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Tag: coronavirus

Republicans Stirring Up Ugly Smears -- And Lethal Hatred -- Against Fauci

Days after thousands of emails from Dr. Anthony Fauci became public through a series of FOIA requests, Republicans are using portions of those emails—out of context—to ramp up attacks on the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Those emails are being conflated with a series of media-hyped articles about the origins of COVID-19, and the result is a genuinely toxic stew that is being used by Republicans ranging from Josh Hawley to Donald Trump Jr. as a way to stir up hate and rake in cash.

For those not neck deep in OAN, Newsmax, or Fox News, it may be hard to fathom just how much those channels have become a 24/7 assault on the 80-year-old doctor, or how hard they have been pushing the "lab escape" theory as "proof" that the NIAID director is somehow responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. All of these outlets are in heavy rotation with the idea that COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan lab, operated by a friend of Dr. Fauci, that Fauci helped China in covering up that origin, and that this somehow absolves Donald Trump of all responsibility in 900,000 American deaths.

And that's the lightweight version. The version being pushed by multiple "guests" and "experts" appearing on these programs is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was deliberately engineered to infect people as part of a program that Fauci—and President Barack Obama—approved of and funded. The baseless accusations are so ugly that, even as Republicans like Hawley demand that Dr. Fauci be fired, others, like Trump Jr., are already chuckling over the idea that Dr. Fauci could be murdered.

On Friday evening, Trump Jr. showed that he isn't just expecting Dr. Fauci to be killed by the rabid Trump supporters being pushed to believe that a man who has lived his life in service to both medicine and the nation is some kind of monster. No, Junior is ready to celebrate that murder. In an Instagram post, Trump Jr. posted an image saying "I'm just going to jump ahead on this, and said I don't think Fauci killed himself." Those words were pasted over a smiling image of the odious and sadistic slave owner Calvin Candie from the film Django Unchained.

Sen. Rand Paul started the latest edition of the smear train on Thursday when he issued a fundraising pitch insisting that Fauci "must go" and claiming that Fauci—who was forced to correct Paul over and over in Senate hearings—was "continuously and deliberately misleading the public at every turn." He provided no examples, but insisted that someone must "fire Fauci!"

On Friday, Sen. Hawley explicitly tied together vague claims about Fauci's emails, with equally vague claims about COVID-19. "Anthony Fauci's recently released emails and investigative reporting about COVID-19 origins are shocking." Exactly what in Fauci's emails Hawley found upsetting, he didn't say. But he did call for Fauci to resign, as well as "a congressional investigation" into claims that Fauci somehow covered up the pandemic's origins.

Also on Friday, Donald Trump issued a statement saying that "After seeing the emails, our Country is fortunate I didn't do what Dr. Fauci wanted me to do."

What this means is anyone's guess, but by Saturday morning Sen. Marco Rubio figured he had his marching orders, so he piled on, calling for Biden to remove Dr. Fauci. And again, Rubio's claim went directly back to the idea that Fauci "dismissed the idea that the virus could have come from a lab."

Fauci never made such a dismissal. And the "lab escape" origin of COVID-19 certainly isn't proven. But it has been getting constant fluffing from a series of articles and constant right-wing coverage, all of which features the implication that "Trump was right" about "the China virus."

The Daily Mail that Trump intends to make things even worse Saturday evening, when he makes his first appearance as a private citizen at a North Carolina rally. He's planning to make attacking Dr. Fauci the center of his tirade,

On Friday, President Biden spoke up in support of Dr. Fauci, responding to a question by saying, "Yes, I'm very confident in Dr. Fauci."

But the assault on Anthony Fauci is unrelenting and the level of ugliness demonstrated by the Trump, Jr. message is only getting worse. If Republicans have learned anything from Jan. 6, it's apparently that they really can (and do) inspire and direct deadly hate.


Cruz Refuses To Don Mask When Asked By TV Crew

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) says he will not wear a mask when on television because he's been vaccinated and falsely claims CDC guidance states he does not have to.

"Would you mind putting a mask on for us?" a reporter off-camera asked the Texas Republican Senator as he was about to speak.

"Uh, when I'm talking to the TV camera I'm not going to wear a mask," Cruz said quickly, making a gesture around his face, "and all of us have been immunized, so," he added, pointing to his Senate colleagues behind him. Reports say more than one-quarter of members of Congress are refusing the vaccine but there is no public record of who has been vaccinated and who is refusing.

"It would make us feel better," the reporter urged.

"You're welcome to step away if you like," Cruz replied, effectively suggesting reporters working on the front lines shouldn't expect elected representatives to follow the rules to keep them and others safe from the coronavirus.

The reporter did not respond. Cruz paused, uncomfortably grinning, then declared that was "the whole point of a vaccine."

He added, "CDC guidance is what we're following."

Sen. Cruz is wrong. The whole point of the vaccine is to keep people from getting sick and dying. His refusal to wear a mask, vaccinated or not, does not fulfill that goal – especially since the vaccine is not one-hundred percent effective. Studies appear to show those vaccinated are less likely to spread the virus but that has not been confirmed and even if true, again, not at a one-hundred percent rate.

Cruz is also wrong about what the CDC recommends for those who have been fully vaccinated.

CDC says fully vaccinated people should continue to: "Take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing," and "Wear masks, practice physical distancing, and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease."

Also, President Joe Biden's executive order "requires anyone working in or visiting federal buildings or federal lands to wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines."

Watch:

Fox News Buried Trump’s Endorsement Of Vaccination Campaign

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Former President Donald Trump urged Americans to take the coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday night. "I would recommend it to a lot of people that don't want to get it — and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly," he said during a Fox News interview with Maria Bartiromo. "It is a safe vaccine and it is something that works." While Trump caveated his comments by saying that "we have our freedoms and we have to live by that," his comments were nonetheless significant because, as he indicated, polls show Republicans are particularly hesitant to take the vaccine.

But Trump's remarks will have an impact only if his supporters hear them. And while his comments originally aired on Fox, that network -- by far the most popular and influential among Trump voters -- has largely ignored them since.

In the 36 hours following Trump's vaccine endorsement, Fox devoted only about six and a half minutes to the remarks. Only a handful of programs covered the remarks; flagship "straight news" broadcast Special Report and popular opinion shows The Five, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and The Ingraham Angle are among those that have not aired or referenced the comments.

Sean Hannity became the only Fox prime-time host thus far to discuss Trump's vaccine endorsement when he briefly mentioned it (without playing the clip) on Wednesday night. But that aside came in the context of criticizing mainstream media for "chastising" Republicans for not wanting to get vaccinated.

Hannity, to his credit, said that he personally plans to get the shot and acknowledged Trump's comments, but then pivoted to arguing that "it isn't really anyone's business" who gets vaccinated and that "you need to make your own decision" no matter what liberals say.


It's not hard to tell when Fox's hosts and executives want the network's viewers to hear a politician's comment -- the clip will air over and over again across the network's programming, interspersed with segments dissecting it.

That's what happened when President Joe Biden described Republican governors who lifted COVID restrictions, including mask mandates, as engaged in "Neanderthal thinking" on March 3.

Fox ran roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes of coverage about the purported controversy over the following 36 hours — 12 times as much coverage as it later devoted to Trump's vaccine endorsement. The "Neanderthal" commentary spanned almost the entire Fox lineup during that timespan, with several shows featuring multiple segments of discussion.

Fox could have treated Trump's comments with the same urgency that it did a random Bidenism, using the network's megaphone to encourage their viewers to be safe. But Fox's hosts are apparently more interested in making their audiences feel victimizedthan they are in keeping viewers healthy and alive, and its executives, including the Murdochs, are willing to let them as long as the money continues rolling in.

Bar chart comparing Fox coverage of Trump endorsing vaccines vs. its coverage of Biden's "neanderthal" comment

I keep coming back to this because it's true: Fox has a unique moral responsibility, having successfully convinced viewers not to believe anything mainstream news outlets report. There are vanishingly few other vehicles available to reach the network's audience with critical public health information. The network could be trying to create a permission structure to help viewers decide to take safe, effective shots in order to drastically reduce their personal risk from a deadly virus that has killed more than 530,000 Americans.

But Fox is instead failing its viewers, as it has throughout the pandemic. The network's most popular hosts would rather pander to anti-vaxxers for ratings and clout than tell their viewers, "I am going to get vaccinated, just like our founder Rupert Murdoch did, and you should too."

It's disgusting and cowardly and everyone involved should be ashamed.

Methodology

Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any variation of the term "vaccine" within close proximity of the term "Trump" from March 16 through 8 a.m. EDT March 18, 2021.

We also searched the transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for the term "Neanderthal" from March 3 through March 5, 2021.

We timed any segments, which we defined as instances when either story was the stated topic of discussion or when we found "significant discussion" of either topic. We defined "significant discussion" as instances when two or more speakers discussed either topic with one another. We also timed teasers for segments coming up later in the broadcast, and we timed passing mentions of either story, which we defined as instances when a single speaker mentioned either topic without another speaker in the same segment engaging with the comment.

We included any instances that fell within the first 36 hours after Biden and Trump's comments. We rounded all times to the nearest half-minute.

Research contributions from Lis Power and Rob Savillo

#EndorseThis: Seth Meyers Rips Texas And Mississippi Decisions To Reopen

Remember the pre-pandemic world? No masks, no capacity limits, and no social distancing. Texas and Mississippi are returning to that nostalgic time -- the only problem being that we are still in a pandemic and COVID-19 variants are spreading. Evidently the governors of those states don't care how many of their constituents die.

Seth Meyers decided to take "a closer look" at these rash decisions by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, both Republicans. Their moral idiocy is a deadly serious topic, but somehow Seth finds the dark humor.

You'll be outraged, but you'll laugh too.


Texas, Mississippi Lift Mask Mandates; GOP Silent on Amazon Union Push: A Closer Look www.youtube.com

In Pandemic America, A Christmas Like No Other

So, this is Christmas.

No travel, and no family or friends outside our secure little bubbles. If we are to take care of one another, this is what we must do, one household at a time.

Many packages are arriving later than hoped, and social media is filling with laments from parents worrying about what to tell their children if Santa is late.

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GOP Legislator Who Mocked Covid Now Hospitalized In Grave Condition

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Cases of the novel coronavirus are increasing at a rapid rate across the U.S. Despite this, some individuals are still refusing to wear masks. As a result, many of those who once denied the severity of the virus are now suffering the consequences of doing so after infection. While some have expressed regret and have warned others to not take the virus and safety measures lightly, others—like Donald Trump—are continuing to deny its severity despite multiple hospital visits.

Longtime COVID-19 denier and Tennessee state Rep. David Byrd is yet another Republican who once dismissed the virus as a hoax, only to contract it himself. Byrd, who is currently hospitalized, is at risk of being put on a ventilator, the Tennessean reported. The controversial Republican posted on Facebook Thursday begging friends for prayers and a "miracle" after being hospitalized over the weekend with pneumonia following a positive COVID-19 test.

"I really need a miracle today!!" Byrd wrote Thursday. "My doctor said if my oxygen level doesn't improve then he has no choice but to put me on a ventilator. So please pray that God will breathe His healing spirit into my lungs!!"

Byrd tested positive for the virus less than two weeks after attending a meeting with almost 70 House Republicans in the House chamber on Nov. 24. During the meeting, the 63-year-old representative was seen without a mask on the House floor.

But it doesn't end there: Days before the meeting, Byrd even hosted a dinner with a number of his fellow caucus members at a restaurant to kick off a series of Republican retreat events. According to NBC News affiliate WBIR, one of the events was overnight.

Not only has Byrd been spotted without a mask on multiple occasions, but in June he also voted in support of a House resolution that insisted that "mainstream media has sensationalized the reporting on COVID-19 in the service of political agendas," the Tennessean reported. Byrd is the second Republican Tennessee House member to be hospitalized after contracting the virus. Rep. Mike Carter, who also voted in support of the same legislation, was hospitalized earlier this year with COVID-19.

Byrd, a former teacher and principal, is not only a conservative COVID-19 denier but a sexual predator. The representative was accused by three former students in 2018 of sexual assault committed in the 1980s when he served as a coach for the Wayne County High School girls basketball team.

To date, Byrd has still not denied the allegations and instead when asked about them diverted to a statement regarding not conducting any misconduct as a state legislator. Prior to issuing his statement, Bryd was asked to resign by other members of the Tennessee house following a secretly recorded phone conversation obtained by NBC News affiliate WSMV, during which Byrd apologized to one of his accusers. However, he refused to resign and claimed that he would fight the allegations.

"I wish I had a do-over because I promise you I would have corrected that and that would've never happened," Byrd said in the phone call. "But I hope you believe me when I say that it's one of those things that I think about it all the time, and I always ask forgiveness for it and I hope you forgive me."

From denying sexual assault to denying a deadly virus, who knows what else Byrd has denied in the past. Asking for prayers should be the least of his worries. But unfortunately, Byrd isn't the only Tennessee native with a following who has consistently deemed the virus fake news. Conservative pastor Greg Locke also refuses to wear a mask and has expressed no plans to take a vaccine. "There's no pandemic," he told CNN. "I'm 44-years-old. We've not had one in my lifetime … this is not it."

Who knows what it will take for some conservatives to understand how deadly this pandemic really is and what the consequences of their actions are.

Giuliani Got Same Costly, Exclusive Covid Treatment That Helped Trump

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

He is not an elected official and serves no public or government function but Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, says when he tested positive for COVID-19 Trump's physician treated him and he received the same course of treatment – not commonly available to most Americans – as the President himself.

Throughout the pandemic there have been numerous reports of celebrities, sports stars, the wealthy and the well-connected getting priority access to coronavirus testing, but now it appears that President Trump is facilitating access to experimental but life-saving drugs for his friends.

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Bombshell Investigation Shows DeSantis Told Florida Health Officials ‘Not To Discuss’ Pandemic

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In contrast to the governors who aggressively promote social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — from Republican Larry Hogan in Maryland to Democrat Gavin Newsom in California — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has often joined President Donald Trump in downplaying the pandemic's severity. A recent South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation showed how badly DeSantis misled Floridians on COVID-19's dangers, and CBS 4 Miami (the CBS television affiliate in that city) interviewed one of the reporters who worked on that investigation: Mario Ariza.

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