When COVID-19 began impacting the United States, a vocal minority of conservatives began making statements that wound up being betrayed by the truth. For example, a recurring sentiment had been that the virus was nothing more than “a bad flu.” Many compared it to H1N1, the swine flu.
In the 2009-2010 swine flu outbreak, approximately 12,000 Americans died in a year. In the current outbreak, over 80,000 Americans have died in 10 weeks. Some would argue the numbers are overstated, but none will venture to guess how many are overstated. Even assuming a 50% overstatement, in 10 weeks, COVID-19 has killed many more people than the swine flu did in a year.
Some conservatives pushed back on these conspiracists, and they were joined by the American press corps. If the left did the same, these same reporters would surely push back, too.
On MSNBC last week, Brian Williams interviewed the Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Bottoms publicly disagreed with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to reopen the state. Williams, while getting Bottoms to acknowledge the reopening had not gone as badly as she expected, said, “There’s a robust conversation going on about the quality of the numbers we’re all getting out of the state of Georgia.”
That robust conversation is a conversation of progressive activists who, as Republican states in the south reopen, are ignoring the data just as much as some on the right did at the beginning of the pandemic. Reporters who robustly pushed back against conservative “data truthers” have largely kept silent or amplified progressive data truthers.
There have been some issues in Georgia with its data. But each has had credible explanations backed not just by politicians but also by the hospitals and epidemiologists doing the data entry. The great conspiracy of late had been a 231-count spike in cases that disappeared. It turned out those were not positive COVID-19 cases but the results of antibody tests that had to be removed from the data. Much of the national press played up the spike, downplayed the reduction or suggested sinister motives.
The same has happened in Florida. Rebekah Jones had been the manager of Florida’s geographic information system used to geographically display the spread of the virus in Florida. On May 18, the state fired Jones for insubordination. Her bosses, including several epidemiologists, took issue with the data Jones was entering. She purportedly ignored them. Much of the national press claimed Jones was a scientist. Actually, she has degrees in journalism and geography and was the manager of the Florida Department of Public Health’s geographic information system program. Contrary to media reports that Jones singlehandedly programmed all the information, she managed a team.
The facts of Jones’ dismissal did not matter. The press decided to portray her as a martyr to accuse Florida’s Republican governor of covering up or fabricating data on the virus. Actually, Florida has a larger population than New York and far less cases and deaths. After a press conference where Gov. Ron DeSantis defended himself and blasted reports on Jones’ departure, a Washington Post reporter tweeted that DeSantis was bragging about his state’s death rate. DeSantis could not win.
Of course, we should have known much of the press is interested not in truth but in helping Democrats. Eager to play up Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, many of the same members of the press have dismissed Tara Reade’s more recent and more corroborated allegations against Joe Biden. The New York Times began gaslighting its readers, claiming the #BelieveAllWomen hashtag on social media had actually been a right-wing stunt.
On CNN, Chris Cuomo has nightly blasted the President, Republicans and anyone who defends them, while giving softball interviews to his brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who incompetently handled the viral spread in New York. If he were a Republican, you would know of his incompetence. Instead, he is sainted by a press that demands we believe them; just pay no attention to their ever-shifting standards for belief and credibility. Journalists only care about that if Fox News deviates from media orthodoxy.
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