Newsmax's 'Non-Clinician' Blues
Newsmax has felt compelled to make sure readers know that several columns -- mostly making dubious claims about the coronavirus pandemic -- were written by a "non-clinician."
By Terry Krepel
It's telling of the kind of content Newsmax publishes that it feels compelled to undermine its own columnists with a disclaimer.
Over the past several months, Newsmax has added a note to several columns on the general subject of coronavirus stating, in one variation or another, that "the author is a non-clinician." That could be easily interpreted as Newsmax-speak for "the writer doesn't know what he's talking about," though the "non-clinician" tag has been added to other subjects as well.
The earliest example we could find of Newsmax's disclaimer was a Sept. 17 column by George Noory pushing the unproven idea that "the age-old spice turmeric" could help prevent COVID-19, adding, "I have been taking turmeric for years (daily) no flu and no COVID-19, knock on wood!" That was followed by a non-coronavirus-related example in a Sept. 21 column by Jared Whitley complaining about a government panel's recommendation to reduce alcohol consumption, insisting it was "the strictest the government has ever gotten with booze since Prohibition" -- even though the recommendations have no legal force and nobody is prohibiting anything.
In a Sept. 28 column, Noory hyped "confusion" over whether masks can help stop the spread of coronavirus, adding, "We may never know if face coverings will prevent the spread of COVID-19. I think people need to build an immunity." Actually, numerous experts agree that masks help prevent coronavirus spread.
That was followed by a Oct. 9 column by Bruce Abramson, who labored to downplay the effect of the pandemic even among the most susceptible to catching COVID-19:
While we still don’t know about lingering or long-term effects, we knew almost immediately that only the elderly, immunocompromised, or otherwise unhealthy faced an elevated risk of death.
Andy Bloom served up a rare non-coronavirus-related example in an Oct. 30 column, a malicious pre-election attack on Joe Biden's mental health in which Bloom did admit, to his credit, that he's not a doctor:
To be clear, I have no formal medical training. I am not a doctor. I have not even seen Joe Biden close-up. However, I have watched my maternal grandmother go through a long battle with dementia and my father's suffering for nearly a decade before succumbing to Alzheimer's. It is a horrible disease that I would not wish on my worst enemy. I encourage readers to donate to the Alzheimer's Association to find a cure for this devastating illness.
Things on the non-clinician front were quiet in November, but they fired up again in December. A Dec. 1 column by Rayne Guest went on a tirade against disinfectants:
While most disinfectants are regulated by the EPA as Antimicrobial Pesticides, some doctors refer to them as being like a modern day asbestos: initially thought to be wholly beneficial and relatively harmless, extended exposure resulted in dangerous health risks.
A Dec. 2 column by Seth Denson discussed storage and distribution issues regarding the COVID vaccines and was not terribly controversial. On Dec. 10 came another non-COVID example from Larry Alton, who wrote about sleep issues. In a Dec. 16 column, Brad Blakeman effusively praised President Trump for "inventing coronavirus vaccines in record time"; that's not what happened, but it's a political argument perhaps not necessarily deserving of the disclaimer.
But one columnist was eager to make up for that.
One of the most frequent recipients of the "non-clinician" tag is Mark Schulte, a retired math teacher. In his Dec. 7 column, he played a dishonest blame game on the pandemic, ranting that "a group of Democratic mayors and governors, who are responsible for a grossly disproportionate percentage of COVID deaths this year, have repeatedly demonstrated their total lack of public health "competence and expertise" in battling this epidemic." In fact, numerous Republican-run states are also among the states with the highest death rate.
On Dec. 22, Schulte started slinging statistics around to cast doubt on Centers for Disease Control numbers showing nearly 300,000 "excess deaths" in the U.S. due to the pandemic, desperate to blame "incompetent Democratic governors" and claiming that even in Republican-led states, deaths "have disproportionately occurred in Democratic-run cities and their surrounding suburbs." Schulte offered no evidence that he checked the voting records of every single person who died of COVID-19. That was followed by a Dec. 28 column in which Schulte again attacked "false COVID epidemiology that 'over 320,000' Americans died from the SARS-CoV-2 virus" that was being repeated by "crooked, scientifically-illiterate Joe Biden" and once more insisting that Democratic governors were to blame.
Schulte spent his Jan. 12 "non-clinician" column trying to manufacture a conspiracy theory about coronavirus death counts. After highlighting that 4,000 COVID-19 deaths were reported on Jan. 8 and noting that the average death count was much lower in the first four days of January than the next four days, he immediately went into conspiracy mode:
Therefore, the average daily increase in deaths, between Jan. 5 and 8, is 3,812, compared to an average of 1,999 between Jan 1 and 4.
Or, you know, it's because the first four days of January took place over a holiday weekend, when reporting might be less than complete because people who were normally reporting numbers were off work.
In his Jan. 28 column (which was not tagged), Schulte complained that President Biden noted that coronavirus death toll reached the number of Americans killed in World War II, howling that was a "heinous" comparison because those dead from coronavirus were a smaller proportion of Americans than during World War II and are mostly elderly with a much lower "productive years of life lost" than the mostly young men killed during the way.
Schulte struck again in his tagged Feb. 4 column:
President Joe Biden, during his first full day in the White House on Jan. 21, released a 100-plus-page report detailing a "National Strategy for COVID-19."
Of course, these were provisional numbers likely to change due to errors and other anomalies -- and that's exactly what happened in the days after Schulte rushed his conspiracy theory to publication. Here are the number of deaths listed by the CDC a few weeks later for those days:
That's a total of 8,311 over that four-day period, and more in line with the trends of that time. If only Schulte had bothered to wait until all the numbers were fully analyzed -- but then, he wouldn't have a column.
Schulte, by the way, has not corrected his column as of this writing or admitted that he rushed to judgment.
The "non-clinician" tag continued to be applied to other columnists as well. Guest returned on Jan. 22 with another disinfectant-obsessed column: "We are compelled to comply with the CDC's recommendations to wear masks and practice social distancing. Shouldn't we heed its advice and steer clear of disinfectants requiring a 10-minute contact time?" Denson returned on Feb. 8 to complain about government help to restart the economy after the pandemic:
Lives, jobs, wealth, and opportunity have all been destroyed in the wake of this terrible disease and government action in response to it.
On Feb. 9, Michael Reagan earned the disclaimer for ranting that "An unholy coalition of power-mad Democratic representatives and teacher unions have united to keep children out of school to meet a 'threat' that apparently doesn't even harm children," adding that "teacher unions want the schools to stay closed, and union money cancels science."
A tagged Feb. 10 column by Rand Fishbein pushed the claim that the coronavirus was deliberately created by China, complete with ranting that the U.S. allegedly funded "gain of function" research at the virology laboratory in Wuhan, China.
Bill Robinson's tagged March 9 column is little more than a screed against Anthony Fauci:
I never liked Dr. Fauci, his diminutive stature, gravelly voice or Napoleonic, tough guy attitude. He seemed to me the consummate phony. His actions have all but confirmed this to be true.
Ah, yes, the Great Barrington Declaration, which argued against lockdowns and in favor of promoting herd immunity against coronavirus -- even though nobody can predict exactly who would die from what would essentially be a global chicken pox party. But never mind that, Robinson has more anti-Fauci hate to spew:
Whether intentional or not, Fauci has been a willing and intentional pawn of the Marxist Left in this country. Regardless of his intent, he’s been a failure in every respect.
Dunning never really explains what coronavirus has to do with the "Marxist left."
Steve Levy used his tagged April 21 column to allege that "There is increasing evidence that the liberal channels were purposely hyping COVID-19 dangers for political and economic reasons," but he also claimed regarding the hesitancy of conservatives to get the vaccine that "It's entirely possible, and even probable, that the reason relates to conservative media pushback, and often legitimate skepticism, of proclamations issued by health officials considered to be products of the deep state."
A May 3 column by Judd Dunning ranted that Democrats have turned the COVID vaccine into, yes, a "weapon of hate," a form of "bigotry" alongside exploiting racism and hating Donald Trump:
This brings the third leftist weapon of hate the vaccine. “The jab” is the new other and the new leftist keystone of the power to polarize. The jab is the hottest hate they have left to create the separation that keeps them in power.
Dunning is lying about "3,000 vaccine deaths" -- there is no proof that the vaccines have directly killed anyone. But what else would you expect from a non-clinician?
Dunning apparently wasn't too happy about Newsmax putting the "non-clinician" tag on his column. He saved his editors the trouble by beginning his June 2 column with this snit: "I, Judd Dunning, am not a clinician. I am an educated citizen. Individual citizens are the vital cog in America’s political system. Liberal elitists labeling half of America irredeemable and deplorable disagree." Of course, declaring himself an "educated citizen" didn't keep him from spending the rest of his column mindlessly reciting right-wing talking points against the vaccine, huffing that "Smears of racism, Trumpism and vaxism must be dealt with." Smears of the medical community, however, are perfectly acceptable for Dunning.