Age: 58 |
Birth City: آبادان |
Joined on October 02, 2012
Our only good news: Toilet paper won’t run out
By Ronald Blumer
The Washington Post: As the great toilet paper panic of 2020 worsens, Americans may be starting to contemplate life without it. But in fact, this now-essential household product was not adopted on a widespread scale until less than a century ago. And, initially, Americans resisted adopting it — until the flush toilet came along making it essential.
Humans have long wiped their rears with whatever was at hand. We used leaves, moss, porous stones and even seashells. The Romans, in their communal lavatories, used a sponge on a stick which they would swish in a pail of water and then pass on to their neighbor. Corn cobs were popular in the farm belt of the American Midwest. Much of the world today doesn’t wipe at all, but uses water from a jug or a bidet to handle this task.
The Chinese, who first created paper more than 2,000 years ago, immediately put it to use wiping. When cheap wood pulp-based paper became ubiquitous in the 19th century, people used newspapers, handbills and frequently pages from the very thick Sears Roebuck catalogue to wipe themselves. In 1857, a New York businessman, Joseph C. Gayetty, began manufacturing “paper for the water closet,” touting it in his ads as “The Greatest Necessity of the Age!” Gayetty’s great invention came in a package of sheets.
But it was Seth Wheeler of Albany, N.Y., who, in 1871, became the first person to have the idea of perforating a roll of paper so that it could be conveniently torn off in sheets. In a flurry of subsequent patents, Wheeler also invented the cardboard tube at the center of the roll, and a holder for his new creation. In short, this Edison of wiping created all the elements of the product that adorns our bathrooms today.
Yet, for as brilliant and intuitive as Wheeler’s invention might seem to us today, convincing 20th-century Americans to buy his disposable product presented great difficulties. After all, why pay for Mr. Wheeler’s fancy roll when so much paper was available free and could serve the same purpose?
Toilet paper was also a luxury because well into 1940s most Americas used outhouses — effectively holes in the ground — to do their business. You could dump the entire Sunday edition of The Washington Post (which was the thickest edition of the week) into these receptacles, and it wouldn’t make much of a difference.
But during this time, cities were building sewers and a municipal water supply, and more and more houses were acquiring another great necessity of the age — indoor bathrooms. The flush toilet, unlike the outhouse, was much more particular in what it could digest. Toilets are connected to the sewer using an S-shaped trap to block off sewer gases from backing up into the house, but this circuitous plumbing can easily block up. It is the flush toilet that finally made toilet paper a product that everyone had to have.
Wheeler died in 1925, and it was others, notably the Scott brothers who for a while dominated the industry. They used modern advertising techniques, such as scary ads promising hemorrhoids if you used a rival’s less expensive product to sell their brand. But the market was huge and growing and soon other companies found ways to compete, offering softer multiplied layered rolls and even colored paper to match the bathroom’s decor.
The success has been stunning.
In the United States alone, toilet paper has become a 2.5-billion-dollar industry — a product that most see as essential to their daily lives — which explains the present-day panic. And while the product has become softer and more rear-end friendly since Wheeler conceived it, his basic concept has not changed.
But there is good news for those worried about a shortage of toilet paper, in light of hoarding and empty shelves. Unlike some of the critical medical equipment and protective attire hamstrung by overseas supply chains, the paper industry has remained local and with ready access to its raw material, wood pulp and recycled paper.
We shall have many problems in the coming months, but a shortage of this “greatest necessity of the age” is not something we have to worry about.
How did Spain get its coronavirus response so wrong?
The Guardian: It is one of the darkest and most dramatic moments in recent Spanish history. In the chilling table of daily dead from the coronavirus pandemic, Spain has taken top position from Italy - with 738 dying over 24 hours.
Spain is now the hotspot of the global pandemic, a ghoulish title that has been passed from country to country over four months – starting in Wuhan, China, and travelling via Iran and Italy. As it moves west, we do not know who will be next.
What went wrong? Spain had seen what happened in China and Iran. It also has Italy nearby, just 400 miles across the Mediterranean and an example of how the virus can spread rapidly and viciously inside Europe.
Yet Spaniards cannot blame that proximity. There are no land borders with Italy, while France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia – all countries that are doing much better – do have them.
This may, in fact, be one of the reasons for the country’s late response. Spain thought it was far enough away. “Spain will only have a handful of cases,” said Dr Fernando Simón, the head of medical emergencies in Madrid, on 9 February. Six weeks later he gives out daily figures of hundreds of deaths. The number of dead per capita is already three times that of Iran, and 40 times higher than China.
On 19 February, 2,500 Valencia soccer fans mixed with 40,000 Atalanta supporters for a Champions League game in Bergamo which Giorgio Gori, mayor of the Italian city, has described as “the bomb” which exploded the virus in Lombardy.
In Spain, Valencia players, fans and sports journalists were amongst the first to fall ill.
The main reason for the quick spread through Spain may be completely mundane. It has been an unusually mild, sunny Spring. In late February and early March, with temperatures above 20C (68F), Madrid’s pavement cafes and bars were heaving with happy folk, doing what Madrileños like best – being sociable. That means hugging, kissing and animated chatter just a few inches from someone else’s face.
On 8 March, just a week before the country was closed down, sports events, political party conferences and massive demonstrations to mark International Women’s Day all took place. Three days later, about 3,000 Atlético de Madrid fans flew together for another Champions League match in Liverpool.
The Socialist-led government of Pedro Sánchez reacted late and clumsily. The country lacked essential equipment. Ventilators, protective clothing for doctors and coronavirus tests are still only just being sourced. China has gone from villain to saviour, as equipment and tests pour in – much of it brokered by the same Chinese immigrant community that has closed shops and shut itself away to avoid a racist backlash.
The virus has laid bare, too, deep faults in the Spanish care system. Private old people’s homes must turn a profit while charging people prices they can afford – which may be a basic pension of just over 9,000 euros. As a result, these were understaffed, unprepared and quickly overwhelmed, with death rates of up to 20%. The army was sent in, and found some people lying dead in their beds.
Spain has a magnificent primary care system, but its hospitals have been hit by a decade of austerity since the financial crisis. It has only a third of the hospital beds per capita that are provided by Austria or Germany. Yet that is still more than the UK, New Zealand or the US.
When Sánchez announced that he would be invoking emergency powers, he took more than 24 hours to put them in place – by which time part of the population of Madrid and other cities had dispersed across the country.
Poor coordination meant that the regional government of Madrid had closed universities and schools earlier that week, provoking a holiday atmosphere in which bars and parks were full and many families left for their beach homes.
The lockdown that began on 14 March has been efficiently enforced with police fines and popular pressure (including eggs hurled from balconies). As a result, Spain’s ghastly curve of fatalities will begin to flatten soon and ministers say measures should start being relaxed when the month-long quarantine ends on 11 April. Yet no-one expects a return to normality.
When this is over, Spain will be extremely fragile. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, unemployment soared to 27%, public debt leapt upwards and the nosedive into recession was amongst the worst in Europe. Much the same will happen this year.
The solutions imposed a decade ago – austerity, jobs losses and salary cuts – will not be tolerated. The economist Toni Roldán has calculated that Spain needs a 200bn euro loan from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). That, however, must wait. For the moment, Spain must beat the virus. This has been the toughest moment so far, but there may be worse to come.
Trump ‘Furious’ And Potentially Ready To Openly Defy Anthony Fauci
By Shannon Barber
Hill Reporter: Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has emerged as the one steady hand on Trump’s coronavirus task force, but that could all be coming to an end.
Trump is reportedly “furious” with the grandfatherly figure who has brought sense and calm to daily coronavirus briefings, and he was noticeably absent from a recent briefing, prompting Twitter trends and panic amongst the American people. It turns out the panic was justified.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, an anxious Trump is toying with the idea of simply going against all medical advice and ordering Americans back to the streets, to work, to daily life as if there is no COVID-19. Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair described what a former White House aide has said of the situation:
“Trump is furious. He’s been calling business leaders asking if he should just reopen the economy.”
Trump’s own tweets echo these sentiments. He has recently sent out a capitalized missive that reads,
“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”
“Sources say that Trump is leaning toward telling at least some Americans to return to work after the 15-day social-distancing period ends on March 31. This puts Trump on a potential collision course with Fauci that many fear will end with Fauci being fired or quitting. ‘Fauci is the best medical expert we have. We can’t lose him,’ a former White House official said. Signs of tension between Trump and Fauci have been emerging.”
This is obviously the last thing America needs. Trump has a penchant for firing people who make him look foolish, and who will not fall in line with his plans.
It surely seems that Anthony Fauci, from the infamous facepalm forward, just might be on the chopping block. Our hope of survival will likely die with his job.
Lord help us, America.
Can Trump be trusted not to abuse his coronavirus emergency powers?
By Tom McCarthy
The Guardian: Standing in the Brady briefing room at the White House last week Donald Trump said that despite new restrictions on the number of journalists allowed in the room, there were still too many reporters around.
“You’re actually sitting too close,” the president told the journalists. “We should probably get rid of about another 75, 80% of you. I have just two or three that I like in this room.”
If it was a joke, the timing was terrible.
As the coronavirus crisis has grown, so too has the power of the president’s whim to shape American life, whether that means choosing which states get emergency medical equipment first, deciding where to deploy troops to build temporary hospitals – or controlling what the public knows about what the government is doing.
In recent weeks, Trump has invoked emergency powers enabling him to waive certain healthcare regulations and direct enormous streams of cash to areas of need. He has also announced that the federal government would use its authority to direct private companies to boost the production of surgical masks, gloves and other equipment, although the status of those efforts was unclear.
For now the risk – the seeming surety – of a national disaster has fostered a willingness in even Trump’s harshest critics for him to aggressively seize the reins of his office and marshal the power of the federal government toward a muscular and decisive response that could save thousands of lives.
But with this widespread desire for action has come related concerns about where, exactly, that power will stop growing, when the emergency crests, and how that power will shrink when the crisis subsides.
Civil society advocates warn the fog of crisis could give Trump cover to grab adjacent powers, not related to the current emergency, that might be difficult to claw back – especially if Congress and the courts failed to check Trump after the fact.
“Ordinarily, that’s not something you’d be worried about, because it would seem kind of unthinkable for a president to exploit a pandemic to arrogate a bunch of power that he doesn’t need,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice.
“But we have seen that this president is willing to abuse emergency powers, and to use them for political gains. And so we have to worry.”
By invoking the National Emergencies Act on 13 March, Trump gained access to emergency powers in more than 100 other statutes, Goitein said, “and if you look at those authorities, very few of them relate to health crises”. With incremental action, Trump could expand government control of the internet, freeze private assets or change the size and composition of the armed forces.
Other steps Trump has taken in the coronavirus response, such as restricting international borders and imposing mandatory quarantines for certain travelers, do not rely on emergency authorities but could create a legacy of expanded executive power that advocates fear could outlast the virus.
One step Trump did not take after his administration declared a public health emergency on 31 January was to reallocate funds to speed approval for drugs and ramp up the production of coronavirus tests kits. Trump’s failure to deploy that power, the University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck said, may have ironically created a scenario in which he ends up using much broader powers.
“The president’s dilatory use of the powers he has, I think, is going to end up requiring him to use a lot more of that power, in ways that are a lot more controversial and a lot more coercive and a lot more inconsistent,” Vladeck told Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution in a Lawfare podcast about emergency powers and coronavirus.
Members of the Maryland national guard control entry to a section of parking lot on the south side of FedEx Field on Monday that officials said will become a clinic for coronavirus health screenings.
Concerns that the administration would look for ways to use the crisis to move the lines of the law were sharpened by reports last week that the justice department had asked Congress to pass legislation allowing federal judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies.
But analysts differ in their imaginations of how a dangerous expansion of power by Trump might unfold, with the economy in a tailspin and a presidential election on the horizon.
Under extraordinary powers accessible to Trump after his national emergency declaration, he could declare the coronavirus to be a “foreign threat” and impose financial sanctions on anyone he said was contributing to the threat, such as a media company or a political opponent.
He could announce an interstate travel ban, enforceable by the military, citing a need to stop the spread of the virus. Along similar lines, he could take steps that could make it harder for some people to vote in the presidential election in November – or make it more difficult for legal challenges to such steps to be heard in court.
“It’s not hard to imagine the federal courts in general, and this supreme court in particular, being remarkably deferential to the federal government in a public health crisis like this one,” Vladeck told Wittes.
Or, in what analysts describe as a worst-case scenario, the justice department could move for a federal judge to declare a breakdown of local law enforcement – at which point Trump could theoretically deploy the military in the streets, in a manner breaking with past deployments of active-duty troops for disaster response.
As an ominous reference point, civil liberties advocates point to anti-democratic moves taken by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to close most courts, adjourn parliament and exploit secret cellphone data >>>
Iran's coronavirus deaths rise to 1,556, infections exceed 20,000: health ministry
Reuters: Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose by more than 100 to 1,556 on Saturday and the total number of people infected now exceeds 20,000, a health ministry official said.
Iran, one of the countries most affected by the pandemic outside China, had on Friday reported a death toll of 1,433 and a total number of confirmed infections of 19,644.
The total number of people diagnosed with the disease stood at 20,610 on Saturday, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on state TV.
Jahanpur warned that coronavirus cases would rise steeply unless people refrain from traveling during the two-week Iranian New Year holiday, which started yesterday.
“If people take it lightly and think that the coronavirus outbreak is over, and if urban and inter-city traffic and gatherings in resorts and natural parks increase ... then in one to two weeks we will see a new peak of the disease,” he said according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.
President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that social distancing measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak, including travel restrictions, will apply for only two to three weeks, expecting the crisis to ease by then.
Iran “has to do everything necessary to return economic production to normal,” he said in comments broadcast on state TV. He also accused “counter-revolutionaries” of plotting to shut down economic production.
Don’t Let Trump Off the Hook
By Jamelle Bouie
The New York Times: Donald Trump and the Republican Party are trying to distract you from their catastrophic failure.
Two months ago, as the world knows, Trump was praising China’s government for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, while downplaying the severity of the threat to the United States. “We have it totally under control,” he said in an interview to CNBC on Jan. 22. “It’s one person coming in from China and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” For good measure, he said it again on Twitter: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”
Now, of course, Trump simultaneously denies that anyone could have known about the pandemic (“I would view it as something that just surprised the whole world”) and claims to have predicted the extent of the disaster (“This is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic”). Similarly, he’s moved from praising President Xi Jinping’s government to attacking it. He’s also changed the language he uses to describe the pathogen that causes Covid-19. After weeks of saying “coronavirus,” he now calls it the “Chinese virus.”
The administration says it’s simply holding Beijing responsible for spreading the disease. And it is true that the Chinese government suppressed information and punished whistle-blowers, hiding the potential danger until it was too late. But given the president’s previous praise for China’s response, that explanation doesn’t hold up.
The likely truth is that Trump is flailing. His change in language came shortly after the stock market collapsed and the president faced harsh criticism for his sluggish response to the outbreak. Rather than face his failures — the United States is far behind its peers in testing, and its hospitals are largely unprepared for a surge of the severely ill — Trump turned to racial demagoguery. He would bounce back not by fixing his mistakes but by fanning fear of foreign threat.
Following the president’s lead, Republican lawmakers, activists and officials have adopted the president’s language about the virus while avoiding any discussion of his response to the outbreak. Senator John Cornyn of Texas told reporters that “China is to blame because” of “the culture where people eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that.” Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader of the House, called the disease “Chinese coronavirus.” And on Twitter, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa wondered what all the commotion was about: “I don’t understand why China gets upset bc we refer to the virus that originated there the ‘Chinese virus’ Spain never got upset when we referred to the Spanish flu in 1918&1919,” he wrote, in his typically hurried style.
None of this is the least bit clever. Trump failed to act when it was most important, and now his allies are flooding the zone with rhetoric meant to move attention away from the president’s poor performance and toward an argument over language.
One might think that Republicans have an interest in pushing the administration into a stronger response, but the truth is that Trump wasn’t the only member of his party to downplay the threat who knew better.
In January, just over two weeks after she was sworn in, Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia was part of a private briefing on the coronavirus provided by administration officials, including Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. That same day, according to The Daily Beast, she and her husband began to sell millions in stock, a process that continued over the next few weeks. They also made a purchase: between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of shares in a company that specializes in technology that helps people work remotely.
Loeffler seems to have sensed danger. But that’s not what she said to the public. “Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on #Coronavirus readiness,” she said on Twitter in February. “Here’s the truth: @realDonaldTrump & his administration are doing a great job working to keep Americans healthy & safe.”
(For her part, Loeffler denies any connection between her stock market activity and what she learned as a senator: “This is a ridiculous and baseless attack,” she wrote on Twitter late Thursday. “I do not make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisers without my or my husband’s knowledge or involvement.”)
In February, Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, co-wrote an op-ed in which he assured the public that “the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus.” A few days later, however, he sold somewhere between $628,000 and $1.7 million in stock, according to ProPublica. And a few days after that, NPR reported, he warned representatives from select companies and organizations (including donors to his 2016 re-election campaign) that the virus might move local communities to close schools and force the federal government to mobilize the military in response to acute medical need.
“We’re going to send a military hospital there; it’s going to be in tents and going to be set up on the ground somewhere,” Burr said. “It’s going to be a decision the president and DOD make. And we’re going to have medical professionals supplemented by local staff to treat the people that need treatment.”
It’s tempting to say that now is not the time for partisan recrimination. But this is the second consecutive Republican administration to lead the United States to disaster. The difference is that it took George W. Bush most of his two terms to bring the country to the brink of economic collapse — Trump has done it in less than four years. He’s even hit some of the same milestones; Bush let Hurricane Katrina drown New Orleans, Trump let Hurricane Maria destroy Puerto Rico.
In other words, now absolutely is the time for recriminations, because it’s the only way we might avoid another such administration in a country where control of government moves like a pendulum >>>
Trump's coronavirus conversion
CNN: "Beautiful day outside," President Donald Trump gushed on Sunday from the White House podium. "I think we have some great things to talk about," he added, explaining he was "very happy," because the Federal Reserve had just cut interest rates to near zero in an emergency response to the looming economic devastation of a fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic. "Relax," he advised anxious shoppers. "We have tremendous control" over the crisis.
We were watching a president trying to hold on to his old ideas, to his old ways. He would soon let go. In the hours that followed, the education of Donald Trump came into full view.
On Monday, a different Trump stood on the podium. "It's bad. It's bad," a grim President told the nation, announcing a new national plan to try to mitigate the exponential growth of the contagion.
Gone was the man who had denied and downplayed for weeks. From the earliest days he had acted as if by force of will, as if with just the right boast, he could make the news turn his way. As if all the markets needed to climb was a dose of Making America Great, and a few hearty -- potentially contagious -- handshakes with CEOs of "great companies" pledging to help in the crisis. Everything was going well, he insisted, hoping to get investors excited and reignite the stock market he has used as a gauge of his presidency.
It had taken several weeks, much too long during an epidemic, but the efforts of public health experts, and a stubbornly pessimistic stock market, finally tore apart the President's standard tactic that the best defense is always verbal pugilism and relentless boosterism.
Day by day, public health luminaries fighting the pandemic, people like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, were trying to educate America. But their most important pupil was the President himself.
Trump was an exasperating student, claiming to know as much as his teachers and propagating all manner of misinformation wrapped in self-aggrandizement. But eventually, he seemed to have got it. At least for that moment.
A UK study projecting more than a million deaths in the US, sent to the White House Coronavirus Task Force by its authors at Imperial College, apparently helped get his attention.
On Tuesday, Trump started sounding almost, almost, like a normal president in a crisis. He still bragged and dissembled ("I felt it was a pandemic long before other people called it that") but his tone was of seriousness and determination. He conceded that the problem is monumental and the timeline uncertain.
Trump, whose marketing and self-promotion propelled him to the world's most powerful position, discovered that not all problems respond to PR solutions; that no matter how he and his acolytes praised his performance, the virus kept barreling forward.
The President who gave us "alternative facts" appears to have discovered that an alternative reality is no reality at all. The bubble he built, the wall of sycophants he constructed to protect himself from criticism, was at last obliterated by realization that a bad situation is about to get worse, much worse. And that the only way to prevent a calamity of unthinkable proportions -- one that could doom his re-election -- is to listen to the experts.
It was late, very late. But better than never.
Imagine what his shock must have been when the day after the Fed cut interest rates, the market plunged to its largest point loss in history. For a president who has market performance as a measure of his success, it must have sent chills down his spine. The November election is less than eight months away.
Since the day he took office, experts have been warning that a pandemic was a threat. "Who could have ever predicted a thing like this," Trump bemoaned on Tuesday, as an anxious nation looked for guidance during a surreal time. The answer is, many experts. His administration was told. But Trump has not been a fan of experts. Until now.
By Tuesday afternoon he couldn't find enough words to praise the members of the coronavirus taskforce. He called them, "total pros. All over the world they're respected," saying Fauci has become "a major television star for all the right reasons."
The President, who came to office as a vaccine skeptic, an enemy of science, has apparently undergone a conversion. You could see it in his attentive focus on the words of renowned experts whose guidance he had been contradicting for weeks. When experts had said the case count would inevitably go up, he suggested the opposite. With only 15 cases in the US, he said, "We're going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people."
The number of coronavirus infections in the US is now more than 6,100.
Until Tuesday, Trump's public appearances with scientists have been unsettling, showing a disturbing lack of knowledge for someone in his position. His earlier missteps likely slowed the response and hurt his credibility. An NBC poll showed most Republicans ignoring the advice of experts, while Democrats understood the seriousness of the situation. An NPR/Marist poll showed only 37 percent of Americans believed they can trust the coronavirus information coming from Trump.
The President's jarring encounter with reality appears to have snapped him out of showman mode, at least for now.
For the sake of the country, for the sake of our health, let's hope the newfound respect for science and expertise from the President will outweigh his partisan and ideological instincts. Perhaps his look into the abyss can produce that miracle. But nothing will erase the record that before Trump had that awakening, his behavior muddied the urgent message that public health officials needed to convey in order to stop this deadly pandemic.
On Fox News, suddenly a very different tune about the coronavirus
By Paul Farhi and Sarah Ellison
The Washington Post: For weeks, some of Fox News’s most popular hosts downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, characterizing it as a conspiracy by media organizations and Democrats to undermine President Trump.
Fox News personalities such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham accused the news media of whipping up “mass hysteria” and being “panic pushers.” Fox Business host Trish Regan called the alleged media-Democratic alliance “yet another attempt to impeach the president.”
But that was then.
With Trump’s declaration on Friday that the virus constitutes a national emergency, the tone on Fox News has quickly shifted.
On his program on Friday, Hannity — the most watched figure on cable news — lauded the president’s handling of what the host is now, belatedly, referring to as a “crisis.”
“Tonight, we are witnessing what will be a massive paradigm shift in the future of disease control and prevention,” he said. “A bold, new precedent is being set, the world will once again benefit greatly from America’s leadership. . . . The federal government, state governments, private businesses, top hospitals all coming together, under the president’s leadership, to stem the tide of the coronavirus.”
In all, it has been a complicated dance for a network whose hosts are among Trump’s most ardent boosters and defenders — an increasingly challenging position to take as the crisis grew in magnitude. Trump, meanwhile, has long looked to Fox News and its personalities for guidance and approval, a dynamic that may have been pivotal this week after host Tucker Carlson reportedly visited with the president in person to urge him to take the coronavirus seriously.
Until then, Trump’s allies on Fox News were inclined to take the same stance that the president himself promoted for several weeks — that this coronavirus that had sickened and killed thousands of people in China was no worse a threat than the seasonal flu.
Just a week ago, Hannity shrugged at the pandemic. “So far in the United States, there’s been around 30 deaths, most of which came from one nursing home in the state of Washington,” he said last Tuesday. “Healthy people, generally, 99 percent recover very fast, even if they contract it.”
By way of comparison, he added: “Twenty-six people were shot in Chicago alone over the weekend. I doubt you heard about it. You notice there’s no widespread hysteria about violence in Chicago. And this has gone on for years and years. By the way, Democratic-run cities, we see a lot of that.”
From February: Conservative pundits blame a grab bag of supposed villains amid the coronavirus outbreak
Ingraham, whose program follows Hannity’s, also seems to have had a fast-dawning recognition that the social and economic dislocation of the virus was more than just a Democratic talking point wielded against the president.
In late February, Ingraham called Democrats the “pandemic party” and displayed photos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) alongside enlarged images of coronavirus molecules. “How sick that these people seem almost happiest when Americans are hurting,” she said.
She kept at it through last Tuesday when, in front of a graphic reading “Trump confronts the panic pushers,” Ingraham said, “The public in some ways seems a lot more levelheaded than the so-called experts. . . . The facts are actually pretty reassuring, but you’d never know it watching all this stuff.”
Her advice: “We need to take care of our seniors. If you’re an elderly person or have a serious underlying condition, avoid tight, closed places, a lot of people, don’t take a cruise maybe. Everyone else wash your hands, use good judgment about your daily activities. Yeah, pragmatic thinking, especially if you’ve been overseas recently in one of the hardest-hit areas.”
In fact, health experts have repeatedly said that everyone, not just “seniors” or the chronically ill, should avoid contact with other people, a strategy known as “social distancing.” Their advice extends to people everywhere, not just those who recently traveled abroad. (On Friday, Ingraham tweeted that it was a “great time to fly if not in at-risk population!” The tweet was later deleted.)
By Wednesday, after Trump announced a travel ban on people from the European Union, Ingraham had started calling the pandemic “this dangerous health crisis.” She characterized warnings issued by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Anthony S. Fauci about the potential spread of the disease as “sobering and scary to hear.”
Regan’s on-air speculation at the start of last week that coronavirus was merely another impeachment gambit for Democrats drew widespread pushback. Clearly the mood was changing at Fox by the time the network announced late Friday that her discussion-and-commentary program on Fox Business would leave the air indefinitely, to be replaced by long-form programming — part of a larger overhaul of the prime-time schedule, Fox officials said, intended to free up resources that would help bolster coverage of the crisis during “critical market hours.”
Fox insiders said that Regan’s removal from air showed that only some hosts — those with the biggest ratings — are protected at Fox News. “If you put Trish’s comments up against Laura [Ingraham’s], you can’t honestly tell me that Trish is off the air” because of her coronavirus commentary, said a former Fox News executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly about his past employer >>>
Arc of Trump’s coronavirus comments defies reality on ground
The Washington Post: In the course of a few weeks, President Donald Trump veered from confidently assuring Americans his administration had the coronavirus outbreak “very well under control” to declaring a national emergency and tweeting ALL CAPS caution about the pandemic that has upended every facet of American life.
Trump meandered from denial to grudging acceptance, and in his words, he seeded conflicting, inaccurate and eyebrow-raising commentary to a country desperate for unvarnished, even shock-to-the-system guidance.
Throughout the global coronavirus crisis, Trump’s statements have been colored by baseless optimism. Sometimes, his commentary has been flatly wrong. Frequently, it’s been amplified by aides and allies with the help of conservative media.
As he confronts the most serious national crisis of his presidency, the lack of precision has cut into Trump’s credibility at a moment when he needs it more than ever, analysts say.
“It started out with really what can only be described as full-blown denial,” said Brian Ott, a communications studies professor at Texas Tech University who has done extensive research on the president’s social media rhetoric. “Then as the crisis spread and as it became a pandemic ... it just wasn’t viable rhetoric anymore because it wasn’t at all where the American public was at.”
Early on, the president downplayed the coronavirus as something similar to the seasonal flu — nothing that Americans should be overly concerned about, and something that would quickly pass.
His optimistic public comments often didn’t match the reality on the ground or even how U.S. public health agencies were approaching the looming crisis behind the scenes.
In one of his first substantive public remarks on the virus, during a visit in late January to an auto parts manufacturer in Michigan, Trump acknowledged that the U.S. had seen a smattering of infections but predicted a “very good ending for it.”
At that the moment, there were only a handful of known cases in the United States, but the virus had already infected thousands in China and World Health Organization had declared the virus a “public health emergency of international concern.”
“We think we have it very well under control,” Trump told the assembled workers. “We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five. And those people are all recuperating successfully. But we’re working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it’s going to have a very good ending for it. So that I can assure you.”
The next day the Trump administration said it would suspend entry into the United States by any foreign nationals who had traveled to China in the past 14 days, excluding the immediate family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents. By then, more than 200 had died and nearly 9,800 had been infected worldwide.
Weeks later — on Feb. 25 — his top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, sought to ease volatile markets by assuring investors that the administration had the virus “contained” and “it was pretty close to airtight.” Kudlow added that coronavirus may be a “human tragedy” but predicted it wouldn’t be an “economic tragedy.” At one point, when the stock market was plunging, he even mention the prospect of “buying the dip.”
The optimism was jarring. As Kudlow was attempting to reassure markets, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on the same day of an incoming “disruption to everyday life.” The spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., agency officials warned, was “not so much of a question of if” but rather “a question of when.”
Even as Democratic criticism of his approach mounted, the president — backed by aides and allies — turned to lashing out that his enemies were trying to use the catastrophe to score political points. By late February, after confirmed infections in the U.S. had accelerated, Trump shifted to anger aimed at political opponents and the media and called their response a “new hoax.”
“Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus, you know that, right?” Trump lamented during a campaign rally in South Carolina days after the CDC warning. “Coronavirus, they’re politicizing it.”
Trump, at several moments throughout the crisis, has also seemed out of tune with aides and public health experts offering him guidance >>>