This op-ed by Holler editor Justin Kanew was originally printed in the Tennessean
In recent weeks we’ve seen Republicans debate Democratic challengers all over the country, in both red and blue states.
Even GOP incumbents like Gov. Abbott in Texas and Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin stood on stages next to Beto O’Rourke and Mandela Barnes respectively and let the citizens hear from the candidates side by side. An essential moment in any thriving democracy.
Yet here in Tennessee, it’s crickets from Republicans. Whether it’s incumbents like Governor Lee or incumbent Republican members of Congress (i.e., Mark Green, Tim Burchett, etc.) or candidates for an open congressional seat like Andy Ogles.
Tennessee Republicans are ducking their opponents, hiding from debate requests, and counting on Tennesseans to elect them purely because of the “R” next to their name.
What are they so afraid of? Clearly they don’t actually think their ideas are very popular, and don’t have a whole lot of confidence in themselves to convey those ideas. One can only conclude they believe they have more to lose than to gain by actually letting the voters hear what they have to say.
They must know their draconian positions on things like their “no exceptions” abortion ban even forcing raped teenage girls to carry to term – would not sound good out loud next to a Democrat fighting for women to have control over their own bodies.
Or maybe they don’t want to have to yet again declare that even after the Jan. 6th hearings proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the election was not stolen from Trump — with his own team telling us he knew he lost all along and had planned to say the election was stolen as far back as July 2020 — that they won’t accept that President Biden was “legitimately elected” (Governor Lee recently dodged the question from The Tennessean yet again).
It would be embarrassing to concede on a debate stage that they’ve been running cover for an insurrection by minimizing the tragic events of that day ever since, casting doubt on an electoral process so many Americans gave their lives to preserve. That anti-American, fascist position, where you don’t accept the results of elections unless you get the one you want, would not look good next to a Democrat who respects our democracy regardless of the outcome.
Then there are other pesky facts they may not want Tennesseans to hear – like the fact that we’ve lost $22.5 billion not expanding Medicaid while we lead the nation in medical bankruptcies. Or that we’re at the bottom in per pupil spending, poverty, infant and maternal mortality, and violent crime.
Those facts hurt the narrative Republicans here want us to believe, which is that everyone in Tennessee is thriving — when it’s really just those at the top who fund their campaigns who are doing well, while many (especially rural) parts of our state struggle to stay afloat.
They also wouldn’t want you to hear that it’s the Democratically-run cities that prop up the statistics about Tennessee’s economy they love to tout, or that we get 40% of our state budget from the federal government they love to vilify while simultaneously taking money from.
It would be one thing if they were actually working to fix these problems, but they’re doing the opposite. Lee and Green and Burchett and Sen. Marsha Blackburn love to bemoan inflation, and gas prices, and health care costs, yet on a national level our Republicans oppose every effort to address these issues, from a cap on price-gouging at the pump, to a cap on insulin prices, to a bipartisan infrastructure bill (they shamelessly go around taking credit for anyway), to taxing the super-rich.
The truth is, Tennessee Republicans believe you don’t care. They think all that matters to you is that they have an “R” next to their name, which means they can continue to oppose any effort to actually address our problems and improve our lives without ever being held accountable.
So they’ll rob you of the chance to hear from them on a debate stage or go years without having an in-person town hall (like Marsha Blackburn), and we’ll continue along this tragic trajectory.
Until that changes — until we start voting for the person, and the ideas, rather than the letter next to their names — our state will continue to be at the bottom in virtually every important category.
Not every county is Williamson County, governor. Every candidate should debate, regardless of party. When Tennessee Republicans refuse to debate, it’s Tennesseans who lose.
Justin Kanew runs The Tennessee Holler. He ran for U.S. Congress as a Democrat in the old District 7 (Rep. Mark Green’s seat) in 2018.
“People are Crazy and Times are Strange” – Bob Dylan
Never did those lyrics strike closer to home than here in Tennessee where recent FBI data now ranks this state as having the 3rd highest rate of violent crime, robbery, aggravated assaults and homicides. Fortunately, the November 8th election provides Tennessee voters an opportunity to change those frightening statistics by electing a new governor together with state and federal legislators.
Around the country other states will be doing the same, the results of which will decide which political party has majority control over the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. This election will be definitive in determining the values, direction, and type of government American voters wish to have and which political party they feel best serves those interests. It’s not mere hyperbole to state that now more than ever, democracy is on the ballot.
However, equally notable is Tennessee’s poor record for voter participation – 46th worst in 2020 – as highlighted by an abysmal 17% voter turnout in the August mid-term elections. Such voter apathy may well come back to haunt Tennesseans since according to analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, it
can be expected that should MAGA-Republicans maintain legislative control in Southern states, particularly those with diverse racial populations, more restrictive voting laws will be enacted in an effort to decrease voter turnout among those most likely to vote for Democrats.
With that in mind, it’s important to note that despite the fact that 62% of Americans remain in favor of abortion, Republican lawmakers, beholden to their far-right religious base and emboldened by their success in outlawing abortion in half the country, have now set their sights on making criminalization of abortion the law of the land. Therefore, the outcome of November’s election will be critical to protecting the lives and well-being of millions of Americans, men and women alike since passage of the legislation needed to restore reproductive privacy and freedom of choice hinges on the election of a Democratic congressional majority.
So what can we expect should a Republican majority take control of both houses of Congress? Undoubtedly in typical fashion they will continue obstructing whatever bills Democrats might propose, regardless the benefits to the American public. Additionally, we shall see ongoing attempts to “stack” the judicial system and the Supreme Court with unqualified, but like-minded conservative judges.
However, their first order of business will likely be the disbanding of the January 6th Committee and the dismissal of further investigations, accountability and/or prosecution for those responsible in attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
There is also a cockamamie scheme to impeach President Biden for unspecified “high crimes and misdemeanors.” More disturbing are Republican threats to cut the programs at the heart of our social welfare system: Social Security and Medicare. Republicans have also said they would pass a law to make the 2017
Trump tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate entities permanent, which economists say would further exacerbate inflation.
Then there are ongoing threats to refuse to raise the debt ceiling serving as a cudgel to enable the “reform” of Social Security and Medicare including raising the age of eligibility. And should they achieve a legislative majority, Republicans are also signaling withdrawal of support for Ukraine.
It should also be remembered that this GOP, nationally and locally, aided by Fox News, continues to cast aspersions on the sanctity of our electoral process by clinging to and promulgating the Big Lie that Joe Biden stole the 2020 presidential election, despite widespread and definitive evidence to the contrary.
Reflective of an increasing atmosphere of social and political intolerance are legislative attacks on Tennessee’s LGBQT community by extremist Republican legislators which helps to foment and encourage anger and hate-mongering as seen by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s recent report ranking Tennessee 2nd highest nationally for number of hate groups.
All of which increases the importance of who will be Tennessee’s next governor. Governor Bill Lee is campaigning for reelection on the basis that he has helped Tennessee families. Sadly, that seems remarkably disingenuous when one considers that Tennessee’s lack of gun safety laws have resulted in a firearm mortality rate which is 10th highest nationally. Indeed, Everytown reports that guns and gun violence are the leading cause of death for Tennessee children and teens. Lacking sensible gun control, those numbers continue to climb.
Under this administration, aided by an extreme ultra-conservative legislature, the well-being of Tennessee families has garnered scant attention since NoKidHungryTN reports that more than 19% of children in Tennessee live in “food insecure” homes.
World Population Review figures for 2022 rank Tennessee as having the 10th highest rate of poverty and the 2nd highest number of minimum-wage workers laboring for $7.25 an hour. Certainly not figures to be proud of.
Also alarming is the fact that while Tennessee families struggle to feed, house and educate their children as a means to escape a life of poverty, this governor is committed to creating a religious autocracy which includes siphoning off tax-payer dollars from our public schools to for-profit charter schools which emphasize a conservative “Christian”curriculum.
These are just a few of reasons why it’s critical for Tennesseans to vote in this
election. Early voting runs from October 19 through November 3rd. Election Day is November 8th.
Voter information can be obtained at GoVoteTN.com and at the League of Women Voters’ nonpartisan website VOTE411.org.
Vote as if your life depended on it. It very well may.
Chloe Cerutti lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Yesterday President Biden made an announcement about a new TRITIUM CHARGING factory that will be opening up in LEBANON, TN – bringing 500 jobs to the area and having a “ripple effect” beyond the borders of Lebanon, and even Tennessee.
ICYMI — BIDEN: “The new @TritiumCharging facility is more than just GREAT NEWS FOR TENNESSEE… it’ll have a ripple effect far beyond 1 state…”
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) February 9, 2022
Tritium itself credits the BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE PACKAGED passed by Biden and the Democrats, with the help of a few Republicans, none of which were members of the Tennessee delegation – which likely explains why every last member of the delegation has been silent about the development.
You would never know that the president of the United States just announced 500 jobs good paying (hopefully UNION) jobs are coming to Tennessee by looking at the feeds of Senators Marsha Blackburn or Bill Hagerty, or congress members Kustoff, Rose, Green, Fleischmann, Desjarlais, Harshbarger, or Burchett.
They seem to only mention things when their own party is responsible for them – a truly sad testament to how divided we are as a country.
Worse than that, GOVERNOR LEE took things a step further – he issued a press release about the Tritium announcement, but doesn’t even MENTION in it that Tritium itself credits the Biden bipartisan infrastructure bill with the jobs.
Instead, Lee’s highly misleading and disingenuous release makes it look like this happened thanks to his own leadership.
TO RECAP: When the FORD PLANT (to make electric cars) was announced in West Tennessee, Democrats expressed their support for the jobs and economic benefits coming to our state…
…Yet when TRITIUM makes their announcement, most Republicans are silent – while the Governor attempts to take credit, and doesn’t even mention Biden’s leadership and how his efforts are helping to create a market for these products and companies to prosper.
It seems Tennessee Republicans will only root for Tennessee – or America – if it benefits their own party. That, as their corrupt, defeated, one-term insurrectionist leader liked to say, is “Sad”.
Last night we learned the STEM PREP boys & girls basketball teams left their games against Smyrna High after a referee allegedly used the “N Word” towards one of the female players.
The student was not the only one who heard it. Her grandmother did too, and she promptly recorded herself on Facebook reacting emotionally to the racist referee’s actions:
WATCH: “The REF called my granddaughter a ‘LITTLE NIG*ER’… PREJUDICE IS ALIVE AND WELL IN SMYRNA, TENNESSEE.” @STEMPREP boys & girls hoops teams WALKED OUT of games against @smyrnaathletics @SmyrnaBball due to a racist @tssaa ref. 🏀 😳
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) November 18, 2021
We called TSSAA, the organization responsible for staffing high school games with officials throughout Tennessee. They’re based in Hermitage.
Gene Menees, Assistant Executive Director, called us back. This is how our conversation went.
HOLLER: Can you shine any light on what happened? Will the ref still be reffing games? Does the TSSAA have a statement?
MENEES: We’re investigating.
HOLLER: Ok. And if the ref did use the N word towards a player, what would the outcome potentially be?
MENEES: We’re looking into it and we’re investigating.
HOLLER: Theoretically, would you still allow them to referee games?
MENEES: I can’t answer that question because it’s an allegation. We’re investigating into the allegation.
HOLLER: I understand, but it seems like people would be interested to know what the TSSAA’s policy is towards a ref using that word in general.
MENEES: Well, let’s reverse it. We will deal with an official obviously if the official used a racial slur. Just as an administration of a school, I would assume, would deal with it if a player used a racial slur directed towards an opponent. Or fans used a racial slur directed towards a player. So if an official used a racial slur, we would certainly deal with that official.
HOLLER: In what way would you deal with them?
MENEES: We would deal with them. We’re investigating.
HOLLER: Right, but would you suspend them? Fire them?
MENEES: We would look into it. We would talk. We would meet and make a decision.
HOLLER: So it’s not a zero tolerance policy?
MENEES: I didn’t say that. I said we would look into it, and if it was verified we would deal with the official and take care of the situation.
HOLLER: What does that mean? Is there a world where a ref can use the N Word towards a player and still ref games for TSSAA?
MENEES: I didn’t say that. You said it.
HOLLER: I’m asking.
MENEES: I’m gonna be honest with you – we’ve never dealt with this before. We’ve had allegations before, but the allegations have never been confirmed… we’re not an organization that’s going to tolerate racial slurs. So if it’s confirmed we would deal with it.
HOLLER: And what’s the process for confirming? Are you talking to the refs? Players? Fans? Who are you talking to?
MENEES: We’re an association of schools. I’ve been in touch with STEM Academy, Smyrna, and the officials.
HOLLER: And when you make your decision, do you have a sense of a time frame?
MENEES: We’ll look into it, get the reports in, we’ll talk to STEM. There were other situations that occurred in the game as well. So we’ve gotta work through all that. This is is one of the things involved in that game that we’re working through?
HOLLER: What other things were involved?
MENEES: We had 2 players ejected. We had a fan that came on the floor. We’ve got policies in place for that as well. We’ve gotta deal with the entire situation that occurred at Smyrna. The racial slur is one of the things we’ve got to deal with, obviously. But it’s not the only thing.
HOLLER: Have you had any issues with that referee in the past?
MENEES: What referee?
HOLLER: The one that allegedly used the racial slur?
MENEES: Who allegedly said it? I’ve never been given a name? Which name do you have?
HOLLER: How are you investigating if you don’t even know who we’re talking about.
MENEES: I’ve not been given a name. Nobody has given me a name of the official who allegedly made the racial slur.
HOLLER: Do you know who was assigned to that game?
MENEES: There was a crew of officials.
HOLLER: There were 3. How would you go about figuring out which ref it was?
At this point Menees goes on telling us a story about when he was a high school football player in Kingsport and got ejected for using profanity, but says there was no tape with audio to prove it.
HOLLER: So because there may not be video of this happening, it might end up being just what people heard vs. what the ref says happened, what happens in that scenario?
MENEES: That’s what we’re investigating. We’re looking into it. And once we get the reports in we’ll take a look at it and make a decision.
HOLLER: You said you talked to STEM and Smyrna. Is there a crew chief?
MENEES: There’s always an R on the game.
HOLLER: Well I guess figuring out who the ref is would be the first step, right?
MENEES: We’ll talk to the officials, talk to STEM, talk to Smyrna… let’s be fair. It’s an allegation. Right? Let’s be fair.
HOLLER: It’s allegation, but multiple people have told us they heard it.
MENEES: I understand. But momentarily, let’s be fair. Multiple people didn’t hear it.
HOLLER: They did. I’m happy to send you a video. We have a video of a grandmother who heard it. It was her granddaughter that was called it.
MENEES: We’ll hear the racial slur on the video? That’s what you’re saying?
HOLLER: No. You’ll hear a grandmother saying she was right there and heard it.
MENEES: The video will prove someone said it, correct?
HOLLER: No. The video will prove more than one person heard it. And so I guess at that point what you’re saying is unless a racial slur gets caught on camera…
MENEES: No, I didn’t say that. I didn’t say it didn’t happen… If we get a video… I’ll go back to the football example…
Here he goes back to the story getting thrown out for profanity and there not being video of it to prove it, and a coach denying it.
We then asked him what a time frame would be for making their decision, and he told us schools and people are busy and wouldn’t commit to anything specific.
The thing to remember here is both teams forfeited, so clearly the teams were convinced that this happened. But Menees certainly gave the impression that without video of the incident this could potentially get treated as nothing more than an allegation.
We’d also add that this tweet by Smyrna basketball mentioning the forfeit without explaining the context seemed highly inappropriate, and appears to have been deleted.
Here’s hoping TSSAA does the right thing. Their contact info, should you feel like hollering at them: 615-889-6740 [email protected]
And as always, film everything.
At Governor Lee’s press conferences, in the presence of statewide media and TV cameras, he presents himself as someone who personally believes masks work. It’s not that he shares the opinion of anti-mask extremists who think masks are tyranny, he assures us – it’s just that he believes people in Tennessee should have the final say over whether or not their kids wear masks to school.
Clearly he has done the polling and decided that middle ground is the safest place for him to live.
Not firmly on either side. One foot in each camp. Tell the pro-mask parents they’re right about the efficacy of masks, while telling the anti-mask parents they’re right about “freedom” and all that.
His opt out executive order was the legislative manifestation of this wishy-washiness – not a “mask mandate ban” by name, but one in spirit. It allowed the anti-maskers to feel like they had won, while allowing Lee to pretend he hadn’t actually banned mask mandates – even though he had (as a judge in Memphis seems to have figured out).
But underneath it all, Lee’s attempt to present himself as a personal believer in masks doesn’t pass the smell test. He may have spent state money on a “mask up” ad campaign… his Health Department may have “recommended” them… but if Lee really thinks they work, why isn’t he wearing one?
Why with cases skyrocketing and hospitalizations at all time highs was he just recently pictured with kids, inside a school, maskless? And why did he POST IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA, as if to say it was the right way to behave? Why even bother pretending to think masks are the right thing to do if he’s not going to lead by example?
The truth is, Lee is either an anti-masker at heart, or a coward.
If he truly believes wearing masks are the right thing to do, he should be doing it. But doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do is not in Lee’s DNA.
Leadership is simply not in his bag of tricks.
Lee has shown us time and again he will always say the most politically convenient thing in the moment. He will always follow the way he thinks the polling goes.
But leaders aren’t supposed to follow the way the wind is blowing. Leaders are supposed to lead.
And because our state doesn’t have a leader, but instead has a man in charge who is first and foremost worried about pandering to extremists, 27 school districts are closed, at least 8 teachers are dead, our hospitals are pleading for help, and we have the worst outbreak in the country (one of the worst in the world)
We are paying a heavy price for Lee’s failure to lead.
Setting a bad example comes at great cost.
Justin Kanew is the founder of the Tennessee Holler
U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman just issued a temporary restraining order sought by the parents of 2 kids with health problems who argue Lee’s opt out order endangers students with health conditions.
The Temporary Restraining Order remains in effect until Sept. 17. Yet again, Lee doesn’t pass laws, he passes lawsuits.
Meanwhile Governor Lee continues to do nothing to help teachers and students feel safe in our schools. TENNESSEAN EDITORIAL BOARD just called out Gov. Lee for being “reactive”, which is generous since he isn’t really reacting at all, and said he should rescind his mask mandate opt out order.
TEACHERS DYING don’t even seem to be moving him. In CHEATHAM COUNTY It seems yet another teacher died tragically of COVID, and SCIENCE HILL in Johnson City lost one also. Far too many Tennessee educators have been lost to this disease, while far too little is done.
Governor Lee has not mentioned them.
A KNOX TEACHER just came on the Holler to issue a plea TO LEE & OTHER LEADERS: “PLEASE HELP… every failure to take action affects the entire state, not just those in public education.”
Please keep speaking out. We’ll keep hollering the truth and trying to do our part. We’re able to do what we do because of your support, so if you’re not yet please consider chipping in – the monthly support truly keeps us going. No monthly amount is too small.
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SPONSORING THE WAR ON WOMEN: AT&T, NBC Universal, CVS Health and more are the biggest donors to the Republican politicians behind the Texas abortion bill/war on women… Yet they remain silent.
FLORIDA DOC WON’T TREAT THE UNVACCINATED ANYMORE: “This is where it draws the line in the sand for me.” – Dr. Linda Marraccini in FLORIDA is telling patients she won’t treat the UNVACCINATED in her office anymore.
BREAKING RECORDS: “Tennessee continues to set RECORD COVID-19 HOSPITALIZATION NUMBERS… 3,597 now hospitalized across the state…. 1020 in ICUs… 699 on ventilators… 74 of those hospitalized are children…”
LABOR DAY HYPOCRITES: Governor Lee had ZERO workers or worker reps on your COVID economic recovery group. He helped keep Volkswagen from unionizing. Republicans (Lee, Blackburn, Hagerty, etc) posting nice things about workers on Labor Day but fighting against unions, who started the holiday and gave us weekends, overtime, child labor laws, etc… should have all the seats.
LABOR DAY REMINDER: Unions and the middle class go hand in hand, and politicians who don’t support unions don’t really support workers. (Again: Anti-union Governor Lee had ZERO worker reps or workers on his COVID “economic recovery group”)
TN AFL CIO CHIEF BILLY DYCUS: “The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labor…“Right to Work” laws originated during Jim Crow and strip workers from having a voice… it means LESS freedom for workers, NOT MORE.” #LaborDay #UnionStrong
IVERMECTIN CALLS: “The Tennessee Poison Center has seen a dramatic increase in calls for people experiencing issues after taking (horse de-wormer) IVERMECTIN for COVID-19”
Nice recap of how Governor Lee has *handled* COVID, with TN having the worst outbreak in the country – from the Williamson Young Dems.
RENKL: “We need to take health and public safety out of the hands of Republicans because this is not a game” – Margaret Renkl on how Governor Lee and Republican leadership throughout the South are exacerbating climate/COVID disasters… and costing lives.
WILLIAMSON COUNTY Moms for Liberty making it clear with this absurd post about American Girl dolls they have no clue what Critical Race Theory actually is, and proving all they care about is making sure our society stops fighting racism(PSA: Nobody is “color blind”. That’s a lie they tell themselves. The point isn’t to not see color, it’s to see all everyone’s uniqueness and differences and love each other for it.)
MEMPHIS MAGIC: “It’s important to get vaccinated… not only for yourself, but for those around you.” The great MAGIC JOHNSON gives SHELBY COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT JORIS RAY an assist to tout the vaccine. (90%+ of those hospitalized are unvaccinated)
“HOST BODY”: Florida’s former GOP Speaker of the House repeatedly calls a pregnant woman a “host body” But sure, let’s keep letting these guys dictate women’s reproductive rights
HOLLERIN’ ON TAMRON HALL: “At the end of the day, if we’re wrong about the efficacy of masks- sorry, you had to wear a mask. But if you’re wrong, someone dies or our kids get sick.” Yesterday the Holler’s Justin Kanew joined THE TAMRON HALL SHOW to discuss the chaotic Williamson Board meeting.
TAMRON HALL DISMANTLES ROD LUNN: Who threatened the dad in Williamson County… the guy humiliated himself further. Obvious limelight chaser. He’s a party to lawsuits against masks where he claims to have asthma, yet oddly never mentions it.
The kids are alright
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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.
“I haven’t discussed that with her.”
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) July 22, 2021
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.
?MUST-WATCH: “So many things compromised my own personal ethics.” @drfixus on a $26 MILLION no-bid COVID test/PPE contract from @GovBillLee & @TNDeptofHealth’s Dr. Piercey to a UTAH company with NO EXPERIENCE.
It got canceled $6 MILLION later.
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) July 28, 2021
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.
WATCH: “I DID NOT SEND THE MUZZLE TO MYSELF.”@drfixus says she’s the one who asked for the investigation, and that the state has her credit card on file and could have easily set up the 2nd Amazon account snd set her up if they wanted to.
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) August 17, 2021
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…
Welp, there you have it folks… ex-@tnhousegop member Rep. Tillis himself says his chair was in fact urinated on by fellow Republicans, and thinks disgraced former speaker @GlenCasada ordered the Code Yellow ? ??? https://t.co/YS5ahYjzm5
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) August 2, 2021
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.
An Op-Ed from Dr. Terri Lewis of Tennessee
In recent days, the contingent of state legislative anti-vaxxers successfully browbeat the Tennessee Department of Health into cancelling childhood vaccine outreach programs – not just for COVID19, but for all routine childhood immunization programs.
On face, it appears that the TN Dept of Health, responsible for public health in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties excluding major metropolitan areas where local agencies wield more authority, will no longer conduct public outreach for any preventable childhood communicable disease.
‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ seems to be the new public health strategy.
Tennessee lags behind the nation in all measures of disease prevention through vaccination. As of July 13, the number of fully vaccinated Tennesseans for COVID settled at 2,599,234 or 38.06% of the population. Overall, Tennessee ranks 33rd among the 50 states with a childhood vaccination rate of 79.9% against a population of 6,944,260. Tennessee currently meets HP2030 targets for 2 out of 3 vaccination-related measures for 24-month old children.
But there are significant gaps.
Many of Tennessee’s children have not completed the entire series of vaccines for preventable illnesses in the last decade. Minority children are less likely to be fully immunized. Some parents refused any and all routine immunizations.
Progress toward meeting vaccination rates for children up to the age of 24 months is located on theTNDOH website .
As concerning is the announcement by Dr. Tim Jones, Chief Medical Officer, that henceforth, no vaccination efforts will be conducted for routine childhood vaccines, with the HPV vaccine particularly singled out.
No outreach includes “pre-planning” for flu shots events at schools and back to school vaccines, and by inference, routine immunizations for infants, toddlers, teens and college students. Responsibility for back to school vaccines will become the responsibility of the Tennessee Dept of Education, not the TNDOH.
The elements of a successful outreach effort are well documented.
First, parental and community education and messaging around the safety, efficacy, and importance of childhood immunization is essential to ensure that children receive the full complement of preventive vaccines. With the gap in health insurance coverage for children this is an important function of the TNDOH at the county level across the state.
Second, there must be ready access to immunizations at every opportunity. The percent of children without health insurance increased from 5.2% in 2018 to 5.7% in 2019, with Hispanic children most represented in the childhood insurance coverage gap . By fall of 2020, 9% of Tennessee children were uninsured, more than twice the level at the same time in 2019, according to the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy. Brief periods of being uninsured can have long-term effects on the health of children and their achievement in school… children who lose their insurance miss important immunizations and go months with major unaddressed problems…” [J. Zickafoose, MD, MS, Monroe Carrell Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt]. Children who fall into the coverage gap are least likely to receive preventive care.
Third, reliable and readily accessible immunization records that provide a non-duplicated reflection of on-time immunizations are important for ensuring an accurate personal history for personal health management. This responsibility lies with health providers, not the Tennessee Department of Education. Lack of health coverage will magnify the negative impact of the childhood coverage gap where the health system fails to conduct routine outreach.
Finally, preventable childhood diseases are on the rise with the reduction in vaccination rates. Uninsured children are particularly vulnerable. When compared with privately insured children, uninsured children have more health disadvantages including need for medical or dental care; greater severity of illness, more hospitalizations and higher mortality rates; more vaccine-preventable disease; and higher rates of chronic illness such as asthma and diabetes .
The announced actions that resulted decisions to termination vaccine program leadership and cease immunization program outreach will have harmful effects resulting in tangible, measurable harms to Tennessee’s children and youth.
I strongly encourage the re-examination of these knee-jerk reactions to pressures exercised from certain sectors of the population.
Dr. Terri Lewis
Silver Point, TN
Global Immunization Action Network Team