- 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)
Amazon Backs GOP Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Effort to Ramp Up Lobbying
The proposal is the first Republican-sponsored marijuana bill Amazon has backed since the company first began lobbying for legalization last summer.
Amazon Endorses States Reform Act
Amazon announced Tuesday that it is endorsing a Republican-backed proposal to legalize marijuana.
The move comes as the e-commerce giant has ramped up its efforts to legalize cannabis on the federal level since it came out in support of the idea last summer. Amazon argues that the move would remove hiring barriers — which disproportionately impact people of color — and, in turn, could increase the company’s application pool and boost employee retention.
The company has previously backed similar proposals by forward by Democrats, but Tuesday’s announcement marks the first time Amazon has put its support behind a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at addressing the issue.
The legislation, called the States Reform Act, was authored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.). Among other measures, it would remove cannabis as a Schedule I substance, allow states to create their own laws, impose an excise tax, and regulate the drug in a similar fashion to alcohol.
While Mace’s bill is fundamentally very similar to others put forth by Democrats, by proposing it herself, the Republican hopes to rally other members of her party around the idea that legalization is pro-business, pro-state’s rights, and anti-big government.
The measure has already received support from the highly influential conservative group, American’s for Prosperity, which is funded by the Koch brothers.
Mace and Amazon have painted the company’s endorsement as a game-changer for garnering more support — both from other large corporations and politicians on either side of the aisle. Mace specifically told reporters she believes Amazon’s decision will push other companies to do the same. If more major corporations like Amazon back the effort, other Republicans may be more persuaded to jump on board.
That sentiment was echoed by Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, who said in an interview with The Washington Post that the company was “particularly excited by Congresswoman Mace’s bill” because “it shows that there’s bipartisan support for this issue.”
Huseman also emphasized that, as part of its decision to back her bill, Amazon will use its powerful influence in Washington to try and drum up bipartisan support.
“We are talking with members of both parties, including Republicans, about why we think this is the right thing to do, especially from the standpoint of a major employer and what this means for our business and our employees and broadening the employee base,” he continued.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (Marijuana Moment)
CDC Data Shows Booster Shots Provide Effective Protection Against Omicron
Public health experts have encouraged Americans to get boosted to protect themselves against the omicron variant, but less than 40% of fully vaccinated people who are eligible for their third shot have received it.
A First Glimpse of Official Data on Boosters and Omicron
COVID-19 booster shots are effective at preventing Americans from contracting omicron and protecting those who do become infected from severe illness, according to three reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Friday.
The reports mark the first real-world data regarding the highly infectious variant and how it has impacted the U.S.
One of the CDC reports, which studied data from 25 state and local health departments, found that there were 149 cases per 100,000 people among those had been boosted on average each week.
In comparison, the figure was 255 cases per 100,000 people in Americans who had only received two shots.
Another study that looked at nearly 88,000 hospitalizations in 10 states found that the third doses were 90% effective at preventing hospitalization.
By contrast, those who received just two shots were only 57% protected against hospitalization by the time they were eligible for a booster six months after their second dose.
Additionally, the same report also found that the boosters were 82% effective at preventing visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers, a marked increase from the 38% efficacy for those who were six months out from their two-shot regime and had not yet received a third.
Low Booster Shot Vaccination Rates
Public health officials hope that the new data will urge more Americans to get their booster shots.
Since the emergence of omicron, experts and leading political figures have renewed their efforts to encourage people to get their third shots, arguing they are the best form of protection.
The CDC currently recommends that everyone 12 and older get a booster shot five months after their second shot of Pfizer and Moderna or two months after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Still, in the U.S., less than 40% of fully vaccinated individuals eligible for a third shot have gotten one.
While COVID cases in the country have begun to drop over the past several days from their peak of over 800,000 average daily infections, the figures are still nearly triple those seen in the largest previous surges.
Hospitalizations have also slowly begun to level out over the last week in places that were hit first, such as New York City and Boston, but medical resources still remain strained in many parts of the country that experienced later surges and have not yet seen cases slow.
Some experts predict that the U.S. will see a sharp decline in omicron cases, as experienced in South Africa and Britain. Still, they urge American’s to get boosted to ensure their continued protection from the variant, as well as other strains that will emerge.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (The New York Times)
California Bill Would Allow Kids 12 and Up to Get Vaccinated Without Parental Consent
Nearly one million California teens and preteens between the ages of 12 and 17 are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
State Senator Proposes Legislation
Legislation proposed in California on Thursday would allow children age 12 and up to get vaccinated without parental consent.
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Bill 866 in the hope it could boost vaccination rates among teenagers. According to Wiener, nearly one million kids aged 12- to 17-years old remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 in the state of California.
“Unvaccinated teens are at risk, put others at risk & make schools less safe,” Wiener tweeted. “They often can’t work, participate in sports, or go to friends’ homes.”
“Many want to get vaccinated but parents won’t let them or aren’t making the time to take them. Teens shouldn’t have to rely on parents’ views & availability to protect themselves from a deadly virus.”
Currently, teens in California can receive vaccines for human papillomavirus and hepatitis B without parental consent. They can also make other reproductive or mental healthcare choices without a guardian signing off. Wiener argues that their medical autonomy should expand to all vaccines, especially during a pandemic that has already killed roughly 78,000 Californians.
Vaccine Consent Across the U.S.
“Teens shouldn’t have to plot, scheme or fight with their parents to get a vaccine,” he said. “They should simply be able to walk in & get vaccinated like anyone else.”
Bill 866 would allow any kids ages 12 and up to receive any vaccine approved or granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, Pfizer’s COVID vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for those 16 and older. It has received emergency authorization for ages five through 15.
Across the United States, vaccine consent ages vary. While the vast majority of states require parental approval for minors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, kids as young as 11 can get the jab on their own in Washington, D.C. In Alabama, kids can receive it without parental consent at 14, in Oregon at 15, and in Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, providers can waive consent in certain cases in Arkansas, Idaho, Washington, and Tennesee.
In October, California became the first state to announce plans to require that students receive the COVID-19 vaccine to attend class. The mandate has yet to take effect, but under the guidelines, students will be “required to be vaccinated for in person learning starting the term following FDA full approval of the vaccine for their grade span.”
In other words, once the FDA gives a vaccine full approval for those aged 12 and up, it will be required the following session for kids in grades 7-12. Once it does so for kids as young as five, the same process will happen for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. There will also be room for exemptions from the mandate.
The Fight to Vaccinate California
This week, a group of California state legislators formed a Vaccine Work Group in order to boost public health policies in the state. Wiener is among the several members who are “examining data, hearing from experts, and engaging stakeholders to determine the best approaches to promote vaccines that have been proven to reduce serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”
“Vaccines protect not only individuals but also whole communities when almost everyone is vaccinated at schools, workplaces and businesses, and safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines have already prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said in a press release. “Public safety is a paramount duty of government, and I am proud to join a talented group of legislators in the pro-science Vaccine Work Group who want to end this disastrous pandemic and protect Californians from death and disability by preventable diseases.”
While vaccine policies have been a divisive subject nationwide, including in California, state politicians and leaders are hopeful public health initiatives will prevail.
“If we allow disinformation to drive our state policy making we will not only see more Americans needlessly suffer and die, but we will sacrifice the long term stability of our society having effectively abandoned the idea that we all must work together to protect each other in times of crisis.” Catherine Flores Martin, the Executive Director of the California Immunization Coalition, added.