‘Horrifying disregard of the lives of others’: Ted Cruz slammed for refusing to wear a mask on American Airlines flight
Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has recently encouraged mask wearing in response to the coronavirus pandemic, some far-right Republicans are still reluctant to wear face masks in public. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, according to AmericaBlog reporter John Aravosis, wasn’t wearing a mask at all during an American Airlines flight from Houston to Dallas on Sunday, July 12 — which is a violation of the airline’s rules.
Aravosis tweeted, “I just confirmed that Ted Cruz went the entire one-hour-eight-minute flight from Houston to Dallas and never put on his mask. So he wasn’t just drinking coffee for a minute.”
Cruz’ defenders have argued that the senator was photographed on the flight when he was drinking coffee. But Twitter user @hossehenad explained, “For those trying to argue that he was drinking, it’s not hard to have a mask on and undo one side to take a sip then put it back on. Most people take their time drinking coffee.”
I just confirmed that Ted Cruz went the entire one-hour-eight-minute flight from Houston to Dallas and never put on his mask. so he wasn’t just drinking coffee for a minute.
— John Aravosis 🇺🇸🇬🇷🏳️🌈 (@aravosis) July 13, 2020
For those asking, this was on an @AmericanAir flight — their policy clearly states that masks should be worn on the flight. pic.twitter.com/CyG1GG5H8n
— Hosseh (@hossehenad) July 13, 2020
And I just confirmed that none of the American flight attendants on the flight said anything to Cruz about him not wearing a mask, in clear violation of American’s rules.
— John Aravosis 🇺🇸🇬🇷🏳️🌈 (@aravosis) July 13, 2020
For those trying to argue that he was drinking, it’s not hard to have a mask on and undo one side to take a sip then put it back on. Most people take their time drinking coffee.
Also, here’s a photo of him sitting outside the gate: pic.twitter.com/C7cbm3pQH0
— Hosseh (@hossehenad) July 13, 2020
Texas is among the Sun Belt states that is suffering a troubling surge in COVID-19 infections, and Cruz is being lambasted on social media for not wearing a mask during the flight. Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, tweeted, “Horrifying disregard of the lives of others by both Texas US Senator Ted Cruz and @AmericanAir.”
Horrifying disregard of the lives of others by both Texas US Senator Ted Cruz and @AmericanAir.
— Marc Perrone (@Marc_Perrone) July 13, 2020
Here are some more angry reactions:
Definitely not flying on @AmericanAir as long as it’s not requiring masks.
— Rantidote (@jkornack) July 13, 2020
@tedcruz fine with infecting other people.
— Suzanne Tyrpak – Bye Don 🌊 (@SuzanneTyrpak) July 13, 2020
It sure isn’t. I had to wear a mask my whole first aid class, pretty easy to pull it down take a drink and put it back on
— Kristen St Denis (@kristenstdenis) July 13, 2020
@AmericanAir passengers are buying tickets believing fellow passengers will wear masks. If an airline allows any passenger to travel maskless, there needs to be an immediate announcement that it’s happening, along with time to deplane, plus a credit for the inconvenience.
— Cameron Bishopp Davis (@BishoppDavis) July 13, 2020
Nope! They obviously don’t care about the other ppl around them, even the ones who elected them!
— Tina 💙 #DemCastAL (@TNTArtbyTina) July 13, 2020
They should never have allowed him on the plane. Anyone who was on the flight & comes down with Covid needs to sue them.
— Joan Smith (@SmithUsmith) July 13, 2020
I hate these people. Shame on @AmericanAir ! This is why people should avoid flying when the airline won’t do its part to keep you safe!
— MDWow! (@madwells) July 13, 2020
Ted Cruz doesn’t have any class. So that makes the rest of us higher class….😷👍
— Lucy “Dog with a Bone” (@lglinsure) July 13, 2020
Rules need to be the same for EVERYONE, regardless of politics/money.
He should have been thrown off & if they don’t treat everyone the same, they may be opening themselves up to discrimination claims by those already thrown off of planes for exactly those reasons.
Grow Up Cruz
— Freddie (Frederica) (@fredschll) July 13, 2020
unacceptable @AmericanAir. Do better. Enforce mask wearing for EVERYONE or not at all. There’s no two ways about it.
— Susan Jane (@🏡, 😷) (@sjstill) July 13, 2020
That’s exactly why I’m not interested in flying, right now. The airlines won’t and can’t control face mask wearing while airborne or probably under any circumstances. PERIOD.
— Capt M J Singleton 🇺🇸 (@NavyCaptRet63XX) July 13, 2020
Corporations don’t have a heart. Neither do Republicans like Ted Cruz.
— Lazy Circles (@LazyCircles) July 13, 2020
@tedcruz is entitled. And he loves FEELING entitled. And he has NO humility to even think💭: “How great that I fly for free & I get VIP treatment” paid for by taxpayers. And he revels in THINKING “noone is the boss of me b/c I have power”. @tedcruz … not for much longer …
— A. Cook (@acook5ct) July 13, 2020
Don’t let him board @AmericanAir – this is an airline to avoid if they aren’t strict on masks
— Theresa (@stgh386) July 13, 2020
Exactly what I expect from Ted Cruz.
— David R. Watson (@DavidRWatson2) July 13, 2020
Idon’t think there was anyone in the country who was truly surprised that President Trump commuted his good pal Roger Stone’s sentence. I think we might have expected a full pardon, but since there was reportedly so much resistance within the administration, Trump may have decided that commutation before the election, and then pardon afterward looked like a reasonable compromise.
Certainly, Trump was never going to let Stone go to prison. Stone made sure of that. Last week he told journalist Howard Fineman:
I had 29 or 30 conversations with Trump during the campaign period. He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t. They wanted me to play Judas. I refused.
I’m pretty sure Trump got that message loud and clear. After all, his mentor was Roy Cohn, the infamous lawyer and fixer whose clients included Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the mobsters Carmine Galante and “Fat Tony” Salerno, among other unsavory characters. Cohn also mentored Roger Stone.
Trump speaks fluent gangster patois:
The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type “RAT.” But I allowed him and all others to testify – I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2018
Remember, Michael Cohen only became a “Rat” after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started. They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY’S OFFICE! Why didn’t they break into the DNC to get the Server, or Crooked’s office?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 16, 2018
He told the “Fox & Friends” hosts back in 2018 what he thought of people who cooperate with the authorities:
It’s called “flipping” and it almost ought to be illegal. I know all about flipping. For 30, 40 years, I have been watching flippers. Everything is wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is or as high as you can go.
Roger Stone made sure in the days just before he was set to go to prison that the president understood exactly what he needed to do. Trump knows Stone very well, and understood what he was capable of. Stone might easily have decided to flip if Trump didn’t come through. They’ve known each other so long that whatever Stone has on Trump doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the Russia investigation. Stone knows where a lot of bodies are buried. He helped bury many of them.
He needn’t have worried. His boy Trump came though, although against the wishes of his White House counsel, chief of staff Mark Meadows and even his top henchman, Attorney General Bill Barr. You can imagine how upset Barr must have been after he went to such great lengths to have Stone’s sentence reduced that he caused an insurrection at the Department of Justice and permanently destroyed his reputation. He obviously thought he’d helped Trump’s buddy out sufficiently, but that wasn’t enough.
You’ll recall that Barr claimed that the president didn’t order him to do it and that it was just a coincidence Trump had tweeted this mere hours before Barr’s decision:
This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice! https://t.co/rHPfYX6Vbv
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 11, 2020
When reporters asked Trump over the weekend why he didn’t take Barr’s advice not to commute Stone’s sentence, Trump replied, “Well, he didn’t say that. No, the attorney general, about a week or two ago, had made a statement, but that was long before anybody knew what I was going to do.”
Actually, that was before Stone made it clear last week that he would not stand for doing even a day of jail time. His reminder that his “situation” would be much improved if he turned on Trump left no room for interpretation.
Stone’s no Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, who spent several months in jail before being allowed to serve home confinement due to the pandemic. Manafort stood up to the prosecutors and Trump let him sit behind bars. But then Manafort only knew Trump briefly, and can’t possibly have the same volume of dirt on him that Stone has. (Furthermore, Manafort had his own reasons for clamming up, namely some angry Russian mobsters to whom he owed a lot of money.)
The Stone commutation announcement was unusual, to say the least. In fact, it sounded a lot like Trump dashed it off in a series of tweets and the White House decided that would serve as an official proclamation:
White House statement on Roger Stone clemency: pic.twitter.com/DuV2VfCNF1
— Mike Scarcella (@MikeScarcella) July 11, 2020
Aside from the dishonest rehash of the Mueller investigation, which was the usual Trumpian combination of whining and blaming, the president attacked a juror in Stone’s trial in his official announcement, which was probably one of the lowest acts he’s ever perpetrated — and that’s really saying something. The degree to which the self-appointed “law and order president” disrespects the legal system is unprecedented. Even notorious gangsters are more civil.
If you are wondering why Trump may have commuted the sentence instead of just pardoning his old buddy, journalist Marcy Wheeler pointed out that a commutation allows Stone to maintain his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, which means he doesn’t have to testify against Trump in any possible further proceedings regarding all those phone calls between them — conversations that Stone specifically mentioned in that interview with Howard Fineman.
Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic observed that Trump has just committed another act of obstruction of justice. They argue that Trump’s written answers to Robert Mueller about his knowledge of the WikiLeaks plot were lies, which also specifically pertain to the felonies Roger Stone was convicted of committing. It’s clear from the record that Trump was signaling to Stone throughout to keep his mouth shut.
Newly unredacted pages of the Mueller report back that up. According to Lawfare:
[S]hortly after he submitted those answers [to the special counsel], the unredacted report states, Trump began tweeting publicly in support of Stone — calling him “brave” and congratulating his “guts” for refusing to testify.
Trump’s tweets were always suspicious, to say the least. And his answers to Mueller seemed less than entirely credible even when the redacted report was first released. But the newly revealed text makes clear Mueller’s suspicions that Trump lied in his written answers — and then pushed Stone not to testify in order to prevent Mueller from discovering that lie.
As Mueller put it dryly: “[T]he President’s conduct could also be viewed as reflecting his awareness that Stone could provide evidence that would run counter to the President’s denials and would link the President to Stone’s efforts to reach out to WikiLeaks.” The special counsel also writes that Trump’s tweets to Stone — along with his tweets criticizing [Michael] Cohen, who was by then cooperating with investigators — “support the inference that the President intended to communicate a message that witnesses could be rewarded for refusing to provide testimony adverse to the President and disparaged if they chose to cooperate.”
Roger Stone got his reward last Friday night.
This should have been an impeachable offense. But for reasons I will never understand, nobody wanted to bother with all the evidence of obstruction of justice in Mueller’s report. I suspect there will be little appetite for pursuing it after Trump is out of office, which is a travesty.
The president of the United States just exercised his constitutional powers to commit a crime in plain sight. And once again he will get away with it.
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic spirals out of control, mostly in Republican-led states that were contemptuous of basic pandemic precautions even as New York showed how vital they were, Donald Trump continues to obsess over punishing his perceived enemies, using corrupt means to reward allied criminals, and making new declarations of imaginary victory even as 130,000 Americans lie dead. His White House aides, sycophantic suck-ups one and all, continue to do their very best to assist.
Team Trump’s latest declared target is therefore Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government infectious disease expert now known for Publicly Disagreeing with a delusional shitposting idiot even as other members of the White House coronavirus “task force” muddy their own public stances to avoid angering the orange incompetent. On Sunday the Trump team mounted a full assault on Fauci, one conducted both anonymously and fully aided by a political press corps still incapable of dealing with the moment. As usual, it is apparently based solely on appeasing a crabby and pouting Trump.
The new Team Trump attack on Fauci is premised on a Trump declaration to, also as usual, Fox News meathead Sean Hannity. During a Fox News interview with Hannity, Trump dismissed Fauci as making “a lot of mistakes.” By Sunday Dear Leader’s White House team had thus assembled a talking point list about all of Fauci’s “mistakes” in the outbreak, and shopped it vigorously to the press.
“You wanna sell a lie? Get the press to sell it for you.” pic.twitter.com/EkKijGGKFO
— Kenn White (@kennwhite) July 12, 2020
The notion of the Trump-Pence White House team assembling a list of somebody else’s purported pandemic missteps, and for the sole sake of propping up Dear Leader’s own delusional claims (yet again), ought to be a rich source of shame, but the White House has been purged of it. The sea of supposedly top-class political reporters eager to grant anonymity to “an official” releasing “a statement” declaring that other “officials” have things to say about Fauci, all of them from behind a curtain, is pathetic.
The Washington Post was, however, at least willing to provide some insight on how this attack likely came to be. Last week the White House’s continued efforts to limit public appearances by Fauci and other government experts publicly erupted again after CBS Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan told viewers that “we have not been able to get our requests for Dr. Fauci approved by the Trump administration in the last three months, and the CDC not at all.”
According to the Post, this public revelation led to the White House approving Fauci appearances on PBS, CNN, and NBC. But after Fauci appeared on a Facebook Live event last Tuesday with Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, in which Fauci called the Trump-pushed notion that declining death rates showed that the nation’s pandemic response was improving a “false narrative” and “false complacency,” the White House again cancelled all those appearances. Within two days, Trump himself was nipping at Fauci from inside Hannity’s welcoming swamp.
Short version? The pandemic is now taking off throughout the country, but the Trump team’s top priority remains coddling an unstable ever-raging incompetent through each day rather than taking obvious steps to control it. Again. Still. The U.S. death toll is now all but assured to reach a quarter million, and may grow far beyond even that, but Trump, Pence, and their top advisers remain obsessed with retaliating against anyone who might warn Americans what the reality of the situation truly is.
Some of the most informative quotes on events in the Trump White House come from insiders who are interviewed anonymously for major publications such as the New York Times, Vanity Fair and the Washington Post. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, according to Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, is not happy about leaks within the Trump Administration — and is determined to punish anyone he catches leaking information to journalists. But ironically, Meadows’ scheme was leaked to Axios.
Meadows, Swan reports, is doing everything he can to catch leakers. And according to Swan, “multiple officials” have told Axios that Meadows has been “unusually vocal about his tactics.”
A source described by Swan as a former White House staffer told Axios, “Meadows told me he was doing that. I don’t know if it ever worked.”
However, Swan reports that so far, Meadows’ tactics have only trapped one person he suspected of a “minor leak.”
An anonymous source told Axios that Meadows is “focused on national security leaks and could care less about the palace intrigue stories.”
Swan explains, “Meadows, Trump’s fourth chief of staff in three and a half years, faces the same problem all of his predecessors face: in the leakiest White House in modern history, how does one possibly satisfy a president who has privately said he feels like he’s surrounded by snakes? All of Trump’s chiefs have tried to stop the leaks, with no success, but perhaps nobody tried harder than Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney never netted the sort of catch Trump wanted.”
Trump says he ‘disagreed’ with privately funded border wall — but his administration awarded the builder $1.7 billion for more walls
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President Donald Trump complained via Twitter on Sunday that a privately constructed border wall in Texas was a bad idea and poorly done — not mentioning that his administration has awarded the builder a $1.7 billion contract to build more walls.
With the backing of Trump supporters, Tommy Fisher built a 3-mile border fence along the Rio Grande, calling it the “Lamborghini” of fences. But just months after completion of his showcase piece directly on the banks of the river, there are signs of erosion along and under the fence that threatens its stability and could cause it to topple into the river if not fixed, experts told ProPublica and The Texas Tribune.
“I disagreed with doing this very small (tiny) section of wall, in a tricky area, by a private group which raised money by ads. It was only done to make me look bad, and perhsps it now doesn’t even work. Should have been built like rest of Wall, 500 plus miles,” Trump tweeted with a typo in reaction to the news organizations’ report about the wall.
Trump’s tweet, however, is belied by actions his administration has taken to support the wall’s builder.
The administration gave Fisher the billion-dollar contract in May to build additional stretches of the wall in Arizona, despite a lawsuit around the South Texas project and an ongoing audit by the Pentagon’s inspector general of a previous border wall contract that is looking into possible “inappropriate influence.”
On Sunday, the congressman who called for the audit responded to the president’s tweet.
“The President isn’t telling the truth again. The Administration has awarded huge contracts to the same company, which is under Federal investigation, that built this fence,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., wrote in an email. “His Administration has also entertained outsourcing to private firms to get more mileage done before the election at the expense of proper oversight. There is no reason for construction to continue during a pandemic.”
The Army Corps of Engineers has said Fisher won the federal contract to build a segment of the border fence in Arizona because it was the lowest bid.
U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick of the Southern District of Texas called the private wall a “vanity project’ and a “scam.”
His office sued Fisher Sand and Gravel, its subsidiaries, and We Build the Wall on behalf of the International Boundary and Water Commission, to stop it from building the fence until it submitted a detailed engineering study to determine its impact on the flow of the Rio Grande and nearby properties. The commission is a binational body that regulates development in the floodplain between the U.S. and Mexico to ensure boundary treaties aren’t violated.
“We already owned the land a few hundred yards from the river and it cut the peninsula instead of following the river,” Patrick tweeted Sunday. “We said it was too close to the water, erosion would be an issue, the location made no sense, etc. Now we risk the thing falling down in a big storm/flood.”
Six engineering and hydrology experts consulted by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune said that it was concerning to see the level of erosion around the fence so soon after construction and that it shouldn’t have been built so close to the river.
Just months after the wall went up, the experts said photos reveal a series of gashes and gullies at various points along the structure where rainwater runoff has scoured the sandy loam beneath the foundation.
Fisher disagreed with the experts, saying that it’s surface erosion where grass that was planted took longer to grow, but that it doesn’t compromise either the fence or the adjacent road. He said he hoped Trump could personally see what they’ve built.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane instructed attorneys to work out details of the inspection and to come to an agreement about the remediation and fixes for a part of the fence that violates a treaty with Mexico by deflecting too much water during floods.
In total, Fisher has secured $1.7 billion in federal contracts since December. Soon after the 2016 election, Fisher became a frequent guest on Fox News and other conservative media, where he caught the attention of Trump. Last year, The Washington Post reported that the president “latch(ed) on” to Fisher’s claims of speed and quality and “aggressively pushed” for the firm in conversations with top Homeland Security officials.
Fisher was also aided by a close relationship with freshman U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who advocated for the company with Trump and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Fisher and family members donated at least $24,000 during Cramer’s victorious 2018 election bid, according to campaign finance records.
Cramer declined to comment on the private wall project, but wrote, “Like President Trump, I want to see the wall built. It needs to be done quickly and done right.”
Fisher’s rise to border wall building came with the help of the conservative nonprofit We Build the Wall, which counts former Trump political strategist Steve Bannon as a board member.
On Sunday, Brian Kolfage, its founder and a decorated Iraq War veteran, countered Trump’s tweet.
“The private wall that @WeBuildtheWall built and funded is @DHSgov @CBP ENDORSED and APPROVED. Never forget it,” he tweeted, along with a video of Border Patrol leadership supporting its initiatives.
In a December video no longer online, Kolfage told Alicia Powe of Gateway Pundit, a far-right news and opinion website, that his group had a back channel to the administration via board member Bannon and general counsel and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who let Trump know what We Build the Wall is doing.
“We’ve gotten the support of the president first hand, we’ve had people to meet with the president who have informed him directly of what’s going on, and President Trump loves what we are doing,” he said.
“But he doesn’t come out and support much because we believe that the leftists will try to use it against him by saying ‘this private industry is doing more than he’s doing’ and things like that, they’ll try to spin it, so we believe that’s why he’s quiet about it up on the forefront but supports us in the back,” he added.
We Build the Wall has raised $25 million to help Trump achieve his campaign promise of 500 miles of border barriers before the end of the year; so far he’s built more than 200 miles, with much of the work replacing dilapidated and shorter fences. Initially, the idea was to give the funds to the federal government, but when that wasn’t legally possible, the group shifted its mission to helping the administration build the fence using private companies.
So far, it has worked on two fence projects, a half-mile stretch in New Mexico outside El Paso, completely funded by We Build the Wall and constructed by Fisher’s company, and in the Rio Grande Valley city of Mission. In Texas, We Build the Wall donated only $1.5 million, with Fisher putting in the rest of the $42 million project.
In this part of Texas, the government normally builds miles inland, on top of a levee system, in part because of flooding concerns. That has left swaths of farmland, cemeteries and even homes in a kind of no man’s land south of the fence.
Both Fisher and Kolfage have said they have hundreds of miles of riverfront property where they could build more fences like the one in South Texas.
The Department of Homeland Security recently signaled it was open to outsourcing border wall construction to private industry, a change Kolfage said was a direct result of the private wall projects, “proving the power of private enterprise.”
Out of 30 possible locations the government identified for potential private fence projects, 23 are in Texas.
Fisher said now that they see where the erosion is happening they will work to remediate it, either by adding what he called “more aggressive soil” to get the grass to grow or by adding drainage ditches. They budgeted between 1 and 2% of the project’s cost for maintenance, he said.
“This is our project until DHS says that ‘we want it.’ If not, we’ll maintain it for as long as I live because I think it’s the right way to build,” Fisher said Sunday. “To protect the Southern border you got to build the border fence on the border.”
Here’s what we know about whether it’s safe or practical to send millions of American kids and teenagers back to school for the fall term, which in some districts begins in just over a month: Nothing.
Parents, teachers, school administrators and elected officials are — I mean, pick your cliché: We’re lost. (I’m a public school parent in New York City, so I’ll go with the first-person plural.) We’re wandering in the desert without a map as darkness falls, or perhaps trying to find an invisible needle in a burning haystack, which is threatening to set the entire barn on fire. As Robin Cogan, a school nurse in Camden, New Jersey, told the New York Times: “It feels like we’re playing Russian roulette with our kids and our staff.”
She’s right: It’s a “Deer Hunter”-style game of Russian roulette, played blindfolded under conditions of complete chaos. For reasons of their own, which are of course entirely self-interested and poorly thought-out, President Trump and Betsy DeVos, his Dickens-villain education secretary, are pushing all public and private schools to open all the way for all students, five days a week. Like every other Trumpian strategy relating to the coronavirus pandemic, that won’t work and is a terrible idea. Its only saving grace is that the federal government plays only a minor role in managing public education, which is one of those things a lot of liberals lament in more “normal” times and should be grateful for now.
One of the great ironies of this painful situation is that many of those liberals, for understandable and in many ways admirable reasons, are also eager to see schools reopen — and have put themselves in the darkly hilarious position of urging us not to reject the evil Trumpian plan just because it’s an evil Trumpian plan proposed by literally the worst people ever. And look, let’s agree on some stuff here.
It would be better for the mental and physical health and intellectual development of nearly all children for them to be in school. Hardly any kids have enjoyed sitting at home struggling with “online learning” models that almost entirely suck — and for many kids, especially those with special needs and those in low-income families or immigrant households, online instruction hasn’t worked at all.
To state the obvious: People like me, or like my former colleague Michelle Goldberg, a prominent voice in the “schools must reopen” chorus — meaning middle-class parents with resources and options — are not bearing the brunt of this disaster. It sucks for us too, but one way or another, my kids and Michelle’s will be OK. (We don’t know the details of “OK” right now, which is distressing, but whatever.) Keeping kids out of school puts an unsustainable burden on all working families, but especially on working-class or poor families and communities of color. And that burden disproportionately falls on women, affecting their ability to make a living, pursue an education or build career opportunities.
All of that is true and devastating and tragic. But that left-liberal social-theory worldview is exactly what led New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to delay closing the city’s public schools in March, a decision that quite plausibly cost thousands of lives. It has driven much of the New York Times coverage of this issue, which leans hard on the proposition — again, a defensible and understandable one — that public education is a foundational element of any social justice agenda. It fueled one of the most ludicrous Times editorials in that institution’s troubled recent history, which began by announcing that “American children need public schools to reopen in the fall,” and concluded by admitting that probably would not and could not happen on any large scale.
If you’ve been waiting since the first paragraph to inform me that in fact we know considerably more than “nothing,” and that there’s fairly strong evidence that young children don’t easily catch the coronavirus, tend not to get sick if they do catch it, and do not appear to spread it to others — thank you and, yes, that’s true. (When it comes to high school kids, the picture is nowhere near as clear.) But honestly, that argument — like the “public schools are central to democracy” argument — feels like a tangential issue right now, and a classic example of the liberal tendency to compartmentalize and avoid the bigger questions.
Yes, various other countries have reopened their schools, with greater or lesser degrees of success. That’s gone pretty well in most of Europe, although Hong Kong and Israel, two very different kinds of places, had to shutter the schools again after renewed outbreaks. But no other country, anywhere in the world, has tried to do the unbelievably stupid thing the United States is apparently about to do: Reopen the schools, in piecemeal, half-baked, “let’s put on a show” fashion, while the pandemic is still surging and has clearly not yet crested, and without any semblance of a national strategy to control it.
There’s a central flaw in the left-liberal “schools must open” logic, which is so obvious we hardly ever talk about it. All of this rests on the fundamental assumption that a neoliberal “market” economy is the natural order of things, and that real solutions that might make this situation manageable for parents, students, teachers and employers are simply off the table. Another kind of society might have a national child care policy and a national health care policy in place, which might require some emergency augmentation but would already be there. It might authorize direct, continuing payments to parents forced out of work because their kids are at home — or, what the hell, even to parents who can continue to work from home but would like to preserve what remains of their sanity and occasionally get some sleep.
We appear to be stuck in a circular conundrum, which everyone can perceive but no one can fix: Kids have to go to school because their parents have to go to work, because that’s the only way society can possibly function — but none of that stuff is possible amid a massive public health emergency that seems to be getting worse rather than better, especially under a federal government whose official policy is that reality does not exist.
Given all that, what will actually happen? Nobody knows, but it won’t be good. Most big school districts, including New York’s — by far the largest in the country — are trying to cobble together some version of “blended” or “hybrid” learning, which means a combination of limited, socially-distanced in-person instruction and the largely disastrous online-learning experiment of the spring.
Some districts in especially hard-hit areas, including Miami and Phoenix, have made clear they will almost certainly begin the year with online instruction only — and as inadequate as that is in educational, social and psychological terms, I can’t see how they could make any other choice. In Palm Beach County, the president’s nominal place of residence, officials have said the entire school year will probably be online — and if that’s not a giant FU to the lord of Mar-a-Lago, I don’t know what would be.
But the bigger picture isn’t even as coherent as that sounds. Most school districts still have no idea whether they’ll open the doors in the fall, or to what extent, or whether any of their throwing-spaghetti-at-the-wall instructional plans will actually work. The teachers union in Los Angeles, the second-largest district in the nation — and one of the worst pandemic hotspots of the summer — has officially called for schools to remain closed in the fall, with the overwhelming support of its membership. With Mayor Eric Garcetti clearly on the verge of ordering another shutdown, it appears unlikely that any L.A. students will attend school this year.
A hundred miles south in San Diego, officials not long ago confidently announced a “detailed plan,” developed in consultation with public health experts, that would allow them to reopen all schools at the end of August. But that was during the moment of California hubris, when the state appeared to have weathered the COVID storm and begun moving into a measured reopening. Over the last week or so, San Diego County has reported about 500 new cases a day, and dozens of uncontrolled “community outbreaks.” The teachers union there has gently expressed “concern” that the school district’s plan does not appear to involve smaller class sizes, improved ventilation or increased testing capacity — and that there’s no funding for any of that stuff.
Teachers unions in New York, Chicago and other large cities haven’t taken clear positions yet, but the possibility of a widespread refusal to return to work appears very real. There’s a growing sentiment among teachers, principals and many elected officials that schools should not even try to reopen in any given locality until coronavirus case numbers are declining and “community spread” is clearly under control. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner put it succinctly over the weekend: “It makes no sense” to consider sending children in his city back to school, given the scale of the current crisis. Under that standard, probably only the Northeast Corridor states would currently qualify for reopening — but given the horrific experience those of us in the New York metropolitan area endured through the early spring, there’s not much appetite for taking on unknown risk.
Who wants to stand up right now and tell me that this is the greatest nation in the world? Because that has gone from highly debatable to an objectively cruel falsehood. Along with all the conflicting arguments and ambiguous public-health evidence, we face the transmutation of what ought to be a straightforward (if challenging) question of social policy into a culture-war issue — because absolutely goddamn everything in 2020 America has to be a culture-war issue. (I stood in a supermarket in upstate New York this weekend looking at the stacks of beer cartons on the floor and realized that they presented a culture-war issue: Coors Light, or some overpriced, overly-hoppy IPA with zany graphics on the box? If there’s a neutral space in that conflict, it’s probably Heineken — which was sold out.)
The fact that we do not have the slightest f**king idea how to send 60 million-plus American kids back to school safely amid a worsening pandemic isn’t just an inconvenience, or an impediment to a return to economic normalcy — which is just not a thing we can have right now, people, and pretending it might somehow be possible is not helping.
It’s a social catastrophe whose effects will be far-reaching and unknowable. It’s a national humiliation, one of many in this period of rapid American decline or implosion. It’s a giant flashing ALL-CAPS sign, directed at adults of all backgrounds and dispensations and political parties, informing us that we have failed in our primary responsibility of creating the best possible options and opportunities for those who will still be here when we’re gone.
Trump financial regulator quietly shelved discrimination probes into Bank of America and other lenders
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In the spring of 2018, bank regulators trained to spot discriminatory lending detected something alarming at Bank of America.
The bank was offering fewer loans to minority homebuyers in Philadelphia than to white people in a way that troubled examiners from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, according to two people directly involved in the probe and internal documents reviewed by ProPublica and The Capitol Forum.
The officials suspected the second-largest bank in the United States was “redlining,” or deliberately turning its back on minority homebuyers, the people said.
But after complaints from Bank of America, the OCC’s investigation stalled by September 2018. The OCC, which is part of the U.S. Treasury Department, never sanctioned the bank.
The abandoned Bank of America inquiry is part of a larger, previously unreported pattern in which the Trump administration has pulled back on civil rights enforcement as a part of its overall relaxation of bank oversight.
Since President Donald Trump took office, the OCC has quietly shelved at least six investigations of discrimination and redlining, according to internal agency documents and eight people familiar with the cases. Flagstar Bank, a leading lender in Michigan, wrongly charged Black homeowners more through a network of mortgage lending affiliates, OCC officials concluded in 2017. That same year, agency examiners found that Colorado Federal Bank, an online lender, was doing the same to female borrowers.
Another inquiry by OCC officials concluded that Chicago-based MB Financial, a lender acquired by Fifth Third Bank last year, charged Latinos too much on mortgage loans. Cadence Bank, a lender in several Southern states, was turning away minority borrowers in Houston, according to an OCC investigation. Fulton Bank, a lender based in Pennsylvania, had been discriminating against minorities in parts of Richmond, Virginia, and its home state, regulators concluded.
In each case, despite staff recommendations that fines or other penalties be imposed, the OCC took no public action and closed the investigations quietly. In the past, banks have had to pay substantial sums after similar investigations. In 2012, in the wake of the housing crisis, Wells Fargo paid $175 million to resolve allegations that it charged Blacks and Hispanics more to buy a home after an investigation that began with the OCC years earlier.
Each of the banks declined to comment on the specifics of the investigations and said they are committed to providing equal access to credit.
The OCC has historically prioritized the well-being of banks over bank customers, said current and former examiners, but the balance has shifted even further under the Trump administration.
“We have not always been the biggest defender of consumers,” said one veteran OCC attorney who has handled enforcement matters but asked not to be named for fear of losing his job. “Lately, though, we are outright hostile.”
Career staff and ordinary agency employees who have raised alarms about discrimination and other consumer abuses have seen their concerns brushed aside by the agency’s leadership, according to two current and two former OCC officials who have left in the last three years. The OCC was run from November 2017 until May of this year by Joseph Otting, a former bank executive with ties to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The administration has not only held back from redlining enforcement but tinkered with rules for applying the Community Reinvestment Act, a law that has helped combat discrimination for five decades.
Homeownership remains a key path to building family wealth in America, but the homeownership rate among blacks is 44 percent compared to whites at 74 percent, according to the most recent census data.
One major obstacle to narrowing that gap is discrimination in mortgage lending. A 2019 study by the Consumer Financial Bureau found that white borrowers are more likely to get a home loan than Black borrowers with the same credit score.
Yet in June 2018, as OCC examiners on the ground in Philadelphia scanned loan records and interviewed Bank of America employees to detect discrimination on mortgages, Otting testified before Congress that he had never seen racial bias in banking. “I have not personally observed that,” Otting told the House Financial Services Committee, stunning lawmakers with a statement that he tried to walk back a day later, telling the Senate Banking Committee that “there’s lots of evidence of inequity in the world.”
Brian Brooks, a former bank executive who has led the OCC on an interim basis since Otting stepped down in May, said recently that public enforcement actions were of limited value in addressing the “root cause” of banking discrimination. “The root cause is not going to be solved by bringing an enforcement action against some small bank,” Brooks told Politico.
In a statement to ProPublica, Brooks said: “I will not comment on decisions and actions that preceded me, but under my leadership the OCC will use all our tools as warranted to ensure everyone has fair access to banking services and receives fair treatment from the banks and savings associations the OCC oversees.”
The OCC is the grandaddy of banking regulators, conceived under Abraham Lincoln to make sure banks were safe and sound, and it has a unique role in fighting discrimination. The OCC is responsible for checking that national banks comply with the landmark Fair Housing Act of 1968, which banned redlining.
The agency also has a key role enforcing the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to lend in poor neighborhoods and grades banks on how well they meet the goals of the law. Otting spent much of his two and a half years in office rewriting the rules for the CRA, and he stepped down the day after he unveiled a reform plan that gives banks more flexibility in satisfying the law.
In a different era, regulators and law enforcement worked together to try to stamp out racial bias. Eight federal agencies have a role in policing discrimination in the marketplace, and all are required to inform the Justice Department when they see it. The Justice Department received 22 fair lending referrals from a variety of agencies in 2016, President Barack Obama’s last year in office. In 2018, under Trump, the Justice Department received four referrals, according to the latest Justice report.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has made a large share of fair lending referrals since the agency was created in 2010. During the Obama administration, the OCC made six referrals and worked closely with the CFPB on other fair lending cases, said Richard Cordray, the first CFPB chief.
“There was just a lot more cooperation and a lot more interest in taking on banks to protect consumers,” Cordray said of the Obama years. “That has changed dramatically.”
As Otting downplayed racial discrimination in his congressional testimony, his examiners in Philadelphia saw enough troubling data to take the next step in the probe. Officials involved in the Bank of America matter declined to say exactly what raised alarms except that it was rooted in data they saw about the price and availability of home loans.
OCC examiners can see information such as customer credit scores and the costs associated with a loan. Overall in the city, African-Americans are disproportionately denied when they seek to purchase homes, according to reporting by Reveal.
The examiners brought in OCC lawyers who were trained to tell when a bank’s lending practices could be deemed discriminatory, according to two people involved in the Bank of America matter. Bringing OCC lawyers into an exam often signals that the agency is moving toward an enforcement action, said former examiners. When the OCC brought in its lawyers, Bank of America bristled.
Bank of America’s chief counsel’s office insisted that its own attorneys be in the room if OCC examiners wanted to keep talking to its employees. The OCC exam manual explicitly discourages such involvement. When conducting investigations, OCC examiners should generally resist allowing a bank’s lawyers to be part of a routine exam since that “may be an unacceptable restriction on the examiner’s access to information,” according to portions of the exam manual seen by ProPublica.
As a routine exam becomes a deeper probe, the agency should allow examiners to finish their work to build a case, said the former examiners, who declined to be named since they still have professional dealings with the OCC. A bank’s lawyers would typically become involved in the later stages of an investigation if OCC examiners believed they had found wrongdoing, several former examiners said.
Nevertheless, Morris Morgan, the OCC’s head of large bank supervision, who had previously been the regulator’s top examiner overseeing Bank of America, agreed to the bank’s request to have its lawyers sit in early on the probe.
The OCC then took another step that potentially helped Bank of America. The agency assigned a separate team of OCC lawyers to scrutinize the whole Bank of America probe — an unusual step considering that the exam was still ongoing and that such a move could chill an investigation, said the two former examiners.
Moreover, said two officials involved in the probe, the OCC never fully engaged the expert economists, statisticians and other specialists of the agency’s Risk Analysis Division who are trained to spot patterns of abuse among hundreds of thousands of mortgage loans and who can help build a case against a bank.
Within the OCC, one step below the Comptroller is the Major Matters Supervision Review Committee, a panel that decides the most sensitive enforcement issues at the agency. Fair housing matters are typically decided by this committee, which is largely staffed by officials who report to the Comptroller. It’s not clear if Otting himself weighed in on the case. Otting did not respond to multiple requests seeking comment. The Bank of America probe was not brought before the committee.
By September 2018, the OCC had killed the Bank of America probe. The OCC did not bring any sanctions against the bank. The matter was shelved before examiners could decide if their first suspicions about Bank of America had merit, according to the two officials involved who said the agency’s investigation was halted before it could finish.
The OCC and Morgan both declined to comment on the Bank of America redlining matter, which involves confidential supervisory work. David Leitch, Bank of America’s chief counsel, declined to comment. Bank of America also declined to comment on the investigation but said: “We are committed to fairly and responsibly meeting the credit needs of our clients and to complying fully with the letter and spirit of fair lending laws, regulations and principles.”
A spokesman also pointed to a recent Bank of America statement that the lender has earmarked $1 billion in future corporate gifts and loans to help local communities fight inequality. The bank is still finalizing details of the plan.
In 2018, as OCC examiners in Philadelphia were looking at Bank of America, a separate team of examiners looking at loans in Texas spotted abuse at Cadence Bancorp, a regional lender based in Houston. Cadence was making minority borrowers pass a wealth threshold that white customers did not have to meet when they borrowed against the equity in their home in second-lien or “piggyback” mortgages, according to OCC documents reviewed by ProPublica and The Capitol Forum.
Examiners opened a formal investigation and pushed its findings through several internal reviews for most of 2018. The bank said any unequal treatment was accidental, but OCC experts did not find that credible. Experts within the Risk Analysis Division endorsed the Cadence findings. In controversial cases, the OCC gets a second opinion from its independent ombudsman, Larry Hattix, who backed the OCC staffers.
In December 2018, the OCC referred the redlining matter to the Justice Department as a civil rights concern. By early last year, the Justice Department had decided against taking action. It sent the matter back to the OCC but said the agency could use its own power to sanction the bank, according to a Justice Department spokesman.
“It is not unusual that we defer to the financial regulators,” said the spokesman. “Deferral may be appropriate, for example, when the lender has self-identified the problem, changed its policies, and compensated any affected borrowers.”
But OCC officials reporting to Otting decided last year not to publicly sanction Cadence, according to OCC documents and two people with direct knowledge of the matter.
In a statement, Cadence said that it could not comment on its dealings with the OCC but that it stopped offering piggyback mortgage loans last year and that the bank never discriminated. “Cadence Bank does — and always has — treated minority consumers in a fair and non-discriminatory manner and is always looking for ways we can do better,” the bank said.
In another investigation, OCC examiners scrutinized home loans at MB Financial, a lender based in Illinois, and found that Latinos and women were not being offered discount mortgages as often as white men, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter.
This looked like deliberate bias, examiners determined after reviewing loan records, and by late 2018 economists at the OCC Risk Analysis Division agreed, as did Hattix, the agency’s ombudsman. The OCC referred the matter to the Justice Department as a discrimination case, but the DOJ, under Attorney General William Barr, sent it back, according to two people involved in the matter. If bank regulators wanted to punish MB Financial, they would have to do it themselves.
In the end, the OCC did nothing. MB Financial was bought by Fifth Third Bank, an Ohio lender, and essentially slipped out of OCC jurisdiction. The OCC notified the Federal Reserve, which oversees Fifth Third, about what it found at MB Financial. The Fed has the ability to block mergers if it sees wrongdoing but it allowed the MB Financial deal to go ahead.
“Discrimination has no place in our society and the Fed takes these issues seriously in its role overseeing banking organizations,” a Fed spokesman said. “However, the Fed does not have direct supervisory authority over all banks.”
In a statement, Fifth Third said: “The intent of Fifth Third is to be in full compliance with all fair lending regulations. MB Financial had a similar intent.”
Two of the scuttled redlining investigations involved banks that use outside agents to originate a significant portion of their mortgage loans. The OCC found that agents working for Flagstar Bank of Michigan were charging Black homebuyers more than whites and Colorado Federal, an online lender, was charging women more than men, according to two people involved in the matters. Both cases had come to light during the Trump administration, and both were dropped without a public enforcement action.
Flagstar Bank declined to comment for this story. Colorado Federal did not respond to several requests for comment.
Regulators fall short if they turn a blind eye to discrimination or only issue quiet reprimands and private wrist-slaps when they find abuses, said Jeremy Kress, a former Federal Reserve attorney.
“Banks are less likely to misbehave if they think they are going to be called out for wrongdoing,” he said. “We can’t rely on regulators to do their job in secret, as recent scandals have shown.”
Regulation Racial Justice
ST. BERNARD PARISH, LOUISIANA – While national polls show Donald Trump’s support slipping during the prolonged pandemic and amid racial unrest, the president’s most ardent supporters in bedrock Republican-backing states like Louisiana remain doggedly in his corner.
“I have no doubt I’m voting to reelect Donald Trump this year,” says Robert Caretto, a retired firefighter who moved to Louisiana to help rebuild homes after Hurricane Katrina.
Robert Caretto, a retired firefighter moved to Louisiana to help rebuild homes after Hurricane Katrina. (Photo courtesy Robert Caretto)
Caretto lives in St. Bernard Parish, a collection of small communities sandwiched between swamps, the Mississippi River and lakes that lead to the Gulf of Mexico. Its towns are quieter, less diverse and significantly more conservative than the nearby city of New Orleans.
Nearly 60% of New Orleans’ residents are Black, compared to about 20% in St. Bernard Parish. And while 15% of New Orleans voters cast their ballot for Donald Trump in 2016, a whopping 65% in St. Bernard Parish voted for him.
“You don’t have to be the most likeable to be a great president,” says local Trump supporter Melody Riley. “It’s not a personality contest. He has shown great strength and leadership at every rally, debate and press conference. He has called out the fake news and has revealed their deceptions to the American people.”
“There’s no changing people’s minds about him here,” laughs Bridget Bitely, an independent voter in St. Bernard parish who says she did not vote for the president in 2016 and will not be voting for him in 2020, “This is definitely Trump country.”
Cracks in the base
According to Gallup polling, the percentage of Americans who approve of the job Trump has done as President dropped from 49% on April 28 to 38% on June 30. The RealClearPolitics average of polls shows presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden leading Trump in six states Trump won in 2016: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Most troubling for the President is that support appears to be waning from key constituencies that propelled him to victory four years ago, including evangelical Christians, Catholics and white voters lacking a college degree.
These pro-Trump demographic groups weigh heavily in Louisiana’s electorate, but Robert Collins, professor of Urban Studies and Public Policy at Dillard University in New Orleans, says local factors keep Louisiana Republicans loyal to Trump, even as his base erodes elsewhere.
“Even though they might be unhappy with aspects of his COVID response, or with his handling of the economy in recent months,” Collins says, “they’re not going to jump ship because they’re scared to death of electing a Democrat. Biden is pro-gun [control] and he’s pro-choice. In a state of hunters and Roman Catholics, those issues are deal breakers.”
President Donald Trump greets supporters on arriving at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, in Kenner, La.
Louisiana State University political scientist James Garand sees two main categories of Trump supporters.
“You have his most ardent supporters who will support the President under almost all circumstances, and then you have his lukewarm supporters,” Garand says. Those lukewarm supporters, he explains, might have voted for Trump in 2016 because they despised Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or out of concern over a specific issue, like control of the Supreme Court.
“But Louisiana is more conservative than many other places in the country,” he adds. “My sense is that we have a higher percentage of those ardent supporters here than elsewhere.”
Additionally, voters who have soured on Trump may be hesitant to speak out.
“Peer pressure from the ardent Trump supporters in their communities might push them back toward supporting the President, or at least force them to keep their support of another candidate private,” Garand says.
Megan Chriss says she voted for the billionaire New York real estate businessman in 2016 but will not vote for him in 2020. (Photo courtesy Megan Chriss)
Not so for Megan Chriss. She says she voted for the billionaire New York real estate businessman in 2016 because she didn’t see Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, as authentic. She adds that her family and many in her community work in the oil industry, and that Trump’s policies were more oil-friendly.
After watching him for nearly four years in office, however, the St. Bernard parish resident says she won’t be voting for him again.
“But I don’t know of a single person other than myself who has changed their mind on him,” she says. “After his lack of leadership with the COVID pandemic, and the way he throws fuel on the fire with the police brutality protests and riots, I guess I’m surprised I don’t know of at least a few more people who switched away from him.”
Caretto acknowledges Trump has made mistakes but believes the president is being held to an unfair standard by his detractors.
“Do I think he’s perfect?” asks Caretto. “Of course, I don’t. But what President doesn’t make mistakes? Who could stop a global pandemic? And now Democrats are blaming him for that somehow.”
Supporters hold up signs as President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Bossier City, La., Nov. 14, 2019.
Caretto’s argument is often heard among Trump supporters. While they may take issue with Trump’s brashness, they also feel the results he gets benefit them and the country.
“I think he’s full of himself and I wish he’d tweet less,” says commercial fisherman George Barisich, “but America needed someone like this. We were pushovers after the Obama years, and maybe we needed a tough guy like Trump to stand up for us.”
Commercial fisherman George Barisich says America needs someone like President Trump. (Photo courtesy George Barisich)
Melody Riley says she admires Trump’s tenacity and believes he is mistreated by Democrats and the news media.
“I feel he handled COVID-19 as good as any president could have,” she says. “There’s nothing he could do that isn’t criticized. He could cure cancer and he’d still be ripped apart for it.”
At 70-years-old, Caretto is not quite as glowing with his evaluation of Trump’s COVID response. He says he’s been forced to stay inside for most of the last four months and wishes the President had pushed harder for people to wear masks.
But such criticism isn’t likely to cost Trump a substantial number of votes in Louisiana, according political observers in the state, where for many people pulling the lever for a Democrat is unthinkable.
Riley and other like-minded Louisiana Republicans are adamant that there’s no viable alternative to Trump.
“The American people aren’t stupid,” she says, “You’d have to be crazy to vote for a Democrat.”
Amid concerns expressed by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators over some of his actions, U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO Michael Pack said in a letter he is committed to fixing management issues in the agency after being tasked with making “bold and meaningful changes.”
The letter, dated July 8 and obtained by the Associated Press and CNBC, came in response to one he received from a bipartisan group of senators. The senators’ letter said Pack acted without consulting or notifying Congress, and that his decisions to fire the heads of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks and the Open Technology Fund “raise serious questions” about the future of the agency, which also includes Voice of America, under his leadership.
“The president, the American people, and the Senate asked me to make bold and meaningful changes,” Pack said. “Indeed, throughout the confirmation process, and in the weeks since taking the helm, I made clear my commitment to fixing the widely-known management issues that have long beleaguered USAGM and, in turn, its institutions.”
“During the confirmation process, I pledged to respect and protect the independence of the USAGM journalists, and I stand by that pledge,” Pack said. “I also wish to reiterate my firm commitment to honoring the VOA Charter and to supporting the missions of the other USAGM networks and our heroic journalists around the world. As an agency, through accurate and reliable reporting, we have to get the truth to those starved for it.”
Trump’s VOA Criticism Shows US-Funded News Doesn’t Mean US-Approved Public dispute highlights unique position of government-funded, editorially independent journalism
In addition to the concerns of members of the Senate, a group of 11 Democrats in the House of Representatives said in a letter to the heads of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Program that they were “deeply concerned about the firings of qualified leadership” and “reports that USAGM has frozen funds and grants” for programs aimed at evading censorship and providing tools for internet freedom in Hong Kong and elsewhere.
Beyond personnel and budgetary matters, the lawmakers expressed concern that the agency’s “truth-based reporting and programming” would be jeopardized if its editorial independence was eroded.
The veteran advocacy organization Vote Vets on Sunday blasted President Donald Trump for holding a photo-op at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
After a round of golf on Saturday, Trump traveled to the hospital to be photographed by the press pool wearing a mask, which was a first since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vote Vets, which says it has raised over $120 million since being founded in 2006 and made over 50 million voter contacts, released a new video on Trump’s visit.
The ad says it shows “what wounded warriors see when Trump comes for a photo-op.”
Words then begin to appear on Trump’s mask.
“Putin won’t let me say a word about Russian bounties on your heads,” the words read.
The hashtag #TraitorTrump then appears on the mask.
Since you’re all so focused on the mask…#TraitorTrump #PhotoOp pic.twitter.com/2SHXAOYfAH
— VoteVets (@votevets) July 12, 2020