Councilmember Steve Glover acknowledged regarding the authenticity of the emails, “They’re fabricating information. They’ve blown their entire credibility now, Dennis. It’s gone. I don’t trust a thing they say going forward. Nothing.”
Nashville Mayor, John Cooper is under fire for how the city has handled information related to COVID-19 cases linked to restaurants and bars and how city officials scrambled to cover up by not publicly releasing the information.
It was shared bars and restaurants had a total of 22 cases.
Leslie Waller from the Health Department asked, “This isn’t going to be publicly released, right? Just info for mayor’s office?”
“Correct, not for public consumption”, answers the mayor’s senior adviser, Benjamin Eagles.
One month later, the health department is asked point-blank about the rumor that there are only 80 cases traced to bars and restaurants.
Tennessean reporter Nate Rao asked, “The figure you gave of more than 80 does lead to a natural question. If there’s been over 20000 positive cases of COVID-19 in Davidson and only 80 or so are traced to restaurants and bars, doesn’t that mean restaurants and bars aren’t a very big problem?”
Metro Health Department spokesman Brian Todd asks five Metro Health Department officials the question, “Please advise how you recommend I respond.”
The name at the top of the response is clipped off but states, “My two cents. We have certainly refused to give accounts per bar because those numbers are low per site. We could still release the total, though, and then a response to the over 80 could be… because that number is increasing all the time and we don’t want to say a specific number.”
Reporter Dennis Ferrier previously asked the mayor several times to confirm the emails but faced backlash from the office and spokesman, Chris Song who called the story a ‘lapse in journalist judgment’ in an argumentative press conference.
Press Secretary Chris Song stated, “That is something that our office cannot do. That’s something that needs to go to the metro clerk’s office. I would have done that with any request of that nature. And when you ask for comment, there was actually absolutely no context for the comment that you requested. It was simply a screenshot and asking for comment. After you formulated your story, it would’ve been nice to have an opportunity for the mayor’s office to participate in that story. And I think it was a lapse in journalistic judgment and due diligence. In terms of your question, I’m going to let Dr. Jahinger participate in responding first.”
Song was asked by Ferrier, “Let me ask-. Since you made a character comment, I’d like to make one about you. When you call after the newscast and say, gee, we wish you would have asked again. I mean, this isn’t high school. You’re not asking a girl out on a date again who said no. If you don’t have a comment up front, we don’t have to come and ask you again an hour later. We have deadlines and I’m asking you now. So here’s a chance to answer.”
Song responded, “I told-. I told your assignment editor, Jen Belissimo that I could not do that. I gave her the proper channels in which to do that. She went through another channel, did not notify me that she had done that and you ran your story…”
Ferrier stated, “Absolutely.”
Song continued, “ …without going back to ask me for comment. You said that-”
Ferrier said, “We’re asking you now. We ran the story. We asked you before. We’re asking you afterwards. And it’s so funny that a Metro staff attorney validated these emails in one hour that you told us to Foya.”
Song responds, “Right. OK. And you know what? That’s fine. But what you should have done was to comeback, tell me that you had validated those e-mails and what in whatever way that you did-.”
Ferrier continues, “Because you went and told us to Foya, sir. You gave us. You said go through legal channels to extract this information because we don’t want to share it. I’ll argue with you all day, but you’re not going to talk to me like this and walk away. I will talk back to you, the same tone that this is-. You know, this is America and the people have a right to know the real COVID number. Don’t shake your head. Because people are wondering-. Are you listening to what people are saying?”
Song ends to leave stating, “What I told your producer was a proper way to do it. I’m going to let Dr. Jahringer now answer your question.”
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