Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa is not getting the media attention that her counterparts in large states. Despite the fact that hers was the only state that allowed high school sports to continue throughout the summer with fans present, experiencing only a few minor hiccups along the way, you don’t hear her name much.
She hasn’t gotten the unjustified media adoration of Democrat governors whose states saw large death rates, nor has she gotten the unjustified media condemnation of Republican governors whose states have seen case spikes with only a fraction of the death rates. In short, Reynolds has largely been ignored.
And that’s too bad because her response to a hostile reporter from the Associated Press last week deserves to be a model for the way all officials handle the scare tactics and sensationalism of a COVID-obsessed media.
Towards the end of an August 4th press conference, Reynolds took a question from reporter Dave Pitt:
“I’ve listened into a couple of these school board meetings, and these are sincere, really concern. I mean, they’re worried. They’re scared that a teacher is going to die, or a child is going to get sick. Is it inevitable, do you think, that we’re going to see a child get sick? A teacher perhaps pass away? An older teacher die from this? And is it worth it?”
Absolutely absurd, but completely predictable. Those last five words pull the curtain back completely on what this is. After all, how is Reynolds supposed to respond to that? How do you suppose the AP is going to report Iowa’s governor saying that she finds risking the lives of teachers “worth it?” It’s a false choice and intentional set-up by a media reporter well-trained in the art of sensationalism.
Consider this from a different angle. Statistically there is a higher degree of likelihood that a teacher or student will die in an automobile accident on the way to school than that they will contract and succumb to coronavirus. So has Dave Pitt asked Reynolds or any other governor whether they feel risking the lives of teachers and students on the roads is “worth it?”
Of course not. Because life involves risk. If parents feel the risk of traveling the roads is too great, they stay home with their kids. If parents feel the risk of contracting a virus and dying is too great, they stay home with their kids. That is not, and cannot be, the responsibility of Kim Reynolds or any governor. Pretending that it is, is one of the biggest reasons we are still bickering over the fairly obvious reality that schools need to be open across the country.
Reynolds handled Pitt’s loaded question adroitly. Her response needs to be a model for all the other leaders who are facing this kind of nonsense. After calling Pitt out for engaging in “scare tactics” without reporting the actual numbers, she laid it out:
“Yeah, I’ve also heard from parents, I’ve also heard from single moms. I’ve also heard from moms who have children who have behavioral health issues. I’ve also heard about, also from all of those. So what we’re trying to do is to balance, to make sure that we can open safely and responsibly. And we have an obligation to these children. A lot of times it’s the underprivileged that are already left behind. It is the kids that are have struggling with disabilities, that are living in circumstances that are not very good. And those children will be continued to be left behind. We’re going to see the gap continue to widen. They have been five months without any type of instruction.”
Reynolds pointed out the fact that daycares are operating, that sports seasons of these very schools just completed, and they’ve managed to effectively operate safely.
“[I]t would be naive for us to think that at no point we’re not going to see positive cases in school districts. We’ve seen positive cases in longterm care facilities… But we also have to think about the whole child, and everything. We have to think about their livelihoods as well. I mean, I got moms that are trying to work full-time and figure out what they’re going to do with the kids and a schedule that’s Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday one week, and it’s Tuesday and Thursday the next. How do you start to put together some stability with those kind of arrangements? And parents that are really fearful, they have the option to do a completely, 100% online learning. And I said last week too, I have grandchildren that are going back to school. I would never do anything that would put them in harm’s way intentionally. I don’t think any of us would. I have a daughter who’s a teacher in a public school system, who’s teaching this summer and she’s expecting.”
And then the best part. Turning her attention to Mr. Pitt she apologized for accusing him, and then begged the media to be on the right team in all this mess:
“I want the media to give the numbers in context. Help us, because I think you’re a part of the solution. We all have to be a part of the solution. You can hold me accountable. You can ask me anything. That’s fine, it goes with being the governor. But also, we need to put the numbers into context. So when Iowans are out there, and there is so much anxiety about the uncertainty and what the expectations are, we need to help them walk through that, not escalate that anxiety. What we’re doing to these kids is unconscionable. The fear that we’re instilling in them.”
Bingo. The panic and fear is arguably causing more damage to the effective operation of our society than the virus itself at this point. The media is a huge factor in that reality and therefore has to be a huge part of fixing it.
Maybe if more governors responded to them like Kim Reynolds, it would happen.