- After a noose was found in NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s team garage stall, the FBI concluded that it was being used as a door pull rope and had been there since last October, before Wallace began using that garage.
- After news of the FBI’s findings was released to the public, claims that Wallace had committed a Jussie Smollett-style hoax began to trend on social media.
- However, Wallace never saw the noose outside of investigation photos and wasn’t the person who found or reported it.
- “Whether tied in 2019, or whatever, it was a noose,” Wallace said on Tuesday.
- NASCAR has also indicated that it will continue its investigation to determine why that noose was acting as a garage pull in the first place.
FBI Determines Noose Was A Door Pull
Two days after an apparent noose was found in the team garage stall of NASCAR driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has concluded that no one committed a hate crime against him.
According to the agency, the noose was a garage door rope pull that had been there since October 2019; however, Wallace’s team didn’t begin using that garage until last week. Because of that, the FBI also determined that “nobody could have known” that Wallace’s team would be assigned to that stall.
Following on the heels of the FBI’s report, NASCAR issued a statement saying that the rope pull that was being used had been “fashioned like a noose.”
That noose-shaped rope pull was found Sunday by a member of Wallace’s No. 43 team. Notably, Wallace never saw that noose or rope pull outside of photos from the investigation. In fact, drivers aren’t even allowed in their garages right now in order to properly social distance from their teams.
The incident, as well as its timing, led to massive public outcry Sunday evening. Part of that is because of the ongoing protests over racial injustice, but another part was because of a protest happening outside Sunday’s planned race at the Talladega SuperSpeedway in Alabama.
That race was the first NASCAR event since the coronavirus shutdown that fans were able to attend. Prior to that, Wallace—who’s the only black driver for NASCAR’s top series—pushed to have NASCAR ban the display of the Confederate Flag from events. On June 10, it agreed and prohibited fans from displaying the symbol within its stadiums.
While fans largely followed that rule on Sunday, outside of the stadium, hundreds of people protested and waved that flag.
Soon after that came the reports of that noose being found in Wallace’s garage stall. From there, NASCAR and the FBI in conjunction with the Justice Department launched separate investigations.
“We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba,” NASCAR said in its statement Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters, NASCAR President Steve Phelps echoed that statement, saying:
“For us at NASCAR, this is the best result we could hope for. It was disturbing to hear it was thought that one of our own had committed this heinous act. It is fantastic to hear from the FBI definitively that there was not a hate crime.”
Phelps added that NASCAR plans to continue its investigation, with that probe focusing on why the rope was fashioned into a noose and why it was even in that garage stall in the first place.
Phelps also told reporters that even with the information now known, NASCAR took the proper steps in handling the situation.
“I want to be clear about the 43 team,” he said. The 43 team had nothing to do with this. The evidence is very clear that the noose that was in that garage had been in the garage previously. The last race we had had there in October, that noose was present.”
“The fact that it was not found until a member of the 43 team came there is something that is a fact,” he added. The crew member went back in there. He looked and saw the noose, brought it to the attention of his crew chief, who then went to the NASCAR series director, Jay Fabian, and we launched this investigation.”
#BubbaSmollett and Hoax Accusations
Despite Phelp’s firm assurance that no foul play was involved from Wallace or his team, others have compared Wallace to actor Jussie Smollet, who was charged with six counts of falsifying police reports after an alleged hate crime against him last year.
Tuesday night, after the FBI finding became public, #BubbaSmollett trended on Twitter. There, many floated the theory that the noose was a hoax, implying that Wallace orchestrated the incident to boost his career.
Others also shared photos and videos of that garage, pointing out what they assumed to be the rope pull in question.
Wallace Defends Himself Against Criticism
In an interview with Don Lemon on CNN Tuesday night, Wallace defended himself against those claiming he was involved in planting the noose.
“I’m pissed,” the driver said. “I’m mad because people are trying to test my character and the person that I am and my integrity and they’re not stealing that away from me, but they’re just trying to test that.”
Wallace then went on to add that he was first told about a noose being found in his garage by Phelps, who described the incident to Wallace as a “hate crime.”
Even though the FBI has said that Wallace wasn’t the target of a hate crime, Wallace still asserted that the rope pull in question was a noose.
“Don, the image that I have and that I have seen of what was hanging in my garage is not a garage pull,” Wallace said. “I’ve been racing all my life. We’ve raced out of hundreds of garages that never had garage pulls like that. So People that want to call it a garage-pull, and put out old videos and photos of knots, as their evidence, go ahead. But from the evidence that we have, that I have, it’s a straight-up noose.”
“It was a noose. It was a noose that whether tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose,” he added. “So it wasn’t directed at me, but somebody tied a noose, that’s what I am saying.”
Drivers and Other Supporters Defend Wallace From Hoax Allegations
Like Phelps, others with NASCAR have continued to support Wallace and the reaction from the association after that noose was found.
“I’m relieved to hear this wasn’t a hate crime and I’m still so proud of how our sport came together yesterday,” driver Jimmie Johnson said on Tuesday.
NASCAR reporter Marty Smith, whose Sunday night response to the noose finding went viral, called the FBI’s conclusion “the best possible news.”
I am so happy for @BubbaWallace & @NASCAR that there was no hate crime, or any ill will,” Smith said on Twitter. “That is wonderful.”
“And the display of unity, togetherness, courage and commitment that I saw Monday from the garage will forever be one of the most beautiful moments of solidarity I’ve witnessed. Brothers caring for brothers.”
Others like IndyCar Driver JR Hildebrand directly called out people comparing Wallace to Jussie Smollett.
“Quick PSA that I hope will save me from wasting time going HAM in my replies: There are ways to have been skeptical about this situation without being racist or an asshole. Calling Bubba Wallace Jussie Smollett is not one of them.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ESPN) (Deadspin)
Texas Doctor Says He Violated Abortion Law, Opening Matter Up for Litigation
Under the state’s new law, any citizen could sue the doctor, which would make the matter the first known test case of the restrictive policy.
Dr. Braid’s Op-Ed
A Texas doctor revealed in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Saturday that he performed an abortion in violation of the state’s law that bans the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not have exceptions for rape and incest, also allows civilians to sue anyone who helps someone receive an abortion after six weeks.
In the op-ed, Dr. Alan Braid, who has been practicing as an OB/GYN in Texas for 45 years, said that just days after the law took effect, he gave an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but already beyond the state’s new limit.
“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” he wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
Braid went on to say that he understands he is taking a personal risk but that he believes it is worth it.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” he concluded. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”
If someone does opt to sue Braid over this matter, he could potentially be the state’s first test case in playing out the legal process. However, it is unclear if anti-abortion groups will follow through, despite their threats to enforce the law.
A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, which set up a website to report people suspected of violating the ban, told reporters this weekend that it is looking into Braid’s claims but added, “It definitely seems like a legal stunt and we are looking into whether it is more than that.”
Even if abortion opponents hold off on Braid’s case, there are other legal challenges to the Texas law.
Shortly after the policy took effect, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit attempting to stop it. Last week, the department filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge in the state to temporarily block the ban while that legal battle plays out, with a hearing for that motion set for Oct. 1.
Regardless of what side the federal judge rules for, the other is all but ensured to sue, and that fight could take the question to the Supreme Court in a matter of months.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Texas Tribune) (The Wall Street Journal)
Pfizer Says Low Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective in Kids 5 to 11
Pfizer Says Kids’ Vaccine Works
Pfizer announced Monday morning that its joint COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech is safe and effective in kids ages 5 to 11.
While Pfizer’s vaccine candidate for younger children is the same version the FDA has already approved for people 12 and older, the children’s dose is only one-third of the amount given to adults and teens. Still, Pfizer said the antibody response they’ve seen in kids has been comparable to the response seen in older participants.
Similarly, the company said side effects in children have been similar to those witnessed in adults.
Pfizer said it expects to finish submitting data, which still needs to be peer-reviewed and then published, to the FDA by the end of the month. From there, the agency will ensure that Pfizer’s findings are accurate and that the vaccine will be able to elicit a strong immune response in kids at its current one-third dosage.
That process could take weeks or even all of October, but it does open the possibility that the vaccine candidate could be approved around Halloween.
While experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called Pfizer’s announcement largely predictable, they’ve also urged people to let the research run its course.
With cases among children skyrocketing in recent months, some parents have begun urging pediatricians to give their children the jab early. Those kinds of requests are likely to increase with Pfizer’s announcement; however, officials have warned parents about acting too quickly.
“No one should really be freelancing — they should wait for the appropriate approval and recommendations to decide how best to manage their own children’s circumstances,” Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said according to The Washington Post.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Axios)
Contradicting Studies Leave Biden’s COVID-19 Booster Plan Up in the Air
While some studies show that the effectiveness of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID vaccines decrease over time, other publications argue the decline is not substantial and a full-flung booster campaign is premature.
Booster Rollout in Flux
President Joe Biden’s plan to offer COVID-19 booster shots is facing serious hurdles just a week before it is set to roll out. Issues with the plan stem from growing divisions among the scientific community over the necessity of a third jab.
The timing of booster shots administration has been a point of contention for months, but the debate intensified in August when Biden announced that, pending regulatory approval, the government would start offering boosters on Sept. 20 to adults eight months after they received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.
The announcement was backed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others.
However, many scientists and other health experts both inside and outside of the government have continually criticized the plan. They have claimed the data supporting boosters was not compelling and argued that, while the FDA approved third doses for immunocompromised Americans, the push to give them to the general public was premature.
The plan also drew international backlash from those who argued the U.S. should not launch a booster campaign when billions of people around the world have not gotten their first dose yet. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) extended its request that wealthy countries hold off on giving boosters until at least the end of the year.
Those arguments appeared to be bolstered when federal health regulators said earlier this month that they needed more time to review Moderna’s application for booster shots, forcing the Biden Administration to delay offering third shots to those who received that vaccine.
Now, Pfizer recipients will be the only people who may be eligible for boosters by the initial deadline, though that depends on a forthcoming decision from an FDA expert advisory committee that is set to vote Friday on whether or not to recommend approval.
Debate Continues in Crucial Week
More contradictory information has been coming out in the days leading up to the highly anticipated decision.
On Monday, an international group of 18 scientists, including some at the FDA and the WHO, published a review in The Lancet arguing that there is no credible data to show the vaccines’ ability to prevent severe disease declined substantially over time, so boosters are not yet needed for the general, non-immunocompromised public.
The experts claimed that any advantage boosters may provide does not outweigh the benefit of giving the extra doses to all those who are unvaccinated worldwide.
On the other side, a study released Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people who received a third shot of Pfizer in Israel were much less likely to develop severe COVID than those who just had the first two jabs.
The same day, both Pfizer and Moderna published data backing that up as well. Pfizer released an analysis that said data on boosters and the Delta variant from both Israel and the U.S. suggested “that vaccine protection against COVID-19 infection wanes approximately 6 to 8 months following the second dose.”
Moderna also published data, that has not yet been peer-reviewed, which also found its jab provided less immunity and protection against severe disease as time went on.
Further complicating matters was the fact that the FDA additionally released its report on Pfizer’s analysis of the need for a booster shortly after Pfizer’s publication. Normally, those findings would shine a light on the agency’s stance on the issue, but the regulator did not take a clear stand.
“Some observational studies have suggested declining efficacy of [Pfizer] over time […] while others have not,” the agency wrote. “Overall, data indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death.”
It remains unclear what the FDA panel will determine when they meet Friday, or what a similar CDC expert panel that is expected to meet next week will decide regarding vaccination policies.
Notably, officials at the two agencies are not required to follow the recommendations of their expert panels, though they usually do.
Even if the FDA approves Pfizer’s application as it stands to give boosters to those 16 and older, people familiar with the matter said the CDC might recommend the third jabs only for people 65 and older or those who are especially at risk.
Regardless of what is decided, experts have said that it is absolutely essential for the agency to stand firm in its decision and clearly explain its reasoning to the public in order to combat further confusion and misinformation.
“F.D.A. does the best in situations when there are strongly held but conflicting views, when they’re forthcoming with the data and really explain decisions,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told The New York Times. “It’s important for the F.D.A. not to say, ‘Here’s our decision, mic drop. It’s much better for them to say, ‘Here’s how we looked at the data, here are the conclusions we made from the data, and here’s why we’re making the conclusions.’”