In This Episode
- Moderna said that its vaccine trial for 12-17 year olds resulted in zero cases of symptomatic COVID. Also, we discuss so-called breakthrough cases, which happen when fully vaccinated people get coronavirus: Don’t worry, they’re wildly rare and a sign of the effectiveness of vaccines.
- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law that would prohibit social media platforms from kicking off political candidates. If you’re thinking “How do you enforce that?” or “Is this all to suck up to Trump?” the answers are “yes” and “obviously.”
- And in headlines: a Russian company tried to pay science influencers to sow vaccine misinformation, Marjorie Taylor Greene’s holocaust analogies, and Simone Biles lands a double pike on vault.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, May 26th, I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, where we put the super and the blood into super flower blood moon.
Akilah Hughes: This moon needs to figure itself out, man. I mean, it’s honestly doing too much. Like, why don’t we just go back to moon and try again?
Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, Florida says it will punish social media companies that suspend the accounts of political candidates. Plus, we’ll have headlines.
Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest:
[clip of Andy Slavitt] Today the US will hit 50% of adult Americans that are fully vaccinated. This is a major milestone in our country’s vaccination efforts.
Akilah Hughes: Yay yah. All right. That was Andy Slavitt, a White House senior adviser, on the COVID-19 response with the big number of the day. Giddy, what else did we hear about the federal response to the pandemic yesterday?
Gideon Resnick: A lot of good numbers. The latest briefing went over some individual successes, including that nine states have hit at least 70% of their adult population with at least one dose. That is great. Reminder, that’s the magic number the White House is looking for a nationwide by July 4th. And almost five million adolescents have gotten at least one dose as well per the CDC data. And that is sure to go up with some other news that we got yesterday as well. Moderna said that its vaccine trial for 12 to 17-year olds resulted in zero—zero!—cases of symptomatic COVID and they’re planning to apply for authorization from the FDA for that age group in June. If they are successful, that would accompany Pfizer, which has already been cleared for use in 12 to 15-year olds throughout the country. And then zooming out, we are now among the most vaccinated countries in the entire world, which is great, but of course means that major inequities remain. Even still, at the same briefing that we’re talking about, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned of risks for the unvaccinated Americans among us over the Memorial Day holiday, saying, quote “we are not quite out of the woods yet.”
Akilah Hughes: We certainly aren’t. All right. I want everybody to turn up and have a good time. But I also don’t anybody get COVID, so you know, just be smart [laughs] get vaccinated. And something else the CDC has done recently that’s gotten a bit less attention: changing the way they are tracking so-called breakthrough cases. So can you talk about what’s going on there?
Gideon Resnick: Most definitely. So as a quick refresher for the listeners, a breakthrough case is defined here as a COVID infection that happens in a fully-vaccinated person. They are wildly rare. They are unbelievably rare. The CDC puts the number at about 10,262 known cases out of 101 million Americans that have been fully vaccinated by the end of April. A tiny, tiny, tiny percent of a percent—although the CDC thinks that number is a little bit of an undercount. But one thing to also take from all of this is that it’s just more confirmation that the vaccines available are incredibly, incredibly effective. For example, about a quarter of these very, very rare cases reportedly involved no symptoms at all.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. So that’s what we know about the breakthroughs, but what has changed and how the CDC is monitoring this info, and what does it mean?
Gideon Resnick: Well, at the start of this month, the CDC decided that they were only going to focus on investigating the cases that involved severe outcomes. So one example, it would mean the CDC would look at a rare case like the death of a vaccinated resident of a Kentucky nursing home, but perhaps not a recent outbreak among the New York Yankees, which was mostly asymptomatic. We can link to the New York Times article on all of this. But one of the main pushbacks on this change from the scientific community is that less data overall could mean less knowledge of, for instance, how long immunity from vaccines could last, how variants could play a role, and more.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and last thing from the White House on COVID for today, there’s been a lot more of a push to investigate the origins of the disease in light of some new information. So what’s that update?
Gideon Resnick: Oh, this is wild. So this is largely a result of your recent story in The Wall Street Journal. That story claimed that a U.S. intelligence report said three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology went to the hospital for treatment in November of 2019. So that’s shortly before the outbreak was confirmed. A Chinese official denied the report’s accuracy. And I want to emphasize there is a lot we don’t know about this, including whether these individuals even had COVID. But two things are sort of, overhang this and why they’re all the political implications wrapped up in it. One, a study about the origin of COVID conducted by the WHO with the Chinese government that was published earlier this year was not completely bulletproof. Then two, there were these indications that the Chinese government was trying to hide some things early on here. And this all may seem sort of hard to believe, but we bring it up because yesterday White House officials said that we need to get to the bottom of this. And this idea of a potential lab leak has gotten a little bit more traction recently. Senior adviser Andy Slavitt, for instance, said a more thorough investigation needs to happen, and for China to be more transparent with international investigators. And HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra made a similar case yesterday directly to the WHO:
[clip of Sec. Xavier Becerra] Phase two of the COVID origin study must be launched with terms of reference that are transparent, science-based, and give international experts the independence to fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, I’m sure the reactions from everybody are going to be completely measured and normal no matter what we find out.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Totally. That’s known for. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: That’s what we do. We will let you know, of course, what happens here. Now, Akilah, let’s talk about another interesting story out of our beloved state of Florida.
Akilah Hughes: Oh, man. Florida really can’t help but step in it lately. So in the state, in what Community would call “the darkest timeline” we have a new law, SB7072, and it would prohibit social media platforms from kicking off political candidates, and allow those who are kicked off to sue for monetary damages. The law also includes provisions for randos who get kicked off the apps if they feel their terms of service are being unfairly enforced. Governor Ron DeSantis signed the law on Monday, as the founder of Project Veritas—who got kicked off Twitter and is suing for defamation, by the way—stood nearby. So if you’re thinking that’s stupid, or how do you even enforce that? And is this some shit to suck up to Trump? Yes, yes, and obviously.
Gideon Resnick: Excellent. Thank you for answering my lightning round of questions. I am curious, though, about a lot of things, but what specifics are actually in this law?
Akilah Hughes: All right. So it goes into effect on July 1st and the state’s Department of Legal Affairs would investigate cases of these politicians being thrown off the sites for violating the terms of service, and then potentially restrict a platform from contracting with state agencies. How this would hurt a place like Twitter or YouTube or Facebook is incredibly unclear. And by the way—I thought this was interesting—The House of Mouse is exempt because they are based in Florida. So if you get kicked off Disney plus for, I don’t know, campaigning too hard, yeah they’re not going to be fined. The state can then find companies $250,000 per day for de-platforming a candidate, or 25K a day for a candidate of a non-statewide race. So hypothetically, if a mayoral candidate in St. Marks, a town with less than 300 residents, harassing someone or threatens violence on their platforms, that platform could be fined for getting rid of them.
Gideon Resnick: That makes total sense to me. This is great policy. Let’s sign it.
Akilah Hughes: It’s just clearly so unhinged to pass a law like this that would give political candidates different privileges than their constituents on private businesses apps, but what’s even more incomprehensible is how it could be enforced. Like how? For starters, federal laws already protect social media companies in the event that they remove posts. A legal expert told The Washington Post that the bill seems, quote “purely performative” which is in line with the GOP clown car’s truly bizarre culture wars on Dr. Seuss’s estate, Mr. Potatohead, Legos and children’s sports. In a statement, DeSantis compared social networks banning accounts to, quote “tyrannical behavior” he claims that many in Florida experienced in Cuba and Venezuela.
Gideon Resnick: That’s right.
Akilah Hughes: So yeah, getting banned from Twitter for threatening to kill someone similar to anything that has happened in either of those places. But his point seems to be that conservatives are victims of big tech rather than the quantifiable argument that they are the biggest beneficiaries. I mean, the top 10 news stories of the week on Facebook routinely come from Ben Shapiro, Dan Bongino and Fox News—two of those are individuals that people only know because they’ve been amplified so much on social media—not to mention the spread of conspiracy theories and cults like QAnon and others flourishing online. I personally have this conspiracy theory that the governments of most Southern states are punishing their citizens for that time that their states lost a war against the U.S., by spending tax dollars pumping out this nonsense on a constant loop, instead of, say, making sure that the air is clean or the roads are nice or that everyone has enough to eat.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, those are fundamentally silly goals, I have to say. This is the more important stuff.
Akilah Hughes: Very serious stuff here.
Gideon Resnick: Very, very serious. So as with anything the Republican Party is up to these days, several more states are trying to get on board. Texas, North Carolina and Louisiana are all considering similar bills.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, which just to reiterate, is a big waste of time. Look, social networks can institute whatever policies they deem in the best interest of their users. And considering the right’s insistence on running alleged child rapists—and I’m looking at Anthony Bouchard, the U.S. House candidate for Wyoming, running against Liz Cheney—and child rapist apologists and birdbrain conspiracy theorists, they’re likely going to have to get used to getting the boot from the digital discourse. We’ll keep you posted as this develops but that’s the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about the most valuable bleach tips in television. Guy Fieri signed a new contract with the Food Network yesterday, which puts his new salary at roughly $26.6 million annually. Before this, he was making a pitiful $10 million a year. This truly mind-blowing number makes the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives host the highest paid chef on cable TV. And to understand why Food Network is willing to throw down like this, here’s a quote from their president. Quote “I just can’t imagine Food Network without Guy. I can’t even bring myself to imagine it.” Giddy, do you consider this a fair rate for the mayor of Flavortown?
Gideon Resnick: I think it’s only fair, you know, for the amount of time that reruns of Triple D have been on in my household and in other households, and like in the background of—basically any time I’ve watched Food Network, I feel like it’s been triple D. It makes sense. It makes sense financially. I hope that he finds a way to, you know, give some, if not a majority, of this back to a lot of restaurants and places that he has like helped promote and been sort of great about over the course of the pandemic. That, that would be nice, and I think an official move from a mayor of a town known as flavor.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Yeah. Wow. I think that that’s really sweet. And I do hope that he can use his Flavortown winnings to fund other flavors in different towns.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. Yes. That would be the goal. But what about you, Akilah? Do you, do you like this rate for him?
Akilah Hughes: I mean, I think it’s outrageously [laughs]. Like that’s what, half a million dollars a week? A little bit more than. That is wild. I don’t know that, you know, to me, I don’t know how you could even do more episodes of Driners, Dive-ins and Drive. [laughs] I don’t even know what it’s called, but I think that there’s enough episodes. Like you said, they’re already in syndication. They’re rerunning this. It’s sort of like Ridiculousness on MTV. Like MTV doesn’t even exist anymore. It is just Ridiculousness reruns back to back. I don’t know who’s watching them. I imagine the ratings that they are getting in are from people who have died in the chair or their TV’s broken and stuck on the channel. [laughs] But it’s just such an exorbitant amount of money. I’m like, man, he better put 500K into Dogecoin every week. He’s always tweeting about it. You know, build it back up. Be the hero we all need Guy. [laughs] But that’s kind of where I’m at. It seems like a lot of money for visiting places that are making the food.
Gideon Resnick: I completely, yeah, I mean, you’re completely right. I do hope that he does impact both Dogecoin and some of those restaurants that he’s gone to. I think that would benefit basically all parties that are involved in this situation.
Akilah Hughes: There you go. So, Guy, don’t let us down. We believe in you. And just like that, we’ve checked our temps. Stay safe, maybe visit Flavortown when it’s safe. We don’t know. Tell us what it tastes like. And we’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Oil giant ExxonMobil is facing heavy pressure from investors to take steps towards cleaner energy. The company is set to meet with shareholders today to vote on who will sit on their board. A group of investors is contesting a third of the company’s nominees to the board, arguing that Exxon should elect people who can lead the company towards more sustainable sources of energy, which Exxon competitors are putting more resources into pursuing. The group leading the charge is known as Engine Number 1—ooh—and it’s an activist hedge fund with a focus on environmental issues. They want to see their more eco-friendly nominees on the board, and they have the support of several of the country’s largest public pension funds that also have a stake in Exxon. This effort to “green Exxon” signals a shifting tide in what oil investors want from energy companies.
Akilah Hughes: Well, fun fact: five to seven elderly white men is called a group of investors. [laughs] Just so you know. Well, in a dark moment for spon-con, French security officials are investigating an attempt by a PR company with ties to Russia to pay science influencers to discredit the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine. The company allegedly offered to pay for its YouTubers and bloggers to say that people who got the Pfizer vaccine had three times the chance of dying as people who got the AstraZeneca vaccine. That is definitely not true.
Gideon Resnick: Nope.
Akilah Hughes: As real influencers know, it’s not even the type of untrue thing that would get a lot of likes, i.e. my cereal had shrimp in it—Shrimpamin Toast Crunch.
Gideon Resnick: Oooh, shots fired.
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] You know, we’re shooting shrimp. The PR company asks content creators to avoid using words like advertising or sponsored in their posts, and to act like they were passionate about the topic. French security officials traced the offers back to a marketing company based in Moscow, and are looking into any connections to the Russian government. The line about Pfizer being more deadly than AstraZeneca mirrors a claim made on the official Twitter account of Russia’s Sputnik 5 vaccine. And this is a good time to remind everyone that there’s actually no trophy for winning the pandemic.
Gideon Resnick: When you become a politician, one of the first things you learn is not to compare minor inconveniences to the Holocaust. That lesson apparently didn’t stick for Republican representative and walking banned post herself, Marjorie Taylor Green, who has spent the last few days making repeated comparisons of mask mandates and vaccine passports to the gold stars worn by Jews in Nazi Germany.
Akilah Hughes: Jesus.
Gideon Resnick: I’m not sure if those Jews had to show their stars to enter an indoor concert. I actually think they were used for something else. Yesterday, Green’s comments became too insane to ignore, drawing rebukes from Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy. No punitive actions, though, to be clear, indicating that House Republicans have about a 100 strike policy for these comparisons. Green’s previous comments on Judaism include her pet theory that a wealthy Jewish family started wildfires with a space laser.
Akilah Hughes: Wow.
Gideon Resnick: So she’s a little inconsistent, but it seems like her main take on Jewish people is that she just doesn’t want them to vote for her.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, well, I don’t think she’s going to worry about that. Arguably the greatest gymnast of all time and person who gravity forgot to affect, Simone Biles landed the Yurchenco double pike at the US Classic last weekend, a move that involves launching off a vaulting table from a back handspring and then flipping over twice in a pike position. It’s so difficult that it’s never even been attempted by another woman as far as we know. What’s also surprising is the difficulty score it was given, 6.6, which is lower than most gymnastics fans expected. Biles says that the low score assigned to the double pike seems like a way of leveling the playing field so she isn’t miles ahead of her competitors, which checks out given thousands of years of everyone trying to curb Black excellence. Also, this isn’t even the first time a move pioneered by Biles has been criticized as undervalued. Asked by The New York Times if she would still do the move, Biles said yes, quote “because I can.” I apply the same attitude to having more tabs open on my computer than any engineer thought was possible.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, when my computer wheezes I thank Simone for the inspiration every day.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, you know, we, were all heroes I guess. [laughs] And those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today, if you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, avoid us with your space laser, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just Russian vaccine tweets like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon, Resnick.
[together] And congrats, Mayor Fieri!
Akilah Hughes: You deserve it. You know, you got the whitest hair anyone’s ever seen.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Not the first mayor to get a financial kick back either. Just saying.
Akilah Hughes: Yep.
Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.
Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.