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Tag: covid 19

News Outlets Fail To Identify Anti-Mandate Judge As Unqualified GOP Hack

On Monday, a Republican-appointed federal judge struck down the Biden administration's regulation requiring travelers to wear masks on trains, airlines, and other forms of mass transportation. Major network news broadcasts largely failed to include crucial details about the situation — namely that the judge has already been the subject of controversy owing to her lack of qualifications, the timing of her appointment, and her personal ties to the Trump administration.

In a bizarrely written ruling that appears to have been drafted explicitly to achieve a policy outcome, U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle engaged in a feat of semantics by which the government’s legal authority over “sanitation” would not include keeping things clean, only the act of cleaning them when already sullied. “Wearing a mask cleans nothing. At most, it traps virus droplets,” Judge Mizelle wrote. (By such terminology, Mizelle thus rejected the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent and control the spread of a disease.)

The Biden administration has indicated that it could potentially appeal the ruling, if the CDC determines that the mandate was still necessary. Such a move would likely also be well within the political mainstream, with a new Associated Press-NORC poll finding that 56 percent of Americans are in favor of requiring masks on mass transportation versus only 24 percent who are opposed. (The poll was conducted days before Mizelle’s ruling.)

Mizelle’s peculiar reasoning in her decision to discard effective public health measures should have been a national scandal. But, instead, mainstream coverage of the ruling simply treated it matter-of-factly.

On Monday’s edition of ABC World News Tonight, ABC News correspondent Eva Pilgrim briefly noted, “The decision by the judge, appointed by former president Donald Trump, signals another sweeping change for Americans,” in a report noting that the CDC continues to recommend wearing masks in mass transit in light of the BA.2 subvariant. NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams also referred to Mizelle simply as “a Trump appointee” during a brief segment on NBC Nightly News.

During Monday’s edition of CBS Evening News, anchor Norah O’Donnell failed to even mention Judge Mizelle’s connection to Trump, stating simply that “a federal judge in Florida today ruled that the CDC exceeded its authority and failed to follow proper rulemaking.” The report by CBS News correspondent Nikki Battiste included a useful comment from infectious disease specialist Dr. Celine Gounder, who continued to advise plane travelers to wear a mask.

Network news should explain that anti-mask mandate judge is a Trump-aligned political hack

Network news should explain that anti-mask mandate judge is a Trump-aligned political hack www.mediamatters.org

The network coverage on Tuesday night focused largely on the fact that medical experts are distressed by the ruling, citing continued dangers from contagious variants of the virus, and that immunocompromised travelers and children too young to get vaccinated are now at risk when traveling. But only NBC Nightly News noted that the judge in the case had been appointed by Trump — a fact that was neglected by both CBS and now ABC, which had included that information the night before. And even NBC failed to explain any further details about the controversial judge in question.

The problem with this coverage, which simply describes Mizelle as “a federal judge” or even as a “Trump appointee,” is that it ignores crucial details about the obvious personal and political biases driving the ruling. In short, the ruling was handed down by an unqualified and extremely partisan political appointee with significant personal connections to the Trump administration and family.

Mizelle, who is just 35 years old, was confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the federal bench on November 20, 2020 on a party-line vote held two weeks after Trump had lost reelection. Mizelle was confirmed despite the American Bar Association (ABA) rating her as “not qualified” for her nomination, due to a lack of professional legal experience. (She was also confirmed despite the fact that the president appointing her was actively engaged in an attempt to overturn the election and illegally install himself as president.) The ABA recommends that federal judicial nominees have at least 12 years of experience, while Mizelle had only graduated from law school and passed the bar exam eight years earlier. The ABA further noted that Mizelle had “not tried a case, civil or criminal, as lead or co-counsel.”

Mizelle instead built her résumé on close ties to Republicans, including in private practice at Jones Day, a firm known for its links to Republican politics, along with a position in the Trump-era Justice Department, clerkships for conservative federal judges including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and a membership in the right-wing Federalist Society.

Judge Mizelle is also married to Chad Mizelle, a former general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration. During his time at the DHS, Chad Mizelle levied personal attacks against the Government Accountability Office’s determination that the Trump administration had illegally filled top positions at DHS. (Chad Mizelle is also reportedly employed by Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner’s shady investment firm Affinity Partners, which seems designed to help the disgraced former president and his family cash in on the deferential policies they pursued with foreign autocrats while in office.)

Chad Mizelle has also been publicly described as an “ally” of Trump adviser Stephen Miller, a white nationalist who played a public role in the administration’s efforts to illegally overturn the 2020 election. Miller applauded Judge Mizelle’s ruling Monday night, telling readers on Twitter to “please vote Republican" in order to stop more mandates.

In an ironic twist, Fox News was one major news outlet that actually compiled a long list of complaints about Mizelle’s qualifications in the context of an online article headlined “Liberal reporters attack judge's age, background after she tossed federal mask mandate for public transport.”

The article seemingly gloated that “left-leaning reporters melted down” at Mizelle’s anti-mask ruling. But even as the article collected a variety of these complaints, the author did not make any attempt to rebut the central charge that Mizelle was an unqualified, partisan activist — instead, the entire point here seems to be the right-wing national pastime of “owning the libs.”

Published with permission from Media Matters from America.

Legal Experts Blast Trump Judge’s Mask Mandate Ruling

Legal experts are hammering U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle for axing the federal government's COVID-19 mask mandate based on her own flawed elucidation of the word "sanitation."

The Biden administration argues that masks are categorized as a form of "sanitation," according to the law, but Mizelle argues otherwise. Instead, NPR reports that she's opted "for a much narrower definition of the term that would exclude measures like face coverings;" an interpretation with which legal experts strongly disagree.

According to NPR.org, President Joe Biden's administration has supported its action to keep the mask mandate in place by focusing on key clauses in the U.S. Public Health Service Act of 1944. That law grants the federal government "certain powers to respond to public health emergencies." which is why the administration has been able to maintain the mandate on public modes of mass transportation such as aircraft.

Per NPR: "Specifically, the law says that if the government is trying to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, it can 'provide for such inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, destruction of animals or articles found to be so infected or contaminated as to be sources of dangerous infection to human beings, and other measures, as in his judgment may be necessary.'"

Now, legal experts are criticizing Mizelle's stance. Erin Fuse Brown, a Georgia State University law professor, also offered her opinion of the judge's legal argument. "If one of my students turned in this opinion as their final exam, I don't know if I would agree that they had gotten the analysis correct," Brown said.

"It reads like someone who had decided the case and then tried to dress it up as legal reasoning without actually doing the legal reasoning," she added.

James Hodge, an Arizona State University law professor, also weighed in with a critical opinion of Mizelle's ruling. "If this particular type of opinion took on greater precedential value as it rises up through the court system, if that happens, it's big trouble for CDC down the road," Hodge said.

NPR reports that Hodge argues, Mizelle "substituted her own definition of 'sanitation'" while "brushing aside a legal norm known as 'agency deference' that compels judges to yield to the interpretation of federal agencies when a law's language is unclear."

"This is really a serious deviation from not just what we're trying to do to protect the public's health, but a misstatement of federal authority in emergencies to a great degree," Hodge said.

Brown also agreed with the sentiment. "Even if we're skeptical about agencies or even about Congress's ability to make good judgments in this ... time," she said, "we certainly do not want these decisions to be in the hands of a single unelected judge."

Published with permission from Alternet.

Fox News Promotes Fake Covid Report To Boost Red State Policies

Murdoch media outlets are promoting an economic report declaring that Republican-led states did better than their Democratic-led counterparts in the COVID-19 pandemic. But the supposed “study” is simply an engineered conclusion produced by a political front group, which gives extra credit to Republican policies to not implement public health guidance or restrict normal life. And on top of that, it manipulates the typically higher death rates in red states by artificially adjusting them downward, while dishonestly fabricating higher death statistics in blue states.

The report, with the grandiose title “A Final Report Card on the States’ Response to COVID-19,” is the brainchild of right-wing pundit Stephen Moore, along with conservative political organizer Phil Kerpen and libertarian University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan. (Both Moore and Mulligan served as political appointees in the Trump administration.) The report was released through the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, a conservative group advocating the discredited principles of “supply-side” economics that has also promoted “pro-growth and liberty-based responses to COVID-19.”

The report, which is not peer-reviewed, also includes a note on the first page thanking Dr. Jay Bhattacharya “for his review of this study and his instructive advice.” Bhattacharya is a Stanford medical professor associated with the right-wing Hoover Institution, who has also informally advised Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) — a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2024 — and has appeared multiple times on Fox News and undermined the COVID-19 vaccines and public vaccination campaigns. Bhattacharya also co-authored the “Great Barrington Declaration,” a reckless libertarian proposal for loosening public health measures in the midst of the pandemic to achieve global “herd immunity.”

Fox’s Special Report covered this rigged “study” as if it were straight news

The study was touted on Monday’s edition of Fox’s flagship “straight” news program, Special Report with Bret Baier. A chyron on screen claimed, “Red states fare better on economic and health outcomes.” But as a close examination of the study reveals — briefly alluded to by Fox News correspondent Jonathan Serrie — this conclusion exists only after the authors made some creative adjustments “for age, obesity, and diabetes.”

The study was also promoted in stories on Fox’s website, as well as in the editorial pages of the network’s corporate cousins: the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal. FoxNews.com and the New York Post both mentioned the metric of “age-adjusted death rates,” while the Journal was a bit more forthcoming in noting that the study also made adjustments for “the prevalence of obesity and diabetes (leading co-morbidities for Covid deaths).”

The reports in these three Murdoch publications all pointed to the report’s praise of Florida as supposedly one of the best-performing states — a possible sign of Bhattacharya’s influence on both Florida’s policies and this report’s verdict. By contrast, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank has run through numbers from health care analyst Charles Gaba, which found that Florida is actually one of the worst-performing states in COVID-19 death statistics, even accounting for the state’s older population.

Moore also appeared on Monday morning’s edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., during which he claimed, “The big takeaway is that the lockdown strategy was pretty much a total failure. … States that remained open did not have higher death rates from the virus than states that completely shut down.” Serrie later mentioned Moore’s study again, on Tuesday morning’s edition of America’s Newsroom.

Moore has built a career as possibly the worst economist in the media, making serially wrong pronouncements and false calculations in service of his political agendas. In March 2019, then-President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Moore to the Federal Reserve Board, only for Moore to eventually withdraw from consideration due to multiple controversies over his past political comments.

Committee to Unleash Prosperity rewrites death numbers in red states with a fake statistic: “Metabolic-health adjustment”

In order to arrive at the favored conclusion, the Committee to Unleash Prosperity report actually looked at more than just health outcomes. The group’s press release explains that it used three metrics for its findings — COVID-19 deaths, economic performance, and school openings — and declared they were “equally weighted” in the analysis. The result is that the question of saving lives accounts for only one-third of the calculation. The study also essentially just rehashes in pseudo-scientific form Moore’s long-standing contention that saving lives in the pandemic might not be “worth trillions of dollars of losses” and that simply allowing the virus to spread was “a better strategy” than enduring the economic costs of lockdowns.

The concept of age-adjusted deaths across populations is a tricky issue. While it is a legitimate line of inquiry, Fox News has exploited it ever since the start of the pandemic to create a nonchalant response to COVID-19 deaths among the elderly. Looking at this metric from a neutral source does show some interesting effects, but the ranks of worst-performing states would still be Republican-led ones such as Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Moore and his compatriots at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity have gone even further, however, by setting up a new metric in the fine print of their supposed study. They call it an adjustment for “metabolic health” in different populations — “the pre-pandemic prevalence of obesity and diabetes.” But what it really amounts to is a manipulation of the statistics to declare that higher death tolls should be discounted in populations that were less healthy to begin with, and to act as if public health responses can be separated from the overall health of the public.

Much of the discourse around the role of obesity in COVID-19 deaths has framed it as “another ongoing pandemic,” and the role of diabetes has been addressed in media as a “public health train wreck” and evidence of “America’s diabetes crisis.” But the Committee to Unleash Prosperity instead treats these deaths as somehow a mitigating factor in the public health responses of the states most affected. It’s almost as if, by the standards of Moore and his co-authors, the deaths of unhealthy people are not a problem at all.

As a result of this statistical chicanery, death rates in the South and some other Republican-led states were magically revised downward, while deaths were “adjusted” drastically higher in many Democratic states — skewing the data to make blue states look like the worst offenders.

“NV, NY, NJ, and DC were the four states with the highest metabolic-adjusted mortality, even though none is in the top four without the adjustment,” the report says — as if that were a good thing for the authors’ credibility — because those four places all have obesity and diabetes rates that are below the national average. By contrast, in the real-world statistics they began with, the worst contenders were all red states.

Fox News has waged a two-year propaganda campaign against public health, in which it has lied about COVID-19 vaccines, promoted fake cures, encouraged the spread of the virus, and turned people defying public health measures into culture war heroes even as their actions have gotten them killed. Fox also clearly does not believe any of what it preaches — see its own corporate vaccination and testing policies — but the network nevertheless pursues this framing because it is “great for ratings.”

Who knows, perhaps the network will be able to come up with a study showing that watching Fox News is good for surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, once the analysts can adjust for the comorbidities associated with watching Fox News.

Printed with permission from MediaMatters.

Right-Wing ‘Pastor’ Wants To Hang Obama Over Covid-19

Shane Vaughn, a right-wing pastor and conspiracy theorist who still believes that ex-President Donald Trump will be reinstated, has blamed the COVID-19 pandemic on former President Barack Obama.

Vaughn, the founder of First Harvest Ministries in Waveland, Mississippi, has a history of making baseless assertions about the coronavirus. Last December, he proclaimed that wearing a mask was promoting the "spirit of the antichrist" and that the pathogen was sent by God as punishment for Americans' supposed belief in the supernatural. He urged his followers to "get a shot of faith" instead of the vaccine and said that God told him that "miracles are attracted by faith, not mask."

His latest tantrum was on par.

In a live stream entitled Obama's Bloody Footprints that was posted to Twitter on March 28th, Vaughn falsely accused Obama and Dr. Anthony Fauci of "financing communist China's gain-of-function research" – a debunked conspiracy theory that SARS-COV-2 was engineered in a research lab in Wuhan and then deliberately released into the human population.

He then declared that Fauci, then-National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, and their colleagues committed "treason" and should be "hung from the gallows" for their alleged crimes against the American people.

"The lengths that Dr. Collins and Dr. Fauci went to to convince people that COVID-19 originated naturally; and that these blanket lockdowns were necessary; and to silence dissenting voices from prominent scientists prove that they were more interested in hiding their role in financing communist China's gain-of-function research than they were in helping their nation," Vaughn growled.

"They are treasonous," he continued. "They should be hanged on the first gallows. They turned on their nation to hide their crime. They are guilty of treason."

Watch the excerpt below via Right Wing Watch:

Twitter users accused Vaughn of racist hate speech for calling for the murder of the first Black president.

Some people want the Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into Vaughn's comments, as they may constitute a crime.

Vaughn was reminded that Trump, not Obama, was the commander in chief when COVID-19 first broke out. He too lied about the severity of the crisis, peddled fake cures and treatments, and accused China of failing to protect the United States. Under his watch, 700,000 Americans perished.

The Twitterverse also pointed out that Vaughn himself is a convicted felon, having served three years in prison for insurance and bank fraud.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Study Finds ‘Change In Attitudes’ Among Fox Viewers Who Watched CNN For 30 Days

One of the things that makes Fox News and Fox Business effective indoctrination tools for the MAGA far right is the fact that so many of their gullible viewers don’t consume non-MAGA media outlets and live in a far-right bubble. So, when Fox News’ Tucker Carlson says something ridiculous — such as claiming that that COVID-19 vaccines make one more likely to get COVID-19 or praising Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the January 6 insurrectionists — they don’t question what they’re hearing.

But according to researchers David E. Brockman and Joshua L. Kalla, Fox News viewers developed better critical thinking skills when exposed to CNN.

Brockman and Kalla, journalist Sravasti Dasgupta reports in The Independent, conducted an experiment in September 2020 and published the results in late March. The researchers explained, “Of 763 qualifying participants, we then randomized 40 percent to treatment group. To change the slant of their media diet, we offered treatment group participants $15 per hour to watch seven hours of CNN per week, during September 2020, prioritizing the hours at which participants indicated they typically watched Fox News…. Despite regular Fox viewers being largely strong partisans, we found manifold effects of changing the slant of their media diets on their factual beliefs, attitudes, perceptions of issues’ importance, and overall political views.”

According to Dasgupta, the experiment, “found changes in attitudes and policy preferences about COVID-19, evaluations of then-President Donald Trump and Republican candidates as well as elected officials.” The researchers also “found that participants became more likely to agree that if Donald Trump made a mistake, Fox News would not cover it.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has killed more than 6.1 million people worldwide — including over 982,000 people in the United States. Hopkins data shows how deadly the pandemic has been. Yet Fox News and Fox Business, compared to CNN and MSNBC, repeatedly downplayed the pandemic’s severity in 2020.

The Brockman/Kalla experiment, Dasgupta notes, “found that Fox News gave viewers information about why the disease is not a serious threat, while CNN provided a lot more information about the disease itself.”

Brockman and Kalla said of their project, “We found large effects of watching CNN instead of Fox News on participants’ factual perceptions of current events — i.e., beliefs — and knowledge about the 2020 presidential candidates’ positions. They discovered changes in attitudes about Donald Trump and Republicans as well as a large effect on their opinions about COVID.”

Printed with permission from Alternet.

Why Are Americans Feeling So Bad About A Good Economy?

The U.S. economy is doing its best impression of a Formula One car, racing at high speed while negotiating a series of twists and turns. Last year, real gross domestic product grew faster than any year since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan was running for reelection on the theme, "It's morning in America."

One indicator after another suggests an economy enjoying robust health. Last week, economists were pleasantly surprised when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in January, the economy added 467,000 jobs — despite omicron, which spread across the country with alarming rapidity.

Unemployment remained low at four percent, compared with 6.4% a year before. A record number of people quit their jobs in November, reflecting their confidence that in today's labor market, they can find better ones.

The stock market is up more than 12 percent over the past 12 months. Corporate profits reached a 70-year high in 2021. Federal tax revenues soared by 18 percent in the 2021 fiscal year, as more people made more money.

But ... there's always a "but." As the columnist George Will postulated years ago, all news is economic news, and economic news is always bad. The dominant news in recent months has been inflation, once thought to be permanently vanquished but now making a comeback.

Prices climbed by seven percent last year, the biggest increase since 1982. A recent CNN poll found that 80 percent of Americans regard rising prices as a major problem, and 63 percent think the national economy is in poor shape.

That notion is at odds with reality. In April 2020, when the economy was suffering a pandemic-induced collapse, CNN found, 60% of Americans thought the economy was in bad shape. That the number is higher now than it was then is a testament to the power of negative thinking.

Where does the negative thinking come from? Maybe from the psychological phenomenon known as loss aversion. As Investopedia explains, some research suggests that "the pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful as the joy we experience when winning."

Since the pandemic crushed the economy, we have regained nearly 24 million jobs, and growth has rebounded strongly. But those gains get discounted because of what we have lost: stable prices. The joy of a boom doesn't compare to the misery of inflation.

Politics plays a role. Most of the people who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 are not inclined to cheer the state of the economy, because they don't want to think that Joe Biden has done well at managing it. They feel vindicated by every unfavorable development. They bring to mind country artist Patty Loveless, who sang, "You can feel bad if it makes you feel better."

Biden hardly deserves all or even most of the credit for our improving fortunes. The economy is an unpredictable beast over which Washington has only limited control. But he did push through a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package last spring, despite warnings that it could overheat the economy and spark inflation.

Those warnings turned out to be valid. But if you're going to blame Biden's spending for the rise in inflation, you have to give credit to Biden's spending for the surge in economic growth. The outlays served to boost overall demand, which produced both results. Without the relief package, we'd have lower prices but slower growth and higher unemployment.

Much of the gloom about the economy stems from the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Some are economic: snarled supply chains, shortages of some goods, canceled airline flights and other events resulting from workers being infected. But the fear of COVID-19, the obligation to wear a mask and get any number of vaccine shots, and endless uncertainty may do more damage to the national psyche.

We all yearn for a normal life that we fear will never return. And whether we are in the pro-mask, pro-vaccine group or the opposing camp, we are confronted with reminders every time we go out that the other side is an obstacle to what we want. Bitter feelings fester.

In our yearning, we forget that in what we recall as the happy times, we were grumpy. In December 2019, before the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S., Gallup found that 62 percent of Americans were "dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time."

When you're smiling, the song says, the whole world smiles with you. These days, though, you'll get more company with a scowl.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Fox News Promoted Anti-Vax State Trooper — Until He Died Of Covid

Last week’s toll of more than 16,000 recorded U.S. deaths from COVID-19 is made all the more heartbreaking because so many of the deceased had the opportunity to take vaccines that dramatically reduce the danger posed by the virus. Robert LaMay, a former Washington state trooper whose tragic death from COVID-19 was confirmed by the press over the weekend, was one such victim.

Fox News has tried to turn workers who refuse vaccine mandates into culture war heroes, even though the network itself voluntarily imposed a requirement that its own employees be either vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 daily. LaMay became the latest such figure in October, after he resigned from the state police rather than follow Washington state’s vaccine requirement.

The network’s hosts and others on the right promoted LaMay’s story and presented his refusal to take a lifesaving drug as an example their audiences could emulate. But once his 15 minutes of fame were over and he could no longer be used to further the right-wing agenda, LaMay became expendable – his passing from the virus has not been mentioned on Fox as of posting time.

LaMay, a 22-year veteran of the force, said he received a religious exemption from Washington state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate but ultimately decided to resign before it took effect after being told he would have to take a different position. Video of his final signoff in his cruiser, in which he told Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee to “kiss my ass,” went viral after it was shared on October 16 by right-wing local radio host Jason Rantz.

Fox’s propagandists wanted their audience to hear LaMay’s story.

On October 18, LaMay appeared on Fox & Friends First, with co-host Carley Shimkus concluding the interview by saying, “The choices that people like you are being forced to make are pretty unbelievable,” and praising him as “a fantastic police officer” whose resignation was “Washington state’s loss.”

On Fox News Primetime that night, host Will Cain explicitly tied LaMay’s situation to that of his viewers. He opened his show by saying, “I understand that there are hundreds of thousands of you, millions perhaps, set to start losing your jobs today,” before airing video of LaMay’s sign-off and predicting that as state and federal vaccine mandates took effect, “you’ll see more videos like that.”

Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria and Fox News’ America’s Newsroom also covered his resignation that day. Other right-wing outlets like Newsmax, the Daily Wire, and a slew of talk radio programs also promoted LaMay’s story.

LaMay likely reached his biggest audience the following night when he appeared on Laura Ingraham’s prime-time Fox program. Ingraham has been a relentless critic of the vaccines and efforts to get people like her viewers to take them, and she used LaMay’s story to advance her anti-vaccine narrative, portraying him as one of a host of people who have been ill-used by the government because they don’t want to get their shots.

“What's next for you — other than being a celebrity now — what's next for you?” Ingraham asked toward the end of the interview. LaMay replied that he was “spokesperson” for thousands, even millions of Americans, and also that he had some great job prospects.

“All right, well, a sleeping giant, maybe a sleeping giant,” Ingraham concluded, referring back to LaMay’s use of the term earlier in the interview. “We hope that that's what's happened here. We've awakened it slowly but surely. Robert, thank you for joining us. We really appreciate your voice and best of luck to you.”

On Friday night, the chief of the Washington State Patrol issued a statement announcing LaMay had passed away and praising him for his service, which “will be long remembered and appreciated.” News outlets, including Fox’s website, quickly confirmed that he had lost his battle with COVID-19 at age 51. Soon after, commentators began criticizing Ingraham and her ilk for their handling of LaMay’s story.

Ingraham will have an opportunity to address her critics on tonight’s show – but there’s no reason to expect her to change course. Perhaps, like Rantz, she’ll go on the attack and present as the real villains people on social media supposedly gloating over LaMay’s death. Perhaps she’ll skip the story altogether and continue her anti-vaccine advocacy work, maybe with a “Positively Boosted” segment laughing at vaccinated Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) for testing positive for COVID-19.

Regardless, LaMay’s brief blip of right-wing “celebrity” won’t comfort his widow or help to raise his four children. And Fox’s stars and the executives standing behind them will continue to encourage more of these tragedies.

Republished with permission from Media Matters

Unmasking Glenn Youngkin, The GOP's Red-Vested Charlatan

Parents of young children and teens across Virginia this week got a taste of what it means for a purple-ish state to roll the dice on a Republican candidate for governor in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.

Sure, he wore that red vest and mostly kept Donald Trump at arm's length for the duration of his campaign. But the mayhem GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin injected into the state's school system in order to score points with a political minority of voters proved that he is just as willing to play Russian roulette with the lives of children as Trump mini-mes like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

In fact, that's the probably the exact point Youngkin meant to make: Don't let the red vest fool ya—I'm just as extreme as the other GOP governors vying for a 2024 audience among the party's radicalized base.

True to pandemic-era Republican form, Youngkin declared he was "having a ball" on the very week that his new optional masking order forced a wave of impossible choices on parents and educators in a state that had mostly grown accustomed to mandatory in-school masking even though some parents didn't favor it.

A September 2021 Washington Post-Schar School poll found that 66 percent of Virginia’s public school parents said they supported mask mandates for teachers, staff, and students, as did 69 percent of registered voters overall. Just 28 percent of Virginians opposed school districts requiring mask wearing, and that's the cohort Youngkin chose to prioritize purely for political gain.

To be clear, Youngkin's order has put both the lives and mental health of teachers, kids and their vulnerable family members on the line. In fact, the Washington Post's Hanna Natanson did a laudable job documenting the impossible dilemmas and mental anguish Youngkin has managed to visit on so many constituents in just two short weeks on the job.

Here's an excerpt depicting the bind of one parent.

In Virginia Beach, the mother of a girl with a heart condition wonders if she should stop sending her child to school, where more of her daughter’s classmates are going unmasked every day. The mother, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her daughter’s privacy, said one of the children in her medical support group — for parents of children who have congenital heart defects — died of covid-19 this month.
But her daughter suffered during online learning, and the mother is scared what will happen to the 14-year-old’s mental health if she stays home. For now, the mother is sending emails to the school board pleading with them to reestablish a mask mandate.
“Bowing to a morally and scientifically untenable executive order isn’t acceptable,” she wrote on Tuesday. “I hope you will correct this mistake before it causes damage that can’t be undone.”

Another mother in Virginia Beach and one in Chesapeake decided to keep their kids home this week because they were terrified to go to school when some kids wouldn't be wearing masks.

But it's not just the parents of students who feel gutted by Youngkin's human experiment.

A ninth-grade English teacher and mom with a blood-clotting disorder that puts her at mortal risk if she contracts COVID-19 was forced to contemplate her deep desire to live long enough to see her son graduate, get a job, and get married.

“When I was in the Navy, I signed on the dotted line to put my life at risk and I understood that,” Amanda Lambert, 41, told the Post. “This is different.”

A Chesterfield elementary school teacher said optional masking would inevitably lead to spikes in student infections and widespread quarantines followed by a mountain of extra work for teachers forced to develop alternate assignments for students missing class. For the first time in the pandemic, she said she is considering quitting her job.

“All that he’s done is divide our state and made this a political thing — he sees teachers as the villain, is how it feels,” said the teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear that she could be retaliated against. “We are so broken down at this point by how little we are cared about anymore.”

Youngkin's order, which is now the subject of two legal challenges, has also divided Virginia's school districts. Among the state's 131 districts, more than half have chosen to defy the new governor's order while 59 districts adopted optional masking. A Post analysis found the schools that have chosen to continue enforcing mask mandates account for some 67% of the students enrolled in the state's public schools.

Even Loudoun County—a tony northern suburb where education policy controversies erupted during the gubernatorial race—saw just two small demonstrations against mandated masking early in the week. Out of the district's 81,000 students, only about 100 students declined to wear masks.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a new Public Policy Polling survey released Friday found that Youngkin's approval rating on the pandemic is already underwater: 44 percent approve -- 47 percent disapprove. In the survey, 56 percent of respondents said "local school districts should set mask requirements for themselves," while 31 percent believed Youngkin "should set mask requirements for local school districts," according to The Hill. Asked about Youngkin’s specific order, 40 percent backed it while 55 percent opposed.

Youngkin, who clearly misled Virginians on the matter, is presently trying to lie his way out of the bait-and-switch he pulled. Shortly after being elected, Youngkin said he would leave school masking policies up to local school boards. But his opt-out order completely undercuts the effectiveness of districts' universal mask mandates. As multiple studies have shown, mask mandates are the best way to both keep kids safe and ensure in-school learning can continue without triggering rolling waves of mass quarantines.

But in a Washington Post op-ed this week, Youngkin claimed he had kept his word even as he empowered some parents to endanger the health of both educators and other parents' children.

“My executive order ensures that parents can opt-out their kids from a school’s mask mandate,” the governor wrote. “It bans neither the wearing of masks nor the issuing of mask mandates. Parents can now choose whether wearing a mask at school is right for their child.”

Republicans in the state are surely over the moon with Youngkin's performance. Pre-Trump, the goal of governing used to be to please most of the people while creating as little havoc as possible and keeping everyone safe.

But in the post-Trump Republican Party, chaos rules. The more damage a politician can do post haste—the more misery they can visit upon their political enemies— the more their star rises in the GOP. Youngkin's first two weeks in office have proven wildly successful by that measure and, as he said himself, he's having the time of his life.

"Virginia’s parents have had enough with the government dictating how they should raise their children," Youngkin wrote in his op-ed. "On the campaign trail, I listened to parents and, as governor, I will continue to listen."

Youngkin listened to some parents—a minority of parents, in fact—and hung everyone else out to dry.

Any Virginian who was on the fence but voted for Youngkin because he seemed nice enough, wore that red vest, and had a business background should have received the message by now: No matter how reasonable any Republican seems while campaigning, their political incentives to create pandemonium once in office far outweigh keeping the peace and ensuring the safety of their constituents.