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Fox News Worried About Legal Action After Misleading Viewers On Virus

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

From the March 29, 2020, edition of MSNBC’s AM Joy

JOY REID (HOST): People who are watching cable news are a lot more, you know, in the “news junkie” category right?

And then in the case of that, your choices are MSNBC or CNN or, if you’re choosing Fox, it’s because it favors the Republicans. It’s because it’s news that favors your world view. That’s why you’re watching it. So, I think that people assume that everyone knows the failures of the Trump administration in dealing with this. They’ll find out eventually when it hits them. But just in watching — depending on what you’re watching, you know more or you know less. 

GABE SHERMAN (SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, VANITY FAIR): Oh, without question, I think that has been a fixture of this presidency from day one. If you look at polls that show Republicans’ views on certain issues, it’s a completely different reality than people who gather their news from a wide array of sources.

And I think what’s really interesting, I think unique about the Coronavirus story is that Fox News tried to do their original playbook, which was dismiss it as a hoax, say that this is another partisan attempt by Democrats to hurt Donald Trump, and this was the case where they could not prevent reality. Fox News is a very powerful media organization, but it cannot stop people from dropping dead. And what happened is that people did start dying. We did see hot spots in New York, on the West Coast and now we’re seeing one in the deep South, which is getting closer to Trump country, and Fox News has had to pivot to actually cover this as a real story.

And so, you know, the president’s handling of this is going to be viewed ultimately by how we get out of it, but this is a case where at least on the macro story of us understanding of what is happening in America, Fox viewers are now confronting what the rest of us have known since February and early March, is that this is a global pandemic that is unprecedented in American history. 

REID: Yeah, and I mean, to stay you with for a moment Gabe, I mean the irony is Fox News is in New York. It’s literally across the street from MSNBC. It’s in Rockefeller Plaza. It’s not in — They are in the middle of it with all of the other New Yorkers. We saw Trish Regan, who had a show on Fox Business, come out and essentially just label it all a fraud. She’s now no longer there. I don’t know what happened with her show but I guess it’s not airing anymore. You’ve had Fox anchors who are going, or as likely as anyone who is on this panel to know someone who gets sick with COVID-19. It’s interesting to have to watch them have to confront reality, that as you say, is deadly reality, that they can’t cover for Trump on this. There’s no way they can keep doing it. I wonder if the same sort of dynamic is going to happen with Sinclair, which is ten times — it’s Fox times ten  — and in your traffic and weather together and they’ve tried to also spin things in his favor. They do add commentary from people like former Trump officials. How are they handling it? 

SHERMAN: Yea. I mean, this is the question, what’s more pernicious or deceptive about Sinclair is that their local newscasts are not labeled as a Sinclair channel. You don’t know that it has a right-wing ideology behind the owners of the local news station, so you’re absorbing it as if it’s just straight network news. I just want to get back to the Fox of it all real quick. When I’ve been talking to Fox insiders over the last few days, there’s a real concern inside the network that their early downplaying of the coronavirus actually exposes Fox News to potential legal action by viewers who maybe were misled and actually have died from this. I’ve heard Trish Regan’s being taken off the air is, you know, reflective of this concern that Fox News is in big trouble by downplaying this virus and The New York Times reported days ago that the Murdoch family was privately taking the coronavirus seriously. The Murdochs, of course, own Fox News. So, they were taken personal steps to protect themselves while anchors like Trish Regan and Sean Hannity were telling viewers that it’s a hoax and putting themselves in potentially mortal danger. So I think this is a case where Fox’s coverage, if it actually winds up being proved that people died because of it, this is a new terrain in terms of Fox being possibly held liable for their actions. 

REID: Interesting. It will be interesting to see how long they let Dr. Oz keep going on and on and on with the things that he’s been saying on that network given what you just said.

Media Matters has extensively documented the failures of Fox News regarding the novel coronavirus / COVID-19.

How You Can Practice ‘Radical Neighboring’ Against Coronavirus

This article was produced by Face to Face, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

As we create “social distance” to protect ourselves and our loved ones and “flatten the curve,” we are also facing fear.

Many of us are anxious, afraid, and unsure. Will this be our new normal? Will I get sick? Will I overreact? Underreact? Am I putting my family in harm’s way?

So we move through the fear, hunker down, and wait it out—and the comparisons swirl. Is this like 9/11, Hurricane, Sandy, the 1918 flu, SARS, Ebola or like nothing we have ever experienced before?

And what do we do to maintain our humanity and connection in a situation in which keeping our distance is the key to survival and being a good citizen? How can we transform “social distance” into just “physical distance”?

Being a good citizen is being a good neighbor—so what do “good neighbors” look like in the time of panic buying, hand sanitizer, and physical avoidance?

In this climate of “physical distance,” do we need to redefine neighborliness?

We think so. It’s time to practice Radical Neighboring.

Radical Neighboring (v): To resurrect the age-old teaching to love your neighbor as yourself by profoundly re-committing to that ancient wisdom, applying and practicing it through new technologies in a time of unprecedented separation and isolation.

Radical Neighbor (n): A person who against all odds, despite fear, uncertainty and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, practices expressions of love, service, humility, and kindness to people who may be very different or very distant but are still worthy of being connected.

We have nine ideas for taking care of each other during this crisis.

1. Reach out. Hop on Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp or FaceTime. Pick up your phone and call. Send some texts. Make a list of people you love and connect with them. It seems as the scale of the threat has come into focus, old friends are already reaching out to check on each other. That’s a good thing. Make it a daily practice during your time at home and even when the hectic pace of life returns. It will mean the world to them and to you that you did.

You could also gather a group online. There are a number of ways to connect as a group face-to-face. One way I’m really familiar with is the neighborhood project. People have been gathering in-person for a couple years and now shifted their planned gatherings online. They say it’s so good to see each other, to laugh, to compare notes, and to gather as a virtual group. It’s easy to start one, and your friends who are restricted to their homes will thank you for connecting them in a meaningful way to the outside world.

2. Support people you normally give business to. Most Americans have less than $400 in savings. Taxi drivers, nannies, house cleaners, waitresses, cashiers and the like are extremely vulnerable now. Their income is in a free fall as the economy comes to a near standstill. If you employ a house cleaner and aren’t having her come or you aren’t relying on your nanny and you’re able to stretch a little to pay them during this time off, it might make all the difference. Maybe you won’t eat at your favorite place during isolation, but you could drop off a tip for your favorite server.

3. Celebrate our health-care and other workers. Scan your awareness. Who do you know who works in health care? An ER doc? A nurse? A home-care worker? Take a minute to thank them. Post a photo of them. Make a donation in their name to a local hospital. Then take a moment to say a prayer for those who do other, often-invisible, jobs that can’t be put on hold. Whether it is the 24/7 close quarters work of corrections officers, the on-call nature of firefighters, the daily uncertainties of sanitation workers, or the consistent exposure faced by bus drivers, there are many jobs for which we are not thankful enough. Now, as many of us create smaller safe spaces to stay healthy, let’s offer a double dose of appreciation to those who meet the call of duty as they do their daily jobs—even as the risks get higher.

4. Make a contribution. For those in dire need like the hungry and the homeless, your urgent donation could make a difference. Maybe the pandemic has reminded you of the fragility of life and the larger world around us and you want to donate to other issues like combatting climate change or putting an end to the death penalty. Regardless, give something, large or small, once, daily, or as a regular practice. It will keep you connected to the larger world, continue to knit together the interconnected fabric of our neighborhoods and do wonders for your spirits.

5. Put yourself above the fray. Let’s not score partisan points here; the pace slows down and now you have more time to immerse yourself in social media and attack your mortal enemies. Take a breath. Don’t do that. Most likely they aren’t your mortal enemies but your fellow Americans, and what we all need right now is a bit less attack dog and a little more good neighbor. Post less, ask more. If our country’s president, your state’s governor or your city’s mayor has risen to the challenge, stepped up as a leader and spearheaded a comprehensive, balanced, just and effective response to the pandemic then give them a round of applause. Let their offices know. Take time to send a handwritten note. If they have fallen short and bungled this crisis then get involved in trying to replace them come the next election. Not because you or they are a Democrat or a Republican but because this is a moment for leadership, and if our elected officials don’t lead, they need to get out of the way so someone else can.

6. Let’s be better this time around. That is not to say that evil forces aren’t seizing the moment to stir up hate. The anti-Semites are blaming the Jews for spreading the virus; they dress up their hate-filled rhetoric invoking as evidence that there is a Jewish doctor who has tested positive, a tragically stricken Jewish community in New Rochelle, and any progress Israeli scientists make in finding a cure. The xenophobes spew age-old anti-Asian slurs claiming that someone whose family came to America from anywhere in Asia or lives today in a heavily Asian-American community is more likely than anyone else to be carrying the virus. We have found reasons to blame Jews and Asians (and lots of other people) for things in the past that they were not responsible for. Let’s do better this time round.

7. Work with your anxiety. It is important to get up-to-the-minute accurate information about COVID-19. Find a few reliable sources and stick with them. Stop scrolling and surfing looking for the latest projections of worst-case scenarios and horrific details of what has gone wrong in Italy. It won’t help your planning and won’t help you weather this crisis any better. If you are anything like me, you have at least low-grade worry right now. Clicking from site to site won’t resolve that. But YOU can. Spend a few minutes daily sitting face-to-face with the anxiety and see what happens. Anxiety is something you can work with. Put down your phone. Sit quietly and comfortably. Back straight. Close your eyes and use your awareness to scan your whole body looking for where you sense the anxiety. Find a spot that “feels” anxious and hold your attention there. Breathe in and out into that very spot. Does that anxious area have a color, a texture, a smell? Keep breathing into that area until your attention drifts away or until the sensation fades. Now look for other anxious places and repeat. If you can’t find where in your body the anxiety resides, just breathe deeply into your stomach, in through the nose and out through the nose, and let your awareness dwell in the love you feel around you.

8. Be reassuring and honest-ish with your kids. “Daddy, will we get sick?” “Daddy, will we be able to get back into NYC?” “Daddy, will school reopen after break?” After I tried my best to express the truth that we just don’t know, I was met again and again with, “But, what do you think?” I found a little space to regroup and then went to three communication tips for parents that I didn’t come up with but that I have come to rely on:

  • Probe for their feelings and why they are asking: “Are you scared or worried about this?”
  • Provide reassurance that they can trust: “I know we will be together and we will get through this.”
  • Be honest-ish and commit to talking more: “I think honestly, while we don’t know for sure, we likely won’t start back to our usual routine right away, but each day as we learn more we will talk it through and make a plan together.”

9. Make the most of the time at home. Try to settle into the quiet of being at home. If you are with loved ones, tell stories and play games. Maybe it’s time to clean out the basement, sort through old toys and clothes to give away, make a family photo album. Maybe you practice no devices for four-hour stretches. Maybe you enjoy a movie marathon. Open the windows, play music, laugh. Life is not over, and not only will the world as we knew it come back, it is still all around us, because we are in it and we will it to be. Feel gratitude. Each day, name five things you are grateful for. Write them down. Cherish them.

And let me leave you with this: if I could smell the Lyft driver’s cologne, was I sitting too close for safety? It likely won’t be the only unexpected, but maybe not entirely unfounded, question we find ourselves pondering in the days and weeks to come. And, the matter of staying healthy and safe is indeed paramount. Still, we can also strive to draw our awareness back to the many layers of neighborhood that surround us and maybe now more than ever use every piece of technology and any assets we might have to continue to knit the bonds of neighborhood back together even as they are being torn further apart.

Simon Greer is a writing fellow for Face to Face, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has been involved in social change work for more than 25 years. Greer is the founder of Cambridge Heath Ventures, a strategic advisory firm that works with private sector companies, purpose-driven organizations and governments to help them overcome their most pressing challenges. Greer is also a leading thinker, practitioner and speaker on organizational design, unconventional strategies and common good politics.

We Already Paid For Gilead’s Covid-19 Treatment — And Shouldn’t Pay Again

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Update: Gilead has renounced the benefits of orphan designation, but still retains other patents that give them a five-year monopoly on remdesivir.

There’s much we don’t yet know about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. We don’t know how long the pandemic will last, when a vaccine will be developed, or how many lives antiviral medications can save. But there’s one thing we know for sure: U.S. taxpayers have already paid for the research and testing of the most promising treatments.

These treatments should be available to everyone who needs them at no cost. But the Trump administration’s drug policy is led by two former pharmaceutical executives, and that is having devastating consequences for potential access to treatments and vaccines for the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you’ve been watching Donald Trump’s daily press briefings, that might come as a surprise. During his 2016 campaign, Trump loved to talk tough on pharma and say he would fight for lower drug prices. But then he put Alex Azar, a big pharma CEO infamous for doubling the price of insulin, in charge of regulating health care. Several weeks ago, Azar refused to guarantee that a coronavirus vaccine will be affordable for all, citing the need to protect big pharma’s profits.

Azar is now a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, and his influence is evident during the briefings. Over and over again, Trump talks up big pharma corporations and thanks them for their work on COVID-19 treatments and a potential vaccine. He refers to them as “great companies” and their executives as “geniuses.”

Trump fails to mention that taxpayers have spent nearly $700 million on coronavirus research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Nor does he mention that big pharma corporations spend more money enriching themselves through stock buybacks than they do on research and development.

One medication currently being tested on coronavirus patients is the antiviral remdesivir. It’s still too early to say if remdesivir will prove broadly effective at helping patients with COVID-19. But if it does end up being a major part of treating the disease, it’s essential to remember who paid for the drug’s development: The American people.

Remdesivir was developed with research funded by a $37.5 million NIH grant. The NIH plans to spend at least an additional $30 million on phase II trials of the medication this year. Since we’ve all paid for remdesivir’s development through our taxpayer dollars, it should be available to everyone who needs it at no cost.

Instead, the Trump administration just granted Gilead, a giant pharmaceutical corporation, “orphan” drug status for remdesivir. That means that Gilead is free to charge outrageous prices for the drug, with their government-granted exclusivity ensuring that there will be no competition for years to come.

What makes this even more outrageous is that orphan status is designed to incentivize research and development of treatments for rare diseases. A pandemic is the opposite of rare!

We don’t know what role Joe Grogan, Gilead’s former chief lobbyist, and currently the director of Trump’s domestic policy council, played in this decision. But it seems a safe bet that such an outrageous move to profit off a pandemic had to have support from the top.

Nor is remdesivir an outlier. This is how all new medications work. Taxpayers always fund the riskiest and most crucial research and development. Then, pharma gets the patent monopolies and uses them to charge outrageous prices. American families are going bankrupt paying four- and five-figure prices for drugs that their taxpayer dollars already paid to develop!

Politicians might be tempted by a short-term solution—requiring all COVID-19 treatments, as well as an eventual vaccine, to be low-cost or cost-free. But that doesn’t go far enough. It does nothing to help the Americans with diabetes who are dying every year because they are forced to ration their outrageously priced insulin. It does nothing for seniors, who will soon be spending half their hard-earned Social Security checks on health care costs. And it will do nothing to help patients when the next pandemic comes.

We need permanent structural changes. Fortunately, we know exactly what we need to do, and the American people agree with these changes across partisan lines:

  1. When a drug corporation is abusing their patent privilege by charging outrageous prices, revoke the privilege and allow generic competition to drive down prices. This policy is supported by 78 percent of all voters and opposed by only 10 percent.
  2. Allow public manufacturing of drugs to alleviate shortages and eliminate bottlenecks. This policy is supported by 70 percent of all voters and opposed by only 17 percent.
  3. Increase taxpayer funding of research and development of vaccines and pharmaceuticals by creating a “full cycle” public R&D program with no patent monopolies and immediate generic production of the results. This policy is supported by 69 percent of voters and opposed by only 15 percent.

Donald Trump wasn’t prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, but the public health community has been preparing for years. The research we’ve funded is going to be critical in the coming months. We’ve already paid for it. Let’s demand that Congress change the law so that we don’t have to pay again.

Alex Lawson is the executive director of Social Security Works, a non-profit advocacy group that supports expanding benefits to address America’s growing retirement security crisis. Lawson has appeared on numerous TV and radio outlets and is a frequent guest host of The Thom Hartmann Program, one of the top progressive radio shows in the country.

Catholic Parishes Cancel Easter Masses Despite Trump Push For “Packed Churches”

Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that he hopes to see churches “packed” for Easter in a few weeks, even as the coronavirus continues to spread across the country. Despite this, several Catholic archdioceses are canceling their public Holy Week and Easter Masses, and many congregations are moving them to the internet.

As he urged the country to reopen businesses and schools by April 12 — flouting public health recommendations — Trump told Fox News on Tuesday that he chose the date based on his “very special” relationship with the holiday.

“Wouldn’t it be great to have all the churches full?” Trump said. “You’ll have packed churches all over our country … I think it’ll be a beautiful time.”

Despite Trump’s call, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Wednesday that it would hold no public Masses for Holy Week or Easter Sunday.

“The Coronavirus (COVID 19) challenges us to celebrate the Mysteries of Christ for the glory of the Father and our sanctification with reasonable limitations and in cooperation with directives from government and health officials to stem the spread of the virus,” it explained.

In a seven-page directive, the archdiocese’s Office for Divine Worship stated, “All possible electronic and spiritual resources are to be made available to the faithful to enter into these days which celebrate the greatest mysteries of our redemption,” including livestreaming.

In an email, a spokesperson for the archdiocese noted that the governor had issued Pennsylvania’s public gathering limits.

“In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we are under stay-at-home orders, and large public gatherings are not permitted by directive of the governor,” he wrote. “The Archdiocese of Philadelphia continues to do everything possible to provide for the pastoral needs of the faithful in the five-county area while at the same time respecting and abiding by directives from government agencies and officials that are in place to provide for the health and welfare of the community-at-large.”

The New York Archdiocese has already canceled public Easter masses. So have the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticutthe Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michiganthe Diocese of Camden, New Jerseythe Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon; and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee said they “would also love to see its Churches packed for Easter. However, in our current situation, Wisconsin’s Governor [Tony Evers] has issued a ‘Safer at Home’ Executive Order through April 24. We continue to see our archdiocese and community impacted by the CoVID-19/Coronavirus. Our intention is to use sound judgement and common sense in making decisions for the pastoral care of our people without taking unnecessary risk, including for the many priests, and lay men and women who minister within the archdiocese.”

According to the Washington Examiner, it’s not just those archdioceses closing for Easter.

“Catholic and Episcopal dioceses in every state have canceled,” the paper reported Wednesday. “Many megachurches, as well as smaller congregations, have made similar decisions, advising their members to participate in worship through live-streamed services.”

In a March 17 letter published on the website of the Episcopal Church, presiding Bishop Michael Curry urged suspension of all “in-person gatherings for public worship, in most contexts, during the sacred time of Holy Week and Easter Day,” writing, “Because this is a global health crisis, the principles in this letter apply throughout The Episcopal Church, including beyond the United States.”

With a recent poll showing about half of Americans unwilling to attend church due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with state restrictions on public gatherings still in effect, Trump’s vision of packed Easter services seems increasingly unlikely to come true.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.