Rantz: Politico reporter attempts failed COVID smear at my CPAC panel

Feb 28, 2022, 11:51 AM | Updated: 12:28 pm
Jason Rantz and Dr. Oz during a panel at CPAC in February 2022....
Jason Rantz and Dr. Oz during a panel at CPAC in February 2022.

A Politico reporter tried to smear me and conservatives at a panel I recently moderated. It failed miserably. Partisan smears are reasonably easy to call out.

Each year, conservative thought leaders meet for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to discuss the issues facing the country. I was privileged to be part of CPAC for the second year in a row, this time hosting a panel on the government’s role during COVID. My panelists were Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Robert Malone, and Dr. Brooke Miller.

Given the topic, I knew that bad faith reporters and partisans would do their best to smear me, the panelists, or conservatives more generally. I found out that I wasn’t wrong as I walked off the stage.

Politico reporter’s lousy smear attempt

I covered a number of meaty items during the panel, including the effect of mandates and masks, the efficacy of vaccines, and how one identifies misinformation. But the moment that should have been least controversial somehow caught the ire of Politico’s Natalie Allison.

I asked the panelists if they were vaccinated. Both Oz and Malone (who invented the mRNA technology) raised their hands. So did I. Miller was the only panelist who did not raise his hand. Some in the crowd booed.

Then, I said the reason I asked was to point out the difference between being anti-vaccine and anti-mandate. I followed up by asking how one decides if vaccines were worthwhile for them, given we had discussed it not making sense for most kids.

Allison pretended most of this didn’t happen.

The Politico reporter’s lie

As I walked off the stage and took some backstage passes, I checked Twitter. Someone sent me a response to the panel that Allison posted.

“As the CPAC audience booed Covid vaccines, Dr. Oz raised his hand and said he received one. His fellow panelists (Robert Malone, Brooke Miller, Jason Rantz) basically ignored him and just moved on,” Allison tweeted.

This retelling is completely false.

Three of us very clearly raised our hands for a protracted period of time. And while there were undoubtedly some boos, it’s disingenuous to claim the crowd booed — it gives the impression the majority of people booed when they most certainly did not. We also immediately discussed taking the vaccine.

The entire exchange was recorded.

The bad defense

I called Allison out on Twitter. She immediately made an excuse.

“Well from the cheap media seats in the back, I couldn’t see you all raise your hands, so apologies for missing that. You spoke up on the mic saying you got the shot?” she asked in reply.

I’ve been to the “cheap media seats in the back” and they offer a full and clear view of the stage and the screen behind us on stage. Ironically, a writer from FOX News had told me earlier during the conference how much better the media seats were this year.

The location does not impact how one hears the panelists, either. The sound was crisp and clear.

That Allison admitted she couldn’t see us raise our hands is telling. Oz was seated directly next to me. Malone was on the other side of the panel. She only saw Oz but not two others? Our hands were held up for five seconds.

And as to speaking up on the mic saying I got the shot, I did. One of the words got cut off unintentionally though my hand was clearly raised.

The deleted tweet and nonexistent apology

Allison deleted her tweet. She said she “genuinely could not see” that my hand was raised. She did not mention how she couldn’t see Malone’s hand raised.

She then made up a new concern. She tweeted: “There was not a discussion afterward … about why he or anyone got the shot, if that’s what you are saying.” This was an added criticism post-smear. It’s true I didn’t immediately ask why they got the shot since we had already discussed why some people got the shot. It didn’t need to be asked, in my view, though we ended up covering more of that in the panel anyway.

She chose to delete and make this admission but offered no apology. And unlike her initial tweet, this was done in a thread ensuring that virtually no one saw it. This was almost certainly intentional.

The reason for the smear seems obvious to me

Allison implied her smear was a simple error, but I don’t think it was. She hoped to send that tweet because the intent was to smear folks as anti-vaxxers.

There were left-wing journalists attending CPAC with the sole intention of catching someone in a controversial thought. They were looking for reasons to smear. Allison likely went to this panel hoping she’d find another reason to go after conservatives on COVID vaccines.

There’s no doubt that some conservatives are skeptical of the vaccine. I can’t say I blame them. While I’m vaccinated, I understood why people did not trust public health officials and politicians who got so much wrong, without apologizing, or in some cases acknowledging, that they screwed up. Some even intentionally lied, personally justifying the lies to get people vaccinated.

The CDC even refuses to release COVID research and data that could help physicians in treating their patients. They argue it may be misinterpreted by the general public, which is a pretty weak excuse. It’s more likely it shows how much more CDC officials got COVID wrong.

Still, there’s plenty of vaccine skepticism you can honestly quote. In a rush to smear conservatives with a tweet that felt pre-written, there was no reason to be so sloppy. While I’m glad she took the tweet down, I’d be happier if she would act less like a partisan hack.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3–6 pm on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Politico reporter attempts failed COVID smear at my CPAC panel