White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on reopening schools in the fall: “The science should not stand in the way of this.”
That sounds spectacularly bad, doesn’t it? If the science doesn’t support it, the Trump administration doesn’t care. They just want the schools open — putting our kids at risk in order to make a political point.
That’s not really what she said, mind you — although you’d be hard-pressed to discover it in establishment media coverage of Thursday’s White House news conference.
McEnany said those words as part of a longer answer about reopening schools for in-person instruction in the fall. Given that many districts have been saying they’ll stay online for the next school year, a reporter wondered what the president would say to parents who were asking, “OK, what do I do with my kids?”
“You know, the president has said unmistakably that he wants schools to open. And I was just in the Oval [Office] talking to him about that. And when he says open, he means open in full — kids being able to attend each and every day at their school,” McEnany replied.
“The science should not stand in the way of this. And as [public health expert] Dr. Scott Atlas said — I thought this was a good quote — ‘Of course, we can [do it]. Everyone else in the … Western world, our peer nations are doing it. We are the outlier here.’
“The science is very clear on this, that — you know, for instance, you look at the JAMA Pediatrics study of 46 pediatric hospitals in North America that said the risk of critical illness from COVID is far less for children than that of seasonal flu,” she continued.
“The science is on our side here, and we encourage for localities and states to just simply follow the science, open our schools. It’s very damaging to our children: There is a lack of reporting of abuse; there’s mental depressions that are not addressed; suicidal ideations that are not addressed when students are not in school. Our schools are extremely important, they’re essential, and they must reopen.”
That was fairly straightforward, right?
Anyone looking at the statement in totality would have seen what McEnany was saying: The White House felt the risk level to children from the coronavirus was low, given statistics, but the risk level that stems from keeping them out of school and opting for distance learning was high, particularly when you consider issues like depression and unreported child abuse.
Report her full quote fairly!
“The science should not stand in the way of this…the science is very clear on this…the science is on our side here. We encourage for localities and states to just simply follow the science. Open our schools.” pic.twitter.com/keQ9oZUzcA
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) July 16, 2020
Becket Adams at the Washington Examiner cataloged the tweets and headlines reporting on what McEnany said. They were, um, very similar:
“The White House Press Secretary on Trump’s push to reopen schools: ‘The science should not stand in the way of this,’” CNN’s Jim Acosta tweeted.
The White House Press Secretary on Trump’s push to reopen schools: “The science should not stand in the way of this.”
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) July 16, 2020
Reporter Jim Heath: “‘The science should not stand in the way of this.’ You just can’t make this stuff up. 108 days until the election.”
“The science should not stand in the way of this.” –@PressSec response to school openings during pandemic.
You just can’t make this stuff up.
108 days until the election.
— Jim Heath (@JimHeathTV) July 16, 2020
Ana Cabrera of CNN: “WH Press Secretary: ‘When he (Trump) says open, he means open — in full — kids being able to attend each and every day at their school,’ McEnany told reporters at the press briefing. ‘The science should not stand in the way of this.’”
WH Press Secretary: “When he (Trump) says open, he means open– in full– kids being able to attend each and every day at their school,” McEnany told reporters at the press briefing. “The science should not stand in the way of this.”
— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) July 16, 2020
“‘The science should not stand in the way of this,’ @PressSec says of fully re-opening schools,” NBC News’ Josh Lederman added.
“The science should not stand in the way of this,” @PressSec says of fully re-opening schools
— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) July 16, 2020
“From the White House podium: ‘Science should not stand in the way’ of reopening schools,” CBS News’ Weijia Jiang said.
From the White House podium:
“Science should not stand in the way” of reopening schools. https://t.co/pE2AN6GtyM
— Weijia Jiang (@weijia) July 16, 2020
Adams cataloged more of this. Perhaps most frightening, everyone he cited all chose the same quote — a phrase which wasn’t verbally felicitous but also didn’t have anything to do with the general thrust of what McEnany had to say.
This doesn’t have much to do with whether or not reopening schools in the fall is a good idea.
There’s scientific arguments to be made on both sides, though I tend to side with the aforementioned Dr. Scott Atlas, a former head of neuroradiology at Stanford.
“If you believe in science, science says that 99.97 percent of deaths in the United States are in people over 15, 99.9 are people over 24. The hospitalization rate for influenza according to the CDC is much greater than from COVID-19 for children,” he told Fox News.
“There are virtually zero risks to children of getting something serious or dying from this disease,” Atlas added.
“Anyone who thinks schools should be closed is not talking about the risks to children. That’s factual. They should say that.”
He noted that 82 percent of K-12 teachers were under 55, meaning they weren’t in high-risk groups, either — and for those who were, there were measures that could be taken.
All of that is a digression, however, because the media chose, en masse, to distort what McEnany meant — which was crystal clear — based on a muddied phrase. And they all drank from the same cup of error.
McEnany isn’t a science denier, which is what she was made out to be. The administration isn’t putting your children or our teachers at risk unnecessarily given what we know about the science.
And every person who used this specific quote quote did so for a reason. It wasn’t to enlighten their readership.
As a nation, we desperately need to have a series of discussions involving where we go from here, particularly when it comes to our students. When those who facilitate this discussion lie to our faces, nothing is served aside from an agenda.
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