“I think it’s become clearer that fairness is overrated,” so said Lester Holt, the anchor of the NBC Nightly news. “Before you run off and tweet that headline, let me explain a bit. The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention.” Sounds right until you put his statement in perspective. Even sunrises and sunsets are viewed differently at the South Pole than in New York.
The problem of this kind of statement from a journalist (The nightly News is a news show, not an opinion) is who chooses what and who to exclude. Most things in the news aren’t as straightforward as 2 & 2=4. Providently, we have a test case of the “Holt Doctrine” in CCN’s recent news special, “COVID WAR: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out.” The six doctors responsible for the previous Administration’s COVID-19 response reflect on the past year with CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
This group of doctors formed Trump’s medical team, and he initially relied on their information and advice. Given billions of dollars annually, the federal medical establishment is there to protect us against epidemics. These were the “experts” to use “science” to guide us safely through a crisis.
On the special, the doctors informed Gupta Trump thwarted them from doing their job. The President gave mixed messages and put the economy before deaths. After the initial lockdowns, Trump called for re-opening. Instead of relying on this team, “there were too many parallel streams of data,” Birx said.
“These parallel data streams, you think they originated with Scott Atlas?” Gupta asked. Dr.Atlas, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, joined the Administration as an advisor in August 2020. Supposedly misleading information coming from Atlas was enough for Birx to refuse to attend meetings with him. I told people I would not be in a meeting with Dr. Atlas again,” she said. “I felt very strongly that I didn’t want an action that legitimized in any way his position.”
There you have it; these doctors setting forth the “science” but were foiled by Trump and his Rasputin, Dr. Atlas. This alliance, according to Dr. Birx, lead to tens of thousands of additional deaths. Thank goodness for Dr. Fauci. “The decision we made on January 10 to go all-out and develop a vaccine, may have been the best decision that I’ve ever made with regard to intervention as the director of the institute,” claimed Dr. Fauci.
CNN didn’t see fit to interview Dr. Atlas or former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who also had a contentious relationship with the group. CNN only asked for comments.
This course would fit the Holt doctrine. We only hear those representing the “science.” Naysayers, such as Atlas and Azar, only confuse people. Backing up the Doctors on the CNN show is NBC’s shared news network, MSNBC. It offered a robust defense of the Doctors on CNN against a rebuttal elsewhere by ex-president Trump. After all, the NBC News family’s creed is some points of view don’t deserve “fairness.”
The Holt Doctrine’s problem is you might be presenting the wrong side of the controversy and excluding the right side. CNN chose to offer one group of advisors story while excluding others even when they were disparaged in their TV special. This presentation is unfortunate as it gives cover to those on the wrong side while diminishing those who had it right. As readers of this blog are aware, I’ve opposed this group almost from the start. Starting on March 20, 2020, my series on Covid-19 maps out why they were wrong and what I’d do differently. I see no need to change a word.
President Trump was correct in seeking another perspective. The federal pandemic group was caught flat-footed. Given billions, there was no stockpile of PPE. They failed to press China and the World Health Organization to find what was happening. Constantly shifting positions on everything from masks to China flights explains the early lack of a coherent plan. They totally messed up testing. The doctors in panic demanded a national lockdown to “flatten the Curve.” Our hospitals would be if we didn’t close down the economy for a short time. The lockdown advice kept stretching out. Businesses were closing forever, and children endlessly out of school. No wonder the President sought other ideas.
Dr. Scott Atlas was an excellent choice. A medical policy expert at the Hoover Institution, he has advised a wide range of politicians, including Mitt Romney. Data crunching and risk-reward analysis are his calling cards. Based on the data, he proposed shifting resources to protect the most vulnerable and open the schools. As lockdowns do more harm than good, they need to end. The pandemic won’t end until we achieve “Herd Immunity” either naturally through infection or a vaccine or combination of the two. He was hardly alone in his advice. “The Great Barrington Declaration’ signed by thousands of doctors and scientists of note made the same arguments.
For Atlas’ trouble, his positions got this response from the “Doctors Group,” “The subtlety here though is the thought you can protect the vulnerable and let sort of the well build up this herd immunity,” Giroir said. “Dr. Birx and I and the rest of the docs said, ‘This is a fallacy.”
The states, to varying degrees, either stayed with lockdowns and restrictions as advised by the “Doctors Group” or opened up as recommended by Dr. Atlas and the Great Barrington signers. New York and California followed the former and Florida the latter. By virtually any measure, Florida proved it made the better choice to date. The disparity will only widen in the future with its children in school and the economy less devastated.
Every day we have more evidence of who was on the right track. Yet, CNN gave cover to failure. As we approach “Herd Immunity,” the group’s dismay at the concept is highlighted when Dr. Fauci’s boss at the National Institute of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, framed their misunderstanding of Project Warp Speed. He noted, “The fact that it “got done in 11 months from when we first knew about this virus is at least five years faster than it’s ever been before,” He continued, “The Operation Warp Speed, for which I give a great deal of credit to [former HHS Secretary Alex Azar], was an effort that many of us were not initially convinced was going to be necessary. And it was thought about as a Manhattan Project.”
Indeed Azer, along with Moncef Slaoui and General Gustave Perna, had performed the miracle leading to “Herd Immunity” shortly. President Trump and Dr. Atlas pressed hard for this outcome. Notice Dr. Fauci wasn’t any part of Warp speed’s leadership. In any case, only President Trump had the authority to guarantee or spend billions and the push to make it happen.
This CCN show illustrates why leaving journalism for the “Holt Doctrine” is a danger. Good journalism presents the facts on all sides and lets the consumer decide. When you give only one side, you’ve become an advocate; A server of propaganda. That the face of the NBC news family would propose such a course shows us how far real journalism has retreated from the scene. No wonder, the public’s respect for journalists is at a record low and falling.
A few observations. In the past, I’ve praised Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and the author Alex Berenson for having the courage of their convictions. As one who has never agreed with anyone on everything, I have a bone to pick with each.
The Governor has come out against the use of vaccine passports either by government or business. While I’m against any government mandates, the companies have every right to ask for proof of Covid immunity. The economics are compelling. A gathering of the fully vaccinated requires no masks or spacing. A rock concert at a 50,00 seat stadium can sell 50,000 tickets. If the unvaccinated are present, distancing rules could cut that number in half or worse. A mask requirement would dim the experience. With far less revenue, there might not even be a concert. The same economics apply to a multitude of businesses.
We know Cruises are already limiting sailings to the immune. As I pointed out in my last post, a standard of proof helps everybody. Someone planing a cruise from a Florida cruise port may find the airline, pre, and post-cruise hotels verification differs from the cruise line. Add incoming flights from a foreign country with multiple stops, and you have a nightmare. Right now, I have a paper CDC card giving the date and type of Covid shots received. Is that going to get me on the cruise? Can the Cruise line even have an all-immune cruise? The Governor needs to think this through and clarify his position. A business has the right to run its business.
I’ve recommended Alex Berhenson’s book series “Untold Truths about Covid-!9 & Lockdowns,” but Part 4 on vaccines has me head-scratching. Further, in a tweet, he states, “The Israeli data is increasingly clear – the clinical trials significantly overstated their efficacy.” I can’t find anything to support this contention. On vaccines, Alex and I are on a different page. The data out of Israel is as good as anything I could want. I’ve taken both doses of Pfizer and have endorsed it to all. I have found nothing in Berenson’s arguments to change my stance. Get the shot!
With unemployment down to 6% and Covid shots up to 4 million a day, of course, Biden is claiming credit. What if anything did his Administration contribute materially to these excellent results? Remember, the Biden administration has refused to adopt the UK’s first shots first strategy or use our AstraZeneca stash to get coverage quicker. The Data continues to show the steady progress towards May Herd Immunity I forecast before Biden ever took office. I based my estimate on public Warp Speed data: