Last week, YouTube removed a video of the May 17 Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education meeting for “spreading disinformation about COVID-19,” the Kansas City Star reports.  But the so-called “disinformation” was simply a differing viewpoint about masks, their effectiveness, and whether they have the potential to cause harm.

And the Star created it’s own disinformation campaign to defend a school board that shares the its political ideology.

According to Star writers Sarah Ritter and Katie Bernard, four mothers argued against SMSD’s mask mandate “with some falsely claiming that masks are harmful and can deprive children of oxygen. Medical experts have debunked such claims.”

That’s not the case, however.  The Star is (again) leaving out facts that don’t support its political agenda.

As the Sentinel reported earlier this month, one Blue Valley mother went to the mat to get a mask exemption for her children after they came home complaining of headaches daily.

Julie Myrick, who has both a 10-year-old and a 7-year-old in Blue Valley elementary schools, originally went to the Blue Valley Board of Education asking for mask exemptions for her children, one of whom has asthma and the other struggles with focal epilepsy. 

In the case of her seven-year-old, within one minute of donning the mask blood oxygen levels decreased from 99% to 92%, respiration increased from 21 breaths per minute to 36, and blood pressure climbed from 82/50 to 127/95.  The 10-year-old’s heart rate dropped from 65 beats per minute to 41 bpm, while blood pressure was at 118/82.

Dr. Richard Bowman, an MD from West Virginia, told the Sentinel that masks do, indeed, cause physical and psychological reactions; he also said that those vital statistics should throw up a red flag.

“Certainly the child’s having a physiological response to the mask which is potentially going to cause he or she some difficulties with utilizing it on a daily basis,” Bowman said.

Some studies conclude that masks are not harmful as the Star noted, but others have come to the opposite conclusion, and ethical journalists would not hide that information from readers.

A New York study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology on the effects of prolonged mask use among healthcare professionals is a good example.  The study concludes that “Prolonged use of N95 and surgical masks by healthcare professionals during COVID-19 has caused adverse effects such as headaches, rash, acne, skin breakdown, and impaired cognition in the majority of those surveyed.”

More disinformation from the KC Star

The Star also criticized State Senator Mike Thompson for pushing “for an end to public health rules adopted to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and he continues to claim that masks are ineffective.”

However, Thompson’s concerns seem to have more to do with infringements on constitutional rights throughout the pandemic

“I pushed for people to have the personal freedom to make up their own minds about how to protect themselves,” Thompson said in an emailed statement. “I feel I have been vindicated in many ways as we now know more about how the virus behaves. Certain people are not at risk at all, and some are more susceptible. A one size fits all government mandate not only did not stop the spread, it killed 35% of Kansas businesses and made a mess of our unemployment system.

“Everything I argued would happen from day 1.”

While whether masks may be effective is open to debate, it has been well established that mask mandates are largely ineffective.

As the Sentinel found first in October — and has confirmed since — counties with mask mandates had faster COVID-19 case growth than those without mandates.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment was so desperate to convince Kansans that mandates work that Secretary Lee Norman doctored charts in August to give that false impression.  After the Sentinel exposed Norman’s deceptionKansas Policy Institute CEO Dave Trabert caught the Kansas City Star using faux science to defend Norman and the Kelly administration. KPI is the parent company of the Sentinel.

Trabert was also a target of the Star’s disinformation campaign, dismissing concerns he presented at the SMSD board meeting by simply writing: “And Dave Trabert, CEO of the Kansas Policy Institute, tells the board he believes public school districts have mishandled COVID-19 and failed to prioritize student achievement.” 

Despite having seen the video and interviewing Trabert, the Star reporters committed journalistic misconduct by failing to provide any detail about why Trabert made the assertions. Nor did they bother to refute them.

Traber took serious issue with that, noting it’s far from the first time the Star has failed in its ethical duties.

“Media routinely substitutes politically-motivated opinions for facts in news stories, and the Kansas City Star is notorious for it,” Trabert said. “Saying the Shawnee Mission board ‘mishandled’ COVID may be the understatement of the year, and it is yet another attempt by the Star to hide the truth from readers.  The board has made it quite clear this year that acting in the best educational and emotional interests of students is not their top priority.”

Thompson concurred.

“I would ask this: If I can find contradictory evidence that calls the CDC and WHO guidance into question, why couldn’t the staff at the Star?” he said. “Or do they just accept the government-backed narrative and never stop to consider whether or not it is effective or even true?  Isn’t that their job?

“Why do I have to point that out and make the case? I would think that someone like me bringing these topics to the forefront would spark a desire to see what other information is out there.  Instead, they just choose to be lazy and attack anyone with a different opinion.”

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