Newt Gingrich was on Fox News this morning explaining that all Americans should prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic. But Gingrich has pulled quite a 180 during a very short period of time. Just a few weeks ago the former U.S. Republican Speaker of the House was on Fox News ridiculing San Francisco for making preparations as the threat of the new coronavirus became clear to people who were paying attention. And Gingrich’s about-face seems to be part of a larger trend of arseholes changing their minds about the seriousness of the public health threat that has infected at least 3,813 Americans and killed 69 in the U.S. alone.
“I think the great irony of all this, is that the city of San Francisco, in its usual irresponsible way, has already declared an emergency even though no one in San Francisco has so far shown that they have the disease,” Gingrich said on Sean Hannity’s show on February 27.
Gingrich went on to make fun of the fact that San Francisco’s homeless population would be difficult to quarantine because there are so many people in the city who lack shelter.
“And ask yourself this, if you have forty or fifty-thousand homeless people, how are you going to quarantine them?” Gingrich said.
When Gingrich made those comments on February 27, there were over 80,000 people infected with COVID-19 in over 50 countries and at least 2,800 dead. Just 14 people had died in Italy by February 27, a number that’s now at 1,809 deaths and 24,747 cases. Gingrich is living in Italy because his wife is the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.
Compare those comments in February to what Gingrich is saying now on shows like Fox and Friends. Gingrich even wrote an op-ed in Newsweek yesterday, titled “I am in Italy amid the coronavirus crisis. American must act now—and act big,” warning that, “Faced with a pandemic threat, history teaches us it is far better to be over prepared than underprepared.”
Fox and Friends co-host Steve Doocy read from Gingrich’s op-ed before introducing the former politician on air, failing to mention Gingrich’s previous comments on the matter.
“We in America can learn a lot of lessons from what’s happening, particularly in Northern Italy,” Gingrich said.
You can watch Gingrich’s flip-flop on YouTube.
But Gingrich isn’t the only one who seems to have changed his mind. Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz infamously wore a gas mask on the House floor while voting for the $US8.3 ($13) billion emergency spending bill on March 4, poking fun at people who were concerned about what would soon hit America. At that point, 159 Americans had become infected and 11 had died. Gaetz even walked around Washington with his mask on, talking with TMZ about his stupid antics.
Gaetz’s attitude has shifted, especially since he had to go into quarantine after coming into contact with an infected person at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) in late February, something he only learned about after his gas mask stunt. Now Gaetz is appearing on Fox News, praising President Trump for his handling of the crisis, and appearing to take this very seriously.
“We’ve gone from saying ‘OK, boomer’ to ‘are you OK, boomer?’ because we want to make sure that those who might be a little older are cared for and protected in all the appropriate ways,” Gaetz said yesterday during his appearance on Fox News’ The Next Revolution.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt also had a moment of assholery over the weekend when he tweeted a photo of himself at a packed restaurant, something at odds with the advice of health experts who are promoting social distancing.
“Eating with my kids and all my fellow Oklahomans at the @CollectiveOKC. It’s packed tonight!” Governor Stitt wrote in a now-deleted tweet from Saturday.
Stitt officially declared a public health emergency on Sunday, joining at least 40 other states to do so since the crisis began. But he may not have learned his lesson, even after the emergency declaration. The governor’s office told CNN that Stitt will, “continue to take his family out to dinner and to the grocery store without living in fear and encourages Oklahomans to do the same.”
Not everyone has turned the corner on their attitude about COVID-19 yet.
Former Milwaukee sheriff and Trump supporter David A. Clarke Jr. told his Twitter followers over the weekend to go out in defiance of quarantines, adding, “If government doesn’t stop this foolishness...STAY IN THE STREETS.” And Ron Paul, a libertarian icon and former Congressman, also published a new blog post today suggesting the COVID-19 pandemic was a “big hoax” to justify the implementation of martial law.
Congressman Tom Massie of Kentucky echoed Clarke’s statements, tweeting this morning that states shouldn’t shut down restaurants.
“All health is highly dependent upon good nutrition,” Massie tweeted. “I suspect that closing down in-person dining at restaurants (Ky just did) will lead to worse public health outcomes than if they had remained open.”
“The greater harm to society is the public’s unquestioning acceptance of the unchecked authority of governments to force private behaviour and disrupt economies,” Massie wrote in another tweet.
No one knows for certain what lies ahead for the coronavirus pandemic. But if guys like Massie eventually change their tune about the seriousness of this public health threat, maybe don’t put them on TV. There were plenty of people who took this seriously from the beginning. You don’t need to let people like Newt Gingrich warn about the COVID-19 threat just because Americans have the collective memory of a fucking goldfish.