January 30, 2022

Missouri's Attorney General Eric Schmitt went on TV and said masks don't work for kids. He's spreading dangerous and deadly misinformation.

I don’t believe in the forced masking of 5-year olds. There’s no science behind it. There’s nothing to support it. Families are best to make these decisions, and that’s why we’re fighting so hard on this front. Where we’re at now, I mean the flu is much more dangerous for the 5-year old than COVID is. Those are just facts.

The problem is it’s not based on facts and science. There’s just no, there’s no study that shows any measurable protection for kids wearing masks. In fact, the good news is, um, you know, uh COVID isn’t.. you know It’s hard for kids to contract, transmit, or get seriously ill from COVID. That’s the good thing. Not all viruses are the same.

Eric Schmitt, Attorney General of Missouri, December 12, 2021

Someone needs to correct him and ensure there are consequences if he refuses. I don't know why AG Schmitt is pushing this misinformation, but people should know he’s running for Senator. Schmitt replaced the previous AG from Missouri, who ran for Senator and won: Josh Hawley.

I contacted the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to see if they contacted the AG to correct him and provide him with studies on the effectiveness of masks. (I haven't heard back from @HealthyLivingMo, but when I say I write for Hullabaloo, Crooks & Liars and Spocko's Brain I don't get a lot of return calls...)

He needs to be called out and told to stop spreading misinformation. Who will do that? Missouri public health professionals? National public health professionals? (I'd love for Dr. Ali Nouri or Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding to correct Schmitt on COVID's spread and masks. Especially after my tweet of a video showing the spread of COVID-19 in the air got 3.5 MILLION views.

Source: Dr. Makoto Tsubokura, RIKEN Center for Computational Science

Here is a YouTube HD version version to share)

When I investigated state laws about violations of COVID emergency orders, I found multiple public health laws that the Trump campaign broke at their rallies. I also found state and federal laws about intentionally spreading misinformation. I haven't dug into Missouri's laws, but Schmitt's misinformation is endangering the public. If I found a Missouri law he violated, I'd still need to get someone to charge him. Who? Perhaps he's broken Federal laws on misinformation, specifically around the CARES act.

But finding a law that he broke and charging him isn't going to be enough to stop him. Misinformation has to been stopped on multiple levels. Social media, right wing media and mainstream media. Interestingly, I uploaded the clip of Schmitt with his exact quote as the headline to YouTube for this piece. YouTube removed it for violating its COVID medical misinformation policy!

Credit: YouTube

Did YouTube catch and remove this misinformation in Schmitt's 12/12/2021 appearance on This Week in Missouri Politics? Did the host, Scott Faughn, challenge it? Did it go back up? Did Faughn include disclaimers about the AG's comment after the fact? Doubtful, especially since he appeared to agree with the misinformation.

I'm glad that YouTube caught this, but there needs to be active processes and humans in the media & social media stopping the spread of misinformation. And there needs to be consequences for its deliberate spread.

AG Schmitt spread misinformation on masks Dec 12, 2021. He needs to be called out by medical professionals and told to stop spreading misinformation. Credit: This Week In Missouri Politics

Missouri Schools Are A Hot COVID Mess

I'm not going to totally wade into the Schmitt, school mask mandates and the spread of COVID story. I suggest you read Tony Messenger's great column about Schmitt suing schools for mask mandates while Missouri's COVID is at record levels. But you should know:

  1. 11 Missouri hospitals are so stressed the Governor begged for help from the Federal government, Congresswoman Cori Bush lobbied for relief and Biden sent Navy medical personnel to help, but only one hospital got help.
  2. In December a Missouri state judge stripped local health departments’ ability to impose COVID-19 orders while cases were spiking in the state. It was so bad that,
  3. 62 schools closed because of sick teachers in January and then,
  4. AG Schmitt sued 36 schools for enforcing mask mandates.

Here's the deal, Schmitt used his position as AG to enforce the law that mask mandates are no longer in effect. That was appropriate for his position, but spreading medical misinformation is not.

Schmitt is not "staying in his lane" enforcing the law, he's driving his incorrect views headlong into oncoming science and public health traffic. And people in Missouri are dying. As the editorial board of the St. Louis Post Dispatch put it, "Schmitt is doing everything he can to worsen their plight while endangering lives — all for the sake of a U.S. Senate seat.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is lying when he claims "there’s no study that shows any measurable protection for kids wearing masks."There are & they do. Here's one. University of Michigan study shows mask mandates at schools show lower COVID transmission rates

203% increase in COVID cases for kids 5-19! Wow! As of 1/25/2022 Credit: Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

Some parents fed a steady diet of misinformation are against mask mandates. Attorney General Eric Schmitt sought those parents out and used them to go on the attack against masks. Why? He's running for Senator and wants the Trump base. He wants the kind of people who will threaten school boards with violence, like this Virginia woman.

(Hypothetical: If parents rioted against a school board in Missouri, could Schmitt be charged for incitement? )

As Digby points out, going to school boards is one of the rights' favorite strategies, and they do it ALL THE TIME. Schmitt's views about "letting the parents decide" are in line with Gov. Glenn Youngkin's executive order delegating to parents the decision on whether children wear masks at school. It's bad enough when some parents are misinformed by right wing media, but when the misinformation comes from a high-level state official with police power, like the Attorney General, it's worse.

As I said on the Majority Report this week. There's no team of pro-science, pro-vaccine, pro-mask professionals out there arguing with those spreading misinformation and who want to ignore reality so things will "go back to normal." The public health people aren't doing it. They aren't trained to debate misinformers, wrestle them to the ground until they stop their lies. They get death threats just for telling people what needs to be done to save lives!

The press aren't pushing back hard on misinformation either. As Eric Boehlert said in his brilliant newsletter Press Run.

...the press is turning away from the pandemic story — tens of millions of Americans who have been fed a mountain of vaccine lies refuse to get inoculated, thereby sacrificing themselves on the altar of right-wing misinformation.

3 Covid stories the press is getting wrong right now, Press Run, Eric Boehlert

I could say that Schmitt's misinformation is part of a larger problem, and it is, but is also a very specific problem with a specific solution.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt, left and Department of Health and Senior Services Director Donald Kauerauf, right. (Photos courtesy of Missouri Attorney General’s Office and Missouri Governor’s Office)

Don Kauerauf, the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, needs to correct Schmitt's misinformed comments and convince him to stop making them.

If Schmitt refuses, this needs to be a national story, with negative consequences for Schmitt. I've sent this clip to cable news producers, but it's not "news" unless someone in authority calls him out, demands he stop, and holds him accountable for spreading deadly misinformation. If nothing happens, it will be another case of lies that will cost lives that did not need to be lost.

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