President Donald Trump is actively spreading disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Late Thursday morning, for example, Trump sent the following tweet:
With approximately 100,000 CoronaVirus cases worldwide, and 3,280 deaths, the United States, because of quick action on closing our borders, has, as of now, only 129 cases (40 Americans brought in) and 11 deaths. We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2020
This is not so. There are undoubtedly more than 129 cases in the United States; the problem is, testing has been so slow — and at times completely botched — that we don’t have a good sense of how many cases of coronavirus there are in the country. So Trump is trying to use his own administration’s ineptitude as a reason to think the crisis is less severe than it is. And some analysts believe that the actual number of cases is much higher than the number of confirmed cases. The outlet Stat reported on one analysis that looked just at Seattle:
The author of the analysis, a computational biologist named Trevor Bedford, said there are likely already at least 500 to 600 cases of Covid-19 in the greater Seattle area. He urged health authorities and the public to immediately begin adopting non-pharmaceutical interventions — imposing “social distancing” measures, telling the sick to isolate themselves, and limiting attendance at large gatherings.
“Now would be the time to act,” Bedford, who is at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told STAT.
As long as a large number of cases are unconfirmed, the virus will be more likely to spread.
All of which makes it obvious that Trump’s claim that he closed the borders to reduce the spread of the virus is false. He never did such a thing. The Trump administration did limit entry to the U.S. from non-Americans who had traveled to China, where the virus originated, but this is not “closing the borders.” (Closing the borders is a bad idea, anyway.) And when Americans who had been in China and were potentially carrying the virus were repatriated to the United States, U.S. officials were improperly to work with them and lacked the necessary medical protection, according to a whistleblower. These workers may have spread the infection further.
This isn’t the first time that Trump has intentionally deceived the American people about the number of cases in the United States. In his first press conference on the crisis, Trump repeated and erroneously referred to “15” Americans who had at that time been found to be infected with the virus; this number was actually a subset of the 60 who had been found to be infected. And he predicted this number would soon go down close to zero, even though none of the administration’s health experts were making such a claim.
His effort to downplay and mislead the public about the crisis is particularly disturbing when you consider that Trump said: “We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!” Taken literally, this suggests that they care more about keeping the reportednumber of infections down more than they care about keeping the actual number low. Usually, this would be an unfair and uncharitable way to interpret a public official’s statement, but Trump long ago lost the benefit of the doubt. As we’ve seen, he’s actively inclined to obscure the truth about the outbreak. And one way in which his administration has been deficient in responding to the virus is in its failure to provide enough test kits and information to the medical professionals on the front lines responding to the crisis. While the actual cause for this delay remains unclear, it’s tempting to conclude that the president’s active disinterest in the truth about the crisis could be playing some role.
Tweets like this make it seem more and more like the inadequate testing has been an intentional strategy to keep the numbers artificially low. https://t.co/03KLrjMwOB
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 5, 2020
Trump has promoted other dangerous falsehoods about the outbreak:
- Trump said the World Health Organization’s estimate of a 3.4 percent death rate for infections was “really a false number. “Now this is just my hunch, but based on a lot of conversations,” Trumps said on Fox News, “personally, I’d say the number is way under 1 percent.” The true death rate is unknown and disputed in good faith, and the WHO figure may not be accurate, but Trump’s dismissal of it as “false” is baseless.
- Trump discussed the fact that people could go to work while carrying the virus and get better, seeming to suggest this would be fine. In fact, public health experts are urging people not to go to work if they are sick or infected.
- He repeatedly compared the virus to the flu, even though estimates suggest the Covid-19 is much deadlier. And its impact on society could be much more severe than the flu because it has the potential to overburden the medical system.
- Trump has repeatedly said that a vaccine for the virus could be coming soon, even though administration officials have consistently told him and the public that a year to a year-and-a-half is the best-case scenario for having a vaccine ready for widespread use.
- When asked whether he agreed with his supporters, such as Rush Limbaugh — who falsely claimed the coronavirus was the “common cold” and that it was being weaponized against Trump — Trump said he agreed. He later said the coronavirus was the Democrats’ new “hoax,” though he later said he meant the reactions to the outbreak were the “hoax.”
Many of these claims are actively dangerous. Trump consistently downplays the state of outbreak, and he used the issue to attack the media, which the public will need to rely on for vital information for their own protection. By promoting lies and deceptive spin about the crisis, Trump can encourage dangerous behavior in his supporters and an inadequate response from his administration.
But he remains the president. Democrats tried to remove him for office for a scandal in which he did the same exact thing he’s doing now — placing his own short-sighted interests above the needs of the country — but they failed. Republicans refuse to do anything significant to check his behavior. So until at least January 2021, the United States will be stuck with a man leading the federal government who seems to be acting in ways that make a public health threat worse.
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COVID Disinformation Purveyor Sen. Ron Johnson Urges FDA to Not Grant Full Approval to Coronavirus Vaccine
Senator Ron Johnson has written a letter to the FDA criticizing the Biden Administration for “rushing the approval process” for political reasons, reports the conservative Washington Times.
Johnson has repeatedly earned his “Ron Anon” nickname throughout the pandemic as an opponent of vaccines (while denying he’s an anti-vaxxer) and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The most recent spike in cases and deaths caused by the Delta variant haven’t slowed his roll.
The Washington Times reported on the contents of his letter, which it said it had obtained exclusively:
“The Wisconsin Republican warned against the Food and Drug Administration’s pending approval of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected Monday.
“He said the fast-track decision appeared more political than scientific since it skipped the usual formal advisory committee meeting and did not fully account for the reports of deaths and disabilities suffered by people after being vaccinated.
“‘I see no need to rush the FDA approval process for any of the three COVID-19 vaccines. Expediting the process appears to only serve the political purpose of imposing and enforcing vaccine mandates.'”
In the letter, Johnson also charged that “over the last year and a half, the decisions of federal health agencies have dramatically affected the lives of all Americans. The impact of these decisions has been felt in Americans’ treatment options, employment, schools, housing and travel, and in countless other ways. The human toll of the social restrictions and economic devastation is incalculable.”
The Washington Times did report this from the Biden administration:
“U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told “Fox News Sunday” that moving the Pfizer vaccine from “emergency” to “full approval” would make mandates more appealing.” There are universities and businesses that have been considering putting in vaccine requirements in order to create a safer, a workplace, a learning environment,” he said. “I think this announcement from the FDA would likely encourage them and make them feel more comfortable in putting some requirements in place.”
Johnson’s stature as a de facto spokesperson for the virus has long been documented. Last month, Washington Post fact checkers gave Johnson four Pinocchios for his campaign of vaccine misinformation. It quoted this bizarre claim from Johnson in a July 14 interview on Fox News’ “Hannity.”
“The fact of the matter is it looks like natural immunity is as strong if not stronger than vaccinated immunity. … There is a risk to the vaccine. Again, it’s very small, but there are some pretty serious side effects, including death. We are already over 5,200 deaths reported on the VAERS system. That’s a CDC, FDA’s early warning system.”
“Johnson has emerged as the leading vaccine skeptic in Congress this year,” the Post reported. “For months, the senator has been peddling misinformation about coronavirus vaccines, undeterred by fact checkers, federal health agencies, medical experts and a growing body of scientific research. We previously dug into two Johnson claims that resurfaced in this interview on Fox News, a network whose right-wing personalities consistently bash the Biden administration’s vaccination efforts.”
A month earlier, in June, there was this from CNN: “YouTube suspended Johnson’s account after it posted a video of the senator making dubious claims about treatments for the coronavirus. In the video, Johnson voiced support for using hydroxychloroquine against the virus, the same drug Donald Trump enthusiastically endorsed and used as a preventative treatment for coronavirus last year.”
It has all been part of a pandemic-long quest for Johnson to stoke support from the Trump base. Among his most notable strange moments, Johnson brought forth a parade of dubious doctors at a December Senate hearing on the pandemic for the purpose of “elevating fringe theories,” in the polite words of the New York Times. Johnson was so repulsive that he even bridged the partisan divide on the subject. Here’s more from newspaper:
“Mr. Johnson’s inflammatory public statements and his decision to give a platform to an assortment of contrarian doctors promoting alternative treatments have also irked some fellow Republicans, who have privately groused that he is acting irresponsibly.”
‘#TrumpIsALaughingStock’ Trends as Americans Mock Right Wingers’ Belief Today Would Be #TrumpReinstatement Day
According to the QAnon crowd, the far right fanatics, the MyPillow cultists, and MAGA maniacs, August 13 is the day Donald Trump would be “reinstated” as president. And while the day is not over yet, there is exactly zero chance “the former guy” is going to be back in the White House any time soon.
Americans will not see a shadow “cabinet” or anyone else declaring “martial law” and bringing Donald Trump back into power. There will be no Supreme Court decision kicking President Joe Biden to the curb. And Democrats will not be rounded up as “traitors” and jailed – or worse.
Instead, many Americans will have – and already are having – a field day reveling in mocking the insanity that has come to represent the Republican Party, as #TrumpIsALaughingStock, #TrumpReinstatement, and other amusing hashtags trend on social media.
Trump’s spokesperson, still allowed to tweet out his press releases, posted one on Friday that appeared to acknowledge the conspiracy theory he would be reinstated. After blasting President Joe Biden, it asks, “DO YOU MISS ME YET?”
For many the answer is “no.”
Here are some of the best takes:
Oh look at that, they lied again. Biden is still the President.
— tiredTexan (@tired_in_texas) August 13, 2021
— Liberal15 ⭐⭐ (@Liberal151) August 13, 2021
I was up all night practicing my dance for #ReinstatementDay. I think I finally got it.
— Mel the Enforcer (@Fah_Lo_Me) August 13, 2021
— Garland John Gates (@garlandgates) August 13, 2021
I assume since the price of bleach hasn’t gone up today and the stores still have lots of toilet paper, Trump has yet again failed to assume power. lol😁#TrumpIsALaughingStock
— Leigh (@LeighCBrandt) August 13, 2021
Congratulations to all #Qanons who are finally realizing that you’ve been duped again. #ReinstatementDay is a joke and the #TrumpReinstatement joke’s on you. You’ve finally caught up with what every country at the UN knew in 2018: #TrumpIsALaughingStock pic.twitter.com/Un4N8TJnJj
— Richard Hine (@richardhine) August 13, 2021
Trump Reinstatement Day is like April Fools’ Day but for actual fools.#TrumpIsALaughingStock
— Juan Rivera (@BoricuaEnMaui) August 13, 2021
— NoDogma13 (@NoDogma13) August 13, 2021
— Michael Essentially (@Essentialworker) August 13, 2021
— ✌🏻 The Dude ✌🏻 (@TheDudeTrader1) August 13, 2021
Trumpist Terrorism Is Becoming Normalized: Signorile
In the past three weeks we learned of two violent domestic terror plots by Trump supporters to overthrow the government
This article first appeared in Michelangelo Signorile’s Substack newsletter. To see the article in its original location or to subscribe, click here.
A very particular, cultish and dangerous brand of domestic terrorism has been honed, and we should call it what it is: Trumpist terrorism.
We’ve rarely if ever experienced domestic terrorism organized not only in the service an ideology — white supremacy — but in the name of one person, a cult figure for whom people will kill and die, devoted to his cause and taking perceived orders from him.
But that is what is happening now.
Last week the news broke that two California men were arrested for plotting to bomb Sacramento’s Democratic headquarters in the name of Donald Trump, inspired by the Big Lie that the election was stolen by Joe Biden. One of the men is alleged to have had five live pipe bombs in his home and “between 45 and 50 firearms, including at least three fully automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition.”
That man, Ian Rogers, also wrote in text messages, before the January 20th inauguration of President Biden, which one agent said showed an attempt to try to stop the inauguration from proceeding:
I hope 45 goes to war if he doesn’t I will…
…I want to blow up a Democrat building bad…
…Sad it’s come to this but I’m not going down without a fight…
…These commies need to be told what’s up…
The men were organizing both before and after the January 6th Capitol assault, and discussed other targets including California’s governors mansion, the corporate offices of Facebook and Twitter and Democratic donor George Soros.
In a different time this would be wall to wall media coverage, with strong condemnations coming from the former president himself, and from the leaders of his party. But for much of the media, though they covered it, this was just another story in the blur of insurrection-related stories — including the story of a Virginia insurrectionist group exposed the week before, planning for a “revolution”and led by a man who stormed the Capitol on January 6th and now had the components for 50 homemade bombs.
Needless to say, there was no condemnation statement by the former president — who likely revels in these stories — nor from any Republican Party leader. Even Democratic leaders seemed too busy dealing with all the other assaults on democracy by Republicans to speak out forcefully about these cases.
Trumpist terrorism is becoming normalized.
It’s now expected that people will engage in violence in the name of a former president of the United States. That’s a blood-curdling reality, but in America right now it’s not very shocking, nor surprising. And the greater danger is that if the outcry isn’t loud enough — if we don’t express outrage no matter how commonplace it now may appear — then it will not only be expected; it will be accepted. More and more extremists will be inspired to take up arms, to organize plots to cause massive violence in the name of Trump, hoping for bigger, more disruptive events to break through.
Read the entire article and subscribe at The Signorile Report.
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