Top teachers union influenced CDC guidelines: Report
‘Special Report’ panel discuss students telling President Biden virtual learning was ‘horrible’ during school tour
This is a rush transcript from “Special Report with Bret Baier,” May 3, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should all schools in this country be open this fall for five day a week in pursing learning regardless?
JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Based on the science and the CDC, they should probably all be open. There is not overwhelming evidence that there’s much of a transmission among these young people.
ANITA DUNN, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: He said probably. He did not say absolutely, because we’ve all seen this since, unfortunately, January of 2020. It’s an unpredictable virus. It is a virus that mutates, so we can’t look in a crystal ball and say what September looks like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Well, there’s something about going back to school and the impact of the teachers’ unions, and there has been speculation about it, but this story from “The New York Post” with actual language that the teachers’ unions gave and gave back and forth with the CDC has changed the dynamics here, and one senator, several are weighing in in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM COTTON, (R-AR): The CDC is a thoroughly politicized agency. Most Americans disregard their advice on things like steaks and hamburgers and beers. Increasingly they should disregard their advice when it comes to school reopening. We should not have a politicized public health bureaucracy like the CDC answering at the beck and call of the teachers’ unions. We need kids back in school, and back in real school, not sitting in a classroom doing a Zoom session with teachers who are not in the classroom. We need kids in schools with their teachers now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: So what about all of this? Let’s bring in our panel, Byron York, chief political correspondent of “The Washington Examiner,” Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and Trey Gowdy, former Congressman from South Carolina.
Trey, we saw earlier that the president and the first lady went into a classroom. They asked how is this virtual school going, how was it? Basically, the answer they got was it really was horrible.
TREY GOWDY, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA REPRESENTATIVE: Yes, I think they used the word “terrible.” I think the lesson here, Bret, is follow the science unless a really large political constituency that provides lots of money to your election tells you otherwise. If you’re going to follow the science, follow the science that says kids are being hurt, whether it’s socialization, nutrition, you name it, they are being hurt by being out of the classroom.
So in South Carolina, my wife is a school teacher, Bret. She has been in the classroom the entire year. I find it stunning that there are kids that are still not in the classroom.
BAIER: Mara, there has been a push and then a walk back on the terminology, and these emails seem to show that there was kind of a couching of the words by the CDC, or at least they suggest that.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yes, well, it’s unclear how much of the CDC’s guidance was dictated by the teachers’ unions. The teachers’ unions are an important constituency of the Democratic Party. They weighed in along with other groups on these guidelines. But you just heard the president say that schools should be open and kids should be in classrooms with teachers. And I think that’s what you’re going to see certainly in September if not sooner. My kid just went back to school, and I’m really happy about it.
BAIER: Sure, and a lot of parents who don’t have kids going back to school are very upset about it, but then we follow it off with Anita Dunn who put the major couch on it, saying he said may be or should, meaning they are not pushing for it yet, it doesn’t seem.
LIASSON: They should be, because parents really want it.
BAIER: Yes. Byron?
BYRON YORK, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER”: Look, we have been talking for a long time about how the Democratic candidates and then President Biden were in the pocket of the teachers’ union. But I think that “The New York Post” story is really devastating because it does show you exactly how that works. And one of the worst parts about it is, it is not unusual in Washington for lobbying groups to suggest language to government agencies. It happens, a lot of progressives think it’s a really bad thing. But this is a scientific agency, the CDC, and basically what we saw in “The New York Post” report was the actual cutting and pasting of language from the teachers’ union to CDC policy.
And then with Anita Dunn, you have a failure to say affirmatively that schools will reopen. We all know that if there is some terrible resurgence and people are locked down again, if the disease comes roaring back, that would change things. But right now the government can say schools will reopen in September.
BAIER: Just historical here, you look back to the CDC director and what she said, that the transmission rates are very minuscule, and that kid should be able to go back to school even if not vaccinated, or the teachers are not vaccinated. Then you had teachers in many places across the country, Trey, that were first in line so that they could go back to school, and yet many did not.
GOWDY: I think you also have Biden’s secretary of education saying kids do better in the classroom, just like those kids said in that video. What I do find a little bit interesting, Bret, is the Biden administration was talking about forcing soldiers to be vaccinated for the betterment of the country. I am not telling you to force teachers to be vaccinated, how about just encourage them to get back in the classroom? How about say no to one of your constituencies? I know he loves unions, Bret, but he also is supposed to love kids, too. Just say no to the teachers union and get the kids back in the classroom.
BAIER: Mara, Anita Dunn said we can’t look into a crystal ball, we don’t know what September looks like. But they don’t have that same phrasing when talking about climate change or the impacts that need to happen now to change how the country operates on that front.
LIASSON: Yes, but they can operate with the best science they have at the moment, and right now what the science says, and we have been told this by administration officials over and over again, that it’s safe to be in the classroom even if a teacher isn’t vaccinated.
BAIER: Last thing, I talked to Brit about this. Does this “1619 Project” in education, is it a big political issue, do you think?
YORK: I think it could be. I think Mitch McConnell has been absolutely right about this. And “The New York Times” intended “The 1619 Project” to become a school curriculum. And this is something, look, there are debates about school curriculum all the time, and the idea of reframing American history to make 1619, the arrival of first Africans who became slaves in what became the United States, to make that the country’s, quote, “true founding,” that’s the words of “The 1619 Project,” of course you’re going to have a lot of people who do not want their children taught that the founding was not 1776, it wasn’t when the Constitution was created, it wasn’t the Federalist Papers, it was about slavery. I think there is a lot of debate about that.
BAIER: That story will continue for sure.
Up next, China, TikTok, what it all means for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON CHANG, “THE GREAT U.S.-CHINA TECH WAR”: The Biden administration should do what the Trump administration started, which is to ban TikTok from the United States. It has been used to illegally surveil Americans. It’s been used to incite violence on American streets. It’s been violating privacy of minors. I don’t see why we should have it.
And let’s remember, there is a reciprocity issue here. China does not allow American apps in China. So why are we allowing China’s apps in our country?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Good question there. TikTok, I’m sure your kids maybe have it on their phone, maybe you do. It’s exploding all over the country, these videos that you watch, pretty short. But the new CEO there is raising some eyebrows with ties directly to the Communist Chinese government.
We are back with the panel. Mara, the Trump administration started going down this road, didn’t really ban it fully. What about now?
LIASSON: The Biden administration has not really changed the approach. It’s still, TikTok is not allowed to be used by certain government agencies. I think there is a remarkable amount of continuity in the Biden’s administration’s approach to China as the Trump administration’s approach. Anything to do with 5G, high tech, social media from China is a potential national security threat in the United States, and we’re going to have to figure out what we want to do with it.
It sounds like there is a move towards decoupling the U.S. from China. Maybe we’re going to end up with two separate internets. But this is something that is part of the new approach to China. It’s kind of like a new cold war where China is a competitor and a threat, maybe not an all-out enemy right now.
BAIER: But Trey, we’re not talking small numbers here. We’re talking more than 100 million Americans have TikTok on their phone or their devices. And just listening to national security officials, they are concerned about that.
GOWDY: Yes, Bret, I think there are a lot of reasons to ban TikTok, But that is more as the parent of two 20-year-olds. I can tell you, John Ratcliffe, whom I talked to a lot, reminded me there was a conversations about a for sale of TikTok towards the end of the Trump administration. There is a belief among intelligence experts that China wants to take over the world and they want to do it by way of information. So I would ask our viewers to keep in mind China has what they call a military civil fusion law, and we have a bill of rights. They have a military that can access whatever information they want whenever they want to, and we have Ron Wyden, Rand Paul, and a bill of rights. So there are two different cultures, and we better figure out what they are up to.
BAIER: Speaking of two different cultures, Byron, you had sports teams in Georgia and, obviously, Major League Baseball pulling out of the All-Star game there over voting, problems with the voting law there. But the NBA is still very cozy with China and maybe even cozier. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN, (R-TN): You have the NBA continuing to cozy up with China. They want to get back on China TV because they are putting the dollar ahead of holding China accountable for the genocide that is taking place against the Uighurs.
PETER FEIGIN, MILWAUKEE BUCKS PRESIDENT: There are challenges and upheavals, but we have a solid relationship that continues to grow specifically in Asia. So we are very bullish on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: It’s business, but the disparity there is pretty interest.
YORK: I think the explanation is it’s just business. It’s an ongoing P.R. disaster for the NBA, because they do take a politically charged positions in the United States and just turn their face away from what is going on in China.
And one last thing on this TikTok thing, there is absolutely bipartisan concern about this. So a year-and-a-half ago, Tom Cotton and Charles Schumer coauthored a warning about the national security problems involved with TikTok. It seems that Congress could get together to do something stronger now.
BAIER: Mara, do you think they take any hit for being kind of disingenuous, being politically active on different fronts here in the U.S. but not mentioning the Uighurs or human rights in China?
LIASSON: You’re talking about the NBA?
LIASSON: Yes, I think they take a hit, but I don’t think they care. They want to make money in China. This is one area where there is almost complete bipartisan consensus that the U.S. has to get tougher on China, and we’ll see if something comes of it.
BAIER: Trey, last word.
GOWDY: When it comes to basketball, I’m probably going to follow LeBron James. When it comes to national security and intelligence I’m probably going to listen to John Ratcliffe.
BAIER: OK, there you go. When we come back, tomorrow’s headlines tonight.
BAIER: Finally tonight, a look at tomorrow’s headlines tonight with the panel. Mara, first to you.
LIASSON: My headline is after much confusion, Biden restores promised refugee cap. This was an announcement the White House made pretty late in the day today. There was a lot of confusion, a couple weeks ago he had promised to raise the cap to 62,500 to show that he was having a different, more welcoming policy toward refugees than the Trump administration, which would have had lowered it to historically low levels. But then he backed off of that and he got pressure from refugee advocates, then he said no, no I’ll keep the cap. Now it’s official, he is keeping the cap he promised.
BAIER: Lead of our show, headline tomorrow as well. Trey?
GOWDY: NBA announces plans to hold next year’s All-Star game in the country formerly known as Taiwan.
BAIER: We’ll see. That would be something. Byron?
YORK: Mine is new Democratic spending plan tops $10 trillion. Party leaders ask, why not?
BAIER: That’s going to be something to follow. Panel, thanks.
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