversial persona by repeatedly making inflammatory remarks that catch the public’s attention or cause outrage is a sure way create an on-air persona and fan base, a product of some in the media’s commitment to “neutrality,” even for the most egregiously outlandish claims.

This impossible standard of neutrality has turned into a business venture. Politicians and commentators get a paying gig, and the networks get ratings in the name of fairness. After earning brief fame from controversy, “political commentators” migrate to partisan networks: preaching to the choir, or playing devil’s advocate.

Mark Fuhrman is an example of the former. The former LAPD detective from the O.J. Simpson case became famous after tapes presented at the trial exposed him as a racist, power-abusing, almost stereotypically “bad” cop. A couple of book deals later, Fuhrman is now “forensic and crime scene expert” for Fox News.

Fuhrman appeared on Fox News last week to say that the issue of police brutality is overblown.

Yeah. The guy at the center of O.J. Simpson’s acquittal — one of the most racially divisive events in American history — is now a go-to voice on police misconduct, which audio-taped evidence proved he was guilty of during the O.J. trial.

“You can always find something that doesn’t look like justice was served one way or another, where somebody made a mistake, somebody was overzealous, somebody was overaggressive. If you’re going to take this micro-moment in the history of a city, a county, a state or a country and use that as a movement, you can never combat this. There’s always going to be something. It’s like having a perfect family. It doesn’t exist.” he told Megyn Kelly.

Of course, Black Lives Matter organizes protests in response to singular events, but was created in response to the overwhelming trend of police violence against black people.

Former congressman Joe Walsh, incredibly, earned a CNN invitation by sending out a tweet after the Dallas shooting in which he declared “war” on president Obama. In the now-deleted Tweet, Walsh warned Obama and Black Lives Matter leaders that “real America” was “coming after” them. He sent out a dozen or so tweets the night of the shooting along similar lines.

Walsh, who hosts a radio show, used his Friday night CNN appearance to defend his comments, telling Don Lemon that he “didn’t intend to say everybody go threaten Barack Obama or incite violence against Barack Obama.”

He said he only deleted the tweet because Twitter suspended his account. Twitter spokesman Nu Wexler pointed out the site’s policy that says users “may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism.”

Backlash (and more attention for both Walsh and CNN) quickly followed Walsh’s appearance — why would the network give airtime to such an obviously inflammatory voice? Because that’s the business model.

Rudy Giuliani knows that model well.

Although no network has Giuliani on their payroll, he is a usual sight whenever the day’s news revolve around security or law enforcement, and last week was no exception. On Sunday he appeared on CBS‘s Face The Nation, where he said the Black Lives Matter movement was “inherently racist.”

A day later, he went on Fox News to reaffirm his comments. “Black Lives Matter never protests when every 14 hours somebody is killed in Chicago, probably 70-80% of the time (by) a black person. Where are they then? Where are they when a young black child is killed?” Giuliani said on Monday.

Then again, has Giuliani ever protested police brutality, the actual aim of Black Lives Matter’s activism? Of course not. In fact, his time as mayor — his “reign,” to some — was marked by the police killings of numerous black New Yorkers. To the extent that Giuliani made a dent in the city’s crime rate — a frequent brag of his, and his answer to any racial criticism — it decreased at roughly the same rate as it did nation-wide.

But he’s good for a sound bite.

 

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.