- New York Post reporter Laura Italiano resigned Monday after saying she was “ordered to write” a false article, which claimed that unaccompanied migrant children were being given copies of Vice President Kamala Harris’ children’s book in “welcome kits.”
- Amid fact-checking from other news agencies, the NYP briefly deleted the piece, then posted a revised version that accurately said only one copy of Harris’ book was spotted at a single migrant shelter.
- In fact, that book was confirmed to have simply been given to the shelter by an anonymous person during a donation drive.
- The White House has also confirmed that it did not purchase or distribute Harris’ book.
NYP Goes Live With False VP Story
A New York Post reporter has quit after she saying she was forced to write a false article that claimed “thousands” of copies of Vice President Kamala Harris’ children’s book were being handed out to migrant kids in “welcome kits.”
That article, a front-page story titled “Kam On In: Solo Kids at Border Welcomed with Copy of Veep’s Book,” was published Friday. In it, reporter Laura Italiano cited a photo that shows a copy of Harris’ 40-page children’s book, “Superheroes are Everywhere,” at a shelter in Long Beach, California.
Without any further attribution, Italiano said copies of the book were being disseminated to unaccompanied migrant children en masse. She added that the White House had “no answers” when asked if Harris was profiting off of these alleged welcome packages.
Over the weekend, a number of notable Republicans began jumping on the story, including Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton.
“Now they’re forcing taxpayers to buy Kamala Harris’s book to give to those illegal immigrants?” Cotton tweeted.
WaPo Fact Checks the NYP’s Reporting
On Monday, multiple other media outlets began debunking the NYP’s story, including The Washington Post, which likened the article to “a bad game of telephone.”
That’s because, according to Long Beach city officials that the WaPo spoke with, “Harris’s book is not being handed out in welcome kits.” Instead, “a single copy of the book was donated during a citywide donation drive.”
That lone copy was then singled out after a photographer with the Southern California News Group visited the shelter and took an image of it resting atop a black backpack. That photo was later distributed by Reuters and eventually ran in the NYP alongside its faux report about Harris.
The WaPo noted that it had reached out to Italiano for comment but said it never got a response.
It also reached out to the White House, which confirmed that it had neither purchased nor distributed Harris’ book. A spokesperson for the VP’s office even said they were unaware that the book had been donated prior to reports, which is in-line with the explanation that the book had been donated.
Just several hours after the WaPo published its fact-check, the NYP deleted its “Kam On In” article without any sort of retraction or clarification. That said, an editor’s note was attached to a related article about the story.
A couple more hours later, the original article was made live again, with a similar editor’s note attached. This time, the title read, “Kamala isn’t at the southern border — but at least one migrant kid got Veep’s book.”
The article remains critical of Harris, noting that the book’s presence but Harris’ physical absence at the shelter is “just the latest open-arms gesture by the Biden administration.”
Several more hours later, Italiano announced her resignation from the NYP on Twitter.
“The Kamala Harris story — an incorrect story I was ordered to write and which I failed to push back hard enough against — was my breaking point,” she said.
Despite coming forward with that information, Italiano has still faced a hefty amount of criticism online.
“So…she drew the line after she fabricated a story, it went viral, and has yet to be retracted,” one person tweeted. “Interesting how that seems to just keep happening while these pubs rake in clicks.”
If being ordered to write what you call an “incorrect story” (I call it a libelous attack piece) on VP Harris was your breaking point, why didn’t you resign then? You are not the victim here, VP Harris is the victim and yet there is no apology to her in your thread. Why is that?— Allison Richards (@PC2DC) April 27, 2021
Meanwhile, sports and political commentator Keith Olbermann offered the counterargument of, “If you think [Laura Italiano] should’ve just refused to write it, consider: somebody else would’ve, and they might have punished or fired her, and we might never have known.”
“If you’ve already convinced yourself you can function within the Murdoch ethos (or lack thereof), you eventually have two choices: keep selling your soul and doing the wrong thing, or stop. I always think we should encourage and reward people who want to STOP.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities
The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.
Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”
Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.
Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.
The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone.
During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program.
“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”
Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.”
“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference.
“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”
Goals of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act
Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act.
“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.
“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.”
Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.
Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change.
“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”
While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children.
“Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”