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