Monday, November 15, 2021


Some attention is being paid to a Twitter thread from Steve Schmidt, the former Republican Party operative who left the GOP during the Donald Trump years:

It's good that Schmidt is attacking Trump, Murdoch, and Zuckerberg. But he's missing some obvious points.

Zuckerberg operates globally. Murdoch, as Schmidt notes, operates in Britain and Australia as well. Why aren't the pandemic conversations in the U.K. and Australia nearly as toxic as the conversation here? Is Trump's influence that powerful in America, even now?

There are villains Schmidt didn't name. The angry anti-public-health movement that emerged in the spring of 2020 was funded by right-wing billionaires like Uline founder Richard Uihlein and his wife, Liz, as well as the usual suspects in Charles Koch's network. AP reported this in May 2020:
Republican political operatives are recruiting “extremely pro-Trump” doctors to go on television to prescribe reviving the U.S. economy as quickly as possible, without waiting to meet safety benchmarks proposed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

The plan was discussed in a May 11 conference call with a senior staffer for the Trump reelection campaign organized by CNP Action, an affiliate of the GOP-aligned Council for National Policy....

CNP Action is part of the Save Our Country Coalition, an alliance of conservative think tanks and political committees formed in late April to end state lockdowns implemented in response to the pandemic. Other members of the coalition include the FreedomWorks Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council and Tea Party Patriots.
In late July 2020, NBC News reported:
A dozen doctors delivered speeches in front of the U.S. Capitol on Monday to a small crowd, claiming without evidence that the coronavirus could be cured and that widely accepted efforts to slow its spread were unnecessary and dangerous. It was the latest video to go viral from apparent experts, quietly backed by dark money political organizations, evangelizing treatments for or opinions about the coronavirus that most doctors, public health officials and epidemiologists have roundly decried as dangerous misinformation....

Dressed in white coats with "America's Frontline Doctors" stitched on the chest, the stars of the Facebook video claimed that business and school closings, social distancing and even masks were not needed, because hydroxychloroquine, a drug commonly used to treat malaria, could both prevent and cure the coronavirus....

The event was hosted and funded by the Tea Party Patriots....

[TPP], which collects funds through two nonprofit groups and a political action committee, has raised over $24 million since 2014 to support Republican causes and candidates.
America's Frontline Doctors now promotes ivermectin. The group's leader, Dr. Simone Gold, was part of the pro-Trump mob inside the Capitol on January 6.

Right-wing billionaires funded this movement and their more mainstream beneficiaries -- Republican politicians -- embraced it. In the political sphere, Trump hasn't acted alone. Republican officeholders such as Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, and Kristi Noem deserve quite a bit of the blame for denouncing lockdowns, mask mandates, and efforts to increase vaccination and shield businesses and other institutions from the risks posed by the unvaccinated.

I'm pleased that Steve Schmidt is angry. But his list of villains is far too short.

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