A purportedly straight news article from The Washington Post was littered with partisan language attacking South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) for not shutting down her state, which has a smaller population and fewer coronavirus cases than most others.The article’s headline reads: “South Dakota’s governor resisted ordering people to stay home. Now it has one of the nation’s largest coronavirus hot spots.” The details of the article make it clear South Dakota is no New York or California. South Dakota has 868 cases of the coronavirus and six deaths in a state of just under 900,000 people.
So while 300 people at a single pork-processing plant is a concern, the paper’s insistence that Noem is to blame strolls into commentary, not straight news reporting.
Noem resisted shutting down South Dakota’s economy like so many other states, saying that people could decide for themselves “to exercise their right to work, to worship and to play. Or to even stay at home.” She told reporters that “South Dakota is not New York City.”
Even if Noem ordered the entire state to shelter-in-place, the pork-processing plant where the coronavirus cluster has occurred would still be open, meaning management of the facility were responsible for actions to combat the coronavirus.
Paul TenHaken, the Republican mayor of Sioux Falls, where the plant is located, demanded a shelter-in-place order after the outbreak this past week. He told the Post had had to use voluntary recommendations because there was no statewide action, as if people and companies can’t figure out for themselves how to be hygienic.
Throughout the article, the Post disparages Noem and by extension, President Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner (full disclosure: Kushner published The New York Observer while I regularly wrote for the outlet).
The Post reported that after TenHaken called for a shelter-in-place order, Noem didn’t give in.
“But the governor continued to resist. Instead, she used a media briefing Monday to announce trials of a drug that President Trump has repeatedly touted as a potential breakthrough in the fight against the coronavirus, despite a lack of scientific evidence,” the outlet wrote.
Notice the qualifier “despite a lack of scientific evidence.” Scientific evidence is being collected. Anecdotal evidence shows that it works. It’s hard to imagine the Post would add such a qualifier if a Democrat suggested a drug may help stop the virus. And this sudden worry about “scientific evidence” comes from an outlet whose “Health Science” section routinely reports on every single study purporting to show coffee is good for you – or bad for you, or good for you liver, or helpful against skin cancer, or that it could affect miscarriage risk. The section basically reports on any random study that will generate clicks. Scientific.
The Post also appears to knock Noem for mentioning Kushner:
“It’s an exciting day,” she boasted, repeatedly citing her conversations with presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Below that line is a photo of Noem that had to be chosen to be unflattering. Her eyes are wide open and reminiscent of the infamous Michelle Bachmann Newsweek cover.
Smithfield Foods, the plant where the outbreak occurred, has since shut down, which President and CEO Kenneth Sullivan warned “is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.”
“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” he added in a statement to the post.
Workers apparently complained that the company didn’t provide enough access to protective gear, and while the company said it took steps such as “adding extra hand sanitizing stations, boosting personal protective equipment, continuing to stress the importance of personal hygiene,” workers said they still had to work close together.
Again, since the plant wouldn’t have been closed with a shelter-in-place order, Noem is not to blame for the outbreak.
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