Jun 20, 2021

Axios AM

Happy Sunday, and happy Father's Day! Tomorrow is the first day of summer.

  • Smart Brevity™ count: 1,196 words ... 4½ minutes. Edited by Fadel Allassan.
1 big thing — Scoop: Fauci's offensive against "craziness"
Dr. Anthony Fauci talks with Jimmy Fallon last week. Photo: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC

After becoming a top punching bag for the right, Dr. Anthony Fauci is defending himself with a sharp new edge, arguing that an attack on him is an attack on science.

  • In comments on Kara Swisher's New York Times "Sway" podcast, shared first with Axios, Fauci says: "It is essential as a scientist that you evolve your opinion and your recommendations based on the data as it evolves. ... And that's the reason why I say people who then criticize me about that are actually criticizing science."

"[T]he people who are giving the ad hominems are saying, 'Ah, Fauci misled us. First he said no masks, then he said masks,'" Fauci said on the podcast, which drops tomorrow. "Well, let me give you a flash. That's the way science works. You work with the data you have at the time."

  • "[I]t isn't a question of being wrong. It's a question of going with the data as you have, and being humble enough and flexible enough to change with the data."

After 37 years in his job, Fauci told Swisher he puts "very little weight in the adulation, and very little weight in the craziness of condemning me."

  • "The more extreme they get, the more obvious how political it is ... 'Fauci has blood in his hands.' Are you kidding me? ... Here's a guy whose entire life has been devoted to saving lives, and now you're telling me he's like Hitler? You know, come on, folks. Get real."

Share this story. ... 🎧 Hear "Sway."

2. Educators face fines over critical race theory

A rally against the teaching of critical race theory was held June 12 at the Loudoun County Government Center in Leesburg, Va. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Elementary school teachers, administrators and college professors are facing fines, physical threats, and fear of firing because of an organized push from the right to remove classroom discussions of systemic racism, Axios race and justice reporter Russell Contreras writes.

  • Why it matters: Moves to ban critical race theory are raising free speech concerns amid an absence of consistent teaching parameters.

What's happening: So far, 21 states have introduced proposals to limit lessons about racism and history.

Between the lines: Critical race theory, developed in the 1970s, holds that racism is ingrained in our society, and that policies and practices in areas from law to education to banking contribute to persistent inequalities.

🥊 From the right: Filmmaker Christopher Rufo, who helped popularize the issue, tells The Washington Post he "basically took [a] body of criticism" about diversity and other training, "paired it with breaking news stories ... and made it ... a salient political issue with a clear villain."

3. 🎬 Tonight on "Axios on HBO"

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Former Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), who resigned after nude photos leaked, talks with Alayna Treene about running for office when we're living our lives online: "I think it's the question of our time." (Watch the clip.)

  • Also tonight ... United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby talks with Dan Primack in Dallas about the travel surge, and investing in supersonic flight ... and I sit down in Cleveland with HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge for a conversation about her plans to improve equity in housing.

Jonathan Swan's news-breaking interview with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is the lead story of today's Express Tribune in Pakistan (below). Watch a clip.

  • Catch the episode tonight at 6 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and HBO Max.
4. Pic du jour: Space station silhouette
Photo: Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters

This composite of five photos — taken through a telescope with a fixed camera — shows the International Space Station in silhouette as it transits the sun (with sunspot at bottom), as seen near Tbilisi, Ga., yesterday.

5. Georgia abuzz over Herschel tease
Herschel Walker in video he tweeted Thursday. Via Twitter

Herschel Walker, 59 — the Heisman Trophy winner and Georgia college football legend — tweeted a cryptic video last week suggesting he might enter the Republican primary for a chance to run next year against Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), the N.Y. Times reports (subscription).

  • "I'm gettin' ready," Walker, who lives in Texas, says over a revving sports car he calls "Hulk," with Georgia plates. "And we can run with the big dogs."
  • "Georgia on my mind," the tweet says.

Former President Trump said in a March 10 statement: "Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the legendary Herschel Walker ran for the United States Senate in Georgia? ... Run Herschel, run!"

  • The Times notes that a Walker run would "go a long way toward firming up the 2022 pro-Trump roster in Georgia, where the former president has vowed ... to exact revenge on the Republicans who declined to support his false contention that he was the true winner."
6. ⚖️ Revolving door slows for Trump lawyers

Big law firms haven't snapped up Trump administration lawyers at the pace that's typical after a White House changeover, but most have landed somewhere, Bloomberg Law found.

  • Of the 73 top-ranked lawyers under President Trump, at least 60 have landed — 24 with law firms, 21 in other private-sector jobs, 11 joined nonprofits, three are in the public sector and one retired.
  • Law firm Jones Day took the most (4), followed by King & Spalding (3).

Ken Cuccinelli, who held the No. 2 job at the Homeland Security Department under Trump, told Bloomberg he was looking at a corporate opportunity when the work was suddenly pulled.

  • "They just decided they didn’t want Trump people,” Cuccinelli said. "I don’t think anyone coming out of the George W. Bush administration was told, 'We can’t hire this person.'"

Go deeper: See Bloomberg's list.

7. Remembering Champ Biden, 13

Champ on the South Lawn on March 31. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP

"Our hearts are heavy," President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden said in a statement, "as we let you all know that our beloved German Shepherd, Champ, passed away peacefully at home":

He loved nothing more than curling up at our feet in front of a fire at the end of the day, joining us as a comforting presence in meetings, or sunning himself in the White House garden. In his younger days, he was happiest chasing golf balls on the front lawn of the Naval Observatory ... We love our sweet, good boy and will miss him always. 
8. 1. cool thing: Yosemite air-walk record
Highliner Daniel Monterrubio walks the 2,800-foot-long line off Taft Point above Yosemite Valley on June 12. Photo: Scott Oller/Scott Oller Films via AP

Two brothers from San Francisco say they have set a record for the longest highline ever walked in both Yosemite National Park, the San Francisco Chronicle reported (via AP).

  • They and 18 friends spent nearly a week stringing a 2,800-foot-long line from Taft Point west across gulleys that plunge 1,600 feet.

The backstory: Highlining is high-altitude slacklining. A narrow strip of nylon webbing — usually an inch wide and a few millimeters thick — is strung between two anchor points, serving as a balance beam.

  • In a fall, walkers remain attached, but have to haul themselves back up — or shimmy back to an anchor point while dangling upside down.

Over six days, Daniel Monterrubio, 23, and his brother Moises, 26, and their helpers hiked lines up from the valley floor, and rappelled down from cliffs above.

  • At sunset on June 10, Daniel walked the line first and fell three or four times in the wind, but made it across. Moises also fell twice, but caught himself on the line above the craggy landscape.
  • Moises eventually walked the line in 37 minutes without a fall.

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