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Don't Push the Vaccinated; Why Isn't Biden Mandating the Vaccine for Federal Workers?; NJ Homeowner Under Fire for Offensive Anti-Biden Signs; Can Psychedelics Treat Depression. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired July 24, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Blake Essig in Tokyo and this is CNN.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: Everybody's doing it, but the federal government. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. My law firm is doing it, CNN is doing it, Indiana University and my sons' schools are doing it, the largest hospital system in Houston, the Foo Fighters, even Dead & Company. So why not the nation's largest employer, the federal government? Why, amidst this vaccine hesitancy, is President Biden not ordering all 9 million federal employees, including the military, to get vaccinated?
We're in the midst of a third wave of COVID-19. The Delta variant is deadly, deadly for those who refuse to be vaccinated. There are few left who can be persuaded with science and logic. Not even the fact that virtually everyone hospitalized across America for COVID-related illnesses has one other thing in common -- they're unvaccinated. Said differently, virtually no one who's been fully vaccinated for COVID is in the hospital with a COVID-related illness.
So why are we succumbing to the intransigence of the unwilling and instead seeking to punish the responsible, those who've done their part by getting vaccinated?
Two more real world examples of the unrepentant unvaccinated were in the news this week. Here in Philadelphia, "The Inquirer" reports that as many as half the players on the Phillies remain unvaccinated.
Meanwhile, rock legend Eric Clapton threatened he may not perform at venues requiring proof of vaccination. In a statement posted on an anti-vaxxers social media account, Clapton wrote this, "I wish to say that I will not perform on any stage where there is a discriminated audience present. Unless there is a provision made for all people to attend, I reserve the right to cancel the show."
I agree with my friend and colleague, the lawyer and law professor Shanin Specter, who wrote a piece for Smerconish.com this week titled "It's Time to Change the Delta on the Delta." And in it, he wrote this, "The day for effective public service announcements by basketball coaches and 18-year-old pop stars is over -- it's obvious that they hold no sway over those who've passed on vaccination in the many months it's been generally available. Let's not waste any more money or energy on that."
He goes on to argue that if the administration made it mandatory for the 9.4 million federal employees, it would spur more governors and mayors to do the same for their 7.1 million workers, which in turn would normalize it and embolden more private employers to do likewise.
As "The New York Times" reported back on July 1, "President Biden could legally require members of the military to get vaccinated, but so far he has declined to exercise that power even as the highly contagious Delta variant has become an increasing threat to unvaccinated Americans.
The military has worked hard to combat vaccine misinformation in its ranks since the shots first became available. More than 80 percent of the active-duty service members are under 35. That's a group that often views itself as impervious to coronavirus infections. Many worry that the vaccines are unsafe, were developed too quickly or will affect fertility."
Well, "The Times" reported the percentage of the different branches that had gotten at least one shot as follows: Navy, 77 percent, Army, 70 percent, Air Force, 61 percent, Marine Corps, just 58 percent. That's all better than the national average, but not what it should be.
Although the FDA approval was cited by military leaders as to why they couldn't require coronavirus vaccinations as they do for other inoculations, "The Times" reported this, "Under federal statute, the option to refuse 'may be waived only by the president' if it is determined that refusing 'is not in the interests of national security.'" Well, we're certainly at that point now, right?
And in May, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission itself said that an employer can lawfully require employees to obtain a vaccination as a condition of returning to the workplace so long as the employer reasonably accommodate employees who are unable or unwilling to get vaccinated because of disability or sincerely-held religious belief.
So President Biden has the power. Why isn't he using it? Instead, CNN reported this week that as the Delta variant spreads, the White House and CDC are considering revising mask recommendations for vaccinated Americans. That's backwards.
We aren't mandating that the unvaccinated get the jab. Instead, the idea is to mandate more masks, including for those who are vaccinated? By that logic, we don't know who's vaccinated, so we should just require a mask of everyone. Instead of imposing further upon the vaccinated, let's instead up the pressure on the unvaccinated.
On Thursday, the NFL announced that if there's COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players, a game cannot be rescheduled and that team will be forced to forfeit, resulting in lost wages and a loss for playoff seeding. Well, the NFL is right. Maybe an MLB policy like that would get more of the Phillies vaccinated.
And a similar example should be set by President Biden in requiring all federal employees to get the jab. And the same should apply to governors and mayors. In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed did just that for all 35,000 city employees and the policy has not been met with any significant resistance. City employees there have until July 29 to report their status and no later than 10 weeks after the FDA gives final approval to at least one COVID-19 vaccine to get vaccinated. Waiting until final approval, that's not necessary, but at least it's a step in the right direction.
On Thursday, Alabama's Republican governor, Kay Ivey, addressed the fact that her state had seen nearly 10,000 new cases in the past two weeks and that only 33.9 percent of its residents are fully vaccinated. That's less than any other state. Asked if she might mandate masks, she said, no, the answer is vaccination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. KAY IVER, (R) ALABAMA: Folks supposed to have common sense, but it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Well, she's right and now she should require her state's employees to get the jab. So too in New York City. Front page of "The New York Times" today, the news that Mayor Bill de Blasio is urging New York businesses to require employee vaccinations. He's an employer. The story says, quote, "He signaled that he would introduce similar measures for hundreds of thousands of municipal employees." Let's get to it, Mayor de Blasio.
Here's the bottom line. This is really about which people in this country are going to control virus-related behavior -- the unvaccinated or the vaccinated. There will be some level of peaceable civil disobedience either way, but allowing the unvaccinated to control virus policy, that's unjust and unhealthy. It is time for government to lead.
Which leads me to this week's survey question on my website at Smerconish.com. I want to know what you think. Should President Biden mandate that all federal employees get vaccinated?
Joining me now to discuss is Kathleen Sebelius, former Health and Human Services Secretary under President Barack Obama and former governor of the great state of Kansas, as well as Lawrence Gostin, Professor of Global Health Law at Georgetown University and Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law.
He wrote a great piece for my website this week, "The Case for Vaccine Mandates and Proof of Vaccination Systems" and he's the author of the soon-to-be-published book "Global Health Security: A Blueprint for the Future." Professor Gostin, you have said that the law and judiciary have always supported immunization until now. What's changed?
LAWRENCE GOSTIN, PROFESSOR OF GLOBAL HEALTH LAW, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: You know, what's changed is I've never seen, in my over 30 years of experience in public health, the kind of politicization there is just of basic public health and science tools, vaccines, masks, all of the kind of signals that the former president gave and now we're seeing a split in our country that is very sad because the virus doesn't know political parties.
And we have the tools, we really need to use them and our best tool, by far our best tool, is to vaccinate. Every American should roll up their sleeves and get a jab and they should do it now.
SMERCONISH: Governor Sebelius, you've been elected governor, you've been a health secretary. I sneeze in the -- in the corner of my elbow and think of you to this day. Are the politics of confronting the unvaccinated holding us back? Is it a union issue? Why isn't government taking more of a lead on mandates?
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, FORMER HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Well, I think the professor is right in that this has been the first public health crisis that has ever been made a partisan issue and it started at the outbreak of the virus and it's continued to this day and that's terrifying because it's really threatening peoples' lives.
I live in a state that has a Democratic governor who has been trying, from day one, to implement public safety measures. You know, the first duty of any elected official is to take care of his or her constituents, to look out for the safety and security. At every step along the way, the Republican legislature has overruled what she's been trying to do.
I'm really frightened by the fact that while mandate authority lies often at the state and local level since the early 1900s, many states, including my own, have passed laws preemptively forbidding government to take any action that would mandate masks, mandate vaccine information, the use of vaccine passports. So they're actually moving rapidly in another direction which could really tie our hands as the Delta variant gets more and more robust.
SMERCONISH: Governor, I recognize that certain areas, certain municipalities and state governments have done exactly what you described. Do you think in those areas where executives of states have more authority, that when the FDA approval is final, they will exercise it?
SEBELIUS: Well, I certainly think and I hope it's going on at the federal level and I know it's going on at state levels, starting with certain populations, the notion that lots of individuals in nursing homes still are dealing with staff who are not fully vaccinated. I mean, we have to start with the vulnerable populations. We have about 48 million children in this country who cannot be vaccinated because they're too young, including my four grandchildren. I want the adults around them to protect themselves and to protect those children. I think we've always, in this country, looked out for the common good. We've taken steps to make sure we protect one another. This is a terrifying place to be where the battle over individual rights somehow is excluding the notion that your right to not get vaccinated could threaten the lives of children and vulnerable populations.
We just had a front-page headline here in Lawrence, Kansas where I live that the basketball coach, Bill Self, fully vaccinated, has been identified as COVID positive now with a breakthrough infection. Now, he'll be OK. He is in good shape, he's in good health, but it indicates to me he's around way too many unvaccinated people who haven't yet taken advantage of this amazing scientific breakthrough.
Public policy says it's free. We know these vaccines work better than almost anything we've ever seen be developed and the frustration is people are just refusing to be vaccinated.
SMERCONISH: Professor Gostin, you know that some, when they hear about vaccine mandates, they say, well, that's unlawful, they say that's immoral and to them, you would say what?
GOSTIN: Well, you know, it's certainly -- it's certainly lawful. I mean, what you're calling for, Michael, which is for federal and state executives to require their workers to be vaccinated is entirely lawful. They're employers the same way that businesses are, universities, colleges. They all have the power to do that now and I think they should.
You know, we've seen historically that when you introduce vaccine mandates, even childhood vaccine mandates as a condition of going to school, they raise vaccination levels. When Houston Methodist Hospital put on its vaccine mandate, 3 million people, 99 percent of the population of those hospitals got the jab. Same with Emmanuel Macron in France. When he had the health sanitaire, the proof of vaccination or negative SARS-CoV-2 test, people signed up to be vaccinated.
You know, what we need to do -- I think the point you were making, Michael, really is the most important one and that's this. That, you know, we need to make being vaccinated the default, the easy choice and if somebody doesn't want to get vaccinated, I have no desire to hold them down and to force them to be vaccinated, but they should make sure that they don't harm others.
And so, you know, they either get the jab or they have to get two tests per week, they have to mask up, but we should absolutely make sure that if you make a decision not to be vaccinated, that you just have no right to go unmasked and unvaccinated in a crowded workplace and that's the bottom line.
SMERCONISH: Governor Sebelius, Secretary Sebelius, how will you be voting on today's survey question? Is it time for the Biden administration to mandate that federal employees are vaccinated?
SEBELIUS: Well, I think the Biden administration has done an extraordinary job setting the platform to make vaccines free, easy, available and they will continue to do that, and I think they're measuring every day if it's better or worse to move in a certain direction.
At this point, with the polarization of the country, I'm not sure that a mandate from the federal government is really what is needed as much as looking state by state, having local and trusted officials step up, but I think the examination of how far we can go with voluntary issues is important, particularly with vulnerable populations.
SMERCONISH: I'm recording you as a no vote. Professor Gostin, how will you be voting?
GOSTIN: I think I'll be voting yes, but you know what? I think he -- I think he should become a role model for the country and ask all federal employees to should be vaccinated. He's already done that for federal employees in federal buildings for masking. I think it's reasonable to do it. If somebody doesn't want to mask -- doesn't want to vaccinate, I wouldn't just fire them, but I would put certain burdens on them that I wouldn't put on the vaccinated. That is I'd ask them to be ...
SMERCONISH: I think that's fair. Yes.
GOSTIN: ... regularly tested.
SMERCONISH: That is my view. Hey, it's nice to see you both. Governor, nice to have you back.
SEBELIUS: Thanks, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Professor, really appreciate your expertise. Thank you.
GOSTIN: OK. Thanks, Michael. Bye.
SMERCONISH: All right. What are you thinking? Tweet me. Go to Smerconish.com, Facebook page. I'll be covering all the social media during the course of the response. "What happened to my body, my choice?" replying to @Smerconish, @Joe Biden.
Christine, what happened to the -- yes, it's a good point that you make. There's a lot of hypocrisy all over this issue. The bottom line is this. What we're doing is not working. It's not getting us to herd immunity. I've heard from those people who say, well, let's just let this run its course and let people who don't want to get vaccinated, let him catch it. Can't do that because there are some among us who don't have the ability to make that choice because of their medical condition or because they're kids.
That's why we've got to up our game and instead of focusing on all of society, let's focus on those who are causing the problem. It's the unvaccinated. My law firm's doing it, CNN's doing it, the federal government ought to do it. Tell people they've got to get vaccinated.
Please go to Smerconish.com and cast a ballot on this week's survey question. Should President Biden mandate all federal employees to get vaccinated?
Up ahead, can political signs ever be deemed obscene? That's what happened to one New Jersey resident who's being fined $250 a day because of these banners in her yard and she's fighting the ruling.
Plus, what if the best treatment for otherwise unreachable mental health patients turns out to be psychedelic drugs?
SMERCONISH: By the time a presidential election is eight months in the rear view mirror, the yard signs and passions are usually long put away, but not so with 2020. Maybe you've seen Trump banners in your neighborhood or driving through other neighborhoods. Well, the signs hanging outside one particular house in Roselle Park, New Jersey have landed the homeowner in court.
No, that wouldn't be the, "Don't blame us, we voted for Trump," one. Among the 10 banners hung by 54-year-old Andrea Dick outside the house where she lives, which is owned by her mother, were ones reading, "Biden blows," "Biden sucks" and three that say, "F Biden," except that the F-bomb was spelled out.
One local code enforcement officer cited her mother for violating an ordinance prohibiting the display or exhibition of obscene material. Ms. Dick was given a few days to remove the three F-word banners and when she did not, she was given a summons to appear in court. Last week, a judge gave them one week to remove the three signs deemed offensive or face fines of $250 a day.
Noting the proximity of a -- of the house to a local school, the judge ruled that, quote, "Freedom of speech is not simply an absolute right." Also saying, "There are alternative methods for the defendant to express her pleasure or displeasure with certain political figures in the United States," while noting the case, "Is not a case about politics. It is a case, pure and simple," said the judge, "about language."
But the ACLU thinks otherwise and is helping Andrea Dick and her -- in her appeal against paying the daily fines. Senior supervising attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey said this, quote, "The town, the government, is obligated to abide by the Constitution and the Constitution doesn't limit our right to criticize government officials based on the use of profanity."
Indeed the judge's ruling would seem to conflict with the 1971 Supreme Court decision of Cohen V. California in which a teenager wearing a jacket with "F the draft" on it was found to be within his First Amendment rights. Here's what Andrea Dick herself told me on my "SiriusXM" radio program this week.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) ANDREW DICK, NJ HOMEOWNER: My opinion, it's a political thing here in town.
SMERCONISH: What do you mean?
DICK: That's all it is. It's a Democratic town. The mayor's Democrat. I had Trump signs up when Trump was running back in 2020 and I had "F**k Biden" with a lawn sign. No one said a word to me about those.
Now all of the sudden because I have them plastered on my fence, "F***k Biden," and he is, yes, our president, he's not my president. Yes, he is our president, but now they have an issue with it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Joining me now to discuss is the mayor of Roselle Park, New Jersey, Joseph Signorello III. Mayor, nice to see you. She's laying it off on you and your partisanship. What's your response?
JOSEPH SIGNORELLO III, MAYOR OF ROSELLE PARK, NEW JERSEY: So thank you for having me on, Michael. I think it's interesting because I think it's a contradictory statement in and of itself, right? So the fact of the matter is is there have been -- there has been political signage up for the last two years, pro-Trump signage. The only time code enforcement saw it fit to make any citation was when the profane language came up.
Look, this is not about politics. This is not about right or left. As mayor in a place like New Jersey in a small town, potholes aren't Republican or Democrat, but profanity certainly, you know, doesn't have a political tilt one way or the other either. So, you know, we actually -- just to give a little background context, we used to have an ordinance on the books where you couldn't have political signage up, I want to say, two months before an election.
We revoked that ordinance because we believe in free speech and we've let this resident had their free speech on politics. It was brought to my attention and as a responsive mayor, when that foul language came up, it was a issue for code enforcement to address.
SMERCONISH: She also told me that you really have to be looking for the sign. I haven't driven on -- I think it's Willow Avenue in your town, but she said, ah, it's set back from the road and really nobody even can see it. True or not true?
SIGNORELLO: You know, I would say not true, but even if that were the case, right? So we enforce codes not just for passerbys, not just for, you know, the people or the kids who might see it on the way to school, but, I mean, also for the neighbors, right?
So it's -- I'll give you a perfect example and I had this conversation with somebody who -- I've been getting quite a few calls recently to criticize my or the borough's view on this and I talked to a gentleman in Cincinnati and told him, you know, look, we have noise enforcement issues all the time, right? So it's about quality of life not just within the borough, but immediately around that borough, too, around that residence, too.
SMERCONISH: Mayor, is this a hill to die on? In other words, I don't know much about the budget of Roselle Park, but I can only imagine now you're going to have to hire lawyers and you're going to be fighting the ACLU and so -- maybe the better path is just to ignore her and eventually she'll take down the signs.
SIGNORELLO: I think it's a really good point, Michael. It's certainly not a hill to die on and I think that, you know, being a small borough, going against the ACLU is certainly not always an enviable position. You know, the fact of the matter is is we did our job enforcing the code and I don't think it's right in any situation, especially a code that predates me, to pick and choose where that code's applied.
We won in municipal court. It will go to a superior court and, quite frankly, if we lose in the Superior Court, I don't think that there's any desire for anybody to bring this to the -- to the Supreme Court. I think that if the Superior Court should rule against us, we'll certainly look to change the ordinance because as much outrage as there is in Roselle Park, and I can assure you there is with both Republicans and Democrats, you know, we need to be pragmatic and we are city hall.
So saying you can't fight city hall isn't exactly appropriate here, but fighting city hall in this case is a little bit tough.
SMERCONISH: Mayor Joseph Signorello III, thanks so much for being here. Good luck with this.
SIGNORELLO: Yes. Pleasure to be here. Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. "I don't see any problems with that sign and I'm not sure I'd have a problem with one that said the F-bomb Biden. What happened to freedom of expression? Have we raised generations of people who get lost in their feelings? Teaching moment here."
Oh, man. Tim, so much I want to -- I want to say to that. The first point is maybe the F-bomb has lost its resonance. You know, who thinks fornication when you hear or say that word? Not me. In fact, Bono got an award a couple of years ago and I think he was presented the award and he said, oh, this is F-ing brilliant and then part of his defense was to say, well, I didn't mean that. I just meant it as, you know, I was -- I was excited.
How would you feel if you were the next door neighbor, though? What happens to the property values? And probably 40 percent of you are saying right now, oh, the property values, they would go up in that instance.
I spoke to this woman. She's loving this. I think the best course for the mayor is just ignore it.
I want to remind you, go to my Web site at Smerconish.com. Answer this week's survey question. By the way, I'm going to break some news on this that you'll get a kick out of. Should President Biden mandate all federal employees get vaccinated?
You know who I know is a yes vote? Sean Penn who just texted me and said, "You are nailing it on the vax piece and federal employees. Cogent and awesome." Sean, make sure you're voting on the Web site. You're not off the hook.
If I'm not mistaken, he himself has drawn a line in the sand and said he's not coming back to a TV show that he's filming unless he knows that everybody is vaccinated. So, I think he probably means it.
Up ahead, maybe magic mushrooms really are magic. Why some are saying that psychedelics are poised to reshape psychiatry.
SMERCONISH: Could psychedelics soon be the new Prozac? Back in May a "New York Times" headline caught my eye. It read as follows, "The Psychedelic Revolution Is Coming. Psychiatry May Never Be the Same."
And it detailed how psilocybin, the active ingredient found in magic mushrooms, is being seriously considered for the treatment of mental health issues. "The Times" put it this way, "After decades of demonization and criminalization, psychedelic drugs are on the cusp of entering mainstream psychiatry, with profound implications for a field that in recent decades has seen few pharmacological advancements for the treatment of mental disorders and addiction. The need for new therapeutics has gained greater urgency amid a national epidemic of opioid abuse and suicides."
So, why is my fixation on psychedelic mental health treatment resurfacing now? It's because of results of a major psilocybin therapy trial expected soon several of them actually.
Joining me now is George Goldsmith. He's the CEO and co-founder of Compass Pathways, that's a company that has developed one of the psilocybin therapies that's under review. Thanks for being here.
How and when, George, did we go from the "Grateful Dead" and the Kool- Aid acid test to the serious contemplation of medical use of mushrooms?
GEORGE GOLDSMITH, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER, COMPASS PATHWAYS: Hi, Michael. Thank you so much for having me on.
And actually that -- there is rich history back into the '40s and '50s looking at these substances, LSD first, which was synthesized in 1943, and then 1958 synthesized psilocybin which is, as you point out, an active ingredient in so called magic mushrooms. And so there was a rich history. Almost 40,000 people went through different psychiatric case histories and case studies in the late '50s and '60s. And then it escaped the lab and then there you have the situation you're talking about.
But given all the things that are going on this really merited reconsideration. And I think there have been some very -- very dedicated researchers from Johns Hopkins, New York University, UCLA, Imperial College London, Zurich, all looking at this for about the last 15 years. But those have been small studies. And given all the pressure we have on helping people with mental health issues, we decided to take a look at that and really do the large-scale studies that would really help bring this to market so that patients could benefit.
SMERCONISH: Did the "Just Say No" era of the '80s and beyond thwart what research would have otherwise been done?
GOLDSMITH: It made it super difficult. Imagine you're an academic researcher and you want to look at this even though they were promising it may not be promising for someone's career. So it certainly had a dampening effect and there was quite a bit of a dark age. And I guess renaissances do follow dark ages and here we are.
SMERCONISH: Are there addictive qualities to psilocybin? How about organ damage? I'm sure the people who are watching this are going to worry about some of the ramifications, some of the side effects.
GOLDSMITH: Well, I think that there are some side effects that tend to be psychological side effects, but I think that those are really important for us to manage. What we do is give these medicines under carefully controlled circumstances with trained therapists, so that works very, very well for patients.
And so in terms of addiction, we really don't see and there's been a ton of research on this. These are not addictive substances. As a matter of fact, if you try to take them frequently, what happens is they become less and less effective because the brain receptors simply become unavailable for more stimulation this way. So quite frankly, we think that this is relatively safe, again, when provided under carefully controlled situations as we're doing in therapy with patients.
SMERCONISH: I know that you're trying to get to market with a synthetic psilocybin. If you're successful and I'm the patient, what does administration look like? Where am I and what am I doing?
GOLDSMITH: Sure, it's super important and no mushrooms are harmed to your point. We're developing a medicine to the highest-level standard so the same dose, same medicine taken anywhere in the world will produce the same. So, we're really focused on quality.
In terms of the setting, people first are prepared. Typically, where we're working is patients who are not helped by existing treatments. And there are about 100 million of these just in depression alone.
[09:40:00] And so the first thing we do is they come off under supervision, medical supervision, they come off their current medication. And then they are prepared to help people understand what a psychedelic experience could be like by a therapist, who then will accompany them in a controlled setting.
It looks more like a living room setting. People are given the medicine after they have explored some of the issues that they plan to address. And then what happens is they are given eye shades and also a soundtrack for seven hours. It's a deep inward experience where people get to see their lives perhaps in a different fashion and they are supported by a therapist the entire way.
The day after they come back, and they review what they have learned about their life and how they see things perhaps differently. Because depression, quite often, can be just a very negative habit of self- talk and so forth in terms of how people's lives may not be what they wish. And quite often what we hear is that the psilocybin therapy gives them a new perspective on their life and frees them from some of the tyranny of those symptoms.
SMERCONISH: Important subject and more to come. Good luck.
GOLDSMITH: Thanks so much, Michael. Thanks for having me on.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, trying to get Phillies fans to come and get vaccinated at Citizens Bank Park the team offered up various enticements including a bobblehead doll of star pitcher Aaron Nola. Well, ironically, Nola later had to be quarantined and miss games because he himself is not vaccinated. My thoughts on this next.
And I want to remind you answer today's survey question at Smerconish.com. Should President Biden mandate all federal employees to get vaccinated? Can't wait to see the result.
SMERCONISH: Like much of American youth, I grew up idolizing sports stars. In my case it was Bernie Parent, the Flyers' goaltender. I wanted to dress like Bernie. I wanted to skate like Bernie. I wanted to goaltend like Bernie. I wanted to be Bernie.
Our family had a bumper sticker on our car. It said, "Only the Lord Saves More Than Parent." Which is why it's so upsetting to see today's sports figures setting a bad example for American youth. I was spurred to think about this by a story that broke this week about my hometown baseball team. "The Inquirer" reports that as many as half the players on the Phillies are unvaccinated.
In early June, the Phillies were enticing fans to come to the ballpark and accept a free vaccine by giving away free tickets, refreshments and a bobblehead of their star pitcher Aaron Nola. And yet the paper reports that Nola himself is one of the players who has refused the vaccine calling it -- quote -- "a personal choice." Columnist Marcus Hayes noted that because of contact tracing, quarantines and shutdowns -- quote --"It is a personal choice that cost his employer two of his 34 starts this season, for which he is being paid $11.7 million. Further, as the Phillies continue their unlikely surge into the National League East title race, Nola and his fellow anti-vaxxers live each day with the possibility that they might not be available for upcoming games -- usually at least five but possibly as many as nine or 10, depending on the schedule."
The Phillies haven't made the playoffs in a decade. Their $184 million payroll is the fifth highest in baseball. But Nola, who is a clubhouse leader, is setting a bad example.
The only other names that we have gleaned of the unvaccinated are starting third baseman Alec Bohm who recently tested positive and relievers Connor Brogdon and Bailey Falter. It raises an interesting question. Does the public have the right to know the names of all the vaccine resister players when they are public figures, they are paid huge salaries to perform and their behaviors when in close quarters traveling together, having physical contact in practices and games are negatively impacting their team's chances, and influencing America's youth?
On Thursday the NFL announced a new policy that any teams whose games can't be played due to COVID positivity among unvaccinated players may be forced to forfeit those games. ESPN now reporting the Minnesota Vikings have ousted assistant coach Rick Dennison after he refused COVID-19 vaccine. And yet when reporters asked Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott about his vaccination status he demurred citing HIPAA privacy laws.
But as others on Twitter were quick to point out, this isn't a HIPAA case, which is about doctors and employers keeping patients' conditions private. Besides there's a broad exemption in HIPAA for public health threats. Now if they have a sincerely held religious belief or medical reason, they should say so. Otherwise, I'm going to assume they are just part of the unvaccinated who are needlessly preventing the nation from reaching herd immunity. And that behavior nobody should idolize.
Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments and we'll give you the final result of this week's survey question. Have you voted yet at Smerconish.com? Should President Biden mandate all federal employees get vaccinated?
SMERCONISH: This is going to be interesting. It's time to see how you responded to the survey question at Smerconish.com. It might even influence public policy. Should President Biden mandate all federal employees get vaccinated?
Here are the results. Wow. Ninety-one percent say yes. Couldn't be more decisive. And look at that like 21,000 -- you know if not the man himself, that those around him are watching. Hopefully they'll take a message from this.
It's not just the federal government. That headline today, page 1 above the fold of "The New York Times," "New York Mayor Urges Employers To Require Shots." Hey, Mr. Mayor, you're an employer.
You can't lean on the private sector if you're not doing it yourself. And the only reason not to do it is fear of unions and fear of the unvaccinated being a potent political force. But it's time to go to that step.
What came in, Catherine? What do you have in terms of social media? I like that result. I was in the yeses.
By the way, I think when Governor Sebelius voted she may have been in the yeses, too. Just saying.
Should he mandate those receiving unemployment benefits be vaccinated? I don't know, InMyHumbleOpinion, that he would have the -- nexus might not be word but I don't think that he would have that ability.
I'm already out of time, damn. I'll see you in two weeks, OK, in two weeks. Thanks for watching.