In This Episode
- We’ve reached another grim benchmark since the pandemic began almost two years ago. According to the New York Times database, the U.S. has reached 50 million known cases of COVID-19. The country is also on the cusp of passing or has already passed 800,000 deaths, with the last 100,000 happening at a relatively quick pace.
- USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee agreed to a $380 million settlement for the victims of Larry Nassar, the former doctor of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team. The settlement marks the end of a five-year legal fight, and is one of the largest settlements on record for survivors of sexual assault.
- And in headlines: the death toll continues to climb in Kentucky after tornadoes devastated the state this past weekend, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is now expected to plead guilty on federal civil rights charges in the death of George Floyd, and eight pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong were sentenced to prison yesterday.
- NY Times: “As U.S. Nears 800,000 Virus Deaths, 1 of Every 100 Older Americans Has Perished” – https://nyti.ms/3dQOymN
Gideon Resnick: It is Tuesday, December 14th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, the answer to the question: what podcast should always be legal on the California baby bar?
Gideon Resnick: That’s right. Kim Kardashian just passed that test, so congrats to her on getting that one right.
Josie Duffy Rice: I mean, that question should be the whole exam in my personal opinion.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, you have all the legal skills you need with that question. On today’s show, American gymnasts reached a $380 million settlement for the abuse they faced from former team doctor Larry Nassar and more. Plus:
[clip of Gov. Andy Beshear] It may be weeks before we have final counts on both deaths and levels of destruction.
Gideon Resnick: We’re going to have an update on the rescue and recovery efforts in Kentucky after last weekend’s tornadoes.
Josie Duffy Rice: But first, let’s begin by talking about the pandemic here in the United States. So Gideon we’ve reached another grim benchmark since this began almost two years ago now.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it is really crazy to think about, according to the New York Times database. The US has passed 50 million known cases. The idea there being that the actual number is quite a bit higher. Also, the country is on the cusp of, or has already passed, depending on where you look. 800,000 deaths with the last 100,000 happening at a relatively quick pace. We’re going to link to the story that breaks down all of this information but of those nearly 800,000 deaths, something like 75% of them were people 65 and older. So another way to look at it, about one in 100 older Americans died from COVID. It is really stark and grim, but I do recommend reading this New York Times piece that had a lot of different voices of older Americans talking about what this has all meant in their respective lives.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s a really good piece and really moving. A lot of the numbers you are talking about tell us where we’ve been in the pandemic, but let’s talk about the current moment. So there are some news from the Supreme Court yesterday on vaccine mandates. Is that right?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So we’ve seen a lot of these challenges come before the court, but this one pertained to a group of health care workers and doctors in New York state who had challenged this vaccination mandate that did not include religious exemptions. So the Supreme Court refused to block the requirement in an unsigned order, but Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a dissent saying that the court had failed to uphold its commitment to religious liberty. The court has taken this pretty much exact same approach in the past, most recently with a similar challenge from health care workers in Maine. More broadly, though, on mandates, I saw a Wall Street Journal story talking about the ramifications of a ruling by a federal judge who temporarily halted the Biden administration’s order that health care workers across the country get vaccinated. That pause, combined with labor shortages, has actually led some hospitals to just drop the requirement. The American Hospital Association, per that same story, estimated that about 42% of all facilities nationwide have mandates in place. So a lot of this is kind of unresolved as we go on forward here.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s actually an unbelievable statistic. Only 42%.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Josie Duffy Rice: That is the view on the pandemic here in the U.S., where cases and deaths have been trending up as of late. What’s the news from other countries?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So let’s talk about Europe for a second here. Specifically, the U.K., which as we reported yesterday, gave us some early real-world information about how vaccines were responding to Omicron. So yesterday, officials there were sounding the alarm about how quickly cases of Omicron were spreading across the country. And Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the country had its first death of a person infected with the variant.
[clip of PM Boris Johnson] Omicron is producing hospitalizations, and sadly, at least one patient has now been confirmed to have died with Omicron. So I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, I think that’s something we need to set on one side.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, so part of his government’s response looks a little bit like ours. It has involved a greater push to get boosters to everyone 18 and older by New Year’s Day. The early—and again, a lot we don’t know—studies indicate that protection against infection from Omicron drops pretty significantly with just two doses. Denmark and Norway are also projecting that Omicron cases are going to dominate infections in the coming days there. Researchers in Denmark recently also have said that something like three quarters of Omicron cases thus far have been in people who have received two vaccine doses, which again is another example of some evidence that that alone might not be sufficient. So that percentage is relatively similar to some of the known cases the U.S. has identified thus far too. So that is the latest on COVID right now. We’re going to keep you updated as we learn more and hear from some more experts soon.
Josie Duffy Rice: We’re going to talk about some big news now from the sports world. Yesterday, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee agreed to a $380 million settlement for victims of former national team physician Larry Nassar. The settlement marks the end of a five-year legal fight and is one of the largest settlements on record for survivors of sexual assault. It includes more than 500 athletes, all of whom are assaulted over a decades-long period, including Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, and Aly Raisman. Nassar is accused of sexually abusing girls as young as 13. Here’s how Raisman described what she went through with Nassar herself during an interview with NBC’s The Today Show back in 2017:
[clip of Aly Raisman] He would work on us alone in our hotel room. You know, he would come to my hotel room alone but because I was so young and he was a doctor, I never thought, you know you look out for strangers when you’re little, but I didn’t think a doctor wasn’t allowed to be working on me alone. I just I didn’t know.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, dear God. And so Nassar, of course, is now in prison, serving a de facto life sentence without parole. Josie, you said the settlement is with USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Can you tell us why they were also part of this case?
Josie Duffy Rice: Nassar’s victims allege that his rampant abuse was really only possible because of the complicity of organizations like USA Gymnastics, right, which apparently ignored reports of misconduct from athletes and failed to alert authorities when they knew that there was evidence of abuse and assault. In fact, in 2016, after the Larry Nassar accusations became national news, USA Gymnastics paid McKayla Maroney $1.25 million to sign a confidentiality agreement in hopes of keeping her accusations about Nassar quiet.
Gideon Resnick: Wow.
Josie Duffy Rice: Which ESPN called quote, effectively buying the silence of one of the sport’s most recognizable Olympians. You know, and it’s not only Nassar who got away with abuse, right? An Indianapolis Star investigation found that gymnastics coaches across the country were allowed to get away with assault and abuse repeatedly. And please note that the anecdotes that we’re about to share are very disturbing. In one case, USA Gymnastics received at least four complaints about a Georgia coach, William McCabe, including one that stated quote, “he should be locked in a cage before someone is raped.”
Gideon Resnick: God.
Josie Duffy Rice: These complaints were never acted on, nor reported to authorities, and McCabe continued to coach children for eight more years until one parent reported him to the FBI. Turns out he was not only molesting underage girls, but secretly videotaping them and posting their pictures and videos on the internet.
Gideon Resnick: Oh my God.
Josie Duffy Rice: Overall, the Indianapolis Star found that the organization had compiled, quote, “complain dossiers” on more than 50 coaches, which they kept in a drawer and their executive office, but rarely were those complaints acted on. And it’s worth noting that the FBI has also been accused of not taking these complaints seriously as well.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Oh my God, it’s insane. So why did the settlement take so long?
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s a good question. After all, Michigan State University, which also employed Larry Nassar, already agreed to a $500 million settlement for survivors back in 2018. But meanwhile, USA Gymnastics and USA Olympic and Paralympic Committee have taken significantly longer. Much of that can be attributed to these organizations unwillingness to take responsibility for their failures. Sarah Klein, a former competitive gymnast and now an attorney and co-chair of the survivors committee, told ESPN quote, “this settlement occurred because of a five-year, bare-knuckled legal fight the USOPC and USA Gymnastics decided to initiate against me and 500 plus sister survivors. After thousands of hours of this survivor’s committee’s time, blood, sweat and tears, today, we prevailed.” Klein is referencing years of avoidance and deflection from the organizations, especially the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, who argued that they weren’t responsible for Nassar’s abuse because he wasn’t an employee of theirs. And even once these organizations did agree to pay, there was a lot of back and forth about the amount. At least a few settlements were rejected by the Committee of Survivors for being too low. The organizations allegedly spent over $100 million on legal fees to avoid a major settlement. So that’s a pretty much lose-lose for them, and this is a major victory for the athletes.
Gideon Resnick: Right. And so Josie, the settlement isn’t just monetary, though. There’s other stuff here, right?
Josie Duffy Rice: Correct. So as part of the settlement, USA Gymnastics will be required to have at least one abuse survivor on its board of directors. They also must create a restorative justice process for victims, among other things. And this is a big deal because it means a new era for the Organization, for USA Gymnastics, which went from being a highly-profitable, successful sports organization with all these endorsements, all these deals, to filing for bankruptcy in 2018, right, due to these accusations and these lawsuits. And in fact, at one point many survivors wanted USA Gymnastics dissolved entirely, but that was impossible because of the technical rules of bankruptcy filing. So now the organization can rebuild with the direct input and hopefully continued leadership of survivors. And perhaps this time they’ll do a better job of protecting victims of abuse. So here’s hoping.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Josie Duffy Rice: And that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: [ad break]
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: The death toll continues to climb in Kentucky in the wake of tornadoes that devastated the state this past weekend. Governor Andy Beshear said yesterday that at least 74 people are confirmed dead and over 100 are still missing.
[clip of Gov. Andy Beshear] Thousands of homes are damaged, if not entirely destroyed, and it may be weeks before we have final counts on both deaths and levels of destruction.
Gideon Resnick: One location that has become a symbol of the tornado’s destruction is a candle factory in the city of Mayfield. About 110 employees were working there on Friday night when the tornadoes hit. Many of them wanted to leave work when they heard warning sirens, but their supervisors allegedly threatened to fire them if they left early. Eight workers were found dead and more are still missing. The state rushed to clear fallen trees and power lines yesterday, while residents set up outdoor kitchens to feed those whose homes were destroyed. As of our recording on Monday night, more than 25,000 customers in Kentucky are still without electricity. President Joe Biden said that he’s flying to the state tomorrow to survey the damage, adding this:
[clip of President Biden] We’re going to get this done. We’re going to be there as long as it takes to help.
Josie Duffy Rice: Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is expected to now plead guilty on federal civil rights charges in the 2020 death of George Floyd. Chauvin previously pleaded not guilty, but according to a notice sent out yesterday by the court’s electronic filing system, a hearing to change his plea has been scheduled for tomorrow morning. Chauvin was already convicted of murdering George Floyd in state court, and he was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison. Chauvin and three other former officers involved in Floyd’s death were set to go to trial in late January on federal charges. The charges allege they deprived Floyd of his constitutional rights by using unreasonable force. All four officers pleaded not guilty, and as of now, it is not clear whether anyone else will follow Chauvin and change their plea as well.
Gideon Resnick: Former media mogul Jimmy Lai and seven other pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong were sentenced to prison yesterday in the government’s latest move to crack down on free speech. Last year, Lai and the other activists gathered on June 4th to remember the day that pro-democracy protesters were massacred in China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. The vigil has been held for three decades by the organization Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. But last year, the vigil was banned as China moved to introduce its new national security law for Hong Kong, which has made it easier to punish protesters and reduce the city’s autonomy. Lai was sentenced to 13 months in prison while his co-defendants got between 4 and 14 months of jail time. He did make a statement shortly before being sentenced, saying quote, “Let me suffer the punishment of this crime, so I may share the burden and glory of those young men and women who shed their blood on June 4th to proclaim truth, justice and goodness.”
Josie Duffy Rice: Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, is one step closer to the greatest honor a Trump loyalist can receive: a contempt of Congress charge. The House panel investigating the January 6th insurrection voted last night to hold Meadows in contempt.. The next step before the Justice Department gets involved is a full-floor House vote, which could happen as soon as this week. Meadows began cooperating with the committee last month, but last week he reversed course and argued that executive privilege prevented him from cooperating any further. Unfortunately for him, Meadows moment of legal clarity came after he had handed over thousands of documents to the panel, which committee members have already used to illuminate his involvement in the Trump White House’s slow-motion insurrection response. On Sunday, the House panel released a report laying out the large role Meadows played in trying to overturn the 2020 election. As for the contempt of Congress charge and whether Meadows will be convicted, here’s what Congressman Adam Schiff had to say last night:
[clip of Adam Schiff] Mr. Meadows’ behavior and his refusal to do his moral duty shows why we need stronger tools to enforce congressional subpoenas. And I expect the Justice Department to move as swiftly in dealing with Mr. Meadows as it did with Mr. Bannon, and prosecute him.
Josie Duffy Rice: This is not technically legal advice, Gideon, but I do not recommend agreeing to help, giving a lot of documents over that implicate you, and then deciding that you don’t want to help. I just don’t think that’s the best angle at avoiding charges.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I think as Mr. Meadows’ attorney, I’d like to once again invoke Opposite Day, which has been our current legal strategy for this entire proceeding.
Josie Duffy Rice: That is about as sophisticated as his seems to be. So good job. Congrats, esquire.
Gideon Resnick: Thank you very much. Thank you for including my title. And those are the headlines.
Josie Duffy Rice: One more thing before we go, so we have a quick favor to ask: if you love listening to this podcast— and how could you not?—why not leave us a review? Tell us what you like, what you don’t like, or any other thoughts you might have about What A Day. We can’t wait to read what you think.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, follow us on Instagram @whataday, and tell your friends listen.
Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading, and not just the essay responses Kim Kardashian wrote for the baby bar like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] and early congrats to Mark Meadows on your contempt of Congress charge.
Gideon Resnick: You know, a lot of people try, but few people succeed at that, and that is, that’s an honor.
Josie Duffy Rice: Congress only charges important people. It’s true.
Gideon Resnick: It is true. I haven’t gotten charged yet myself, so you’re ahead of me, Mark. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.