Politico continued its record of presenting opposition to public health measures in the COVID-19 pandemic as simply being part of a political “turf war” between Republican governors and the Biden administration. This time, the outlet published a piece declaring: “Republican state executives see the fight against masking kids as a chance to show off their political power — and take on Biden.” But the piece overlooked the actual cost of Republican governors' politics to infected children.
The article also granted a false equivalence to the governors’ approaches when there is no medical justification to do so. The fifth paragraph of the piece said, for example, “Governors’ varied approaches to Covid-19 safety protocols this school year reflect those same fractures over what it means to trust the science,” seeming to suggest that there are two sides to the science. “Republican state executives increasingly see the fight against masking kids as one of their best chances to show off their political power — and beat Biden on the national stage.”
The piece later presented one side of this supposed conflict, saying in the ninth paragraph that Biden is “impatient with states that won’t comply with school masking recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” At no point was another scientific view presented to oppose masking — because there isn’t one.
In the cases of some of the most combative Republican governors to oppose public health measures, the article listed only the efforts they have taken against schools requiring masks or vaccines and not the ongoing human toll of the virus against children in those states.
The second paragraph noted that “Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is offering vouchers and federal money to schools and parents that reject face coverings,” also noting later in the piece that he was conditioning state grant money on schools’ compliance with a law that “that outlaws mask mandates and vaccine requirements.” But the article said nothing about Arizona’s rise in pediatric cases, and that public health experts in the state have lambasted the governor’s policies.
The piece also mentioned in the second paragraph that “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is threatening the salaries of school officials who mandate masks.” It returned much later to the subject: “DeSantis, the fiery Florida governor considered a top presidential contender in 2024, has offered parents vouchers to send their children to private schools or a different school district if they object to masks, while Sarasota, Miami-Dade and Broward counties, among others, openly defy his rules.”
While looking at DeSantis’ actions through the lens of his 2024 presidential hopes, the article never included the crucial stories that Florida has one of the highest rates of child hospitalization in the country, with younger children making up an alarming share of new cases. Furthermore, experts have warned about this, as one pediatric infectious disease specialist told a local Florida news outlet: “[It] baffles the logic why you would pull back your protective mechanisms that you knew worked last year when we’re seeing more COVID than we’ve ever seen in any spike and you start school that way.”
Previously, Politico ran a headline in March titled “How Ron DeSantis won the pandemic,” along with a glowing profile declaring, “The much-criticized and combative Florida governor has survived the Covid pandemic and Donald Trump. And that makes him unique in the GOP.”
The newest article also mentioned legal battles in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott and state Attorney General Ken Paxtion are trying to stop local districts from enacting mask requirements for students or vaccine requirements for employees. The piece explored whether Abbott was looking to fend off a Republican primary challenge in 2022, but never mentioned that pediatric hospitals in Texas are filling up with COVID-19 cases, as schools are reporting more cases.
Politico even changed the title of the piece to somehow sound more petty and sophomoric. The original headline read: “It’s governors vs. the White House this school year. And no one is winning.” The new one is “GOP governors: White House schoolyard brawl tests limits of local control.”