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Two News Shows, Two Americas: Covid, Barrett and the Unending 2020 Campaign

In an ongoing series, Courthouse News investigates two leading news programs — MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour” and “Fox News at Night” — to determine where each stand on the day’s events.

(CN) — MSNBC anchor Brian Williams kicked off Wednesday’s broadcast by diving right into the record number of Covid-19 cases across the United States, noting the recent resurgence has been fueled by small family gatherings.

“Particularly with Thanksgiving coming up, we think it’s really important to stress the vigilance of these continued mitigation steps in the household setting,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a clip played by Williams.

Williams was quick to point out that President Donald Trump’s recent campaign rally in Iowa flagrantly violated the state’s Covid-19 guidelines, playing a split-screen showing MAGA-masked attendees seated on camera behind the president while the bulk of the crowd wore no face coverings.

He next discussed Trump’s recent Covid-19 diagnosis, as well as that of first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron, who Trump claimed “had it for such a short period of time, I don’t even think he knew he had it.”

When asked whether Trump should call off his remaining campaign rallies, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “I can’t advise the president about what he can or should do in regard to political campaigns, but I can reiterate my statement that when you have congregate settings with a lot of people together closely packed, when most are not wearing masks, that is a high-risk situation to be avoided.”

Robert Costa, political reporter for The Washington Post, told Williams: “In my calls with Republicans tonight, with White House officials, it’s clear the president is personalizing the virus in his conversations with Republicans. He’s saying ‘Hey, I beat this.’ And there’s another factor beyond his own experience — it’s who is in his ear — and that’s Dr. Scott Atlas, the conservative doctor from the Hoover Institute at Stanford. He’s the one that’s really driving the president’s mindset on the virus. It’s not Dr. Fauci.”

Moving on to the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Williams asked his guests if the prospect of seating a third justice on the Supreme Court was “all the GOP had to keep them psyched these days.”

“Well, at this point what they would like to see is the focus on anything but those coronavirus numbers,” said Jill Colvin, White House reporter with The Associated Press. “If the nation is paying attention all day long to the Barrett hearings that’s something that can get Republicans and conservatives potentially excited.”

Colvin explained that anything to help draw the focus away from the Trump administration’s shoddy handling of the pandemic will inevitably improve his chances in the upcoming election, which seems to be the goal.

Williams underscored the discrepancies in some of Judge Barrett’s statements to the confirmation committee with statements and interviews she has given in the past, such as denying knowledge of the motivations driving an anti-LGBTQ group which donated money to her in the past. The group, known as “The Alliance for Defending Freedom,” has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Williams then played what he called a “greatest hits reel” showcasing Barrett’s alleged skill in avoiding a range of questions posed by Democratic lawmakers during her confirmation hearing. Among her more striking answers was “I can’t apply the law to a hypothetical set of facts,” given when asked by Senator Amy Klobuchar if intimidating voters is illegal under federal law.

Williams wrapped up his broadcast by returning to Covid-19, showing an overflow field hospital in Wisconsin dedicated to patients stricken by the virus.


Far from dwelling on unflattering pandemic statistics, Shannon Bream kicked off “Fox News at Night” with a focus on none other than Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. She proudly pointed out “there has been almost no coverage tonight by anybody but Fox.”

Citing a recent report in the New York Post, Bream claimed leaked emails from a Ukrainian businessman connect Joe Biden to a circle of influence peddling by Ukrainian energy giant Burisma. Biden’s camp claimed a meeting never took place, but Bream said his campaign has not officially denied the accusations.

Social media companies Facebook and Twitter both blocked access to the story through their services, leading GOP lawmakers to demand their executives come to Capitol Hill and explain the decision. Appearing to conflate the two, a Fox News correspondent said the companies claimed they acted “to slow the spread of potentially false information” — though he didn’t make clear exactly which company released the statement.

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, did acknowledge via a tweet that “our communication around our actions on the @nypost article was not great” and said his company would strive to do better.

Kevin Corke, White House correspondent for Fox News, gleefully explained that “the news by the big tech giants today will just about guarantee that even more people will hear and read about the Post piece on the Bidens.” Corke said some are suggesting their decision to block the story is tantamount to election interference.

Acknowledging that it didn’t take long, Bream played a clip of Trump angrily criticizing the companies for their bias. “The Bidens got rich while America got robbed,” taunted the president.

Moving on to the confirmation hearings of Judge Barrett, Bream painted a far kinder picture than Williams. Bream said Democrats are unfairly accusing Barrett of being in Trump’s pocket by claiming he’s fast-tracking her nomination with the aim of striking down the Affordable Care Act and to handing him the 2020 election.

“In all these questions you’re suggesting that I have animus or that I cut a deal with the president, and I was very clear yesterday that’s not what happened,” Barrett told the committee.

When asked about a potential double standard on the part of the Democratic lawmakers regarding which women they find acceptable, Senator Marsha Blackburn said: “They’re signaling that if you’re a conservative woman, if you’re pro-life, pro-family, pro-religion, they don’t want to hear from you. And that is pretty much the way they’ve treated Judge Barrett during these hearings.”

Blackburn said Democrats have been grandstanding regarding the importance of elevating women into leadership roles. She added that they only really want to hear from women whose views they find acceptable, while denying conservative women a seat at the table.

Finally touching on Covid-19, Bream wrapped up her show talking about the rise in cases across — not the United States — but Europe. Fox News correspondent Aishah Hasnie said: “It looks like the makings of a miserable winter for Europe,” before pointing to a graph showing cases there outpacing the U.S.

European heavyweights like France and Germany have recently begun reimplementing lockdowns and curfews for some residents due to the rising number of cases, while the U.S. is actively trying to avoid heading back down that path.

Hasnie said vaccine trials are fortunately moving along at a record pace despite a few hiccups, with two vaccines now expected to win FDA approval by January.

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