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CDC Coordinated with Facebook On COVID Messaging and ‘Misinformation
Chicago Mayor Says She Would “Absolutely” Discriminate Against White Reporters Again
Senior Judicial Watch Attorney Russell Nobile Testifies To Congress on Voting Rights Act
Big Win at Supreme Court Signals Election Battles Ahead

CDC Coordinated with Facebook On COVID Messaging and ‘Misinformation’

Is it any wonder that Americans don’t trust the CDC or Facebook to deliver accurate information? And is it any surprise that your Judicial Watch caught these two organizations colluding to control the flow of news and opinion about Covid-19?

We learned a lot about the behind the scenes, inappropriate friendship of this government agency and this private company after we sued.

We received 2,469 pages of documents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which reveal that Facebook coordinated closely with the CDC to control the Covid narrative and “misinformation.” 

In addition, social media companies gave more than $3.5 million in free advertising to the CDC.

We received these documents in response to our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health of Human Services (No. 1:21-cv-00625)) lawsuit for:

Any and all records of communication between CDC officials and/or employees and employees, agents, and/or representatives of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube concerning, regarding, or relating to COVID-19 related content on company platforms. Such records include, but are not limited to, any advice or instructions issued on disinformation re COVID-19.

The documents show little daylight between the CDC and Big Tech on Covid-19 messaging and misinformation:

  • In an email exchange beginning on January 26, 2020 with the subject, “Data for Good | CDC intros,” a Facebook representative sends the “FB coronavirus narrative” to the CDC.

It states the following:

Facebook is taking a three pronged approached to the global response for the coronavirus:

Limit misinformation and other harmful content on our platforms.  Our third-party fact-checkers have been rating information on this topic as false, including the APPolitifact, AFP Hong Kong, Rapple IQ in the Philippines. As a result, we show people who come across that false content accurate information from our fact-checking partners and strong warning labels. We also send notifications to people who already shared this content alerting them that it’s been fact checked.

Provide accurate and helpful information on our platforms to our partners. Partners are already using our platforms to share accurate information about the situation, including on Pages. We have also provided ad credits to the World Health Organization and the Philippines’ Department of Health to enable them to run coronavirus education campaigns on Facebook in-region, which we will continue to do. We’re continuing to explore additional steps we can take, including dedicated information modules on relevant search queries and improved search ranking.

Empower partners with data tools. We’re sharing aggregated mobility data and high resolution density maps with various partners (e.g., National Tsinghua University (Taiwan); Harvard School of Public Health) to help inform forecasting models for the spread of the virus as part of our broader Data for Good program. We’re exploring doing this with a broader set of partners (e.g., WHO, US CDC) and also helping partners understand how people are talking about the issue online through tools like Crowdtangle to inform their efforts.

This email exchange continues on showing more coordination on messaging between the CDC and Facebook.

    • The CDC was given over $3.5 million of free advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
      • In a March 8, 2020 email, a Facebook representative sends four ad credits totaling $2 million to the CDC for the purpose of supporting “messaging related to coronavirus.”

On March 14, 2020, then-CDC Chief Operating Officer and Chief Strategy Officer Sherri Berger emails Facebook to thank them for the $2 million.

“On behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and by the authority delegated to me through Section 231 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. Section 238), as amended, thank you for Facebook’s non-monetary gift of advertising credited with an estimated value of $2,000,000.  The gift will be used by CDC’s COVID-19 response to support dissemination of critical public health messaging.  Thank you!”

      • In an email exchange between August 10-11, 2020, the CDC’s Sherri Berger emails Facebook again to thank them for another $1 million in ad credits with a similar message to that on March 14, except she adds: “This gift will be used by the CDC’s COVID-19 response to distribute scientifically accurate data, guidance and risk communication information on COVID-19 to a broader audience.” In an email exchange on August 25, 2020, Facebook makes CDC officials aware that of their recent gift of $1 million in ad credits, $529,207.42 remain.
      • In a heavily redacted email exchange on March 17, 2020, a Twitter official offers the CDC advertising in the form of Twitter’s Promoted Trend and Promoted Spotlight Trend, which have approximate values given as $75,000 and $150,000.
      • In an email exchange beginning March 16, 2020, a Google representative offers the CDC free video advertising on YouTube.  In the exchange, they claim to not be able to assign a dollar value to this advertising. The CDC’s official acceptance document for this advertising, which they value at $0, Sherri Berger states: I understand that Google LLC may be a vendor and/or lobbyist employed and that Google LLC’s employees may be registered lobbyists.  Providing the gift will not prevent Google LLC or its affiliates from supplying products of services to CDC in the future; CDC, however, is under no obligation to accept future services from Google LLC or its affiliates.
      • In a February 27, 2020 email, a Facebook representative offers to put CDC officials in contact with WhatsApp in order to establish auto-responses to FAQs about coronavirus in that communications platform.

These documents show that Facebook and the CDC are joined at the hip on managing the ever-changing Covid-19 “narrative” – which includes censorship of alleged “misinformation.” 

I suspect there is more to be found on this topic and Judicial Watch’s investigators and litigators will continue to expose the behind-the-scenes censorious machinations between Big Government and Big Tech that are  a threat to both the truth and your First Amendment rights. 

Chicago Mayor Says She Would “Absolutely” Discriminate Against White Reporters Again

In-your-face racism continues in the Chicago mayor’s office.

We filed an amended complaint in our lawsuit on behalf of the Daily Caller News Foundation and reporter Thomas Catenacci against Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot for violating their First Amendment rights and Catenacci’s right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

We sued in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, after Catenacci, a white male, emailed Lightfoot’s office requesting a one-on-one interview with the mayor and the office failed to reply to the request or Catenacci’s two additional follow-up emails (Catenacci et al v. Lightfoot (No. 1:21-cv-02852)). Christine Svenson of Svenson Law Offices in Palatine, Illinois, is assisting us with the lawsuit.

Mayor Lightfoot discriminated against journalists based on their race. We repeatedly requested that Lightfoot sign a consent decree agreeing not to use race-based criteria for interview requests for the remainder of her time in office. Not only did her lawyers ignore these requests, in a recent interview, an unrepentant Lightfoot told a New York Times writer, “I would absolutely do it again. I’m unapologetic about it because it spurred a very important conversation, a conversation that needed to happen, that should have happened a long time ago.”

“I cannot believe that Mayor Lightfoot told the New York Times reporter that she would absolutely discriminate against reporters again based on their race,” said Thomas Catenacci. “If she isn’t stopped, what’s next?”

“A policy of granting interviews based on the color of a reporter’s skin isn’t merely discriminatory, it undercuts the foundational principles of freedom of the press,” said DCNF acting editor in chief Thomas Phippen. “That Mayor Lightfoot is ‘unapologetic’ about her policy speaks volumes.”

In May, Lightfoot’s office informed multiple reporters that she would grant one-on-one interviews, “only to Black or Brown journalists.” The next day, the mayor released a letter doubling down on her discriminatory policy.

Our amended complaint explains:

On May 18, 2021, a Chicago reporter tweeted that Mayor Lightfoot’s spokesperson informed her that the mayor “is granting 1 on 1 interviews – only to Black or Brown journalists.” Mayor Lightfoot subsequently released a letter stating, “By now, you have heard the news that on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of my inauguration as Mayor of this great City, I will be exclusively providing one-on-one interviews with journalists of color.” Neither Mayor Lightfoot nor her spokesperson suggested that the mayor’s new, race-based interview policy was not permanent or identified any time limit on how long the mayor intended to use race-based criteria for granting interview requests.

Lightfoot’s communications director testified that the mayor used race-based criteria for granting interview requests for two days, May 19 and 20, and did not grant any interview requests to White reporters. Moreover, the mayor’s office has yet to respond to Catenacci’s request nor has the mayor agreed to an interview with him. Mayor Lightfoot’s response to the lawsuit is due by August 2, 2021, so stay tuned for updates soon.

Senior Judicial Watch Attorney Russell Nobile Testifies To Congress on Voting Rights Act

We are the leader in issues of election integrity and are educating Congress through witness testimony by our leading experts in the field of election law.Senior Attorney Russell Nobile testified before the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in a hearing titled, “The Need to Enhance the Voting Rights Act: Practice-Based Coverage.” (This is Russ’s third appearance before Congress in recent weeks!)

You can watch the hearing on our website.

In his testimony, he focused on new legislative efforts by Democrats in Congress that would effectively result in a federal takeover of election management and empower the Justice Department to veto voter ID and other widely used election integrity measures.  

From 2006 to 2012, Nobile worked as a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section, which is responsible for enforcing all provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, and the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

Judicial Watch attorneys Robert Popper and Russell Nobile addressed the two houses of Congress on the importance of maintaining and protecting strong election security measures and have previously testified before both the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties and the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution.

Big Win at Supreme Court Signals Election Battles Ahead

If Americans can’t trust the outcome of elections, where are we? Our chief investigative correspondent, Micah Morrison, explains the high-stakes battles in his Investigative Bulletin.

Judicial Watch experts were up on Capitol Hill earlier this month explaining the implications of a big 6-3 Supreme Court ruling in the fierce battle for clean elections. The immediate issues in Brnovich, Attorney General of Arizona, v. Democratic National Committee et al  revolved around out-of-precinct voting and ballot harvesting. Should the Arizona practices be banned?

But both sides are hunting bigger game in the high-stakes case: Section Two of the Voting Rights Act. The standards set in Brnovich will impact a wide array of hot-button state election issues around the nation, including redistricting, voter ID, mail-in ballots, same-day registration, proof required for registration, early voting , third-party collection of ballots, and when polls can close on election day.

Reacting to the July 1 High Court ruling, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton called it “a home run for cleaner elections, reaffirming that states may take action to prevent election fraud without waiting for it to occur within their own borders. This new decision rightly rejects the race baiting of the leftist partisans who pretend that neutral provisions to combat voter fraud (such as voter ID and bans on ballot harvesting) are presumptively racist.”

The Left went bonkers over Brnovich. President Biden called it a “broad assault against voting rights.” The New York Times editorial board said it was an “attack on democracy.” A Washington Post columnist said the decision leaves “voters of color increasingly vulnerable to efforts to exclude them from our democracy.”

Testifying before Capitol Hill committees two weeks later, Judicial Watch experts set the record straight. Judicial Watch Election Integrity Project Director Robert Popper condemned the “outrageous hyperbole” of critics of the Brnovich decision.

Popper noted that Section Two of the Voting Rights Act had given the rise in recent years to extreme lawsuits challenging “ordinary-seeming regulations—and changes to such regulations—governing, for example, the use of absentee ballots, in-precinct voting, early voting, voter ID laws, election observers same-day registration, durational residency requirements, and straight-ticket voting.” In a less highly charged political time, Popper noted, the 2005 bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission Report “had expressly noted the need for such regulations, including those regarding absentee ballots, out-of-precinct voting, early voting, in-person ID requirements, and election observers.”

One example of Section Two abuse? In the Husted case, a district court ruled that an Ohio law decreasing the early voting period from 35 to 29 days violated the Voting Rights Act because the change interacted with “historical and social conditions” afflicting minority voters.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision. It noted that the loss of one week of early voting was, at worst, a minor contraction of “one of the many conveniences that have generously facilitated voting participation in Ohio.” The appeals court also noted that thirteen states did not “permit any early in-person voting days.”

The Carter-Baker Commission recommendations and Husted are examples that should be kept in mind when assessing the hyperbole from the Left surrounding Brnovich and current challenges to election regulations, Popper noted.

Popper told Congress: “One hears—and large news outlets dutifully report— that there is a ‘tsunami’ of legislation ‘restricting the right to vote,’ that states reforming their mail-in voting laws as COVID retreats are engaged in ‘voter suppression,’ and even that these actions represent ‘the new Jim Crow.’ These claims are preposterous. At best, they reveal a startling historical ignorance. The grandfather laws, absurd literacy tests, poll taxes, intimidation and terroristic violence of the Jim Crow era have nothing whatever to do with, say, Ohio’s restriction of early voting from 35 to 29 days, or with limiting same-day registration. Nor do they have anything to do with regulating absentee ballots, out-of-precinct voting, or voter ID requirements, all reasonable electoral integrity measures approved by the Carter-Baker Commission. At worst these statements reveal a startling cynicism, driven by a desire to inflame passions—and to raise funds.”

Popper testified before a House Judiciary Committee subcommittee on July 16. Two days earlier, Judicial Watch Senior Attorney Russell Nobile spoke to a Senate subcommittee. Looking ahead, both men warned of trouble in the post-Brnovich landscape.

“In particular,” Popper noted, the Democrats’ top election bill priority in Congress—HR 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act—“is a bad idea.” It gives the attorney general “new, unchecked power” to sue directly for violations of the Constitution. The new powers likely would be centered in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department which, Popper warned, “has in the past proved to be a hotbed of partisanship.”

Russell Nobile noted in his Senate testimony that the “truth is that HR 4 goes far beyond any civil rights law enacted during the height of the civil rights era. Rather, it is part of a grander plan to shift control of American elections away from individual state legislatures and into the hands of a single federal bureaucratic department.” You can read more from Nobile on HR 4 and the looming election integrity crisis in this Judicial Watch report.

Nobile also noted problems at the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, where both he and Popper served earlier in their careers. Citing the recent “tremendous debate” over Critical Race Theory (CRT)—the Marxism-rooted ideology insisting that American democracy is suffused to its core by racism and must be dismantled—Nobile said that “there are few places in the federal government that are more dominated by the assumptions that underlie CRT. The partisanship and hostility towards staff that do not share the same assumptions is startling” and includes, from some, “a shocking level of intolerance.”

Nobile warns that even within highly political Washington, “the culture of the Voting Section stands out for its partisanship. Any legislation that shifts greater federal power to the Department’s Voting Section will make elections worse, not better.”

Read Robert Popper’s statement to the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties here.

Read Russell Nobile’s statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution here.

Until next week,

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