- Several well-known conservatives received backlash for making fun of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has been vocal about having Aspergers.
- Fox News apologized after conservative commentator Michael Knowles said she was “a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international left.”
- Fox News host Laura Ingraham also faced backlash when she compared the teen’s UN speech to the film Children of the Corn, while President Trump was criticized for a tweet about Thunberg that many felt was sarcastic.
Greta Thunberg’s UN Speech
A handful of prominent conservatives are receiving backlash for mocking and criticizing young environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
The 16-year-old Swedish girl first gained national attention last year when she started the Friday’s for Future movement. The movement encourages students and other young people all around the world to skip school on Fridays and hold climate strikes calling for global leaders to address climate change.
After leading a massive global strike this past Friday, Thunberg addressed the world in a powerful speech at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York on Monday.
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean,” Thunberg said. “Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
“And yet I’m one of the lucky ones,” she continued. “People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you,” she added towards the end of her speech.
“And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
Following her speech, Thunberg, along with 15 other kids from 12 countries filed a formal complaint with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. In it, they alleged that Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey have violated child human rights by failing to adequately address climate change.
Response Applauding Greta
Many people took to social media to share the video of Thunberg and praise her.
Celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel and George Takei chimed in on Twitter.
Politicians on both sides also cheered on Thunberg, like Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), who referred to Thunberg’s speech as “A must watch plea to world leaders.”
Former Republican Governor John Kasich also commended the young activist in a tweet.
“She should be praised and viewed as an example of how change really happens — from the bottom up,” he wrote.
Michael Knowles Remarks
Others, however, publicly criticized Thunberg and her movement.
“The climate hysteria movement is not about science,” conservative commentator Michael Knowles said on Fox News on Monday. “If it were about science, it would be led by scientists, rather than by politicians and a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international left.”
The other guest on the show, progressive podcast host Chris Hahn, responded by condemning Knowles’ attack on Thunberg.
“You’re a grown man and you’re attacking a child. Shame on you. She’s trying to do what she thinks is right,” Hahn said.
“I’m not, I’m attacking the left for exploiting a mentally ill child,” Knowles responded.
“Now, relax, skinny boy. I got this. You’re attacking a child, you’re grown man, have some couth when you’re on television,” Hahn retorted, before asking Knowles to apologize to Thunberg.
Knowles did not apologize, instead, he continued to defend his remarks.
“I think the international left and her parents who are exploiting a girl with many mental illnesses, and her parents wrote about those mental illnesses in a book,” he said. “She has autism, she has obsessive-compulsive disorder, she has selective mutism, she had depression.”
“You are despicable,” Hahn said.
Knowles Receives Backlash
Many condemned Knowles on social media after the interview. Some pointed out that Thunberg has been very vocal about the fact that she has Aspbergers, something that she has embraced and referred to as her “superpower.”
Autism organizations also condemned Knowles’ remarks.
“It’s absolutely unconscionable to attack someone for their disability, especially when that person is a child,” Julia Bascom, executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network told the Hollywood Reporter.
“History is full of autistic people and people with other cognitive disabilities who were and are compelling, credible activists and leaders,” she continued. “Greta is a part of that tradition, and our community is lucky to have her. Period.”
Fox News later apologized for the incident.
“The comment made by Michael Knowles who was a guest on The Story tonight was disgraceful — we apologize to Greta Thunberg and to our viewers,” the network told The Washington Post in a statement, also adding that they had “no plans” to book Knowles again.
Knowles, however, still doubled down and defended himself in a series of tweets.
“There is nothing shameful about living with mental disorders. Your suggestion to the contrary is not only wrong but deeply offensive,” he wrote.
“Children should never be exploited for political purposes, and mentally ill children are particularly vulnerable,” he added in a later tweet.
Other Conservative Get Backlash for Remarks
Knowles was not the only well-known conservative voice who received backlash for comments they made about Thunberg.
Fox News host Laura Ingraham showed part of Greta’s speech to the UN, then compared her to the movie Children of the Corn.
“I can’t wait for Stephen King’s new sequel, Children of the Climate,” Ingraham said.
Her remarks garnered a lot of backlash from people on social media, including Ingraham’s brother, Curtis Ingraham, who condemned his sister in a tweet.
“Clearly my sister’s paycheck is more important than the world her three adopted kids will inherit,” he wrote. “I can no longer apologize for a sibling who I no longer recognize. I can and will continue to call out the monstrous behavior and the bully commentary born out of anger.”
Conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza also received a lot of heat for comparing Thunberg to a Nazi in a tweet posted over the weekend.
Even President Donald Trump chimed in, seeming to make fun of Thunberg by sharing a video of her speech on Twitter and writing “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”
Thunberg appeared to mock Trump back by changing her Twitter bio to “A very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hollywood Reporter) (The Daily Beast)
69 Convictions Could Be Reversed Due to Possible False Evidence From Texas Cop
- Prosecutors in Texas said 69 people may have been wrongfully convicted based on possible false evidence from a former Houston police officer, Gerald Goines.
- This announcement came after two men, who were convicted over a decade ago were declared innocent by judges earlier this month. Their convictions were based primarily on the testimonies of Goines.
- Goines has been under scrutiny ever since a deadly drug raid in January 2019. Prosecutors allege that he lied to obtain a search warrant in the raid that resulted in the death of two people.
69 Possible Wrongful Convictions
Prosecutors in Texas announced that 69 people may have been wrongfully convicted due to possible false evidence from a former Houston police officer.
On Wednesday, prosecutors filed motions requesting that judges assign attorneys to these 69 individuals to review their cases and start the process of potentially clearing their names.
The ex-officer, Gerald Goines, has been under scrutiny ever since a drug raid early last year in which a married couple was killed. Earlier this month, judges declared two brothers innocent after they were convicted of drug crimes in 2008. Their convictions were based primarily on testimony from Goines.
“We need to clear people convicted solely on the word of a police officer whom we can no longer trust,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.
Most of the 69 cases being called into question involved drug charges. Ogg’s office said that almost all of them resulted in the individuals going to prison, though none of them are still currently imprisoned. Prosecutors claim that in all cases, Goines was the only witness to the alleged crime.
Goines’ attorney, Nicole DeBorde, said the Wednesday announcement from Ogg’s office was a form of self-promotion ahead of the D.A.’s Democratic primary on Tuesday.
“But because these unfounded and unsupported allegations conveniently align with her very public use of the case in her campaign and offer an end run around the rules prohibiting her from discussing the facts of the pending case, she issues press release after press release, the latest in her last push before Super Tuesday,” DeBorde said.
Officer’s Questionable History
Prosecutors allege that in a January 2019 drug raid, officers acted under a search warrant that was granted based on lies from Goines about confidential informants who had purchased heroin from the couple’s home.
Goines later said there was no informant and that he had bought the drugs himself, prosecutors claim. However, after reviewing his cell phone’s GPS records, investigators found that he had lied again and was nowhere near the location on the date he said he was. Dennis Tuttle, 59, and Rhogena Nicholas, 58, were killed in the raid while five officers were injured.
Otis and Steven Mallet, the two brothers convicted on testimonies from Goines, were declared innocent after their attorneys and prosecutors agreed that Goines had lied during their trials. Their cases are now pending before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals but the men are expected to receive a final ruling confirming their innocence.
Goines worked with the Houston Police Department’s narcotics units. He was relieved of his duty after the deadly drug raid and since retired. He is facing two counts of felony murder in state court for the deaths of Tuttle and Nicholas as well as seven counts in federal court over allegedly providing false information in the raid.
Since the fatal drug raid, prosecutors have been looking into thousands of cases linked to Goines. They are also looking into cases handled by another officer, Steven Bryant, who was present at the raid and is also facing state and federal charges.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo expressed his support for Ogg and her office’s investigation.
“We continue to work cooperatively with @HarrisCountyDAO to leave no stone unturned in this matter and remain committed to uncovering all facts,” Acevedo said.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (CW39 Houston) (KHOU11)
President Trump Selects VP Mike Pence to Oversee U.S. Coronavirus Response
- President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that Vice President Mike Pence will now head U.S. response efforts to fight the coronavirus.
- The decision that has been met with pushback from those citing Pence’s delayed response to a 2015 HIV outbreak in Indiana.
- In California, a case of “unknown origin” has seemingly appeared, suggesting a possible community spread of the virus and more undetected cases across the country.
- Internationally, China is beginning to see a decrease in new cases and deaths, but other countries like South Korea, Iran, and Italy are seeing spikes.
Trump Places Pence in Charge of U.S. Response
At a press conference on Wednesday, President Donald Trump placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the U.S. government’s coronavirus response team as the virus continues to spread internationally.
Trump said he was handing the role to the vice president because of Pence’s experience handling health crises in Indiana when he was governor, saying those experiences qualified him for this role.
“This team has been, at your direction, Mr. President, meeting every day since it was established,” Pence said at the announcement.
“My role will be to continue to bring that team together, to bring to the president the best options for action to see to the safety and well being and help of the American people.”
Pence also cited his response to a MERS—Middle East Respiratory Syndrome—outbreak in Indiana in 2014. Pence, however, was notably silent on a mention of a 2015 HIV outbreak in Austin, Indiana.
Pence’s response to that event has caused pushback with this latest announcement, with many citing his delayed response to that HIV outbreak.
“He just revealed how ignorant he is about the situation,” Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who works for the World Health Organization, said of Trump’s appointment of Pence.
In that Indiana incident, 30 people were confirmed to have HIV after sharing needles to abuse the painkiller Opana. Health officials then asked Pence to supply the town with clean syringes to help prevent the outbreak.
At first, Pence refused because syringe exchange programs were illegal in Indiana and because he opposed any form of drug use. While he refused, though, cases continued to grow. After 29 days, Pence ultimately supplied those syringes as part of a needle exchange program. By that time, the number of cases had jumped to 80.
There has also been a significant amount of criticism aimed at the Trump Administration’s handling of the coronavirus, with some critics pointing to the fact that Trump fired the U.S. pandemic response team back in 2018 to cut costs.
At Wednesday’s press conference, however, Trump defended the White House’s response during the outbreak, saying, “Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low.”
Trump asked Congress Monday to release $2.5 billion to help fight the coronavirus. Half of that would then be directed as emergency funding. Then on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer followed up Trump’s proposal with an $8.5 billion counter-proposal.
Possible Community Spread in the U.S.
Also on Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement confirming the possibility that a patient with the coronavirus may have caught it via community spread.
In this context, community spread would result when a person becomes infected without having traveled abroad (for instance, to China) and without coming into contact with anyone confirmed to have contracted the virus. The patient in question has not been out of the country and has not knowingly been around anyone with the virus.
If this case is later confirmed to be from community spread, that would suggest that the virus is currently circulating undetected in the U.S. since it is usually asymptomatic for the first 14 days.
However, the CDC still said it’s also possible that this person may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected, meaning it is also possible that this might not actually be a case of community spread.
That person is a resident of Solano County, California.
Several counties in California have also declared local emergencies. Those include San Diego, Santa Clara, and Orange counties. San Francisco, a city-county, also declared an emergency on Wednesday despite having no confirmed cases.
Of the decision, Mayor London Breed has said the move is an effort to be prepared for if/when the virus does hit the city.
Declaring an emergency in San Francisco, an international hub, will lead to several changes:
- It helps clear up funds so that the city can be reimbursed later by the state and federal governments.
- It allows staff such as public health nurses, case managers, and social workers to focus only on essential duties and focus on preparedness and prevention.
- It allows officials to look at shelters and other opportunities to expand as well as to assess the city’s capacity to respond to an outbreak.
What’s Happening Across the World?
Globally, as of Thursday, more than 82,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus. More than 2,800 people have died.
Similar to previous reports, the vast majority of cases and deaths still remain in China. Outside of the country, only about 4,000 people have been infected and about 60 have died from the coronavirus.
On Thursday, China announced 433 new cases as well as 29 deaths, which is in line with their numbers from recent days. In fact, the country has actually begun to see a drop in the number of cases and deaths, which had previously spiked to more than 1,000 cases and 100 deaths a day.
Outside of China, other countries are seeing a much different story as they work to contain fresh outbreaks. Over the past week, South Korea, Iran, and Italy have all seen a sharp spike in cases.
In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked schools on Thursday to shut down through March and until after spring break. Saudi Arabia has also banned foreign pilgrims from entering the kingdom to visit Mecca.
In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “The advice we have received today is…there is every indication that the world will soon enter a pandemic phase of the coronavirus.”
“And as a result, we have agreed today and initiated the…coronavirus emergency response plan,” he added.
As of right now, the COVID-19 outbreak has not been declared a pandemic.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (USA Today)
A Texas Teacher Was Suspended for Showing Students a Photo of Her Fiancé. Here’s How She Was Awarded $100,000 in an LGBTQ+ Discrimination Case
- In September 2017, a gay arts teacher at a Texas elementary school was placed on administrative leave after showing students a photo of her fiancé in an introductory slideshow to her class.
- That teacher, Stacy Bailey, then sued the school district in federal court on the basis of discrimination against her sexual orientation. Currently, Texas law does not provide for protections against sexual orientation.
- On Monday, Bailey and the school district reached a settlement, with the district agreeing to pay her $100,000, part of which Bailey said she will donate to a non-profit that addresses LGBTQ student issues.
- The district also agreed to train staff on LGBTQ+ issues and hold a vote as to whether it will update its policies to include protections for LGBTQ+ staff, students, and families.
Gay Teacher Settles With School District
Embattled arts teacher Stacey Bailey reached a settlement agreement with her Texas school district after it suspended her for showing a photo of her fiancé in class.
The problem? Bailey is gay, and her then-fiancé was a woman.
The settlement comes almost two years after Bailey first challenged the Mansfield Independent School District in federal court. As part of Monday’s settlement, Mansfield ISD agreed to pay Bailey and her lawyers $100,000.
It will now provide mandatory training to human resources and counseling staff on LGBTQ issues in its schools. It will also require the Mansfield ISD board of trustees to hold a vote on whether or not to add protections for LGBTQ individuals in its policies, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it will pass those protections.
As part of the settlement, Mansfield ISD did not have to admit any wrongdoing.
For their part, Bailey and her now-wife said they will donate $10,000 of that settlement to a non-profit that addresses LGBTQ student issues.
Teacher Suspended for Showing Photo of Her Fiancé
The situation involving Bailey and Mansfield ISD began in August 2017 when Bailey showed a photo of her fiancé in an introductory slideshow to her class. By September, Bailey had been placed on paid, administrative leave following several complaints from parents.
According to the school district, however, misinformation regarding the reason behind Bailey’s suspension was rampant. During that time, some believed she had been suspended because she had also reportedly approached the district and asked it to include protections for LGBTQ employees in August.
In March, nearly three dozen people backing Bailey showed up to a public board meeting where some of them directly addressed the board and challenged it to either provide protections for LGBTQ+ individuals in the district’s anti-discrimination policy or to provide answers surrounding Bailey’s suspension.
Bailey had worked at the elementary school since 2008 and had twice been awarded “Teacher of the Year.”
As far as an answer, that same night, Mansfield ISD released a statement regarding Bailey’s suspension.
While Mansfield ISD said it generally doesn’t comment on employee personnel matters, it also noted that Bailey’s suspension was full of “misinformation” and had caused “disruption” to the elementary school. Thus, it decided to “clarify information about this situation.”
“Parents have the right to control the conversation with their children, especially as it relates to religion, politics, sex/sexual orientation, etc.,” the statement begins.
“The District’s concerns regarding Ms. Bailey are not about her request to have our nondiscrimination policies reviewed and/or revised with regard to LGBTQ rights,” it continues. “Mansfield ISD welcomes that discussion through the District’s established policy review committee. Rather, the District’s concern is that Ms. Bailey insists that it is her right and that it is age appropriate for her to have ongoing discussions with elementary-aged students about her own sexual orientation, the sexual orientation of artists, and their relationships with other gay artists.”
Mansfield ISD also said it had received multiple complaints from parents and had met with Bailey more than once, noting that administration gave Bailey “directions regarding age-appropriate conversations with students” but that Bailey refused to follow those directions.
In response, Bailey’s lawyer released a statement labeling Mansfield ISD as false, saying Bailey “never received directives to change her behavior–and never refused to follow any directive.”
Bailey’s lawyer then accused Mansfield ISD of trying to “silence the families and staff” who had worked to get Bailey reinstated.
“The fact is that she was placed on leave after years of exemplary work based on a SINGLE parent complaint,” she added, contradicting Mansfield ISD’s claim that multiple parents had complained.
Bailey Relocated to a High School
In May 2018, Mansfield ISD reinstated Bailey’s contract; however, the school district then reassigned Bailey to a local high school.
Following her relocation, a spokesperson for Bailey accused the school district of trying to keep LGBTQ teachers from teaching elementary students. Mansfield ISD then pushed back, saying, “there has never been an issue with her open sexual preference until this year.”
“That’s when her actions in the classroom changed, which prompted her students to voice concerns to their parents,” it said in a statement.
“Teachers shall not use the classroom to transmit personal belief regarding political or sectarian issues,” it added.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Bailey said he had been nervous to start teaching at a high school because many people had already heard about the story from local news coverage. Because of that, she said she worried about how her students would react.
To her surprise, on her first day, about 15 LGBTQ students reportedly came to her classroom, flooded it with baskets and candy, introduced themselves, and welcomed her.
“I don’t think they’d ever seen a teacher out loud say they were gay,” Bailey told BuzzFeed News. “To see a grown-up who was successful and educated and not afraid? I don’t think they had ever seen that before.”
Bailey Sues Mansfield ISD
Also in May 2018, Bailey sued Mansfield ISD in federal court.
Bailey did not sue in Texas court because Texas does not have any laws barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; however, the federal government does.
In her lawsuit, Bailey accused the school district and two employees of refusing “to return her to her previous position in an elementary school. She also claimed they “transferred her to a secondary school and determined she was not appropriate to teach elementary students all because of her sexual orientation and status as a lesbian.”
That lawsuit also stated that while Bailey had been open about her sexuality, she had never used sexual or mature terms with her students.
It also seemed to clarify some of the inconsistencies between Mansfield ISD and Bailey’s lawyer. Regarding the issue of whether or not multiple parents had complained, the lawsuit alleged that one parent had complained twice before enlisting three other parents to also complain.
After that first complaint, Bailey claimed Kimberley Cantu, the district’s associate superintendent of human resources, allegedly told her that she couldn’t “promote your lifestyle in the classroom.”
“We plan to get married,” Bailey reportedly responded. “When I have a wife, I should be able to say this is my wife without fear of harassment. When I state that, it is a fact about my life, not a political statement.”
Cantu allegedly replied, “Well right now, it kind of is [a political statement].”
Following that incident, Bailey approached the district about enacting protections for LGBTQ staff.
That parent then complained again in September, with the parent claiming Bailey had shown “sexually inappropriate” photos in class. Bailey denied that claim but said she was suspended anyway.
In October 2017, Bailey claimed Mansfield ISD asked for her resignation, but she refused.
What is Bailey’s Life Like Now?
In 2018, Bailey married her fiancé.
Currently, Bailey still works at the high school where she was relocated because she said she promised her students she would wait until they graduated to leave.
“If you are a school district who thinks you can bully and shame a gay teacher out of their job, I hope you remember my name, and I hope you think twice,” she said Tuesday.