US Army reservist charged in Capitol riot was a Nazi sympathizer who sported a ‘Hitler mustache’ to work, federal prosecutors reveal

US Capitol riot
Riots at the US Capitol Building.

  • Court documents published by Politico offer an insight into a Capitol rioter’s white supremacist ties.
  • Hale-Cusanelli worked at a New Jersey naval facility where he held secret-level security clearance.
  • Investigators found that Hale-Cusanelli’s coworkers could recall numerous incidents of racist behavior.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A US Army reservist who is charged with taking part in the Capitol riot was well-known by his co-workers as a “white supremacist,” according to new evidence from federal prosecutors.

Among many other revelations, court documents first published by Politico also reveal that Timothy Hale-Cusanelli was a Holocaust denier who shaved his beard into a “Hitler mustache” and regularly praised the Nazis.

The evidence against Hale-Cusanelli resulted from an extensive investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

NCIS special agents interviewed 44 members of the NWS Earle Security Forces, where Hale-Cusanelli worked and held a secret-level security clearance, in a bid to keep him in prison while he awaits trial following his January 15 arrest.

Of the 44 people interviewed, a majority – 34 – agreed with the description of Hale-Cusanelli as “having extremist or radical views pertaining to the Jewish people, minorities, and women,” according to the court documents.

An unnamed Navy Petty Officer stated that the Capitol rioter had said that “Hitler should have finished the job.”

One Navy Seamen said that Hale-Cusanelli had once said that “babies born with any deformities or disabilities should be shot in the forehead.” He also recalled an incident where he said that if he were a Nazi, he would “kill all the Jews and eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

A supervisor told investigators that she once had to discipline Hale-Cusanelli for wearing a “Hitler mustache” to work.

The results of these interviews were published as was a rebuttal to a letter of support from Sgt. John Getz. Hale-Cusanelli’s supervisor wrote a letter to the court urging them to release him on bond, adding that he was “appalled at how he [Hale-Cusanelli] was slandered in the press in regards to him being a white supremacist.”

Prosecutors, however, pointed out that previous statements from Getz contradicted this assertion. He had previously said that Hale-Cusanelli was a “Nazi sympathizer” and a “Holocaust denier.”

The Capitol rioter’s lawyer argued that his client should not be detained pending trial. He told the court that Hale-Cusanelli is not charged with a crime of violence and is not a Nazi sympathizer, according to the court documents.

Prosecutors dismissed these claims, citing photographic evidence of Hale-Cusanelli sporting a Hitler mustache, numerous racist photos saved on his phone, and a now-deleted YouTube channel of his in which he expressed hateful views.

Hale-Cusanelli is one of the many insurrectionists believed to have been a white supremacist. Groups in and around the Capitol wore regalia associated with far-right, racist, and extremist groups on January 6, Insider’s Susie Neilson and Morgan McFall-Johnsen previously reported.

Following the Capitol siege, the FBI had to screen troops from the DC National Guard to ensure that they did not have ties to far-right ideologies. This put the Pentagon under increasing pressure to address white supremacist ties within the US military, Insider’s John Haitlwanger said.

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Tucker Carlson mocked ‘woke generals’ in the Pentagon after receiving criticism over sexist military comments

Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

  • Tucker Carlson mocked “woke generals” at the Pentagon during his Fox News show on Friday
  • Defense chiefs criticized Carlson this week over comments he made about women in the military.
  • Carlson fired back by saying his supporters “were almost rattled” by the criticism.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Friday fired back at “woke generals” in the Pentagon after he received intense criticism this week from several defense chiefs following comments he made about women in the military

Speaking during the Friday night edition of his show “Tucker Carlson Tonight”, the presenter said that his supporters were “almost rattled” by the rebuke from the Pentagon this week until they realized the US military didn’t defeat the Taliban.

“We were almost rattled. Then we realized if the woke generals treat us like they’ve treated the Taliban, we’ll be fine. Twenty years later, the Taliban are still here,” Carlson said during the program, according to The Hill.

“Maybe we ought to promise the Pentagon that we’ll get rid of traditional gender roles on this show. Change the pronouns, defeat the patriarchy, and all that,” he added. “Then they’d send us billions in unmarked $100 bills as a reward. They’ve certainly done that before. And that might really kickstart our struggling opium poppy business.”

A slate of military leaders, including Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, berated Carlson after he accused President Joe Biden of trying to feminize the military.

“F— Tucker Carlson,” Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, tweeted. “While he was practicing his two-step, America’s female warriors were hunting down Al Qaeda and proving the strength of America’s women.”

On Thursday, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby also publicly rebuked Carlson for his remarks, telling reporters: “We still have a lot of work to do to make our military more inclusive,” according to Newsweek.

Kirby went on to say that the department won’t “take personnel advice from a talk show host or the Chinese military.” He added that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “shares the revulsion of so many others to what Carlson said in his opening statement.”

Following Biden’s remarks on International Women’s Day highlighting efforts to make the military more accommodating for women service members, Carlson said these moves would “make a mockery of the US military.”

“So we’ve got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits,” Carlson said. “Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It’s a mockery of the US military.”

Carlson added that “while China’s military becomes more masculine as it’s assembled the world’s largest navy, our military needs to become, as Joe Biden says, more feminine.”

Insider reached out to Fox News for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

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One of Cuomo’s accusers criticized Biden and Harris for staying silent on sexual harassment allegations in a now-deleted tweet

biden harris speech
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks on International Women’s Day as President Joe Biden (L) and Air Force General Jacqueline Van Ovost (R) listen during an announcement at the East Room of the White House March 8, 2021 in Washington, DC

  • Biden and Harris have not yet commented on the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo.
  • One of Cuomo’s accusers, Lindsey Boylan, criticized them for staying silent in a now-deleted tweet.
  • Boylan’s tweet questioned the White House’s “courage” and “judgment” for not weighing in on the scandal.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Lindsey Boylan, a former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the first woman to accuse him of sexual harassment, has criticized President Joe Biden and Vice President Harris for their silence on the scandal.

Boylan, who said in an essay that she worked for Cuomo until he tried to kiss her without her consent, questioned the “courage” of both Biden and Harris in a tweet that has since been deleted, Fox News reported.

“The governor has denied all wrongdoing,” Boylan wrote in the first of two posts. “He got on his platform today and said, ‘there are many motivations of why people do things.’ He is calling up hate and speculation to be directed to his accusers. All harm and hate directed at the women sits squarely on @NYGovCuomo.”

In the second now-deleted tweet, Boylan took aim at the White House. “It also calls into question the judgment and courage of both @POTUS and @KamalaHarris,” she wrote.

deleted tweet cuomo accuser
An image of Boylan’s now-deleted tweet.

Neither Biden nor Harris has publicly commented on the string of allegations against Cuomo. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, however, addressed the scandal in a press briefing on Friday.

“The President believes that every woman who’s come forward – there have now been six, I believe, who have come forward – deserves to have her voice heard, should be treated with respect, and should be able to tell her story,” Psaki told reporters.

Cuomo is facing calls to resign from a number of high-profile politicians. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said in a joint statement that Cuomo “should resign.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a dozen other New York lawmakers have also demanded Cuomo’s resignation over accusations of engaging in “a pattern of sexual harassment and assault” and for hiding data on COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

Cuomo has apologized for previous behavior but has refused to step down.

“I did not do what has been alleged, period,” Cuomo said in a Friday conference call.

“People know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture, and the truth,” the governor added.

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Man charged with assaulting cop during Capitol riot, stole police badge and buried it in backyard

Mike Fanone Badge
The badge which Thomas Siddick stole from Officer

  • Thomas Siddick of Buffalo, New York, was arrested on Friday on five different charges.
  • He was caught assaulting police officer Mike Fanone on the bodycam he was wearing.
  • Although initially denying he stole the badge, he later retrieved it and handed it over to the FBI.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A man charged with assaulting a cop during the Capitol riot has admitted that he buried the officer’s police badge in his backyard.

Thomas Siddick of Buffalo, New York, was arrested on Friday on five different charges including assaulting, resisting or impeding officers and taking a thing of value by force and violence or intimidation.

Sibick was caught assaulting Officer Mike Fanone of Washington DC’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) on video captured by the bodycam he was wearing, according to the criminal complaint.

He took Fanone’s police badge and radio while he was being beaten and tased by a group of rioters who had pulled him away from the police line, causing him to have a concussion and be hospitalized.

Sibick told the FBI that he had heard someone say “We got one! We got one! Kill him with his own gun!,” but he was just trying to help.

He is not accused of beating or tasing Fanone, 40, a father of four daughters who said he yelled to the crowd that he had children to “try to appeal to someone’s humanity,” according to CBS News.

He said some rioters surrounded him to help him leave and he spent a day and a half in hospital following the attack. Through WUSA9, Fanone told them: “Thank you, but f— you for being there.”

Sibbick was first questioned on January 27, at which point he denied even being in Washington DC on the night of the insurrection.

This is despite him posting images of himself on Instagram holding a US Capitol Police shield and attempting to enter the building.

He then had a second interview in early February whereby he maintained that he had not been involved in the attack on Fanone.

However, later the month, Siddick said he wanted to “recant” his initial statement and admitted he took the badge and radio.

Although he originally said he thrown them in a trash can in a hotel dumspter on DC’s Constitution Avenue out of fear of being arrested, he later told an FBI agent that he “wanted to do the right thing.”

He said he “had buried the badge in his backyard,” purchased a metal detector to find it, dug it up, and wanted to return it.

A federal magistrate judge in New York ordered Thomas Sibick to be released, the Huffington Post noted. However, the government filed an emergency appeal on Friday asking the DC judge to order him back into custody on account of being charged with a violent crime.

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Manhattan DA’s probe ramps up, placing new scrutiny on Trump’s debt-ridden New York properties

trump tower debt buildings
Banks have now placed three of the four of former President Donald Trump’s real estate holdings on debt “watch lists,” CBS News said.

  • The Manhattan DA probe into former President Donald Trump is heating up, Insider reported on Friday.
  • The investigation is placing new scrutiny on Trump’s commercial properties.
  • Banks have placed three of the former president’s buildings on debt “watch lists,” CBS News said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s probe into former President Donald Trump steps up a gear, four of Trump’s New York properties have come under renewed scrutiny.

Trump Tower, Trump International Hotel and Tower, 40 Wall Street, and Trump Plaza have missed lenders’ earning projections for five consecutive years, CBS News reported.

Banks have now placed three of the four real estate holdings on debt “watch lists,” the media outlet said.

Mortgage-payment processors have flagged the loans tied to these three properties due to consistent financial underperformance, CBS said.

Wells Fargo and other banks have told investors that reduced incomes on these holdings, due partly to the COVID-19 pandemic, could result in the properties not generating enough money to cover their mortgage payments, CBS News reported.

In addition to presenting Trump with financial troubles, investigations into these properties could also pose legal challenges.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has subpoenaed a New York property tax agency as part of the broad criminal probe, Reuters reported. Prosecutors are looking for signs of possible fraud, the media outlet said.

While Vance’s sprawling probe’s exact scope is not known, court filings suggest that he could be looking into whether Trump and the Trump Organization violated New York laws by manipulating the values of these commercial properties for tax and loan purposes.

The wide-ranging investigation into whether Trump or his businesses violated state tax laws could be reaching its conclusion imminently, Insider reported on Friday.

John Dean, President Richard Nixon’s White House counsel who played a major role in the Watergate scandal, said on Twitter that Trump could be indicted in just a matter of days.

“From personal experience as a key witness, I assure you that you do not visit a prosecutor’s office 7 times if they are not planning to indict those about whom you have knowledge,” Dean’s tweet said.

This refers to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, meeting with prosecutors for the seventh time this week. His latest meeting lasted for over two hours, NBC News reported.

Cohen, who was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to several felonies, has previously testified to Congress about Trump’s alleged financial mismanagement. In the 2019 testimony, Cohen said that Trump had manipulated the value of assets “when it served his purposes.”

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The story behind the distressing video of Israeli soldiers detaining Palestinian kids sheds light on the reality of living under occupation

palestinian children west bank detained
A Palestinian child is carried by an Israeli soldier to a vehicle on the outskirts of Havat Maon in the West Bank on March 10, 2021.

  • Five Palestinian children were apprehended by Israeli soldiers in southern Hebron on Wednesday.
  • The young boys were then taken to a police station where they were detained for several hours.
  • Three of the children. aged between eight and 11, are below the age of criminal responsibility in Israel.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A video has emerged of five Palestinian children being detained by Israeli soldiers near a West Bank outpost on Wednesday afternoon.

The children, aged between eight and 13, were apprehended after settlers from the Havat Maon settlement in southern Hebron reported them to a military patrol.

The video of the incident, initially shared by the human rights nonprofit B’Tselem, shows the young boys being escorted into a vehicle by soldiers from the Israeli Defense Forces. One of the children can be seen crying and struggling as an armed soldier lifts him into the van. Another holds hands with one of his masked captors.

They’re just children, what is this?” an adult can be heard yelling at the soldiers.

The young boys are accused of attempting to steal parrots from a private property in an Israeli settlement, a spokesperson for the Israeli police told Insider.

Havat Maon is one of many settler outposts in the West Bank, considered illegal by international law, that is not authorized by the Israeli government. There have been several incidents in the area of Palestinian children being harassed by Israeli settlers while on their way to school.

Armed military personnel reportedly took the children into the settlement and questioned them about their alleged attempted theft, according to the children’s lawyer.

“They were taken to the Havat Maon illegal outpost, where the soldiers tried to get a confession from them, which is illegal,” their lawyer, Gaby Lasky, told Insider.

Both the Israeli police and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) dispute this claim and instead insist that the young boys were immediately taken to a police station.

palestinian children soldiers west bank
A Palestinian child is escorted by an Israeli soldier to a police vehicle on the outskirts of Havat Maon in the West Bank on March 10, 2021.

After being transferred to Kiryat Arba police station, the young boys were detained for several hours. Their parents, despite multiple attempts, were unable to contact or locate their children, according to Lasky.

Israeli officials claim that the detention’s purpose was to help reunite them with their families. A spokesperson from the IDF told Insider that the boys were transferred to a police facility for “further processing” and to “locate their parents.”

This is echoed by the Israeli police force. “The minors were brought to the police, who acted in order to locate their parents that live in Palestinian territory, for several hours,” the spokesperson told Insider.

Lasky, who is representing the five boys, has said that the boys’ detention was criminal.

“Three of the kids were under the criminal age of responsibility, so they can’t detain them and they can’t take them to the police station or anywhere else. This is completely illegal,” she told insider.

The age of criminal responsibility in Israel is 12. Three of the boys are aged between eight and 11. The two older boys are 12 and 13 and are old enough to be charged with a crime.

The lawyer also believes that the use of military force on the children was unwarranted. “The way that the children were taken and made to kneel when they were detained is not only unnecessary but is also completely illegal,” Lasky told Insider.

gaby lasky lawyer israel palestine
Israeli lawyer Gaby Lasky at a Jerusalem court on September 16, 2018.

Lasky has filed a complaint with the attorney general of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Israeli police.

All five boys were initially summoned for further questioning, according to their lawyer. While the two older boys will be interrogated on Sunday, the three younger children had their summons canceled after an objection by their lawyer, Lasky told Insider.

The human rights organization B’Tselem, whose activists were at the scene, has said that the incident shines a light on the reality of life under occupation.

“It is part of the routine of the occupation for incidents like this, as absurd as they are, to take place,” Amit Gilutz, a B’Tselem spokesperson, told Insider. “It is a reflection of the absolute disregard Israeli authorities hold for the wellbeing of Palestinians.”

“No matter what these children were doing in the vicinity of the settlements,” he added, “they shouldn’t have been arrested by military force.”

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The COVID-19 pandemic has turbo-charged the surge in fentanyl overdoses sweeping the western states, as drug experts warn of a crisis within a crisis

Drug Overdose
A drug user lies on the sidewalk in San Francisco, California on April 26, 2018.

  • Drug overdose deaths hit record levels last year with more than 81,000 fatalities, according to the CDC.
  • Fentanyl, involved in most of the deaths, is now sweeping the western US with a 98% rise in 10 states.
  • The synthetic opioid is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more than heroin.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

US drug overdose deaths hit record levels last year with more than 81,000 fatalities, according to the CDC. Fentanyl was involved in almost all of them and the dangerous drug is now sweeping the western states, agitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) told Insider: “Fentanyl has been found mixed with many other drugs. People who buy drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA are frequently not aware that these may be laced with fentanyl.”

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid generally used in hospitals to treat pain after surgery, is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more than heroin, meaning just two milligrams of it can be deadly, only a fraction of the lethal dose needed for the older opiate.

A pharmacy technician prepares syringes containing fentanyl at the University of Utah Hospital, in Salt Lake City, Utah on June 1, 2018.

Dr. Paul H. Earley, an addiction medicine physician with the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) told Insider: “We’re in the middle of a crisis within a crisis. The substance use disorder crisis, which is already with us, is dramatically worsened by COVID-19. Why? Because addiction is a disease of isolation and despair.”

Over 40 states have reported an increase in opioid overdose deaths during the pandemic, accounting for a 38% rise across the country, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).

However, a CDC report revealed that western states have been most afflicted, with a 98% rise in 10 states, largely due to fentanyl use.

Data from California, Washington, Arizona, Texas, and Colorado showed fentanyl deaths increased by 371% between 2017 and 2019.

Jake, who only provided his first name in fear of being arrested for his addiction, told NPR that he has been addicted to opioids for the past six years. He was initially a heroin user and now a fentanyl user.

He said: “I just started smoking [fentanyl] pills because that was the thing that was around; it was so easy to get. Soon as I wake up, I have to have a pill. The high is not very long, so 20 minutes after I smoke a pill, I want to smoke another one, you know?”

COVID-19 is presenting a new set of challenges for drug users

Travis Hayes, 65, injects what he says is the synthetic drug fentanyl in San Francisco, California on February 27, 2020.

There are over 2 million opioid users in the US, with an average of around 130 opioid overdose deaths a day, the CDC also noted.

Now, COVID-19 is presenting a new set of challenges for drug users.

NIDA also told Insider: “This increased risk of illness is not only due to potentially adverse social circumstances and living conditions, but also to the drugs’ physiological effects on pulmonary, cardiac, metabolic, and immune functions, all of which are targeted by COVID-19 as well.

“As a result, people with substance use disorders who develop coronavirus are much more likely to be hospitalized and to die, compared with the general population.”

According to the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP), opioid overdoses rose by 18% in March 2020 compared to the previous year, 29% in April, and 42% in May 2020.

A JAMA Psychiatry report found that between March and October, the weekly rate of emergency department visits for drug overdoses increased by up to 45% compared to the same period in 2019.

Emergency services investigate after four people were take to the hospital with possible fentanyl exposure in Los Angeles, California on December 31, 2019.

Fentanyl’s potency and the fact so little is needed to make it deadly is now killing people who had managed their addictions for years.

Help for drug users has also been partially shutdown. A National Council for Behavioral Health survey revealed that 54% of behavioral health organizations have closed their programs while 65% had to turn away, reschedule or cancel appointments due to financial losses and reduced capacity during the pandemic.

Although some of these programs have provided services online, they require the internet and a phone or computer to access.

Distributing naloxone to those at risk of overdosing

One possible solution is the use of naloxone, a medication which temporarily blocks the effects of opioids and ‘reverses’ overdoses. Administered by injection or nasal spray, the potency of fentanyl means extra doses may be needed compared to other opioids.

A Cincinnati Fire Department medic nasally administers Naloxone to a man while responding to a possible overdose report at a gas station in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio on November 2, 2017.

More than 700,000 doses of naloxone were distributed to people at risk of overdosing last year. However, almost one in three of the sterile syringe programs that offered the medication either ran out of it or had to ration it for three months, according to the CDC.

Dr. Paul H. Earley also told Insider: “I have a Naloxone overdose kit in my car, I have one in my home. And really, the more that that available that becomes, the more lives we’re going to save.”

Opening overdose prevention sites

Opening overdose prevention sites (OPSs), sometimes known as supervised injection sites (SISs) or safe consumption rooms (SCRs), has also been suggested after the success of similar facilities abroad.

Canada is home to the first legal OPS in North America, Insite. Insite opened its doors in Vancouver in 2003, and between 2017 and 2020, medical staff were able to prevent 4,763 drug overdoses.

Over 120 of them exist across 10 countries but there has never been an overdose death recorded in any, the Drug Policy Alliance notes.

Insite, Canada
Richard Chenery injects heroin he bought on the street at Insite in Vancouver, Canada on May 11, 2011.

An Institute for Clinical and Economic Review report also found that such sites also save money on a long-term basis.

Last month, almost 80 lawmakers sent a letter to Congress urging them to provide money for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG) as part of the upcoming COVID-19 relief bill.

The $5 billion grant would be used to assess communities’ situations and implement prevention and treatment strategies.

The money would be in addition to the $4.25 million approved by Congress as part of the omnibus spending bill in December 2020.

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Lost recording of Trump pressuring a Georgia election official was uncovered in an investigator’s spam folder, report says

trump spam folder phone call
Officials reportedly located the recording in Watson’s spam folder when responding to a public records request.

A six-minute phone call between former President Donald Trump and a Georgian election official was published on Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal.

Trump used the December conversation to pressure Frances Watson, the investigations supervisor to the Georgia Secretary of State, to find nonexistent examples of voter fraud before “the very important date” of January 6, the paper reported.

It was previously believed that a recording of his phone call did not exist, The Washington Post reported in January.

Officials, however, recently located the recording in Watson’s spam folder when responding to a public records request, an unnamed person familiar with the incident told The Post.

In the conversation between Trump and Watson, the former president asked her to look into the “dishonesty” at Fulton County. He also claimed that his campaign “won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

Fulton County, a heavily Democratic jurisdiction, voted for Biden in the 2020 election. There is no evidence of widespread fraud there.

Trump lost Georgia by over 11,000 votes, an outcome that was certified after ballots were counted three times.

In the call, Trump also told Watson that she would be “praised” when “the right answer comes out.”

The conversation preceded Trump’s infamous chat with Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, in which the former president asked him to “find” additional votes to overturn President Joe Biden’s win.

A criminal investigation into this conversation and Trump’s efforts to “influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election” was opened in Fulton County last month.

Raffensperger also initiated a “fact-finding inquiry” into the phone call last month, The New York Times reported.

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Pfizer’s CEO canceled Israel trip following accusations that his visit could illegally help ‘cynical’ Netanyahu win the upcoming election

netanyahu israel vaccine covid
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, center, meet the Israeli citizen who is the 5 millionth person to be vaccinated in Israel, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, March 8, 2021.

  • Pfizer’s CEO delayed a trip to Israel that was scheduled to take place during an election campaign.
  • Israel’s attorney general called the proposed visit “criminal election propaganda,” local media reported.
  • Albert Bourla told a local broadcaster that he had “zero intention” of interfering in an election.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla canceled a scheduled trip to Israel following accusations by a watchdog group and the country’s top lawyer that his visit could illegally sway the upcoming election to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Bourla was expected to arrive in Tel Aviv on March 8, less than three weeks away from the March 23 election.

Parliamentary watchdog group Achrayut Leumit wrote to Bourla, Netanyahu, and the state comptroller arguing that a visit would violate election propaganda laws, The Jerusalem Post said.

“Mr. Bourla’s participation in photo-op events with the prime minister may constitute aiding and abetting a prohibited election campaign and is a criminal offense,” the group said in a letter seen by the newspaper.

Achrayut Leumit’s CEO, Oshi Elmaliach, threatened to open a case with the Central Elections Committee and the Israeli police if the trip were to go ahead, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Elmaliach also wrote to Israel’s attorney general, citing concerns that a visit could benefit Netanyahu, The Times of Israel reported.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelbilt responded by echoing these concerns and urging Netanyahu and Israel’s health minister to reconsider the trip, according to Channel 12.

Mandelbilt argued that the planned visit was “prohibited and criminal election propaganda, due to the prohibited use of the intangible asset of a supervised body (Ministry of Health),” Channel 12 reported.

It was initially reported that the trip was delayed because Bourla and his delegation members weren’t fully vaccinated.

However, in an interview with Channel 12 news, Bourla confirmed that he had received letters telling him to cancel the trip. “My job is not to do politics,” he told the broadcaster.

The trip has now been rearranged for late spring, Israeli broadcaster Channel 12 reported.

Pfizer did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The trip’s timing struck some Israelis as a clear sign that Netanyahu is willing to do anything to win the election.

“I’ve been told that Bourla’s cancelation was directly because of the letters he received,” Amos Harel, a political analyst at Israeli newspaper Haaretz, told Insider. “Netanyahu was quite cynically putting Bourla in the Israeli political campaign to celebrate the success of his vaccination campaign.”

“There was a red line that shouldn’t be crossed in the midst of a political campaign,” Harel added. “It’s very clear to everyone that the Pfizer visit was about the election.”

Ronny Linder, a health correspondent at Haaretz, said: “Netanyahu treating the vaccine like his own personal achievement isn’t right,” she said.

“If Bourla had come here,” she added, “I suspect that many people would have seen this as a political circus, a one-man show, an act of election propaganda that Bourla would have unwittingly participated in.”

Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been world-leading.

The success can, in part, be attributed to Netanyahu’s efforts to procure vaccines so early on. Bourla said that Netanyahu was “obsessive” and called him “30 times” to secure a deal, The Times of Israel reported.

Experts, however, primarily attribute the success of the rollout to big data, Israel’s centralized and socialized healthcare system, and impactful public information campaigns touting the vaccine’s safety.

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Elon Musk has cast doubt on the safety of the second COVID-19 jab in a tweet to his millions of followers

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

  • Elon Musk baselessly said the second coronavirus jab could be more harmful.
  • While a second dose of the Pfizer jab can cause stronger side effects, they only last a few days.
  • Musk has previously downplayed the risk of the virus, which has killed more than 500,000 Americans.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Elon Musk baselessly told millions of his followers on Friday that there’s been “some debate” about the second coronavirus injection being more harmful than the first, although experts have overwhelmingly said vaccines are safe and that side effects will subside within days.

The Tesla CEO was responding to a tweet written by author Ashlee Vance, who said his elderly parents were refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine because of the “stuff they saw on Facebook.”

“For sure wise for elderly or immunocompromised to take the vaccine. Some debate about the second jab though. Quite a few negative reactions to that,” Musk tweeted to his 48 million followers in response.

According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allergic reactions to Pfizer’s and Moderna’s first and second shots are extraordinarily rare in the US, with about 4.5 reactions per million doses – or 0.00045%.

Studies of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine showed no major safety concerns.

Most of the stronger side effects of the Pfizer vaccines, which include a headache, fever, and fatigue, occurred after participants got the second dose, according to research data by the FDA.

But the numbers are still low. The FDA research showed 31 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 55 receiving the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine reported a fever. With the Moderna vaccine, 17 percent in the same age group reported getting a fever after the second dose.

The side effects were expected with the vaccine and typically only last for a day or two on average. Side effects are more common among younger participants.

Musk’s tweet comes after The Washington Post reported Friday that more than 400 of the roughly 10,000 workers at Tesla’s California factory tested positive for COVID-19 from May to December – a much bigger outbreak than previously thought. At the time, Musk had chosen to reopen the factory despite local state orders.

Musk has downplayed the risk of the virus, which has killed more than 500,000 Americans, on multiple occasions.

In March last year, the Tesla CEO tweeted the “coronavirus panic is dumb” and also predicted the US would be reporting “close to zero new cases” by the end of April. Musk also vouched for an approach that would allow mass infection before vaccines become available.

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