While the number of Covid-19 cases surge across the United States, CNN reports that key public health figures such as Dr Anthony Fauci have not been given permission by the White House administration to appear on American television.
Members of the White House’s task force on Covid-19 were familiar figures on US television in the early days of the pandemic. Fauci in particular won praise for his calm, no-nonsense advice, which was often in contrast to the more speculative and confused messaging from Donald Trump.
Fauci last appeared on US television on 12 June, and CNN says other members of the Covid-19 taskforce, such as Dr Deborah Birx and Dr Robert Redfield, now rarely grant interviews. One source told CNN that high-profile officials, including Fauci, have been unable to gain permission to appear on television. “Now is the time to be sending a strong public health message,” the official told CNN, noting that the cases of the virus are rising across large part of the country. The source added that Fauci is though to be too blunt about the dangers of Covid-19 during his appearances, or too “doom and gloom.”
Even figures who are seen as more amenable to the administration have struggled for airtime. The surgeon general, Dr Jerome Adams, has made just two broadcast appearances in the last few weeks, one was a local radio interview and the other was on NBC on Friday where he avoided answering questions about Trump’s decision not to wear a facemask at public gatherings. “Every single person has to make up their own mind,” Adams said on the subject.
CNN added that Dr Robert Redfield, the director of the Center for Disease Control, gave a briefing to reports on 25 June, but has otherwise been off air. Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services, has been more active and has appeared on most major networks in the last few weeks.
Fauci, meanwhile, has been getting his message across on other platforms. He has appeared on media that may not be used by the White House administration, such as podcasts and foreign broadcasts.
News from St Louis, where the Associated Press reports that on Friday night, peaceful protesters returned to a house where a white couple famously appeared with guns last Sunday, during a march demanding the resignation of the mayor:
Several hundred protesters made a peaceful return trip Friday to the St Louis mansion owned by a white couple whose armed defense of their home during an earlier demonstration earned both scorn and support.
Chanting protesters stopped at the gate just outside the palazzo-style home of Mark McCloskey, 61, and his 63-year-old wife, for about 15 minutes. Extra metal barriers blocked the entrance to Portland Place, where the protesters had walked earlier in the week on their way to the mayor’s home nearby.
More than a dozen men in plain clothes walked the grounds and peered out from a second-floor balcony. One protester briefly straddled an iron gate as if he was going to jump over, but did not. No one threw anything and no one behind the gates showed aggression. One man on the balcony clapped along with the chanting protesters. It was not known if the McCloskeys were home.
The McCloskeys are personal injury attorneys who became famous last Sunday. As an estimated 500 demonstrators marched near their home, the couple heard a commotion and saw a group of people break an iron gate marked with “No Trespassing” and “Private Street” signs, according to a police report.
Video posted online and viewed by millions showed Mark McCloskey wielding a long-barreled gun and Patricia McCloskey waving a small handgun. No shots were fired. Donald Trump retweeted the video.
An attorney for the couple, Albert Watkins, said they are longtime civil rights advocates and support the message of the Black Lives Matter movement. He said they grabbed their guns when two or three protesters who were white violently threatened them, their property and that of their neighbors.
Protest organizer Darryl Gray said on Friday: “Are we angry? Damn right we’re angry. But we’re nonviolent.”
A letter released on Wednesday by more than three dozen neighbors of the McCloskeys condemned “the behavior of anyone who uses threats of violence, especially through the brandishing of firearms, to disrupt peaceful protest, whether it be in this neighborhood or anywhere in the United States.”
The president is most likely asleep at the moment, given that he arrived back at the White House from South Dakota at 4.11am ET. His Twitter account, therefore, lies momentarily dormant.
Here’s a taste of what White House chief of staff Mark Meadows had to say to reporters on the flight back from Mount Rushmore:
“I think it was a historic speech with a historic backdrop. The response that we’re getting from all across America is … one that … applauded the boldness, the directness, and, candidly, the resolve with which the president wants to make sure that the America that we have today and tomorrow is the America that we celebrate each Fourth of July.”
In the words of the pool report, “Meadows was asked by a reporter why Trump did not mention the coronavirus pandemic ‘much’ during his remarks.
“He mentioned the pandemic. I don’t know that focusing on a pandemic is necessarily a topic that you would espouse on 4 July. It’s not to say that it’s … something that you ignore, which he didn’t, he acknowledged it.
“But at the same time, he’s put forth unbelievable resources to make sure that we address the Covid-19 virus. I’m confident that we’ll have a vaccine by this fall and we’re already seeing therapeutics being used more and more to start to lessen the death rate. And again it’s really a time for celebrating who we are as a nation – and that’s in good times and bad. There are still people wanting to come to America. They’re not fleeing America.”
Here’s David Smith again, on how Trump has fueled a growing (and increasingly absurd) culture war over face masks and their role in preventing American deaths:
Disturbing news from Seattle, where last night a car drove into a crowd of protesters on a closed portion of Interstate 5.
Two women were injured, authorities said. One suffered life-threatening injuries and the other had serious injuries. The Seattle fire department said the injured women appeared to be in their 20s.
Shortly after 2am on Saturday, video on social media showed a white car traveling at a high speed navigate around two vehicles which were positioned across the lanes as a barrier.
The car careened toward a handful of protesters on the freeway, striking two who flew into the air before landing on the ground.
“A vehicle drove through the closure and struck multiple pedestrians on the freeway,” a state patrol spokesman tweeted, shortly after 2am. The vehicle was stopped and the driver was in custody.
Later on Saturday, police said the driver and a passenger were uninjured, having fled the police earlier in the city of Ferndale. The driver had not been impaired, police said.
Seattle has been the site of prolonged unrest following the 25 May police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked nationwide protests over police brutality and systemic racism.
Good morning …
… and welcome to another day’s coverage of US politics, protest and public health crisis.
In the shadow of Mount Rushmore last night, Donald Trump marked Independence Day with an appeal for unity, calm and a common goal. Not really – he marked the national holiday by claiming the US was under assault from “far-left fascism”:
Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children. Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.
Trump likes Confederate flags and statues, remember. Perhaps Robert E Lee and Jefferson Davis, men who rebelled against America in the name of slavery – and were beaten trying – will be included in Trump’s “National Garden of American Heroes”, a vast outdoor park featuring statues of “the greatest Americans to ever live” which he announced by executive order.
Of course, there’s an election four months away and Joe Biden leads in most polls, national and battleground state, so think more of the president’s speech last night as an aperitif for that five-course contest than a sure sign of squabbles over building permits and bad statues of Senator Joe McCarthy to come. Pretty, it won’t be.
In other news, Donald Trump Jr’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior Trump campaign official, has the coronavirus. She joins a growing club: nearly 2.8 million Americans have been confirmed to have been infected and nearly 130,000 have died. The Trump White House’s reported new slogan for a country mired in a growing public health crisis? “We need to live with it.”
In South Dakota on Friday night, masks were voluntary, social distancing scarce.
Here’s Ed Pilkington on how New York is attempting to reopen. And here’s David Smith, from Washington, on how Trump is fuelling a culture war over the need to wear a mask: