By:
December 17, 2020

You will hear this story and wonder: How did we get here? How did we get to the point where someone is threatened simply because she wants to keep them and those around them safe and healthy and, well, alive?

But that’s what has happened. The mayor (well, now former mayor) of Dodge City, Kansas, resigned this week after receiving threats for voting for and publicly supporting a mask mandate. Joyce Warshaw received phone and email threats all because she supported a mandate for her town to wear masks in most indoor public places. Warshaw was part of the five-member Dodge City commission that voted 4-1 for the mask mandate.

The vote actually took place in mid-November when COVID-19 cases were surging in Dodge City and the surrounding area. But this story blew up last Friday when the USA Today’s Andrea Ball, Jayme Fraser and Trevor Hughes wrote a story with this headline: “A small town dragged its feet on COVID-19 mask mandates. Now residents are paying the price.”

That’s when Warshaw started getting violent threats. On Tuesday, she resigned, saying in her resignation letter, “Life has dealt out many challenges in our world that have perhaps caused many people to act inappropriately but I do not feel safe in this position anymore and am hopeful in removing myself this anger, accusations and abuse will not fall on anyone else and will calm down.”

During an appearance on Wednesday’s “MSNBC Live with Ayman Mohyeldin,” she said the threats were “very inappropriate and very threatening.” Warshaw told The Washington Post’s Teo Armus that the threats included those telling her to burn in hell, get murdered and, in one case, “We’re coming for you.”

She told Mohyeldin, “I have no regrets about my vote to support a mask mandate and simply because I followed the advice of medical professionals in our community and across the nation. I followed science and everything indicated that if we were going to get numbers down and get control of this pandemic we had to do what we could do and that included a mask for everyone.”

Still, she said she received threats about an issue that, sadly, has become about politics instead of science for many.

“I am a believer that it has become a political issue when it really is a health issue, it’s a science issue, and our country has allowed it to become a political issue,” she said on MSNBC.

I also want to point out the story about the resignation written by the Dodge City Daily Globe’s Vincent Marshall. In a tearful interview with Marshall, Warshaw said, “This is harder for me than people realize. I really love this city with all my heart. I still believe in this city and I believe in their ability to not harm one another.”

Liking this tweet

What comes immediately after a coronavirus vaccine? Misinformation about a coronavirus vaccine.

We’re still in the very early stages of Americans being vaccinated to fight COVID-19, but already Twitter has announced plans to address misinformation shared on its platform.

Twitter Support tweeted on Wednesday, “In collaboration with key public health partners, we’ve updated our approach to misleading information to address Tweets that contain potentially harmful misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines.”

And then it linked to its COVID-19 misleading information policy.

A tweet will be removed or labeled if it: advances a claim of fact, expressed in definitive terms; is demonstrably false or misleading, based on widely available, authoritative sources; and is likely to impact public safety or cause serious harm.

This policy addresses five categories of misleading behavior and content:

  • False or misleading information about the nature of the virus.
  • False or misleading information about the efficacy and/or safety of preventative measures, treatments, or other precautions to mitigate or treat the disease.
  • False or misleading information about official regulations, restrictions, or exemptions pertaining to health advisories.
  • False or misleading information about the prevalence of the virus, or risk of infection or death.
  • False or misleading affiliation. (This means, “You can’t create fake accounts which misrepresent their affiliation, or share content that falsely represents its affiliation to a medical practitioner, public health official or agency, research institution, or that falsely suggests expertise on COVID-19 issues.”)

This clearly won’t stop misinformation from rapidly spreading throughout the internet, but at least Twitter is addressing this issue, hopefully minimizing irresponsible and just plain wrong tweets about the vaccine and the virus.

‘Good Morning America’ speaks to VP-elect Harris

Kamala Harris (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris spoke exclusively to Robin Roberts on Wednesday’s “Good Morning America.” Harris told Roberts she feels a “very big sense of responsibility” as a historic vice president.

“Joe and I were elected to do a job, which is to build back better and to fight for the best of who we are as a nation,” Harris said about her and President-elect Joe Biden. “And he and I as partners, if we are able to do that together, I think our country will be the better for it.”

Harris also addressed topics such as a stimulus bill, the COVID-19 vaccine and a 100-day mask mandate.

“There’s no punishment, nobody … they don’t have to,” Harris said. “But (Biden) is saying, as a leader, ‘Please, everybody work with me here. For the first 100 days, let’s everybody just wear a mask and see — and see the outcomes there.’”

In January, Harris will become the first female vice president, as well as the first African American and Asian American to hold that office. What will that moment be like?

“I’ll be thinking about my mother,” Harris told Roberts. “I’ll be thinking about all those girls and boys. You know, before the pandemic struck, fathers and the mothers that would bring them around and say, ‘You know, you can do anything.’”

Trump goes after Fox News

Fox News is dead. Well, according to President Donald Trump it is. The outgoing president took to Twitter on Wednesday to go after his once-favorite network. A little after 8 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday, Trump tweeted, “Can’t believe how badly @FoxNews is doing in the ratings. They played right into the hands of the Radical Left Democrats, & now are floating in limboland. Hiring fired @donnabraziIe, and far worse, allowing endless negative and unedited commercials. @FoxNews is dead. Really Sad!”

Then, a little after 10 a.m., Trump tweeted, “Perhaps the biggest difference between 2016 and 2020 is @FoxNews, despite the fact that I went from 63,000,000 Votes to 75,000,000 Votes, a record 12,000,000 Vote increase. Obama went down 3,000,000 Votes, and won. Rigged Election!!!”

Almost immediately, Twitter labeled the second tweet with “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”

What’s odd, as Mediaite’s Colby Hall points out, is that Trump’s first tweet went out only moments after a Fox News appearance by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who was appearing in her role as a Trump campaign spokesperson (yeah, it seems ridiculous that she changes job titles depending on what she wants to say). During her appearance on “Fox & Friends,” McEnany made noise about Trump running for president in 2024.

“Yes, yes, he is still focused on 2020,” McEnany said. “But 2024 … look, he’s the leader of this movement no matter what happens in 2020, 2024 is there for his taking. His base is strong. They’re not going away. The forgotten men and women are forgotten no longer because they had four years of President Trump. Hopefully, four more but in 2024, it’s there if President Trump would like it.”

Ingraham’s new deal

In this July 20, 2016 file photo, Laura Ingraham speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

On the topic of Fox News, the network announced Wednesday that it has signed primetime host Laura Ingraham to a new multi-year deal. Ingraham will continue to host her 10-11 p.m. Eastern show “The Ingraham Angle,” which she has been hosting in primetime since October 2017.

In a statement, Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott said, “Laura’s one-of-a-kind expertise and powerful commentary has provided an important voice to millions of Americans as a staple of our primetime lineup and we are thrilled to feature her insightful perspective across our platforms for many years to come.”

In the same statement, Ingraham said, “With so many challenges facing Americans, I am more determined than ever to deliver the incisive, pull-no-punches analysis and commentary that our viewers expect and enjoy.”

I’m no fan of Ingraham and her steady stream of reckless comments and mean-spirited attacks. I believe her self-described “pull-no-punches analysis and commentary” is often irresponsible and does great harm. But there’s no doubt she connects with Fox News viewers and Fox News certainly sees her as a big asset. Her show averages about 3.6 million viewers — a very solid cable news number.

Breaking up with Trump

President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The headline on the latest column by Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan: “Journalists, it’s time for a cold-turkey breakup with Trump.”

Sullivan writes how the media has transformed over time when dealing with Trump — how it went from doubting that he would ever become president to becoming obsessed with him once he did. Sullivan also admitted how Trump might have helped the media with higher TV news ratings, increased newspaper subscriptions (well, for some newspapers) and for folks like me — media writers.

Sullivan writes that Trump might be leaving the White House, but he will try to remain in the spotlight. She then has this advice for the media:

“But so what? The media should — for once — decline to take the bait.

Don’t allow him to become a self-styled president in exile, the golf-cart version of Napoleon on Elba. Do not set up a Mar-a-Lago bureau.

Don’t have entire reporting beats dedicated to what he and his family members are up to. And for God’s sake, stop writing about his unhinged tweets.”

Trump will still make news, Sullivan acknowledges, and when it truly is newsworthy, the media should cover it.

“But the rest of it?” Sullivan writes. “The preening, the insults, the efforts to take down the lawfully elected president, the constant, straight-up lies? Let’s give it a good long rest, shall we? We’ve all had our fill. And then some.”

The Post is looking good

According to a Twitter thread from Washington Post media writer Paul Farhi, there was positive news coming out of the Post’s virtual town hall employee meeting on Wednesday. According to Farhi, the Post will show a profit for the fifth consecutive year. Digital subscriptions are now approaching 3 million.

The Post will have two new international news hubs, in Europe and Asia. And, in 2021, it plans to add 150 new positions, the largest annual increase in the Post’s history.

How to get to Sesame Street

NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden meeting with children at a refugee camp in Bangladesh earlier this year. (Courtesy: NBC News)

On this morning’s “Today” show, NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden will have an exclusive first-hand look at Sesame Street’s work inside the largest refugee camp in the world. Back in February, before the start of the pandemic, McFadden went to Bangladesh and the camp, which is home to more than 700,000 children.

McFadden will have a behind-the-scenes look at Sesame Street’s development of new puppets to help the Rohingya children in the camps. Those two puppets have been in development since then and will be revealed for the first time on today’s “Today” show.

Lie of the year

In case you missed the big news on Wednesday, Poynter’s PolitiFact published its 2020 “Lie of the Year.” It was “Coronavirus downplay and denial.”

I had a chance to speak with PolitiFact editor-in-chief Angie Drobnic Holan on how this year’s lie was chosen, what other lies were considered and where this year’s lie ranks all-time with other lies over the years. Click here for that Q&A.

Clarification

In Wednesday’s newsletter, I wrote how Condé Nast has promoted Anna Wintour to be in charge of its magazines worldwide. The New Yorker is a Condé Nast property. However, to be clear, Wintour will not oversee The New Yorker. Its editor, David Remnick, will continue to report directly to Condé Nast chief executive Roger Lynch, as will Wintour.

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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