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Tag: coronavirus denial

Far-Right Michigan Republican Who Scorned Vaccine Infected And On Respirator

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Time and time again, far-right MAGA Republicans have railed against COVID-19 vaccines, mask mandates and social distancing measures and downplayed the pandemic's severity — only to be hospitalized with the potentially deadly coronavirus. A recent example is William Hartmann, former vice-chairman of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers in Michigan. The Detroit Metro Times is reporting that Hartmann, known for his anti-vaxxer views, is in intensive care after being infected with COVID-19.

On November 24, the Metro Times' Steve Neavling reported: "William Hartmann, former vice-chairman of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, has been on a ventilator since about November 6, according to his sister Elizabeth Hartmann. Two sources confirmed to Metro Times that Hartmann has been in intensive care since early November. The status of his health is unclear."

William Hartmann has repeatedly attacked Democratic vaccination campaigns from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and President Joe Biden. Whitmer held a lottery to encourage vaccinations in her state, and on July 30, Hartmann visited Facebook and wrote, "If the ouchie is so great, why do they have to offer bribes?"

The MAGA Republican was engaging in coronavirus denial as far back as February 2020. In a Facebook February 27, 2020 Facebook post, William Hartmann wrote, "I was at the Doctor's the other day, yes again, and we were talking about the CoronaVirus. I asked if I should be concerned. He said it's just a virus like any other virus, nothing to be concerned about. So why all the hullabaloo in the media about it. He thinks it's all about the money. Follow the money. Lots of corporations and people are making a ton of money off this thing. Like always wash your hands if you go out. Just be health conscious."

The MAGA Republican was engaging in coronavirus denial as far back as February 2020. In a Facebook February 27, 2020 Facebook post, William Hartmann wrote, "I was at the Doctor's the other day, yes again, and we were talking about the CoronaVirus. I asked if I should be concerned. He said it's just a virus like any other virus, nothing to be concerned about. So why all the hullabaloo in the media about it. He thinks it's all about the money. Follow the money. Lots of corporations and people are making a ton of money off this thing. Like always wash your hands if you go out. Just be health conscious."

The virus that William Hartmann described as "nothing to be concerned about" has, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, killed more than 5.1 million people worldwide and over 775,000 people in the United States.

In addition to his anti-vaxxer and anti-masker views, William Hartmann has been a promoter of the Big Lie — the false, totally debunked conspiracy theory that Donald Trump really won the 2020 presidential election but was robbed of a victory because of widespread voter fraud. Hartmann, in November 2020, initially voted against certifying the presidential election results in Wayne County, but later agreed to certify them.

At this point, the majority of people being hospitalized with COVID-19 in Michigan are unvaccinated. Neavling noted that Hartmann has "criticized the vaccine and compared government COVID-19 efforts to Nazi Germany."

The Metro Times reporter wrote, "Hartmann's hospitalization is just the latest cautionary tale in a country where the virus and vaccine have become politicized and scientific research is often dismissed."

MyPillow Guy Is Kingpin Of Disinformation On Election and Virus

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A new video from MyPillow CEO and Trump supporter Mike Lindell that's filled with election falsehoods is spreading on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube, even though each platform has a policy prohibiting this kind of misinformation.

Lindell has been a leading voice in promoting dangerous conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election (and bankrolling the proliferation of this lie) across right-wing media and social media.

Twitter permanently suspended Lindell for peddling election misinformation. Lindell then attempted to use his corporate MyPillow account to evade Twitter's ban; that account was also permanently suspended.

Lindell's Facebook and Instagram accounts are both active and full of election and COVID-19 misinformation. In fact, Lindell has access to multiple accounts for himself and his company. On Facebook, he has a personal account, a professional page, and a MyPillow corporate page. On Instagram, he has a verified personal account and a MyPillow account.

Even though former President Donald Trump's multiple attempts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election failed in courts, over 70% of likely Republican voters question the election results. Meanwhile, his supporters continue to push baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. Lindell is one of Trump's most vocal supporters to promote unsubstantiated election fraud claims and conspiracy theories, and he recently released a film that The New York Times called a "disinfomercial." In the video, titled "Absolute Proof," Lindell spent over two hours falsely claiming that Trump won the election, making wild allegations of fraud that have no basis in reality, and railing against "cancel culture."

Following the release of Lindell's video on February 5, YouTube and Vimeo removed copies for violating each platform's election integrity policies, but additional versions of the film are still being uploaded to YouTube. Facebook and Twitter have both labeled posts sharing the film as misinformation and reduced its distribution, with Facebook confirming that the "video has been rated false by one of Facebook's third-party fact-checkers so it's been labeled and its distribution is being reduced." But Media Matters has still found active posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that have no label, and TikTok has not taken any action against posts with the video, even though the platform claimed on February 3 that it was taking new steps to crack down on misinformation.

Since before the election, social media platforms have claimed that they are trying to stop the spread of election misinformation, but these platforms have failed to adequately implement or consistently enforce related policies. For example, Facebook took minimal action against election misinformation from Trump and his allies on its platforms, allowing users to organize and promote"Stop the Steal" events, such as the January 6 rally that led to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. Media Matters and others have documented similar failures of other platforms, such as Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube.

The limited actions of social media platforms has allowed Lindell's conspiracy-laden video to spread across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube.

Facebook and Instagram

Election misinformation policy: We will attach an informational label to content that seeks to delegitimize the outcome of the election or discuss the legitimacy of voting methods, for example, by claiming that lawful methods of voting will lead to fraud.

"Absolute Proof" is the latest example of Facebook being incapable or unwilling to consistently enforce its policies. Facebook confirmed that the video violates its policy and has labeled Lindell's posts linking to the film on both Facebook and Instagram as containing false information. But Media Matters has found Facebook and Instagram posts that are not labeled, including posts with links to versions of the video hosted on other websites and alternative platforms, such as Gab and Rumble. These posts are also circulating within private Facebook groups, which have been moredifficult for Facebook to moderate and for researchers and journalists trying to hold Facebook accountable to track.

Notable examples of Instagram posts with Lindell's film include:

Twitter

Election misinformation policy: We will label or remove false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election or other civic process. This includes but is not limited to: disputed claims that could undermine faith in the process itself, such as unverified information about election rigging, ballot tampering, vote tallying, or certification of election results.

Versions of Lindell's film are also spreading on Twitter. The platform labeled an OAN tweet promoting "Absolute Proof" with a disclaimer: "This claim of election fraud is disputed, and this Tweet can't be replied to, Retweeted, or liked due to a risk of violence."

However, this standard of policy enforcement is not consistently applied to all clips of the video. The Twitter hashtag "#AbsoluteProof" displays tweets containing links to the full-length film, as well as unlabeled video clips.

Right Side Broadcasting Network also tweeted a link to the full film multiple times, but Twitter has not applied a label or restrictions on them.

TikTok

Election misinformation policy: Our Community Guidelines prohibit misinformation that could cause harm to our community or the larger public, including content that misleads people about elections or other civic processes, content distributed by disinformation campaigns, and health misinformation.

Even though it violates TikTok's election misinformation policy, "Absolute Proof" is swiftly spreading on the platform. The "Absolute Proof" hashtag on TikTok already has nearly half a million views, and all of the top videos promote Lindell's video.

Some TikTok creators are directing users to external websites to view the film in its entirety while others are uploading it in sections.

"Look what I got. … Apparently they've been taking down this documentary, so I figured I'd snag it," said one user. "I'll post some goodies that I find. And yeah, take that, big tech." This video has over 190,000 views and the account has over 57,000 followers.

YouTube

Election misinformation policy: Don't post content on YouTube if it fits any of the descriptions noted below.
Presidential Election Integrity: Content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches changed the outcome of any past U.S. presidential election (Note: this applies to elections in the United States only). For the U.S. 2020 presidential election, this applies to content uploaded on or after December 9, 2020.

YouTube removed Lindell's video for violating its policies, but at the time of publication, there are many additional uploads still on YouTube. An advanced Google search for YouTube videos using the phrase "watch absolute proof" uploaded between February 5 and February 8 returned over 270 results.

There also appears to be a coordinated YouTube spam campaign centered around the Lindell film. All of the top results featured a series of screenshots from the film with overlaid text instructing users to click the "link" below to watch. The text slightly varied with each video, but the format and messaging appear uniform. These videos each have thousands of views.

Banned By Facebook, Anti-Vax Misinformer Moved To New Page

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

In November 2020, Facebook removed a page where Del Bigtree, a notorious anti-vaccine figure, broadcast his show -- The High Wire -- to a large online audience.

Bigtree's page was removed after Facebook determined that he violated the platform's policies against "misinformation that could cause physical harm." He had used his High Wire broadcast to claim that COVID-19 was "one of the most mild illnesses there is," that wearing a mask poses a serious health hazard, and that people should intentionally expose themselves to COVID-19, among other dangerous claims. Facebook's action came months after he was banned by YouTube, where he had also broadcast his show.

On February 8, The New York Times reported that Facebook says it will "remove posts with erroneous claims about vaccines from across its platform."

Bigtree continues to share dangerous medical misinformation on Facebook. After the platform banned The High Wire's page, he began to post dangerous medical misinformation on another page he operates. The page is not hard to find -- its name is "Del Bigtree."

On that page, Bigtree shares disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine, including the baseless claim it will eventually kill half of its recipients. He also pushes dangerous falsehoods about COVID-19, including his suggestion that the disease doesn't actually exist. Some of Bigtree's dangerous claims on his Facebook page are documented below:

Bigtree Promoted Denial Of Coronavirus Fatalities

Bigtree's Facebook page shared a video from a January 6 Washington, D.C., event called the "Rally for Health Freedom." The event coincided with other rallies in Washington that day that culminated in a failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Bigtree was a speaker at the event and made a number of medically dangerous claims after asking the crowd, "Are people really dying" of COVID-19? Bigtree touted the widely promoted, but false, claim that COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility and claimed that vaccine manufacturers are "murdering people."

He went on to engage in COVID-19 denial. Claiming "I don't think God messed up" in the creation of humans, Bigtree said, "I don't think there's some coronavirus that can override the brilliant immune system that is born into us" and that "99.99% of us are showing how great God's design is, because this virus does nothing to us." (More than 450,000 people in the United States have died from the disease.)

He then falsely called COVID-19 a "cold," and claimed that unlike quarantine measures put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, "we let the Spanish flu run its course, we let MERS run its course, we let SARS run its course" and "we all lived." (That is not what happened during those outbreaks, some of which killed many people.)

Saying that he stood with supporters of Donald Trump who refuse to wear masks and commenting on the size of his crowd, Bigtree also bragged that he has "been to more superspreader events than almost anyone I know" before falsely claiming that there is "no such thing as asymptomatic spread" of COVID-19.

Bigtree Shared Video Falsely Attributing Convulsions To COVID Vaccine

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Finally Birx Tells The Terrible Truth About Trump’s Pandemic Botch

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

If you followed along with Dr. Deborah Birx, former White House coronavirus task force coordinator, you might have experienced some frustration at what the White House was (or more accurately, wasn't) doing in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Some viewers began to wonder why Birx appeared to be tiptoeing around being direct, especially in terms of her sometimes too optimistic-seeming virus projections, and her considerably lenient sidestepping over Trump's continued failures. On the other hand, at least one clip of Birx seemingly reacting to former President Donald Trump's babbling went viral, suggesting that Birx was no happier with the Trump administration than the rest of us.

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GOP Official Who Attended White House Party Infects Entire Family

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Tom Mountain, the mask-denying vice chairman of the Massachusetts GOP's governing body who attended a largely maskless Hanukkah party at the White House on December 9, has since infected four of his family members with COVID-19.

Mountain's wife pleaded with him not to attend the party over fears that he'd get infected with the virus. He has since given her the virus as well as his son, his daughter-in-law, and his mother-in-law.

Regarding wearing face masks, Mountain said, "I was one of the naysayers," adding, "I am no longer a naysayer," and "My family tried to dissuade me. I didn't listen."

Mountain said he was "politically and morally obligated to go" to the party, but apparently didn't think he was morally obligated to wear a facemask to avoid infecting his wife and elderly mother-in law.

He said of his fellow partygoers, "People would just leisurely and gingerly take off their mask to mingle, to schmooze. I don't even think some people wore masks the entire time. And again, I was guilty as anyone else. I just wasn't wearing a mask."

The party also flouted COVID-19 prevention guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which encouraged small, limited gatherings rather than one with 100 or more people, like the White House's Hannukah party.

Thoughts and prayers.

Republicans Mock Safety Measures At Holiday Parties As COVID Casualties Soar

A video featuring members of a Republican club in New York dancing in a congo line at a holiday party went viral this week, following a trend of Republicans across the nation flouting COVID-19 safety guidelines to hold events in December as the pandemic continues to worsen.

The video showed members of the Whitestone Republican Club dancing maskless to the song "You Should be Dancing" by the Bee Gees at an indoor gathering held on Dec. 9 in Queens, New York.

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