Some MSNBC, CNN, ABC pundits remain devoted to wearing masks as critics feel it’s time to move on
''They care about controlling the masses and labeling people who question as deniers and conspiracy kooks,' Jeffrey McCall said
A growing number of medical professionals, parents and elected officials have come out against mask mandates as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations decline, but many liberal pundits and journalists continue to call for Americans to keep their faces covered or are committed to the practice themselves.
Fox News contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier feels that masking and other health policies were "oversold" early in the pandemic based on fear with little data to support it and liberal pundits are sticking to the script for political purposes.
"When it comes to masking, the conversation became politicized and divisive. Now when the data show masking has little benefit on outcome with the highly transmissible Omicron variant and a large amount of population immunity, people are either disproportionately afraid to remove their mask or believe taking them off means they are acquiescing to their political opponents," Dr. Saphier told Fox News Digital.
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"Regardless of reason, the masks were always meant to come off," Dr. Saphier continued. "While cases are low and immunity is high, the risk for most people from removing the mask is far below risks we have learned to live with every day."
Liberal CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen seems to agree and shocked many onlookers last week when she suddenly appeared to have changed her tune when it comes to masks. The CNN doctor argued that "the science has changed" surrounding the pandemic and she now feels individuals should decide who needs to wear a mask, as opposed to government mandates.
Even as some mainstream media outlets mirrored a sudden push last month by Democratic governors to suddenly lift school and indoor mask mandates, other members of the liberal media have remained adamant that masks are still necessary.
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MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan has been an outspoken supporter of keeping masks around for the foreseeable future. He recently aired Wen’s comments on his program and asked guest Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, known for his alarmist approach to the pandemic, for his thoughts.
"I vehemently disagree," Feigl-Ding said, noting that "only about 23%" of kids age 5-11 have been vaccinated.
"I’m very concerned, we’re actually endangering a generation of children," Dr. Feigl-Ding added. "Masks are the final stopgap."
Hasan, who has called for expanding the Supreme Court to enforce mandates if necessary, is hardly the only liberal pundit to push for continued masking, or at least tout that they are continuing to do so.
ABC's "The View" Joy Behar declared Thursday that she would continue to wear a mask "indefinitely" when in public places.
As coronavirus cases have continued falling, many states have begun easing restrictions, including indoor mask mandates. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that the agency would "soon put guidance in place" on the wearing of masks and that it would be based on science and data.
However, Behar declared she would listen to her own guidance rather than the CDC's because the latter's were continuously changing, and that she would continue wearing a mask indoors in public places even if the guidelines were eased.
"Personally, I listen to the little voice in my head that doesn’t really follow 100% what they tell me because they keep changing it," Behar said. "A very short time ago, they were saying put the N95 masks on, and now make sure it’s a – and now they’re saying you don’t have to wear them anymore… if I go into the theater … a crowded place, I would wear a mask, and I might do that indefinitely."
Fellow "The View" co-host Whoopi Goldberg lit into HBO's Bill Maher last month when he said he was done with the "masked, paranoid world." In the same segment, co-host Sara Haines remarked she may never go into a subway or crowded place again without a mask, although she stressed that was her personal choice and wasn't a policy preference.
Media Research Center vice president Dan Gainor told Fox News Digital that the left’s obsession with masking taps into three key media attitudes – safety first culture, a refusal to ever admit they are wrong and bowing to power as long as their side is in charge.
"The first is that many modern journalists have embraced the safe space culture that dominates academia. They demand to be protected from any possible harm -- either at work or even online. It’s a desperate desire for a bubble wrap society. That attitude is fundamental to the media support for censorship," Gainor said.
"Legacy journalists also hate to ever admit they are wrong. It doesn’t matter if facts change, the press hates to admit it unless the new facts benefit them. Reporters and editors despise issuing corrections, even when they falsely pushed a Russian collusion narrative for about six years," Gainor said. "Lastly, masking is all about control. Journalists are no longer the young rebels. They support Big Government as long as their side controls it."
Incentive for pushing indefinite masking might vary, but it doesn’t appear to be slowing down. CNN’s Asha Rangappa tweeted Wednesday, "Masks are a reflection of social trust in society -- in Tocqueville's words, ‘self-interest well understood.’ It's the ability to make a small sacrifice that benefits the public good, and in doing so, benefits you, as well. The U.S. currently has very low levels of social trust."
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Talking Points Memo founder Josh Marshall took to Twitter on Tuesday to praise continued mask wearing.
"Masks are annoying, a nuisance. They’re also a symbol of all the awfulness we’ve experienced over the last two years. But they also work & virtually everything abt the ‘harms; they cause is made up," Marshall wrote to accompany a link to a Gothamist column headlined, "Masks work, even for kids. But sometimes science isn't enough."
Also on Tuesday, The Los Angeles Times editorial board called for mask mandates to remain in place with a piece headlined, "Editorial: Schools are doing fine with masks. Dropping mandates now would be premature," that argued that the vaccination rate for elementary school kids is too low and that it would be premature and not effective.
"Some parents won’t feel safe sending their kids to mask-free classrooms," the authors wrote.
MSNBC's Joy Reid appeared to mock a parent who expressed concern about keeping kids masked in school in a recent tweet. The same Reid said last year she still wore two masks outdoors while jogging, even after being vaccinated.
MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle boasted her own children didn't mind wearing masks as she asked medical contributor Dr. Vin Gupta if he supported ending school mask mandates last week.
"Not yet," he said.
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Last month, former New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss irked CNN's Jim Acosta when she expressed her exhaustion with the pandemic on HBO’s "Real Time with Bill Maher."
"I know that so many of my liberal and progressive friends are with me on this, and they do not want to say it out loud because they are scared to be called ‘anti-vaxx’… or to be smeared as a Trumper," Weiss said. "At this point, it’s a pandemic of bureaucracy. It’s not real anymore."
Acosta did not approve of Weiss' rhetoric.
"I’m done with that attitude," Acosta said during a segment with CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner. "She needs to understand that trolling people to own the libs is not a sacrifice."
Dr. Reiner told Weiss to "grow up" and stop acting "like a child," likening the situation to a kid who doesn’t want to "play this game anymore."
"All that we’ve done is ask the public to wear a mask when you go out and about and get vaccinated," he said. "So, I’m glad she’s done with it."
DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall feels the establishment media has "created a culture of fear" with its coverage of COVID and bickering over masks is simply a prominent example.
"Certainly, the threat of COVID needs to be taken seriously and COVID has caused much suffering, but the journalistic approach to the pandemic has largely been to promote fear in the population, and that has led to cultural divides," McCall told Fox News Digital.
"The reporting relied on a blind allegiance to ‘the science,’ as though science had all the answers or that science somehow made behavioral decisions independent of human reasoning. Instead of helping society navigate a nationwide health emergency, the press was eager to frame the pandemic in political ways that hindered the nation to respond sensibly and with common purpose," McCall continued. "The debate has drifted away from how effective mandates and masks are, and instead now the nation is debating the role of government in flexing muscle against its own citizens."
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McCall notes that it has taken school parents and truckers to "help bring the discussion back into the realm of common sense," but many in the press don’t seem to care.
"Media pundits ultimately don't care as much about the wearing of masks as they care about controlling the masses and labeling people who question as deniers and conspiracy kooks," McCall said.
Meanwhile, MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace has even referred to herself as a mask-loving "Fauci groupie," in reference to her adoration of White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci.
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"I'm a Fauci groupie," Wallace said in December. "I'm thrice-vaccinated, mask adherent. I buy KN95 masks by the, you know, caseload. They're in every pocket. I wear them everywhere except when I sit down."
Fauci has since declared "it is risky" to take masks off of kids in school despite a downward trajectory of COVID cases.
"It’s understandable why people want to take masks off the kids. But, right now, given the level of activity that we have, it is risky," Fauci said on Wednesday.
Fox News’ Angelica Stabile, Hanna Panreck, Cortney O’Brien, Julie Musto and Brandon Gillespie contributed to this report.