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Stepping aside

9/11 first resonder and FealGood Foundation co-founder John

9/11 first resonder and FealGood Foundation co-founder John Feal speaks after the U.S. Senate voted to renew permanent authorization of September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, on Capitol Hill on July 23, 2019 in Washington, DC. Credit: Getty Images/Mark Wilson

Daily Point

Murray, Feal will not challenge Zeldin

The search for a Democratic challenger to Rep. Lee Zeldin continues.

Two potential hopefuls who had taken a look at a 2022 race appear to be out.

"I have decided against running in 2022," wrote Chris Murray, in an email to The Point on Monday. Murray, an attorney and chair of the board of trustees for Suffolk County Community College, said he had focused on the impact on his family while considering running, and cited "financial sacrifices as well as time away from my wife and children, including my autistic son."

And over the weekend, 9/11 responder and advocate John Feal tweeted, "I am not running for Congress or any office!" — though he also added, "That doesn't mean I will not in the future."

There were always factors making it a tough 2022 run against Zeldin, who won his November race against Nancy Goroff by nearly 10 percentage points. Plus, a midterm election doesn’t favor the party controlling the White House.

Yet so charged are the emotions that any issue can become an additional obstacle even this far out in the election cycle. Murray had gone public with his belief that Zeldin should not be expelled from Congress, since he "has not broken any law, and to take his fate away from the voters shows the same disrespect for democracy as President Trump."

That’s not a popular view among some on the left who are enraged at Zeldin’s votes against Electoral College certification. Murray nodded at this in his email to The Point: "The reaction of some in the Democratic Party to my comments about Zeldin also raised concerns. There are elements in the activist wing that do not accept that just because you may have sincere policy differences does not mean your [sic] a sell out or don’t believe in the basic principles of the Democratic Party."

For Feal, one central tool for a run would likely have been his lively Twitter account which features more than 21,000 followers. Feal doggedly responds to inquiries and chats with users about non-political topics, like relationship skills. Emojis abound, as do colorful insults about former President Donald Trump, the more printable of which include "Chunks."

Some of that material is hardly alien to political discourse in the post-Trump era, but Feal’s tone had some detractors, to Feal’s chagrin.

"Please stop asking & stop asking me to act a certain way," Feal said in his tweet about not being a current candidate. "Opposition research GFU!"

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

A platform instead of a pushback

What happens when an elected official provides a public, high-profile platform for an anti-vaccination advocate to say whatever he wants?

If you’d imagine that the elected official would spend his time pushing back on dangerous views, you’d be wrong.

State Sen. James Sanders, of South Ozone Park, Queens, released Friday "Let’s Be Clear," a controversial podcast that he had first publicized more than a week ago.

It was worse than expected. Del Bigtree, who heads an organization called Informed Consent Action Network, used it to erroneously suggest that the COVID-19 vaccine could cause auto-immune disease or cancer, or worse, and that the discredited remedy of hydroxychloroquine was a better alternative.

"The truth is the history of this vaccine has been horrific in animal trials," Bigtree said. "We could potentially recommend this vaccine, have millions of people receive it … and instead of the vaccine protecting them, it makes them very ill, it could even kill them … You are taking on a severe risk [by taking the vaccine]."

Bigtree, a known anti-vaccination advocate who is not a doctor and has no medical training, produced the film Vaxxed, which incorrectly alleges a connection between vaccines and autism and provides a platform for the views of the discredited Andrew Wakefield.

In addition to Bigtree, Sanders’ podcast included anti-vaccination advocate Barbara Loe Fisher, the president of the National Vaccine Information Center.

"We should not push these guys into the shadows," Sanders told The Point about his decision to give anti-vaxxers airtime.

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins would not comment on the podcast, a spokesman said, referring The Point back to a statement she made last week.

"Our conference time and time again has proven that we believe in science," the statement said.

"And obviously I believe the vaccines are safe."

Sanders told The Point there were other dangerous viewpoints, like those who denied the Holocaust, that he wouldn’t have on his show – but that he saw those as different than those who denied the science behind vaccines.

Sanders first advertised, and was ready to broadcast, the podcast more than a week ago, but held it back when concerns emerged, including comments from fellow State Sen. Brad Hoylman.

In response to those concerns, Sanders waited to release the podcast until he recorded a new introductory message, in which he said he believed the COVID-19 vaccine was safe and planned to take it when it was his turn.

"I think it would be a disservice to the community and to the greater public to try to censor or hide unpopular points of view," Sanders said in the introduction. "I believe at the end of the show you’ll agree with me that the vaccine is the lesser of two evils. In fact, the vaccine is good."

Nonetheless, Sanders did not object to any of Bigtree’s false statements during the podcast, and didn’t push back even when Bigtree suggested that hydroxychloroquine was safe and should be given to the community instead of the vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration has warned against the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.

Sanders left it up to two doctors and one pharmacist on the podcast to push back. Physicians Gbenga Ogedegbe, with NYU Langone, and Donald Morrish, an obstetrician with St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, along with pharmacist Karen Muir spent much of their time attempting to refute what Bigtree and Fisher had to say.

All three said they had taken the vaccine.

"The vaccine works. Take it," said Ogedegbe. "The safety is unparalleled … It’s important that we as physicians practice evidence-based medicine."

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

TKO

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/cartoons

Quick Points

  • A group of 10 Republican senators is proposing a $600 billion coronavirus relief package to counter President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan. Now we’ll find out who’s really interested in bipartisanship — and how they define it.
  • Upset over China’s heavy-handed crackdown on its former colony, Britain has offered a special visa and path to citizenship for qualified Hong Kong residents — an estimated 5.2 million people. If all of them take the offer, there wouldn’t be much of a Hong Kong left; its total population is 7.5 million.
  • On Saturday, Myanmar’s military said its commander-in-chief’s remarks Friday that a coup could not be ruled out if there was no investigation of election fraud in a recent vote that the military-backed party lost badly were not meant as threatening a coup. On Monday, the military detained the leaders of the victorious party and declared a state of emergency. If it walks like a duck …
  • Republican state lawmakers around the country have filed more than 100 bills to make voting harder, while Democratic state lawmakers have filed more than 400 bills to expand voting. The 2020 election is far from over.
  • Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who earned praise from Democrats for doggedly fighting off former President Donald Trump’s attempts to change election results in that state, is backing stricter voting requirements for Georgians. Heroes are complicated.
  • If there is any wonder why the Georgia GOP is pursuing voting restrictions, consider the words of the head of the Gwinnett County board of elections: "They don’t have to change all of them, but they have got to change the major parts of them so we at least have a shot at winning." Now there’s a local party with principles.
  • After former President Donald Trump decided not to commute the sentence of former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, convicted of accepting bribes and money laundering, Silver ally and former Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg said, "this is what happens when politics take over government." Actually, Silver already did that himself.
  • After the Florida law firm that employs Frank Biden ran a newspaper ad touting his relationship with his brother, President Joe Biden, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said White House policy is that the president’s name should not be used in connection with any commercial activities. Left unsaid: what the White House is going to do about it.
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy plans to meet this week with freshman GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, an ardent believer in QAnon and other outlandish conspiracy theories who has trafficked in racism and anti-Semitism and liked social media posts calling for the execution of Democratic leaders. Does he realize this is more a test for him than it is for Greene?
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s final State of the City speech was titled "A Recovery for All of Us." Well, perhaps not all. The mayor’s reputation as a poor manager is probably beyond recovery.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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