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

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.


WHO Chief: Pretending Pandemic Is Over Now Would Be ‘Monumental Error’

We are not out of the COVID woods yet, despite declining coronavirus infection levels and increasing vaccine rates, a world health leader warned Monday. The mood may be lightening up in the U.S. and elsewhere as people get their shots, and infections and deaths decline, but COVID-19 is still a very real and present danger, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said as the 74th World Health Assembly wrapped up. He called on the world’s nations to work together to end this pandemic and prepare for the next one, proposing a treaty on pandemic preparedness and respo...

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published 12 books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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

My Brother, Still

When my brother was a boy, he loved to leave pennies on the railroad tracks up the street from our house and wait for the freight train to flatten them as it zoomed by.

This scared my mother to death. I don't know that she ever found a flattened penny in the pocket of his jeans or heard it rattling around in the clothes dryer. More likely, she got regular dispatches from the neighborhood gossips reporting for duty.

Every so often, I'd hear her yell his name and order him to stand in front of her — "Right this minute, Mister" — for a lecture about the violent death awaiting him at the tracks.

I was six years older, and watching Chuckie's face as Mom described his inevitable dark fate was the peak of entertainment for a teenage sister who loved her brother. God, that grin of his. Mom idolized her only son, the baby of the family, and he knew it. We all knew it.

I once wrote an essay claiming that, after having three daughters, my parents hired a marching band to welcome home their newborn son. "Connie Marie, that is not true," Mom said after it was published. "You know we didn't have that kind of money back then."

I think about Chuckie's pennies on those rails every time I hear Bruce Springsteen's song One Minute You're Here, which is often. It's on his newest album, Letter to You, and of course, I bought it the day it came out. As I taught Chuckie at a young age, Bruce is proof that our people have poets, too. Knowing that helped me believe I could become a writer. Chuckie, when everyone but family knew him as Chuck, once told me that Bruce helped him make sense of life as much as anyone could.

"I lay my penny down on the rails / As the summer wind sings its last song. / One minute you're here. / Next minute you're gone."

There it is. Damn, Bruce.

This is the eve of my brother's birthday. He would be turning 58 if he hadn't killed himself in the summer of 2019. Like so many people who've lost a loved one to suicide, I've discovered this final fact of his life comes with a grief that has no expiration date.

I was one person before. I am someone else now. That's not a complaint or a plea for sympathy. It's just another fact of life.

I know I'm not alone. Nearly every week since I first wrote about Chuckie's death, I've heard from someone else who has lost a loved one to suicide. Sometimes, it's so soon they can barely find the words. Other times, it's been years, and they still feel the torment of the unanswerable whys.

As I wrote soon after Chuckie's death, he was so much more than how he died. Earlier this week, I was rifling through stacks of old family photos and came across three Polaroids of Chuckie when he was 13, the age now of my oldest grandson.

He is sitting in Dad's recliner, which means our father wasn't home. In two of the shots, Chuckie is holding both of our dogs, Shilo and Sheba. His smile is biggest, though, when only Sheba is in his arms. He had rescued her from the streets and defied Dad for months by hiding her in the garage and in his room until Mom finally brokered the truce that let her stay.

Sheba was his first love, the first of many rescues. That was his heart, always. That is his heart, still.

In this last year, I've thought so often of Chuckie as this pandemic has ravaged our country. Before decades of alcoholism caught up with him, Chuckie was at the top of his game in pharmaceutical sales. He loved educating doctors and the public about medical breakthroughs.

In his last year, he had lost everything that mattered to him. But I keep thinking that, if only I had convinced him to hang on (I know, I know), he would have found his way back somehow, when so many medical professionals have come out of retirement to save us.

Chuckie could have helped us. My brother could have made a difference. I believe this. I guess that means I believe in him.

That is my heart, still.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including "...and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. She is also the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, The Daughters of Erietown. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com

#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

Leaked Memo Shows GOP Leadership Whipping Opposition To $1400 Relief Bill

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

House Republican leadership on Friday urged every GOP lawmaker to vote against President Joe Biden's coronavirus relief legislation, mocking the proposal as "Pelosi's Payoff to Progressives Act," according to a leaked memo issued by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and obtained by The Hill.

Because Democrats control the House, the bill doesn't need Republican votes to pass.

However, by trying to get GOP lawmakers to oppose the bill, Republicans are making a risky bet that voting against a piece of legislation that a recent poll shows more than two-thirds of voters support is good politics.

In fact, polls show that the very things House Republicans are condemning in the bill are overwhelmingly popular with the electorate.

For example, the memo sent to House Republicans lists the $1,400 direct payments to Americans as one of the reasons to oppose the legislation.

But a recent Quinnipiac University poll found 78% of Americans support the $1,400 checks.

What's more, even Donald Trump supported that dollar figure for checks when he was in office, and recently slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for blocking passage of the checks in an angry statement calling for McConnell's ouster as Senate Republican leader.

Trump said McConnell "matched the Democrat offer of $2,000 stimulus checks with $600. How does that work? It became the Democrats' principal advertisement, and a big winner for them it was."

Even 44 House Republicans supported that check total in December, when Democrats put it up for a vote as a dare to McConnell.

Also on the list of reasons House Republican leadership included as reason to vote against the bill is a provision to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

However, the Quinnipiac poll found 61 percent support increasing the minimum wage.

A Navigator Research poll from early February also showed broad support for the provisions in Biden's relief bill that House Republicans are opposing.

For example, House Republicans listed an increase to weekly unemployment insurance payments as a reason to vote against the bill. But the Navigator Research poll found 63 percent of registered voters support that provision.

Republicans also list an increase in food stamp allowances as a negative part of the bill. Yet 73 percent of registered voters support the increase, per the Navigator Research survey.

Voting en masse against a Democratic bill and hoping that constant attacks on the legislation will help Republicans has been tried before.

It's the same strategy Republicans used in 2009 against former President Barack Obama's health care law.

However, unlike the overwhelmingly popular coronavirus relief bill, there was more opposition to the Affordable Care Act before it passed.

"Public opinion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been largely divided along partisan lines since the law was passed in 2010," the Kaiser Family Foundation wrote in a piece in December 2020 about trends in support for the ACA, better known as Obamacare.

Ultimately, Republicans will be on record opposing a coronavirus relief bill as more than 10 million people remain out of work and weekly jobless claims remain at historic highs.

House Democratic leaders are looking to hold a vote on the coronavirus relief bill by the end of next week.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.