The Thinker attended the third annual National Conservatism Conference (NatCon), which the Edmund Burke Foundation held in Miami, Florida, over the past week. There, we were on the frontlines of the battle between the corporate press and truth.
The first day’s keynote speaker was none other than Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who spoke for more than an hour regarding the State of Florida’s unparalleled success since his 2019 inauguration. In reference to the elites responsible for crafting and promoting COVID-19 policies, DeSantis said, “They were wrong about the efficacy of the mRNA vaccines.”
The governor’s comment rattled New York magazine activist journalist Jonathan Chait, best known for twisting a quote from the Manhattan Institute’s Chris Rufo (which New York’s Intelligencer ultimately corrected) and contending baselessly that President Donald Trump has been a Kremlin asset since 1987. “DeSantis keeps courting anti-vaxxers,” Chait opined on Twitter:
Christina Pushaw, formerly DeSantis’s press secretary and currently the rapid response director for his re-election campaign, replied, “Which booster are you on? #5 or #6?”
From then on, many NatCon speakers and attendees ridiculed Chait’s journalism and behavior:
Bearing in mind that the likes of President Joe Biden, Rochelle Walensky, and Rachel Maddow falsely said that the mRNA vaccines fully prevent COVID infection, the Thinker asked Chait to support his contention that DeSantis was “courting anti-vaxxers” by making a truthful statement. Chait said:
I think what [DeSantis is] saying is largely untrue. I think what he’s doing is he’s relying on the fact that the viruses mutated many times. . . . [S]tatements that were made about the efficacy about one variant yields to a different answer with different variants.
Chait added that DeSantis’s comment “needs to be understood in the context of a series of statements and actions he has made about vaccines . . . that are part of a pattern of courting opponents of vaccines.”
Public health authorities’ inability to predict the existence of subsequent variants seems to be a failure on their part, as mutations of other diseases crop up on a regular basis. When the Thinker presented this idea to Chait, he responded:
The vaccines have continued to be at least somewhat effective. They were extraordinarily effective for the first variant for which they were designed. The effectiveness has decreased with other variants, but it’s still effective overall. . . It’s still effective compared to a flu vaccine. . . I think people like DeSantis were trying to undermine people’s faith in vaccines.
The Thinker interviewed Pushaw about the quarrel between DeSantis, Chait, and her:
Regarding Chait’s tweet, Pushaw told the Thinker that while it is “debatable what motivates the public health experts,” it is “unquestionable that they were wrong.”
Pushaw added that “Joe Biden and Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, had both said last year that getting the vaccine would prevent you from getting COVID, and that’s a very black-and-white statement” with “no room for nuance.”
Those nuance-free propositions, Pushaw contends, were as “irresponsible” and “overconfident” as they were wrongheaded. But they gave politicians and corporations cover to enforce restrictive vaccination policies:
They shouldn’t have stated it in a black-and-white manner like, “You have to get this because you won’t get COVID, you won’t spread it,” because that was the justification used for vaccine passports and mandates. And that’s why we care about it, that’s why the governor cares about it, because we’re completely against the biomedical security state, the mandates, the passports, the infringement on medical freedom.
Regarding Chait, Pushaw said, “He’s looking for clicks, he’s playing to a certain audience on his Twitter.” That audience incorrectly has “this caricature of Governor DeSantis in their minds, and it includes, among other things, supposedly that he’s an anti-vaxxer and all this stuff.” Chait “has to play that up.”
Of public health officials who failed to incorporate the probability of variants into their predictions, Pushaw said that they “should have hedged their words; they should have been a lot more careful with their messaging, because in any case, saying that you cannot get or transmit COVID, and making a blanket statement like that without having real-world evidence to back it up, is irresponsible. It’s wrong.”
The “worst part,” according to Pushaw, is that doctors and scientists did not acknowledge their errors. “That’s the problem: the lack of humility. The pronouncements from on high with no evidence to back them up, and then lack of humility and lack of self-correction when you’re proven wrong.”
“That’s not leadership,” Pushaw charged. “And that’s not science.”
The Thinker spoke with Ian Miller, the well-known author of Unmasked: The Global Failure of COVID Mask Mandates. Regarding Chait’s accusation that DeSantis was “courting anti-vaxxers,” Miller noted that the CDC should have “understood that the virus mutates” and that “there was demonstrable waning [in efficacy] before the Delta variant got there.”
Miller, echoing Pushaw’s sentiment that public health authorities’ black-and-white pronouncements are concerning, said, “The underlying reasons for why they were wrong are almost irrelevant because policymakers, politicians, and colleges have made policies based off of their [experts’] initial assessments that the vaccines were 95 to 100 percent effective.”
Perhaps Chait is criticizing the wrong people, Miller suggested. “Why is Chait not interested in questioning the experts and public health authorities about why they were wrong” rather than “criticizing DeSantis for telling the truth?”
Miller added that DeSantis’s critics have “conveniently forgotten” that DeSantis “was one of the first governors [who] identified that the vaccines should be prioritized for the elderly.” He was actually criticized at the time for doing “everything he could to get the vaccine out quickly and efficiently to those that needed it most.”
Medicinal Genomics CSO and founder Kevin McKernan, a pioneer of genome sequencing technology formerly associated with MIT’s Humane Genome Project, told the Thinker: “Measurements outside of Pfizer’s direct control quickly found the VE [vaccine efficacy] was NEVER 90 to 100 percent before Omicron.”
McKernan also pointed out that Chait’s comparison of VE of the COVID vaccines with that of the flu vaccines is not an apples-to-apples one. “Omicron is less severe than flu.” Moreover, we “don’t qPCR [test] billions of people for flu.”
Mitchell Robson is the Chicago Thinker’s Associate Publisher, Chief Newsletter Officer, and Social Media Director. As a rising third year at the University of Chicago, he is majoring in Physics and Molecular Engineering. When not studying or doing work for the Thinker, you can probably find him shooting hoops, reading something by Ludwig von Mises, or cheering on the Patriots or Celtics.