The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

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

Dr. Anthony Fauci

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Dr. Anthony Fauci's warning on Tuesday that reopening the country too soon could trigger "avoidable suffering and death" from the novel coronavirus drew a furious response from the Fox News hosts closest to President Donald Trump. The right-wing propagandists seem to be on a mission to force the top infectious disease expert's removal from the administration amid an ongoing pandemic that has already killed more than 80,000 Americans, and they may have enough influence over the president to succeed.

Fauci, who as director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has advised five presidents on pandemic response, said during a Senate hearing that states that ignore federal guidelines and prematurely reopen businesses and roll back social distancing measures risk causing new outbreaks of the coronavirus. Those spikes, he said, would both lead to more deaths and harm the economy. Fauci also argued that the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is likely higher than the recorded figure and that the virus would likely return in the fall and winter.

Fauci's testimony contradicted Trump's own push to "liberate" the economy without taking the steps public health experts say are needed to do so safely and successfully. And so, the president's loyal supporters in Fox prime time lashed out at Fauci to one degree or another on their Tuesday broadcasts.

Fox News is trying to get Dr. Fauci fired

Tucker Carlson's ranting was the most vicious, among other things saying he "may be even more off-base than your average epidemiologist" and calling him "the chief buffoon." "Is this the guy into whom you want to vest all of your trust? Is this the guy you want to chart the future of the country?" he asked

Sean Hannity was milder, emphasizing his respect for Fauci's work but nonetheless telling viewers that he "seems to favor what the Democrats want and that is massive restrictions with no end in sight."

And Laura Ingraham also linked Fauci to Democrats, arguing that Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden would "would farm out critical decision-making to others like Dr. Fauci and other unnamed scientists" and displaying an image of Fauci as she mockingly claimed that Democrats wanted America locked down until "until the experts set you free."

The Fox hosts carefully avoided criticizing Trump for listening to Fauci, instead suggesting that Fauci himself has total power and is using it unwisely. This disparity was emphasized on Wednesday's Fox & Friends. After Brian Kilmeade complained that Fauci isn't "factoring in what damage he's doing" to the U.S. economy, his fellow co-host Ainsley Earhardt responded that it's Fauci's job to speak to the public health concerns but actually Trump's responsibility to "factor in everything."

Fox's pro-Trump hosts -- notably Carlson -- have previously criticized Fauci and other public health officials as part of the network's push for a swift end to social distancing measures. But last night's full-fledged assault on the nation's top epidemiologist represents a drastic escalation.

That's a very bad sign for those of us who think it's a good idea for an expert with decades of experience dealing with pandemics to play a role in advising the president on the one currently killing Americans.

Trump not only watches Fox prime-time shows religiously, but he also personally consults with their hosts. Carlson played a role in former national security adviser John Bolton's departure from the White House, and his personal meeting with Trump and a monologue he gave in March have been credited with the president taking the virus more seriously. Hannity reportedly speaks to the president nightly and has so much influence he's been described by White House officials as the "shadow" chief of staff. And Ingraham dropped by the White House twice last month to advise the president and other top officials on the coronavirus response. If the Fox Cabinet turns Fauci into a regular target, it puts his job in jeopardy.

In late February, as Trump channeled Fox attacks on journalists and Democrats for purportedly politicizing the coronavirus outbreak, I warned that the Fox-Trump feedback loop could have dire repercussions if the network's propagandists started urging the president to purge supposedly disloyal public health experts. Less than three months later, that day seems to have arrived.


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

Keep reading... Show less

Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}