New Zealand news anchor Tova O'Brien shows the world how to handle fake news peddlers

As the once-celebrated Information Age devolves into the hell-hole-ish Misinformation Age, many of us feel a desperate sense of despair. It's one thing to have diverse perspectives on issues; it's entirely another to have millions of people living in an alternate reality where up is down, left is right, and a global pandemic is a global hoax put on by a powerful cabal of Satanic, baby-eating, pedophile elites.

Watching a not-insignificant portion of your country fall prey to false—and sometimes flat out bonkers—narratives is disconcerting. Watching politicians and spokespeople spout those narratives on national television is downright terrifying.

Clearly, the U.S. is not the only country with politicians who pander to conspiracy theorists for their own gain, but not every country lets them get away with it. In a now-viral interview, New Zealand's Tova O'Brien spoke with one her country's fringe political party leaders and showed journalists exactly how to handle a misinformation peddler.

Her guest was Jami-Lee Ross, leader of the Advance New Zealand party, which failed to garner enough votes in the country's general election this weekend to enter parliament. The party, which got less than one percent of the vote, had spread misinformation about the coronavirus on social media, and Ross's co-leader, Billy Te Kahika, is a known conspiracy theorist.

But O'Brien came prepared to shut down that nonsense.


First, she asked if Ross had any regrets about his time in politics, and when he gave a typical politician answer, she didn't let it slide. "Do you want to have another crack at answering that?" she responded, "Because I asked you if you have any regrets. You've just been part of the political movement which has been peddling misinformation during the election campaign. Do you have any regrets?"

And the whole interview went on like that, with O'Brien not letting Ross to get away with skirting direct questions about the role he played in spreading misinformation.

When he said he had joined forces with Te Kahika because he'd seen a lot of growth on social media, O'Brien said, "So you sold your soul for political ambition." Ouch.

When he tried to say that he himself hadn't pushed the "Plandemic" idea even though his co-leader had, she responded,"You know exactly what you were doing; you were whipping up fear and hysteria among vulnerable communities."

When Ross started trying to equate COVID-19 mortality rates with the flu, O'Brien interrupted him: "No, no, I do not want to hear any of that rubbish," she said. "If you're going to come on the show and say things which are just factually incorrect, I can't do that, actually." Then she moved on to her next question.

Yes. Yes. Yes. That's how it's done.

For his part, Ross stayed calm and cool—almost disturbingly so—during the interview, while also giving typical politician answers to O'Brien's questions.

Some may say that O'Brien was too hard on Ross, that her role is to be a neutral presence in a news interview. But a journalist's job is not to give equal weight to every voice; it's to inform the public with factual information and to be an accountability check for those in power. And when more and more people can't seem to tell the difference between fact and fiction, it's all the more important to shut down b.s. as soon as the smell of it hits, not when it's already been smeared in people's faces.

Perhaps it should give Americans some comfort that even New Zealand—whose leaders acted swiftly, listened to its public health experts, rallied the nation in a unified effort, and managed to nearly eradicate the coronavirus—has kooks who push the "Plandemic" idea. Perhaps. (As a reminder, New Zealand has seen only 25 deaths and has just 37 active COVID cases in the entire nation of 4.9 million people. Their COVID death rate per million people is 135 times lower than the U.S. The nation has been hailed as an examples of how a clear, decisive response in the beginning makes a huge difference in controlling an infectious disease outbreak.)


If nothing else, this interview should give American journalists some inspiration for how to handle spin doctors who use "alternative facts" to push their political points. Some interviewers have finally started pushing back harder on misinformation here, but Ms. O'Brien's interview truly was a masterclass in how it's done.

Image by 5540867 from Pixabay

Figuring out what to do for a mom on Mother's Day can be a tricky thing. There's the standard flowers or candy, of course, and taking her out to a nice brunch is a fairly universal winner. But what do moms really want?

Speaking from experience—my kids range from age 12 to 20—a lot depends on the stage of motherhood. What I wanted when my kids were little is different than what I want now, and I'm sure when my kids are grown and gone I'll want something different again.

We asked our readers to share what they want for Mother's Day, and while the answers were varied, there were some common themes that emerged.

Moms of young kids want a break.

When your kids are little, motherhood is relentless. Precious and adorable, yes. Wonderful and rewarding, absolutely. But it's a LOT. And it's a lot all the fricking time.

Most moms I know would love the gift of alone time, either away at a hotel or Airbnb or in their own home with no one else around. Time alone is a priceless commodity at this stage, especially if it comes with someone else taking care of cleaning, making sure the kids are fed and safe and occupied, doing the laundry, etc.

This is especially true after more than a year of pandemic living, where we moms have spent more time than usual at home with our offspring. While in some ways that's been great, again, it's a lot.

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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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