Conspiracy theories, misinformation threaten to overtake COVID fight: The Note

The TAKE with Rick Klein

They may be familiar forces by now, but they are playing out in newly challenging — if not downright dangerous — ways.

President Joe Biden thought he was helping the cause of getting Americans vaccinated this week when he promised to send people “door to door, literally knocking on doors” to spread awareness of the vaccine.

But the reaction has been infused with alarmist politics. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., tweeted that “Biden has deployed his Needle Nazis,” while a prominent conservative youth leader called Biden’s vaccination push an “apartheid-style open-air hostage situation.”

Even those not as far on the fringes, such as Gov. Mike Parson, R-Mo., sent word that state health officials will be telling federal counterparts “that sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination would NOT be an effective OR a welcome strategy in Missouri!”

For the record, nothing like this is coming close to happening. No one is being jabbed against their will, and the federal government is sending an epidemiologist and a communications specialist – that’s it – to Missouri, where vaccination rates are lagging.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden leaves the stage after giving remarks on the administration's COVID-19 response and the vaccination program at the White House in Washington, July 6, 2021.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday that he’s “perplexed” that some people refuse to be vaccinated “for various reasons that seems to have gotten caught up in politics.”

But while McConnell has been consistently pro-vaccine, his Republican Party — including former President Donald Trump, who himself has been vaccinated and played a critical role in the speed of vaccinate development — has not been.

The Conservative Political Action Committee gathering that starts Friday in Dallas could make for some interesting messaging on the topic. Trump himself speaks to the group Sunday.

With concerns about variants and new spikes in COVID-19 cases, terms like “vaccine hesitancy” make the problem ahead seem manageable — as if some people just need to be talked into it.

A chunk of the vaccine resistance now, though, is coming from something closer to anti-vaccine militancy. It’s a theme rapidly being absorbed into conservative politics — making it even harder for Biden, or perhaps anyone, to overcome.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

A group of Black civil rights leaders met with President Joe Biden Thursday to pressure the administration to act urgently to protect the rights of voters impacted by restrictive voting legislation passed in states across the country .

“There is no more time, we must have legislation, we must have the president use his voice, use his influence, use his power,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund.

The leaders painted a dire picture.

“I don’t say this lightly — when we look at what is happening in this nation, we see an effort to impose a system of American apartheid,” said National Urban League President Marc Morial.

PHOTO: Marc Morial, center, president of the National Urban League, talks with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, July 8, 2021, following a meeting with President Joe Biden and leadership of top civil rights organizations.

The meeting came after Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been tasked with pushing back on restrictive voting legislation, announced the Democratic National Committee’s $25 million investment to protect voting rights. It also comes as a special session of the Texas legislature has convened with the aim of passing restrictive voting legislation in the state. Voting activists on the ground in Austin have dubbed it the “Suppression Session.”

A meeting like this could be considered preaching to the metaphorical choir. Election reform legislation has been stalled in the Senate, blocked by Republican opposition, and while the group has met with some Republicans on Capitol Hill, they haven’t met with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The latest Supreme Court decision to uphold voting restrictions in Arizona has only further narrowed avenues of recourse.

Still, the leaders told reporters they’d continue to fight “tooth and nail” to defend the rights of Black voters.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Several Democratic Senate candidates across pivotal 2022 battleground states are closing out the week on a high note after showing strong numbers in the second fundraising quarter. The biggest haul comes out of Arizona, where Sen. Mark Kelly raised nearly $6 million in the second quarter of 2021.

In Florida, Rep. Val Demings raised over $4.6 million since announcing her campaign in June. Her incumbent GOP competitor, Sen. Marco Rubio, raised $4 million and the early assessment of the matchup signals one of the most expensive races of the 2022 cycle is looming ahead.

PHOTO: First lady Jill Biden, right, is greeted by Rep. Val Demings, left, D-Fla., as she arrives in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, July 8, 2021, to attend the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals.

As the only Democrat currently running in Ohio’s Senate primary, Rep. Tim Ryan brought in nearly $2.3 million this quarter. His Republican opponents, Jane Timken and Josh Mandel, raised $1.4 million and $1.5 million, respectively. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s campaign announced it raised more than $2.5 million in the last few months, while raising more than $6.5 million since the start of his campaign in February.

Although there’s no guarantee that financial success results in victories, Democrats are likely to see the numbers as encouraging signs of ongoing engagement from supporters with more than a year left to build momentum for the midterm elections.

ONE MORE THING

Nikki Haley is hitting the trail next week to campaign for Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin, her first time on the trail with a candidate this cycle. Excluding Youngkin’s friend Sen. Ted Cruz, Haley, South Carolina’s first female governor and a potential 2024 presidential candidate, will be the most high-profile Republican to stump for the former investment firm CEO. While Virginia has trended blue recently, November’s election may test whether that is a rejection of former President Donald Trump, or the Republican Party in general.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Friday morning’s episode features ABC News’ Anne Flaherty, who explains why we could be seeing COVID booster shots from Pfizer before the end of the year. ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman tells us why fans will be banned from the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics. And ABC News’ Richard Miguel joins us from Haiti as the country looks for stability following the assassination of its president. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS WEEKEND

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back Monday for the latest.

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