There was a day when the free press would not stand for this. There was a day.
Governor Wolf devised a brilliant plan for not answering the thoughest questions while wielding unilateral powers heretofore unimagined. During Pennsylvania’s daily Chinese Wu-Flu death update, the health department’s director of communications asks the media’s submitted questions since reporters are banned from attending in person.
Question and answer(?) from the April 24, 2020 Pennsylvania’s daily Chinese Wu-Flu death update
PA health department director of communications: From WTAJ, from an independent appliance store, this is a yes or no question. Are appliances essential? And if yes why are area appliance stores [unintelligible] I’m sorry why are area… [the questioner was attempting to ask, if appliances are essential, why are appliance stores not allowed to be open and if No why is Lowes and Home Depot allowed to remain open? She may have gotten a little nervous asking her boss this one.]
Gov. Wolf: Actually Lowes and Home Depot are open because they sell essential services. Things that people need to keep their houses in order or clean. Uh… they uh… uh… are open because of that. Again May 8 is when we start to reopen. Uh… Pennsylvania and uh.. if you are not selling online uh… that’s the uh date that the uh… and places of business and parts of the commonwealth will be open.
By Dom Giordano Posted at 4:31 AM
Even though I differ greatly with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo politically, I think he has looked competent in his daily news conferences focusing on the coronavirus. However, last week his reputation for arrogance surfaced glaringly in an exchange with a reporter over her recitation of the arguments of protesters in Albany that day. The reporter said, “Is there a fundamental right to work if the government cannot give me the money when I need it?” Cuomo responded, “By the way if you want to go to work, take a job as an essential worker. Do it tomorrow. You are working. You are an essential worker. So, go take a job as an essential worker.”
The governor only displayed this arrogance because the reporter was able to ask a question and press the governor with arguments that unemployed people in New York were making. It was a great job of reporting.
Sadly, Governor Tom Wolf and his staff will allow none of this in their daily news conferences. Instead, a Wolf staffer off camera reads a series of written questions submitted by news organizations and the governor and Dr. Rachel Levine go wherever they wish in answering. What a silly and demeaning system.
On my radio show, I have been mocking this process for weeks and finally it appears that other media sources are pushing back. Last Saturday, PennLive.com editorialized, “And media organizations, including ours, are growing more and more alarmed that reporters can’t ask their own questions in a meeting with the governor and the secretary, and be able to follow up if the answers aren’t clear. It’s just not the same thing to have the press secretary select questions and then move on to the next, whatever the answer.”
Brad Bumsted, Harrisburg reporter for Lancasteronline.com, wrote last Wednesday a behind-the-scenes look at Wolf’s coronavirus news conferences. He notes that the Wolf administration has provided data showing TV views of the governor’s events averaged 5 million a day since late March. I would add that transparency views equaled zero. Lame excuses for this process they’ve set up have been off the charts.
I believe he doesn’t want to be asked direct questions about which businesses have been given a waiver to operate in Pennsylvania while very similar ones have been rejected. He doesn’t want to answer questions about coroners in several counties last week challenging decisions made by the state health department to potentially inflate the number of deaths in Pennsylvania due to the coronavirus. And he certainly doesn’t want to address questions about the recent institution of a “snitch portal” by the state to have people report on businesses.
There is a clear way to stop this charade. The media, particularly the TV stations, must threaten to stop covering these news conferences. We must see and read about the policy issues that I’ve listed and others. It’s vital if we want to see Pennsylvania reopen as soon and as safely as possible.