In This Episode
- President Biden tested positive for COVID. He’s fine, but remember — everyone 6 months and over is eligible for vaccination, so get yours today.
- The January 6th Committee met in prime time last night for its final hearing of the summer. They went moment-by-moment over the 187 minutes where former President Donald Trump failed to stop the mob. Brian Beutler, Crooked’s own Editor-in-Chief and host of the pod Positively Dreadful, joins us to recap the hearings so far.
- And in headlines: the House passed legislation to codify access to contraception, a judge blocked Louisiana’s abortion ban for the third time, and New York state health officials discovered the first known polio case in the U.S. in nearly a decade.
- Vote Save America: Fuck Bans Action Plan – https://votesaveamerica.com/roe/
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Erin Ryan: It’s Friday, July 22nd. I’m Erin Ryan.
Abdul El-Sayed: And I’m Abdul El-Sayed, and this, it’s What A Day, where we want you to know it’s just fine to laugh at the video of Senator Josh Hawley running from his own supporters.
Erin Ryan: In fact, I would add that it’s not fun to not laugh at that video.
Abdul El-Sayed: This is the thing that can bring us together past our polarization. I feel like everyone can laugh at this.
Erin Ryan: On today’s show, we recap the final summer public hearing last night by the January 6th committee. Plus, in defiance of Texas officials, the city of Austin passed a measure to decriminalize abortion.
Abdul El-Sayed: But first, the big news from Thursday: President Biden tested positive for COVID. Apart from a few mild symptoms, he is fine. In fact, he tweeted out this video yesterday from the White House:
[clip of President Biden] Hey, folks, guess you heard, this morning I tested positive for COVID. But I’ve been double vaccinated and double boosted. Symptoms are mild. And I really appreciate your–your concerns. And I’m doing well. I’m getting a lot of work. I’m going to continue to get it done. And uh, and in the meantime, thanks for your concern, and keep the faith. It’s going to be okay.
Erin Ryan: Wow.
Abdul El-Sayed: I see he hasn’t gotten that COVID charisma that they talk about.
Erin Ryan: No! You know what? That means, that I have outlived Joe Biden in the who-hasn’t-gotten-COVID roster.
Abdul El-Sayed: You have.
Erin Ryan: Yeah.
Abdul El-Sayed: You have. You’re like one of the last people standing.
Erin Ryan: I am legend, in a way.
Abdul El-Sayed: His diagnosis came on a routine screening test that was confirmed by PCR. He’s had four doses of the COVID vaccine, the last one coming at the very end of March. His symptoms are mild, including fatigue, dry cough, sore throat–but no fever. And he was put on Paxlovid, the oral antiviral therapy that reduces hospitalizations by 90%. The high probability here is that the president will have a mild course, and recover. But at the same time, this is a 79-year old man and outcomes among older folks can swerve. But we’re wishing the president best of luck and good safety so he can go on to fighting inflation.
Erin Ryan: Indeed. Vaccines work, but what does this tell us about the rates out there and the importance of boosters?
Abdul El-Sayed: So all of this should put a gigantic exclamation point on the fact that BA.5 is raging around the country, and the best single thing people can do to protect themselves is to get vaccinated. But only 68% of Americans have been fully vaccinated, and only 32–less than a third!–have been boosted. Remember, everyone six months or older is eligible for vaccination. If you’re over 12, you’re eligible for a booster, and if you’re over 50, you’re eligible for two boosters. And currently, officials are weighing whether to let all adults get two boosters. We’ll keep you posted on that. But please, if you haven’t already, boost like Biden.
Erin Ryan: And just to like bring something personal into it, I got vaccinated three times when I was pregnant. I have a daughter who’s eight-months old. She’s gotten her first vaccine. And so far, the only symptoms that I’m seeing from her is you can shoot lasers from her eyes and crawl up a wall vertically–which is cool!
Abdul El-Sayed: I feel like your baby is from The Boys.
Erin Ryan: No, she’s Jack Jack from The Incredibles.
Abdul El-Sayed: I love that.
Erin Ryan: That was my aspiration, was like, you know what? I’m going to get all three while I’m pregnant and I’m going to have a Jack Jack. And it’s working out so far. Let’s also tell you what you need to know from the season finale of the January 6th committee’s public hearings. They met in primetime last night for the eighth and final meeting for the summer, and they went moment by moment over the 187 minutes where former President Donald Trump failed to act between his speech that day and a video he finally posted that asked the rioters to disperse. Here’s Republican Congressman and committee member Adam Kinzinger:
[clip of Rep. Adam Kinzinger] I want you to just think of what you would have done if you were in his shoes and had the power to end the violence. You would have immediately and forcefully told the rioters to stop and leave. Like, stop and leave. Done. As you heard, that’s exactly what his senior staff had been urging him to do, but he resisted, and he kept resisting for another almost 2 hours.
Abdul El-Sayed: Man, if I find myself in Donald Trump’s shoes, I would definitely have done all I could to stop the rioting and protesting. And then I would have taken off those damn shoes.
Erin Ryan: Exactly. They look super uncomfortable.
Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah. They’re probably like four sizes too big and smell like sweat. Like McDonald’s beef tallow.
Erin Ryan: Why did you introduce that evil into my brain? Terrible. Terrible. I hate it. Hate it. To help us recap the January 6th hearings so far, we have with us Brian Beutler. Brian is Crooked’s own Editor in Chief, and host of The Pod, “Positively Dreadful.” Brian, welcome back to What a Day.
Brian Beutler: It’s great to be here.
Erin Ryan: We’re so happy to have you. I wanted to start with this standout moment where the committee played recorded testimony from an unidentified White House security official who is part of VP Mike Pence’s security detail on January 6th. Take a listen:
[clip of VP Pence security detail] The members of the VP detail at this time were starting to fear for their own lives. There was a lot of yelling, a lot of very personal calls over the radio. So it was disturbing. I don’t like talking about it. But there were calls to say goodbye the family members, so one and so forth. It was getting, for whatever the reason was on the ground, the VP detail thought that this was about to get very ugly.
Erin Ryan: Wow. Yeah. So, Brian, besides that, like, what moment stood out most to you, and did you learn anything new?
Brian Beutler: I guess hearing that, I really want to know what Secret Service agents were saying to each other via text message, but apparently those have all been deleted forever. Beyond the fact that the Secret Service detail close to Mike Pence was just as freaked out about how dangerous the situation was as the Capitol police officers who were on the front lines fighting against the rioters–well, we learned that, according to Liz Cheney, the dam is broken and they are getting a bunch of new evidence, so there’s going to be more hearings along these lines in September, or later in the year, at any rate. Then we’ve got the fullest picture yet of how overwhelming the pressure on President Trump was from when he ended his speech on the Ellipse to when he finally issued his reluctant “go home” message to the rioters, how universal the pressure was on him to say something quicker and more resolutely to them, and that his unwillingness to do it was about his desire to prolong the riot–to the point where, even when they started to break him down and get him to agree to say something, he didn’t want to use words like peaceful. He didn’t want to encourage his supporters to be peaceful because their disruptiveness was the purpose of the whole thing.
Abdul El-Sayed: You get a sense that Trump wanted to bring every ounce of grievance inside his little soul to everything that happened, but I do want to bring up the thing that you brought up, which is those deleted Secret Service text messages from the day, that everyone has been so fixated on. Because you’re right, these seem to be the missing link, the agency is supposedly still working to retrieve them, so we might actually eventually get to see them. But did it seem like the absence of them was noticeable in the hearing last night? And how did it change the way that the committee went about constructing what they tried to construct?
Brian Beutler: You know, it’s going to depend what those text messages said, if they’re ever retrieved. How much more granular detail they provide us about how involved Secret Service was, the extent to which Trump was trying to involve them, and maybe people like Tony Ornato, who used to be a Secret Service officer, were they trying to play along with Trump? Trying to help him succeed? Was Mike Pence’s reluctance to get in the car with Secret Service and leave the premises in part a fear that they wouldn’t bring him back? You know, we don’t know. But I think the absence of the text messages, it’s almost like it’s own Chekhov’s gun. There could be huge bombshells in them that really change and enhance our understanding of how bad things were that day.
Erin Ryan: Mm hmm. And given the fact that the committee sort of, will kind of play as though they don’t know things that they definitely already know in order to get what they need to get–I mean, Chekhov’s text messages is a really funny headline in general. So this is the last scheduled public hearing until September, so we’ve got a while before we hear from the committee again. What do you think was the big story we should take away from the hearing so far? And where does the committee go from here?
Brian Beutler: It’s so interesting because even before the hearings began, it was pretty clear that Trump did it, right? Like he is responsible for this, it was sort of his plan all along. And then each hearing that the committee held sort of reinforced that. You know, I think that the hearing with Cassidy Hutchinson was the one, it painted a portrait, right? Like, we were sort of there with him and with the key players in a way that we hadn’t been before, but we were still learning that Trump wanted his armed rioters to go down to the Capitol. He wanted to be there with them to lead the coup sort of from behind. He wanted the transfer of power not to happen, and if violence be the way that came about, he was perfectly okay with that. And then when Secret Service declined to take him down to the Capitol, he spent these 187 minutes that Thursday’s hearing was about, in the White House stewing and refusing to do anything about it. You know, one thing that we learned in Thursday’s hearing was that when he came back to the White House, the White House photographer came into the dining room where he was and started taking pictures and he said, no pictures.
Erin Ryan: First time in his entire life he didn’t want to be on camera.
Brian Beutler: Right. And why does he not want this moment documented? It’s because he’s doing things that he knows would be harmful to him if they ever come out. Well, now they’re coming out. I think that the Thursday hearing–the season finale hearing–it didn’t tell us a bunch of new shocking bombshell information about Trump’s plot that he had cooked up. It was just like the pathetic ending of he had these grand, fantastical thoughts about how this was all going to play out and he was going to stay in power, and it ends with him like watching TV for 3 hours while everyone begged with him to intervene so that more people don’t die, and he harrumphs, and he reluctantly records these terrible videos. And then it’s over and everyone goes home at 4 p.m. and that’s how the story ends. It’s like a very pathetic end to the whole saga. I guess that’s sort of where they’re leaving us and the subsequent hearings will be about anything that they learned to fill in gaps from, you know, episode one through nine.
Abdul El-Sayed: I feel like the conclusion here is: yes, he really is that bad. And they did a great job getting to that conclusion and really filling in the details. But the ultimate question here is, will it actually even matter? I mean, did the committee get people’s attention with these hearings?
Brian Beutler: You know, other than the most diehard Trump supporters, the information in these hearings, if not the actual hearings themselves, did break through. And it either, you know, made people who were sort of iffy about Trump realizes that he’s actually bad the way everyone said, or that this is really damaging. And if you’re a partisan voter, you want to win, and maybe you don’t want the guy who’s been tarred with all this, who’s been caught basically red-handed masterminding a failed coup attempt to be the nominee again, because that candidate’s not likely to win the next election. Without making predictions, I think the political impact of the January 6th committee investigation has been real.
Erin Ryan: Mmm hm. Brian Beutler, Editor in Chief at Crooked Media, and host of Crooked’s pod, “Positively dreadful.” If you aren’t subscribed, do it now. Thank you, Brian.
Brian Beutler: Agreed. Thank you.
Erin Ryan: And that’s the latest for now. Let’s get to some headlines.
Erin Ryan: The House passed legislation yesterday to codify access to contraception across the country. This comes amid fears that the highly-conservative Supreme Court might come for our birth control, since Justice Clarence Thomas literally said that the precedent, quote, “should be reconsidered.” Ugh. Yikes. Here’s House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the bill was approved:
[clip of Rep. Nancy Pelosi] With this passage, Democrats will make clear we will never quit in the fight against the outrageous right-wing assault on freedom.
Erin Ryan: The majority of lawmakers voted along party lines, but eight Republicans, including Liz Cheney, actually joined Democrats in supporting the bill. Unfortunately, it is probably doomed to fail in the Senate because–yes, you guessed it–some lawmakers like protecting the filibuster more than a person’s right to choose.
Abdul El-Sayed: 96% of Republicans voted against this. That tells me a lot about their general concern for humanity, but also the fact that they just don’t understand that oral contraceptives in particular are just a medicine. Like, people use them for everything from ovarian cysts to acne. And these people just don’t want to stop with the onslaught against the health care of people. Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, a federal judge sentenced former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane to two and a half years in prison yesterday for violating George Floyd’s civil rights. Lane and two other cops were found guilty for failing to provide Floyd with needed medical care while former officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck. Back in May, Lane also pleaded guilty in state court for aiding and abetting second degree manslaughter. He’ll be sentenced for that this September, where authorities are pushing for three years behind bars. But because of a plea deal, he might be able to serve that potential time while he’s in federal prison for this latest sentencing. It was only Lane’s fourth day on the job when George Floyd was murdered.
Erin Ryan: The fight to protect abortion access continues, this time with another win in Louisiana. A judge has temporarily blocked the state’s abortion ban from going into effect, for the third time, on Thursday. Abortion advocates have been going back and forth for weeks with Republican State Attorney General Jeff Landry to prevent it from going into effect. And in that time, the abortion ban has been enacted twice and blocked twice. Landry, who’s been dead set on enacting the ban, is expected to appeal the decision, but for now, the three clinics in Louisiana that provide abortions can continue providing their essential services–which is a huge deal considering what’s going on in all the neighboring states and the reproductive services that everybody there needs. Meanwhile, in Texas, the Austin City Council passed the Grace Act yesterday, a measure that de-criminalizes abortion in the city. Here’s council member ‘Chito’ Vela, sponsor of the bill and friend of the pod, at a press conference right after the bill passed.
[clip of Chito Vela] It’s not enough. I wish we could do more to protect abortion rights, to protect reproductive rights here in Austin. But I think it’s as much as we can do.
Erin Ryan: As a reminder, the Grace Act doesn’t supersede Texas’s statewide abortion ban, but the rule will at least make investigating those who get or perform an abortion a non-priority for Austin law enforcement.
Abdul El-Sayed: New York City is known for its appreciation of the classics: The Manhattan Cocktail, the Radio City Rockettes, and, of course, polio. Polio? Yesterday, New York state health officials discovered the first known polio case in the U.S. in nearly a decade. As a reminder, polio is that disease from the 1900s that has flu-like symptoms but in extreme cases can cause paralysis and be life threatening. President Franklin D Roosevelt famously suffered from paralysis as a result of the disease. According to test results, it appears that the polio patient may have been infected with the virus overseas, but officials are now warning health care providers in the state to be on the lookout for more cases. And while there is no cure for polio, we do know a nifty way to prevent contracting it–stay with me now–vaccines. Officials are urging residents to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.
Erin Ryan: Jonas Salk, pride of Pittsburgh.
Abdul El-Sayed: Pride of Ann Arbor! I mean, he only discovered it in Ann Arbor.
Erin Ryan: Right. But Pittsburgh takes ownership. My husband’s from Pittsburgh, so I’m like a Pittsburgh in-law.
Abdul El-Sayed: I’ll give you that. But also University of Michigan, so . . .
Erin Ryan: But regardless, the vaccines are awesome! That is the consensus.
Abdul El-Sayed: Thank you, Jonas Salk. From Pittsburgh by way of Ann Arbor.
Erin Ryan: Exactly. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi officially stepped down from his post yesterday, leaving his crumbling unity coalition behind him. Italian President Sergio Mattarella initially refused to accept Draghi’s resignation last week, but on Thursday–supposedly after saying something like, Mamma Mia, here he goes again–Mattarella officially let him go, and dissolved the country’s parliament. Italy will hold a snap election in the fall to replace Draghi. Polling shows that conservative candidates of Italy’s far-right party are favored to win, and it will be the first autumn election the country has held in over a century. So Italians, maybe put on a sensible sweater before you cast your ballot for the backslide of democracy.
Abdul El-Sayed: Disgraced anti-trans comedian Dave Chappelle was bumped from his Wednesday night show at the historic First Avenue Nightclub in Minneapolis after the booking was met with resistance from its staff and community. In a statement, management of the iconic theater apologized for booking, the comedian saying, quote, “We are not just a black box with people in it, and we understand that Furst Ave is not just a room but meaningful beyond its walls.” The First Ave theater is perhaps best known for serving as the starting point for pop icon Prince, who featured the theater so heavily in his movie “Purple Rain: that fans assumed he owned the place. Chappelle’s Show, which was announced only two days beforehand, did go on in another local theater, The Varsity, which had been already set to feature the comedian later in the week. But here’s hoping at least some of the attendees did something funner with their night than attending the relocated show, like organizing email inboxes or reading a New Yorker cartoon.
Erin Ryan: Can I just pitch something that would be a very interesting way to spend an evening if you weren’t going to, like, do anything? Brainstorming things that the ghost of Prince could haunt.
Abdul El-Sayed: That would be a lot of fun.
Erin Ryan: That would be, like, so much fun.
Abdul El-Sayed: Erin, what’s your number one?
Erin Ryan: Oh, my gosh. So the ghost of Prince would have haunted that show if Chappelle had performed at First Avenue, but I think that he would also haunt like a Michele Bachmann fundraiser. Anything that was like Minnesota-originated but very un-chill, he would be there to haunt it.
Abdul El-Sayed: It gives a whole new name to the idea of the Ghost Formerly Known as Prince.
Erin Ryan: I love that. And those are the headlines. Coming up, Comic-Con starts this week and we’ll debate who’s got the worst fandom. That’s after some ads.
Erin Ryan: It’s Friday WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about herds of nerds. After canceling or limiting its events in 2020 and 2021 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the iconic San Diego Comic-Con is back this weekend in full force. While initially, an event to showcase comic books, the massive convention has grown to include popular fiction fandoms of all kinds, from video games to genre television. In an appearance on a Sirius XM talk show, actor Simon Pegg recently commented on the state of contemporary fandoms, including which he thinks is the hardest to please.
[clip of Simon Pegg] The Star Wars fan base really seems to be the most kind of toxic at the moment. Very controversial to say that.
Erin Ryan: Hmm. As well as the fandom which he’s been most impressed by:
[clip of Simon Pegg] I find the Star Trek fans have always been very, very inclusive. You know, Star Trek is about diversity. It has been since 1966. It always was. There’s no sort of like, Oh, you’re suddenly being woke now.
Erin Ryan: So, Abdul, as thousands of fans descend upon San Diego Comic-Con this weekend, I ask you, what are the best and worst fandoms?
Abdul El-Sayed: So let’s start with the worst. It has got to be some sort of tie between fans of golf–I don’t understand how you can, like, really be a fan of this. I mean, you’re going to walk with the dude down these 18 holes and watch them hit a ball that you can’t even see where it’s going? That’s number one. I think the other two that I have issues with are certainly Ohio State fans because they are the worst.
Erin Ryan: They’re terrible.
Abdul El-Sayed: And then this one, I’m afraid to say, because I’m going to get pinched on Twitter, but KHive. Look, I love Kamala Harris. I’m so grateful for her. The fact that she’s half-Indian, half-Black, female vice president means so much to me. My daughter, who’s half Indian, always points to Kamala Harris. But also, why are you all awful on Twitter? Is not Kamala, it’s you! So my favorite, though, is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Erin Ryan: Okay, wow. I’ve got more questions than I had at the beginning of this.
Abdul El-Sayed: Erin, let’s move on. I’d love to ask you about your favorite and least favorite fandoms.
Erin Ryan: I think that Twilight fandom is very upsetting in general. It’s bad books. I had to read all three Twilight books for work and like write a review of it, and it made my brain worse. It was like I had been sleep deprived and my brain just like didn’t work. But I also think, you know, going into the sports fandom thing, so I’m an alum of the University of Notre Dame. I had great experiences there, made great friends there, but I think Notre Dame fans are very, very bad.
Abdul El-Sayed: I’m not going to disagree with this.
Erin Ryan: So I think one fandom that I really like is Twin Peaks fandom. I find Twin Peaks fandom to be very pure. The original Twin Peaks was like, what, ’90, ’91, and Twin Peaks: The Return just came out a few years ago and I’ve been to a few events where people dress up like different Twin Peaks characters. And everyone there is like really cool, not gatekeeper’y, be really fun, and the show is awesome, and the whole like universe around Twin Peaks is awesome.
Abdul El-Sayed: I have to ask you, have you attended these events as a journalist or as an enthusiast?
Erin Ryan: I dressed up in costume for one of them, and it’s a lot of fun! Everyone’s really chill. Everyone is like nerdy in a really engaging way.
Abdul El-Sayed: So favorite character, then?
Erin Ryan: Well, I love Laura Palmer for different reasons and other people love Laura Palmer. I’ll just say that.
Abdul El-Sayed: Okay. Okay.
Erin Ryan: I like Josie also.
Abdul El-Sayed: Favorite Ninja Turtle?
Erin Ryan: I don’t know their names. Donatello?
Abdul El-Sayed: You broke my heart. He’s the nerdy one.
Erin Ryan: April O’Neil! Because she wears jumpsuits, and so do I.
Abdul El-Sayed: Great yellow jumpsuits.
Erin Ryan: 100%. 100%. And just like that, we’ve checked our temps.
Abdul El-Sayed: One more thing before we go: if you’re really into coffee and really into having a stable democracy, you should subscribe to Crooked Coffee. You’ll get 25% off great coffee, and you can switch between the medium or dark roast each month if you want to change it up, and you can cancel at any time.
Erin Ryan: It’s delicious premium coffee and we’re donating a portion of the proceeds to Register Her to help women across the country get registered to vote. To subscribe, shop, or learn more, head over to Crooked.com slash coffee. That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, outrun polio, and tell your friends to listen.
Abdul El-Sayed: And if you’re really into reading, and not just about cute vintage diseases to bring back like me– that’s literally what my podcast is about–What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Abdul El-Sayed.
Erin Ryan: I’m Erin Ryan.
[together] And please don’t haunt us, ghosts of Prince!
Erin Ryan: That would be very scary to me. I would feel like if the ghost of Prince came and haunted me, that he was telling me something that I couldn’t possibly understand. Much like when he released 1999.
Abdul El-Sayed: The existential haunting of Erin Ryan.
Erin Ryan: I don’t want to think about this because I’m not going to be able to sleep.
Abdul El-Sayed: Brought to you by the Ghost Formerly Known as Prince.
Priyanka Aribindi: 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 producer is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.