- 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)
Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan
The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”
Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify
A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts.
Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation
Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote.
“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”
Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)
Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.
In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.
New Cases Flattening
After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.
Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days.
New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.
Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.
Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.
According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.
In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.
Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit.
While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)
COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open
While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.
Schools Respond to Omicron Surge
U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.
According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.
That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.
Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.
In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.
Teachers Protest In-Person Learning
Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.
One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).
Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.
On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.
Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”
Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.
On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.