MUZZLEGATE: DR. MICHELLE FISCUS DEFENDS HERSELF

Tennessee has made the national news more than our share lately. One of the most recent instances was the political firing of Dr. Michelle Fiscus over the Health Department’s outreach to teens for the COVID-19 vaccine. We won’t go into all the details here, but the bottom line is she shared a summary of existing case law with vaccine providers which stated that teens over 14 were able to get vaccinated without a parent’s permission.

Republicans didn’t like that (even though it’s STILL state policy). They made a big stink over it, and the marketing to teens – only one problem: Fiscus had not been responsible for that marketing. Governor Lee’s office had. Lee’s office had also blessed the summary Fiscus shared. But Republican legislators were out for blood, and the sword fell on Dr. Fiscus.

She was fired, although neither Health Dept. Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey or Governor Lee would say why at the time. Lee pointed to Piercey, saying it was her decision, although he claimed not to even have asked her why she made it.

On her way out Dr. Fiscus pulled no punches. She gave interviews about the mess that was going on inside the health department, even sharing details about a no-bid contract given to a Utah company with zero COVID testing experience that was clearly awarded for political reasons by Governor Lee, a contract which fell apart – costing Tennessee taxpayer $6 million for literally nothing and slowing down an already horrific COVID-19 response.

It was no surprise then that there were people who wanted Dr. Fiscus to stop talking. Reports even surfaced of Dr. Fiscus receiving a dog muzzle in the mail – to which she responded that it would take more than that to keep her from talking.

The muzzle was a minor detail in a much bigger national story about a Governor firing a top vaccine expert to appease anti-vaccine extremists (appeasing extremists appears to be Lee’s specialty). Fiscus asked for an investigation into what she perceived as a threat, and now weeks later a story has come out from the new Nashville arm of Axios, run by Nate Rau (formerly of the Tennessee Lookout) and Adam Tamburin, saying that an investigation by the state concluded Fiscus had “sent the muzzle to herself”. (the story has been updated to reflect that the investigation did not conclude that, only that she “bought the muzzle” – meaning a card in Dr. Fiscus’ name was used)

Dr. Fiscus responded, saying she did not send it to herself, pointing out that she was the one who asked for the investigation, and that the 2nd Amazon account was created using a burner phone in Washington state, where she has not been.

The Fiscus family has openly shared the state’s findings, and says they have asked for an unredacted version of the report. Dr. Fiscus also released a follow up statement, and did an interview with Channel 5 where she pointed out that the state had her credit card on file and could easily have set her up if they so desired.

It seems clear 1 of 2 things happened here: Either Dr. Fiscus lied, sent herself a muzzle to garner sympathy, and asked for an investigation thinking she would never get caught by something as simple as a subpoena to Amazon… or someone at the state intentionally sent her the muzzle with her own card so that it would come out and look like she did that to discredit all the other things she has said about Governor Lee’s administration and health department.

Dr. Fiscus says those who already think she did this won’t listen to her side of the story anyway, which is likely true.

To believe the latter version you’d have to believe this administration was also capable of handing out military promotions to get private school vouchers passed… or that other close Republican pals of Lee were under FBI investigation for campaign finance issues… or that they had handed out no-bid contracts like candy throughout the pandemic to the tune of around $500 MILLION… had people peeing on a fellow Republican’s chair… framed civil rights activists and had them charged with 14 different counts… or felonized protestors for wanting equality and justice… had a trooper lie about a megaphone color to get a leading activist imprisoned

Bottom line: You can disbelieve Dr. Fiscus, but if you think Tennessee Republicans are above framing a doctor who was taking a sledgehammer to their credibility using nothing but the truth, to discredit her in the eyes of the state, and the country… you simply haven’t been paying attention.

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