- David Karpf, a professor at George Washington University, posted a tweet calling conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens a bedbug after news broke that The Times’ newsroom had become infested with the insects.
- Stephens took offense to the joke, which only had nine likes at the time, and emailed the professor and his provost.
- Karpf posted the email, which prompted a wave and backlash that eventually pushed Stephens to deactivate his Twitter account.
After news broke Monday about a bedbug infestation at The New York Times’ newsroom, a college professor took to social media to make a joke about one of the papers’ columnists.
“The bedbugs are a metaphor,” wrote David Karpf, an associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University. “The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.”
Stephens, a Times conservative writer, was not tagged directly in the tweet, which initially only picked up nine likes and no retweets. However, the post still managed to catch Stephens’ attention.
A few hours after posting the tweet Monday, Karpf was surprised with an email from the writer — an email that was also sent to Karpf’s provost at the university.
“I’m often amazed about the things supposedly decent people are prepared to say about other people — people they’ve never met — on Twitter. I think you’ve set a new standard,” Stephens wrote.
“I would welcome the opportunity for you to come to my home, meet my wife and kids, talk to us for a few minutes, and then call me a ‘bedbug’ to my face. That would take some genuine courage and intellectual integrity on your part.”
“I promise to be courteous no matter what you have to say. Maybe it will make you feel better about yourself.”
Karpf eventually tweeted out the email, leading to waves of backlash against Stephens and of course more attention to the initial bedbug tweet.
Stephens Faces Backlash
After reading the email, many people were angry that Stephens copied Karpf’s superior on the email, saying he was likely hoping to get the professor fired.
Others were critical of him for reacting so poorly to the comment, as someone who has long been vocal about protecting free speech. Of course, many others threw out their best jokes, knowing now how much it would bother him. By Tuesday morning, both #Bretbug and “Bret Stephens” were trending topics on Twitter.
Stephens, who joined the Times in 2017 and is also an MSNBC contributor, is not unfamiliar with backlash. In fact, his takes on climate change and race have already prompted outrage from readers in the past, with many canceling subscriptions over his pieces. He has also been known to hit back at critics, which he did once before in an email exchange with a Deadspin writer.
But the outrage over his reaction to a seemingly minuscule tweet prompted the writer to deactivate his entire Twitter account. “Twitter is a sewer. It brings out the worst in humanity,” Stephens tweeted before closing his account.
“I sincerely apologize for any part I’ve played in making it worse, and to anyone I’ve ever hurt.
Karpf Speaks Out
In an interview with The Washington Post, Karpf complained about the columnist’s decision to email his superior. “He not only thinks I should be ashamed of what I wrote, he thinks that I should also get in trouble for it,” Karpf said. “That’s an abuse of his power.”
Karpf told the Post that he would have been willing to take Stephens up on his offer to chat in person had he not included his boss on the email.
“You need to work very hard to find a tweet that obscure, and then work harder to find the writer’s email and their provost’s email to CC them, too,” he said. “I would have treated this as an opportunity for conversation and dialogue if he hadn’t CC’d my provost, which was clearly an attempt to threaten me with punishment.”
“I’d be happy to have a dialogue, not just about the tenor of Twitter comments but also about power and how to appropriately use it,” he added. “But I assume he won’t want to talk. He ought to be embarrassed.”
As far as why he’s not a fan of Stephens’ work, Karpf said, “He tends to write pretty lightweight, poorly researched columns about things that I know something about. So I’ve always seen him as this person that everyone complains about but we just can’t get rid of. He’s a bedbug.”
Stephens Addresses the Issue on MSNBC
Meanwhile, Stephens told the Post that his email “speaks for itself.” He later went on MSNBC Tuesday morning to say he had no intention of getting Karpf in professional trouble, but he said institutions should be aware of how their staff members interact with “the rest of the world.”
When addressing the bedbug insult he said, “Analogizing people to insects is always wrong. We can do better. We should be the people on social media that we are in real life.”
“There’s a bad history of being called…of being analogized to insects that goes back to a lot of totalitarian regimes in the past.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Business Insider) (Fox News)
New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns
- The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
- The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
- The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.
CDC Issues Warning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus.
The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.
Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.
Mitigating Spread of Variant
“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”
The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.
“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.
“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)
Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)
- Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
- By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
- Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
Rick Snyder Charges
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.
The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.
He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.
The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.
Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.
His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.
8 Others Charged
Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.
Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:
- Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
- Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
- Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
- Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
- Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
- Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.
Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.
At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)
Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack
- At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
- Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
- Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive
At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus.
On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one.
Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested.
More Cases Follow
Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions.
“Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote.
“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added.
“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown.
“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.
Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks.
Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.