'Here & Now' Highlights: Reid Ribble, Dr. Jasmine Zapata, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Bria Grant
Here's what guests on the Feb. 11, 2022 episode had to say about Republican party leaders describing the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack as "legitimate political discourse," why an immigrant rights group is targeted in the Gableman election probe, whether falling COVID-19 rates means safety measures should be loosened and what led a community health advocate to sound the alarm on potential fraud by prenatal care companies.
By Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now
February 14, 2022
Former Wisconsin 8th Congressional District U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble signed on to a letter of more than 100 Republicans across the country decrying the Republican National Committee for not only censuring two of their own for sitting on the Jan. 6 committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol, but for calling the riots “legitimate political discourse.” Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera, describes a subpoena received from the Gableman election investigation team as “modern-day McCarthyite political theater.” Even as COVID-19 cases recede in Wisconsin, the chief medical officer for community health at the state Dept. of Health Services Dr. Jasmine Zapata said “we’re still in crisis.” Milwaukee-based community health advocate Bria Grant, who works to address social disparities contributing to poor health outcomes, speaks to alleged fraud in prenatal care programs.
Former U.S. Rep. for Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District, Republican
- Ribble said he was offended that the RNC described the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as “legitimate political discourse.”
- Ribble: “That’s not what political discourse looks like in this country. I served six years in the House of Representatives, and not a single person ever came in and tried to beat down my door or threaten me when I was in Congress. What real discourse looks like is when voters come in and they talk with their elected officials about what concerns them and try to address any grievance they might have. Breaking windows, injuring police officers, violently attacking people — there’s no place for that in our country.”
- As to the ongoing investigations into the 2020 election, including those in Wisconsin, Ribble said “they ought to put it to bed” and his former constituents in the Green Bay area should understand the reality of Biden’s victory over Trump in the state.
- Ribble: “I would tell them that they need to look at the facts. President Trump challenged this election 60 times in the courts. He lost. He challenged it with numerous recounts. He lost his challenge with several audits. He’s lost. The fact of the matter is there was not significant enough fraud in this election to have had a different result. …Their best chance of changing the discussion would be at the polls in November to give the Congress to their preferred candidates so that the policies that they’re hoping to achieve get done through a normal political means in this country, but not through violence or threats or intimidation. I don’t think that’s how Americans should operate.”
Executive Director, Voces de la Frontera
- In issuing a flurry of subpoenas demanding testimony and documents, the 2020 election inquiry led by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman included Milwaukee-based immigrant-rights advocacy group Voces de la Frontera. This action prompted its director to say the move is part of an intentional effort to undermine the vote for people of color.
- Neumann-Ortiz: “They were seeking all of our documents, any emails related to the 2020 elections and future elections as well – from a non-governmental body which is completely outside of even what the realm of this sham review is supposed to pursue. To me, it’s a testament that our hard work has really paid off. … We decided to sue, though, because we think that we shouldn’t take this stuff lightly and that it’s going to start with us. They’re going to go with others, and so this sham review was like this little McCarthyite political theater. But it’s dangerous to our democracy and we want to make sure we stand up to it.”
Dr. Jasmine Zapata
Chief medical officer for community health, Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services
- The 7-day average number of new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin declined to under 2,500 by Feb. 10, so a question for public health officials is whether pandemic safety measures should be loosened, including going without masks in schools?
- Zapata: “This does not mean that the coast is clear. We are cautiously optimistic. We are hopeful, and we’re thankful that we are starting to see the numbers go down. But we are still in crisis. We are still in a global pandemic and everyone needs to continue to stay vigilant. … We stand with the position of continuing to use masks in schools. We are in the midst of keeping kids safe and in a school campaign where we know that it’s important for kids to stay in school for their learning, but also their social and emotional development. We want to keep our children and our educators very safe, and one of the best ways to do that – and the key – is to continue to use masks.”
Executive Director, UniteWI
- When the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel broke the story about how prenatal care coordination companies in Wisconsin saw a 400% increase in new applications in recent years, Grant was quoted as saying she has been sounding the alarm on corruption among these businesses for years. Medicaid reimburses the companies for their services for clients, with their work regarded as a priority for health officials in Wisconsin, which has the highest Black infant mortality rate in the nation. Recently, the state health department referred four of these companies for criminal charges related to reimbursements. Grant described duplication of services and double-billing.
- Grant: “It just took so long to get here before it was recognized that these moms weren’t being served, and I think that’s a larger issue. Of course, we want to make sure we’re spending our dollars responsibly. There are families that are not receiving the services that’s being reported to have been received. When we think of infant mortality, the disparity between Black and white is just disheartening. In Milwaukee, while there has been an overall decline in infant mortality, for Black it is 14.9% and for whites it’s 4.6%, and so to have that gap is a huge issue. To know that we have the dollars for the investment to improve on that and that is not coming together is really what we want to address.”
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