Public affairs strategist and all-star panelist Clint Brewer joined The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Monday morning on the newsmakers line.
During the second hour, Brewer weighed in on last Friday’s data revealed by the Chairman of the Metro Nashville’s public health task force Alex Jahangir stating that he felt the numbers were accurate and not modified for political purposes. Both men agreed that in this particular instance additional staff work would have been a good choice before relaying inconsistent data.
Leahy: We are talking about messaging and themes. But again, it gets back to this point Clint of officials trying to get too much of a theme. This was our criticism of Alex Jahangir. The metro coronavirus task force chairman. I think it was very clear why on Friday he claimed I think incorrectly as we point out here that there are more cases of coronavirus in the surrounding counties of Davidson County then there are in Davidson County.
He included 1,000 prisoners that are asymptomatic in Trousdale which is not a border county. I think there was a theme there and there is a reason for that. I think he wanted to give the impression that the other counties that surround Davidson County weren’t being quite as conscious of public safety as Mayor Cooper is because he’s continuing the non-essential business ban shall we say. Forcing them to not be open. What’s you take on that? Are we being unfair to Mr. Jahangir on this or not?
Brewer: You know unless you want to get under the hood to see where his remarks came from and who made the interpretation it’s hard to say. I would like to think and I’m going to think that he’s a serious medical doctor at one of the greatest hospitals in the world.
And he’s not going to get out there and manipulate numbers just to create political currency. Again as communicators whether it’s you or me or the task force chair or the president of the United States. During this time we have to be so careful not to overstate things. Not to understate things.
Not to put a brand on a set of numbers to give people an impression just for our own purposes. People need good information. They need honest information. They need real data. And they need it in a timely fashion. And that’s the best public service we can do right now. All of us.
Leahy: I agree that people need good information. In this particular case, and I think it’s appropriate that you give him the benefit of the doubt, however, so we kind of push on this. Nobody else has covered this by the way.
Brewer: I have noticed that and you’re right.
Leahy: And so why? Well because I think the mainstream media here in Middle Tennessee wants to support the claim that Mayor Cooper’s making the right public policy decision because he’s more concerned about safety than surrounding counties.
But, in my view, I don’t think this particular comment was by Alex Jahangir the head of the Metro Nashville Davidson County coronavirus task force. I don’t think this was an unintentional comment. I think it was intentionally designed to mislead. We went back and looked at the numbers. I think it was misleading because for a couple of reasons, number one. Trousdale County does not border Nashville. Number one.
Number two. It included all these more than 1,000 prisoners that are asymptomatic in the prison. This is very misleading because you are looking at the general population, not prisoners. And we looked at the data for the surrounding counties. Williamson, Rutherford, Wilson, Sumner, Robertson, and Cheatham. And on Friday there were only 2,090 cases in those surrounding counties.
Which is more than 700 less than the 2,832 reported in Davidson County. Now the other thing too Clint since your the communications guy. We asked the Mayor’s office to respond. They didn’t. They said they sent out sacrificial lamb from the Metro department of health and he could not tell us how Jahangir arrived at this number of 3227 but he did admit they included Trousdale County.
Brewer: I think that what you’re seeing there, (Sighs) is that there is a want in government to rely on health departments. At every level, there’s a desire to rely on health professionals but you know its difficult. I can’t remember ever in my lifetime them being this much in the public eye.
Brewer: Let’s be clear to the listeners here, you and I are gentlemanly agreeing to disagree. I’m giving the doctor the benefit of the doubt and you see an agenda.
Brewer: And that’s OK. Here’s the thing though. People in medicine often view things without a political lens. Take all of the statements that are out there at the national level from Dr. Fauci and from others who have said well, he’s not supporting the President. Well, this that and the other. They don’t look at things through an optic. They’re just giving what they see. To them, a prison outbreak is a number.
Well, there’s a number. That’s an outbreak. That’s a number. So we have an infection rate. They don’t think about what the political optic may be there. And guess what? They need to be provided with people who can help them do that.
Leahy: Well that’s the point isn’t it? Somebody, I think Clint, before the coronavirus task force chair from Metro Nashville Davidson County, made that statement on Friday morning should have reviewed it with his communications people.
Brewer: And these statements need a lot of scrutinies. Now we want to over politicize but we want to make them accurate and not have a spin to them. Particularly when there are numbers right? You can make numbers say anything. You can make the budget say anything.
Leahy: That’s exactly right. I will say this, you and I, I think have agreed to disagree with our interpretation of that particular instance. But the reason that it caught my attention is that I have a sense having reported on tuberculosis incidents among refugees and foreign-born citizens or residents of the United States for several years at Breitbart news before the coronavirus thing.
I came to be very suspicious of the data reported by public health departments at the state and county levels because it seemed to me in several cases they did not want to reveal information that would reflect poorly on the refugee resettlement program or on foreign-born citizens. Because what’s happened, in that case, is that the percentage has gone from 33% three years ago to 66% percent. Seems to me there’s a bit of a political agenda even if the public health professionals don’t realize it themselves. That’s sort of my point of view on it, Clint.
Brewer: Well I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. I don’t think it happened in this case. A lot of times people are just handed numbers. This guy is a full time working physician. (laughs) I’m sure he’s pretty busy. I don’t think that he spent all day trying to figure out how to make the numbers look one way. If anything what we could agree to in this situation is that there needs to be some better staff work.
Leahy: I would agree on that. The other part of this that is a pet peeve is that they talk about in Metro Nashville the data, the data, the data, and YET they really are not doing a very good job of reporting in one dashboard all of the data. They’ll put out a press release but you can’t find it all in one place. So I’ve got a pet peeve on that. Hey Clint Brewer, thanks for joining us. We’ll be back on Wednesday.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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