The Politics of COVID (with Sheryl Gay Stolberg)
The question of where COVID came from has been clouded by politics since the beginning. New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg separates the facts from political persuasion by discussing the latest evidence behind the two leading origin theories, how the investigation became so partisan, and whether the anticipated declassification of government intelligence could lead to an answer. Then, Andy and Sheryl reflect on the most important stories about the pandemic over the last three years. Oh, and a surprise for Andy to celebrate ITB’s 3rd year anniversary.
Keep up with Andy on Twitter and Post @ASlavitt.
Follow Sheryl Gay Stolberg on Twitter @SherylNYT.
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Check out these resources from today’s episode:
- Read Sheryl’s story, “Lab Leak or Not? How Politics Shaped the Battle Over Covid’s Origin”: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/19/us/politics/covid-origins-lab-leak-politics.html
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For additional resources, information, and a transcript of the episode, visit lemonadamedia.com/show/inthebubble.
Al Franken, Tony Fauci, Zach Slavitt, Mike Osterholm, Mark Leibovich, Kyle Shiely, Bob Wachter, Katelyn Jetelina, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jason Kander, Andy Slavitt, Stephanie Wittels Wachs, David Agus, Jessica Cordova-Kramer
Kyle Shiely 00:00
Bubbleheads senior producer, Kyle Shiely. Coming at you here. Before we start the interview today, I just want to let you know that the team has put together a special surprise for Andy. And you’re definitely gonna want to stick around to the end of the show when we present it to him. Maybe he skipped to the end. You know, it’s pretty great. I got to admit, personally, I listened all the way through. I know all of you do, too. But just in case today, it’s Friday, maybe we’re gonna knock off a little early only listen to be 80% of the interview. I get that. But no, not today. Today, you’re gonna have to listen to the whole thing. I promise you it’s worth it or skip to the end, and then come right back and listen to the interview. If you can’t wait for a surprise, then nobody would blame you for that. But otherwise, absolutely worth your time to check out the end of the interview. And here are a special gift to Andy at the end of the show. And so without further ado, I’m gonna hand it over to Andy.
Andy Slavitt 01:05
This is IN THE BUBBLE with Andy Slavitt. Welcome. And don’t forget you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sheryl Gay Stolberg is on the show today. She has been the primary beat reporter covering COVID and the White House from Washington for the New York Times since April of 2020. She has written some of the best and most compelling pieces. She’s a tough interviewer, she’s interviewed me before, I wouldn’t say that the stuff she writes is always super flattering. But what she writes has always been very incisive. And I think she really has an eye and a mind towards explaining things for people in a way that makes it so much easier to understand. We’re going to dig into some of the controversies, and the politicization of COVID, with a particular focus on this origin story, which she has a very clean and clear way of explaining to people occasionally on the show, we will have a guest who will explain a complex matter in a really, really simple way better than I’ve heard anywhere else before. And Cheryl does that here on this interview. So I think you’re gonna appreciate that. By the way, when that happens. It’s usually not to me, it’s usually because we just have the right guest on the topic. And so I suppose it’s more due to the production team, that it is to me, but in this case, Cheryl, I think, Roxanne, I think you’ll really like this. So let’s bring her on.
Andy Slavitt 02:44
Sheryl, welcome to the bubble.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 02:46
Thank you glad to be here.
Andy Slavitt 02:48
Good. The table’s turned, haven’t they? I’ve been here source before now, I get to interview you.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 02:53
That’s right. I don’t know what it’s like on the other end, Andy, will see.
Andy Slavitt 02:57
You know, it’s easier to be interviewed than interview, I think I really have so much admiration for what it takes to interview someone successfully, having now tried to do and I found it much easier to be interviewed. Because then you could just say, say what you need to say.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 03:10
Yeah, I think that’s true. When you’re doing an interview, you have to spin things out in your head as you’re talking.
Andy Slavitt 03:16
Yeah, yeah. So my approach here is just get into a conversation because I don’t have much talent for anything else. But I know how to talk. And definitely interesting people like you, it often works. You wrote an interesting piece, about how the discussion around where COVID came from sort of had this sort of kind of distorted political lens over it. We really just start with what the state of play is. I think it’s confusing for people when they see one government agency says one thing, some scientists say another thing, and then everyone else says, well, we’re not really sure. Like, what is the state of play?
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 03:56
Well, I think it is confusing, but there are two primary theories about where COVID came from. One is that it emerged from the one on seafood market in Wuhan, China, that it was natural in origin that may be a bat. Bats are known to harbor Coronavirus, as maybe a bat transmitted to an animal and an animal transmitted it to a human. But then there’s this other theory and the other theory is that the Coronavirus emerged from a lab specifically from the Wuhan Institute of virology, which is a premier Coronavirus Research Lab, right there in Wuhan. And what we’re seeing is frankly, fights between scientists and also between politicians about where this thing came from.
Andy Slavitt 04:42
And at this point, am I correct that all the evidence is pretty much circumstantial, or do we have anything better than that?
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 04:50
So I think it depends on how you define evidence right? Like there is some evidence that the virus was natural in origin, just last week or so some researchers found samples of raccoon dogs that were being sold in this market. They had genetic samples of this virus and that matched the virus in humans. And there have been other studies showing that, for instance, Laotian bats have the capability to infect human cells in much the same way as SARS-CoV-2 does. So you might call that more than circumstantial evidence. That’s genetic evidence, but it’s not conclusive genetic evidence. On the other side, for the lab leak theory, there is circumstantial evidence. And there’s a couple of things that are really troubling. One is that in 2018, a group called the Eco Health Alliance, which is a nonprofit that has been funded by the US government and has worked with the Wuhan Institute, they put forth a proposal for an experiment, they asked our Defense Department to fund this experiment that would have basically manufactured a virus that looks very much like what SARS-CoV-2 wound up looking like. So that proposal wasn’t funded. But a lot of people are saying, wow, like if they were going to engineer this virus, and they had proposed doing this exact thing, and then boom, the next year later, you know, it shows up and it’s maybe the Wuhan Institute. Did that experiment after all. We don’t know. There’s other questions about the institute. We know from our own State Department that the Institute was working on secret projects with the Chinese military, what were those projects, we don’t know what they were. So I would say there is circumstantial evidence for the lab leak that is inconclusive, there’s genetic evidence for the market theory or the natural origins theory that’s inconclusive.
Andy Slavitt 06:54
You make my job so easy, you just explained it clear that I’ve even understood it before. And I’ve read some of these reports. But I want to just to go into the lab leak theory, again for a second because I hear that different ways. Like I hear some people when they talk about a lab leak, talking about it as a rather innocent accident. And in the course to be to be reminded like someone spills a test tube, like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon or something. And then, you know, someone goes home to their family, and exposes somebody the way you just described, it sounds a bit more potentially sinister. Like perhaps it was purposely engineered, which is those as an accurate sort of portrayal.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 07:40
So yeah, I want to I want to then clarify, I think there’s three ways that a lab leak could possibly have happened, one could be an intentional engineering, with the intent to harm with the intent to hurt people. That’s really not what I was referring to. And most experts completely discount the idea that this was manufactured as a bio weapon, okay. But researchers also tinker with viruses, quite legitimately, in order to figure out ways to counteract them to prepare for the event that a virus could mutate and become very infectious. So there would be legitimate reasons for doing the kind of research I described, to maybe figure out what it would take for a virus to become a virus that could be a deadly pathogen, and then figure out ways to prevent that. Separate and apart from all of that this lab studied viruses, and it’s quite possible that in its collection, perhaps it had a sample of SARS-CoV-2 unknowingly may be collected from a bat. And that virus itself, pre-existing virus, a virus that was natural in origin, infected a lab worker, and the lab worker goes out into the community and, you know, boom, you’ve got a pandemic. Does that make sense?
Andy Slavitt 09:05
It does. It does. And I find myself thinking of this as a bit of a Rorschach test, like, what kind of belief system do you have? Can kind of indicate which of these theories seems more attractive? Because as you say, one of them has some genetic evidence, but not conclusive. The other has a story you can paint around circumstantial evidence. Can you talk about perhaps, who sort of seems to be leading proponents of each of those theories? And, you know, perhaps comment on whether or not you know, there are other things that work causing people to believe one versus the other.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 09:49
There are two camps of the two camps and by what I what I mean by that is, we can talk about the scientists and we can also talk about the politicians so When we talk about the scientists, there’s a group of neurologists who strongly believe that this was natural in origin. And I would put in that camp, Tony Fauci. He has said repeatedly that he believes the preponderance of evidence is that the pandemic was natural in origin. Although he has said he’s open to the idea of a lab leak.
Andy Slavitt 10:22
He does say he doesn’t know, and that he said, that’s where he would speculate,
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 10:28
right? And so there are other virologists, like someone named Michael […] of neurologists in in Arizona who’s done a lot of this research. Others, I’m thinking of Angie Rasmussen and a few others who have really done this genetic research and believe firmly that their work shows that the virus is natural in origin. Then there’s this whole other group of scientists not necessarily neurologists, but some of them. Biologists are prominent people, people like David Relman at Stanford, and Richard E, bright at Rutgers, these are serious academics, who strongly argue that the virus could have leaked from a lab and that it’s really important that we don’t discount that, that we look into it at least and that we be intellectually honest about what we don’t know. And then you overlay American politics over that. And what happened was, President Trump, when he was in office, embraced this lab leak theory and said, well, you know, we’re looking into whether it came from a lab and reporter said to him, Well, how do you know that, sir? And he said, well, I’m not allowed to tell you. Well, in our hyperpolarized, climate immediately, Democrats and journalists, frankly, started pushing back on that. So now you had not only a scientific debate, but also a political debate, where you had Trump on the one side embracing the lab leak, Democrats said, that’s just Trump, trying to distract from his failings, his administration’s failings in control and spread of the virus. And it’s not. And we think that, you know, it’s clearly market in origins.
Andy Slavitt 12:18
In other words, even people who lie a lot occasionally will say something that’s not a lie. I said it, I said it, not you.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 12:26
I think that I would cast it differently. I think he said something that was plausible, without evidence for it. He had a history of saying things that lacked evidence. And so therefore, many people were naturally suspicious.
Andy Slavitt 12:46
You said it more precisely, and which is why you’re such a great reporter for the New York Times. Let me do a quick break and come right back and talk about this political overlay a little bit more. We’re back. So it’s interesting, both that like Trump, who often went off halfcocked without evidence, said something which seemed politically expedient, i.e. This isn’t my fault. And then the anti-Trump reaction, you know, is equally interesting, because there’s such a sort of automatic response, when he says something did look like he’s deferring blame, now that he’s out of office, where’s the political center of gravity on this issue? Are politicians feeling like this is an issue that has some kind of political juice in it?
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 13:58
My colleague, Benjamin Muller, and I reported that there was really a concerted effort on the part of the those who believed in the lab leak theory, or those who at least, wanted it investigated to persuade policymakers and journalists and lawmakers that they needed to take this idea seriously. And I think when President Biden was elected, that started to happen. Jamie […], who was a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and had worked in the Clinton White House, met with the President’s incoming National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, in December of 2020, right before President Biden took office and said, hey, you know, you got to take this seriously laid out a case for it. And then we saw President Biden himself in May of 2021 Order and Intelligence Review, asking the intelligence community to investigate the cause of the pandemic, you know, wherever it might lead, and that really opened the door for Democrats to start thinking about this in a much more open minded way.
Andy Slavitt 15:07
And what did the various intelligence agencies have to say in remind us that there are a report from the Department of Energy? It seems like there are a few different agencies with a dog in this race, so to speak, and that that of itself, I think, is confusing to people.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 15:23
Right. So that report that Biden asked for it was a 90 day inquiry, and it came to mixed conclusions. And it had a handful of intelligence agencies and these are like, the Defense Department has an intelligence branch and, you know, other departments, the Energy Department that you mentioned, Homeland Security, the FBI, most of them are four of them, at least said that they thought the virus was natural in origin. One of them the FBI at that time said, they thought it could be a lab leak. The big granddaddy of intelligence agencies, the CIA was agnostic, didn’t take a position one way or the other. So there was really no conclusion. And then more recently, the Energy Department changed its conclusion and said that it had concluded with low confidence that the pandemic was likely the result of a laboratory accident. And I think accident is a word that we should actually be thinking about. Sure, because when we’re talking about a lab leak, we are talking about an accident, not an intentional act.
Andy Slavitt 16:35
Did they have anything beyond the circumstantial data evidence that you described, that led them to change their point of view?
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 16:43
So we don’t know what their evidence is. But we may find out because the House and Senate both have passed unanimously, a bill called the COVID origins Act, which instructs intelligence community to declassify intelligence relating to the Wuhan Institute of neurology, and this past week, President Biden signed it into law, they have 90 days to release it. It’ll get vetted first by the Director of National Intelligence before anything gets released, but the public will, I guess, at least get to see the information that these agencies relied on.
Andy Slavitt 17:21
So I recall into hearings last year, Rand Paul questioning Tony Fauci in some pretty memorable exchanges. They get pretty spicy.
Tony Fauci 17:33
If the point that you were making is that the grant that was funded as a sub award from eco health to Wuhan created SARS-CoV-2, that’s where you are getting. Let me finish.
Andy Slavitt 18:07
Okay, so what’s going on here? It feels like there is a lot of innuendo that the Senator Paul is pressing. Dr. Fauci and Dr. Fauci obviously, is getting a little bit exhausted, exasperated, just by the implications that seemed to be coming his way.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 18:29
So this is a debate that is kind of a cousin of the COVID origins debate. And that’s about gain of function research, and gain a function research is research that might take a virus and change its properties in a way that could make it more infectious, just like we talked about before, maybe for the purpose of figuring out a vaccine or some way to counteract the highly infectious virus. So Senator Paul has been accusing Dr. Fauci and his Institute, his former Institute of funding, gain of function research at the Wuhan Institute of neurology. They’re very specific definitions for gain of function research. And Dr. Fauci has said consistently, no, we did not fund gainer function research. We never funded that kind of work. And to a certain extent, it’s splitting maybe it’s splitting hairs because the US through the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, did fund some research at the Wuhan Institute of virology with this eco Health Alliance group. The NIH maintains that none of that research could have led to SARS–CoV–2 that the genetics of the viruses that were being studied with US government funding, bear no resemblance at all, to the virus that causes COVID 19. But nonetheless, you’re right You know, Senator Paul has been really hammering Dr. Fauci on this and extrapolating to accuse him in effect of, you know, causing the whole pandemic. And other Republicans have picked up on that people on, you know, the, I would say, the Fauci hating wing of the Republican Party, right. Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and others have sort of picked up on this theme, to try to accuse Dr. Fauci of some, you know, nefarious deeds for which there is no evidence.
Andy Slavitt 20:37
Is there political traction for those Republicans, and for the Republicans in general, to press this point?
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 20:47
So I think that’s really interesting. I think it really actually speaks to the split in the Republican Party. And so it clearly is a political weapon for the for the far right for the MAGA crowd, who have, you know, made a lot of hay out of attacking Dr. Fauci. We’ve seen Ron DeSantis in Florida, run ads about Fauci, other candidates and, you know, signed on to the fire Fauci movement force. He’s already retired. So you can’t fire him. But I think that there is an element of the Republican Party that does want to seriously consider this. And I think we’re actually seeing that maybe I’m naive and maybe overly hopeful. But I think we are seeing that a little bit in these hearings that the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus pandemic is holding. So yes, there’s, you know, Jim Jordan railing against Fauci and saying all of these, you know, hyperbolic things. But also Brad Wenstrup, who’s the chair of that committee has worked very closely and collaboratively with Raul Ruiz was the Democratic ranking member. And they both seem to want to have a thoughtful discussion of this. And I guess the question in my mind is, can they keep the right and the left? You know, the far right and the far left at bay? And I you know, I don’t know the answer to that yet. I don’t think we, you know, we have seen enough to
Andy Slavitt 22:16
know, not a ton of evidence yet. Let’s take one final break. Sheryl, we’ll come back and talk about some of the other latest things happening with COVID. You’ve been covering COVID has been reporter for the New York Times for how long now? Since the outset. Right?
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 22:55
Not exactly since the outset, I was actually covering Congress at the outset. But I have a background as a health policy writer. And so in April of 2020, the leadership of the Times asked me if I would go back to writing about health policy. And that’s where I’ve been ever since. It’s been really interesting and rewarding. And I really feel like it’s actually a privilege to be able to do this work and try to educate the public as best we can.
Andy Slavitt 23:27
Look, I think my experience with you, as I’ve said, the beginning of the show, I’ve been interviewed by you, I’ve probably been in maybe one or two of your stories here and there is that you do a very good job, shining a light on the things the public needs to know. And I guess when I was in the White House, I viewed it as a really important connection to the public to be able to provide more transparency that had been provided before. I’m curious if your reflections is we’re hitting, I think, a real milestone this end of the National Public Health Emergency on what you think some of the most interesting stories, whether our most interesting events that have occurred over this kind of a very meaningful period of time.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 24:14
Wow, I try to think of what we’ve learned. You know, a lot of the things we’ve learned is I think something Dr. Fauci would tell you which is never underestimate a virus, right? Like you will remember in the summer of 2021, and we thought that you know, this pandemic was in the rearview mirror. I even wrote a line I regret, you know, as the pandemic appears to be in the rearview mirror and then, you know, we were whacked with the Delta variant. Some of the really important stories I think, that have come out are the stories about our lack of preparedness for this pandemic, stories about the importance of public health officials and workers in our society. The incredibly brave doctors and first responders who in those early days of the pandemic, were caring for people without, you know, proper gear and, you know, many of them dying as a result. I think about the orphans, the COVID Orphans that I’ve written about kids who are, you know, lost one parent or more to the pandemic, I think a lot about misinformation, and how that has played a role. I wrote a story, maybe six months or so ago about a guy named Randy watt, who was not a COVID denier, but wouldn’t get vaccinated, got COVID treated himself with ivermectin and died, and the grief that his family experienced. He had sort of gone down the rabbit hole on a social media platform called gab Christian nationalist platform and, and just the grief that his family experienced over his death, complicated by the fact that he had, you know, taken in this misinformation was very, very powerful. And then the whole story that we’re discussing right now about the politicization of science, the way we’ve seen public health in our country get politicized, and the anti-vaccine movement troubles me that we might, going forward be actually less prepared for the next pandemic, simply because of the erosion of faith and public health and because of the pushback against vaccine mandates, including mandates for children, you know, for childhood vaccines.
Andy Slavitt 26:45
Yeah, it’s so true. You know, I have a dividing line in my mind, Cheryl, which is things that happened during the pandemic, they were the real result of people doing their absolute best, I pretty forgiving, both Democratic Republican governors made mistakes, both White Houses have made mistakes. CDC has made mistakes. And so long as people, you know, worked hard worked in good faith, we may feel let down by them, we may feel like we should we, you know, people should have done better. But I don’t think there was a chance that we were going to get it perfectly right, because it was a very mysterious thing that happened that was without precedent the way the way the virus behaved. On the other hand, there were steps taken in bad faith, from time to time. And that spilled over to a lot of people and made them feel less prepared, and be in fact, less prepared. And you think about, for example, what would have happened if Donald Trump in early 2020, as he claimed to Bob Woodward, was aware of what was going to happen if he would have simply stood up and said, Hey, folks, this is something that may be coming at us, we got a problem, how many lives would have been saved? To me that calculation is an example of one of those occasions of people simply not working in our interests. And I think, for the American public. The thing that scares them the most is not whether or not the CDC is did a great job, a good job or have a fair job. They obviously hope that we do as good a job as possible. But I think what scares me is people overlaying politics on their lives and things that affect their lives.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 28:27
Yeah, it’s funny, you must have been reading my mind because as you were speaking, before, you said Trump’s name, I was thinking, imagine a world in which Donald Trump had come out and said, I’m wearing a mask. And I think all of you should wear masks, too. I mean, he could have put his name on the mask, he could have sold Trump masks, you know, imagine a world in which he had gotten vaccinated on television. The vaccine came and he said, this a vaccine. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s going to save lives. And I’m going to show some leadership by getting vaccinated on television now. It’s true. Maybe you would have seen Democrats say, well, oh, no, I’m not going to do that. You know, but I think that the politicization is, frankly, the most troubling aspect to me, and it’s because the politics was not in good faith.
Andy Slavitt 29:24
Absolutely. You know, I was gonna say that when I talked to my counterparts in other countries, they would tell me, in fact, what you just said, which is this is not easy. This is hard. There are people that don’t like wearing masks. There are people that don’t believe what we’re telling them. There are people who have very different points of view on how we should respond. But the one thing that they said was repeatedly was different, was those opinions had nothing to do with their political affiliation, that they didn’t have that same level of correlation here where it says if the color of your Jersey is read. There’s prepackaged set of beliefs that you’re going to have about masks that about vaccines, perhaps and other things that it’s called your jerseys blue, there’s another set of beliefs that you’re going to have. And it’s really a shame. And I don’t think the cause of this is COVID. I think the COVID is just the effect of the we just think the effect.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 30:22
But it’s a symptom, it’s so serious, because lives were lost as a result of that. I mean, we could track, you know, in the, at the height of the pandemic, deaths were higher in counties that voted for President Trump than those that voted for President Biden, like, how can that be?
Andy Slavitt 30:47
No, it’s certainly true. And it’s also true, that there are plenty of Republican governors save a couple who were doing their best to prevent deaths, to, you know, balance that with keeping the economy open with this tough, difficult decisions around schools, etc. You know, and they would tell me, it’s I’m sure they told you that they didn’t feel well served at the FBI, the President, I would say very dependent on him. So, you know, I think the story is not that a Republican president necessarily had to take the view that he didn’t if Mitt Romney had been president, or George W. Bush had been president. I think they’re responsible to look a lot like it looked under Joe Biden.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 31:38
I think that’s right. I think that’s absolutely right. You know, if there is one thing to give Donald Trump credit for it is the operation warp speed, which resulted in a vaccine in record time.
Andy Slavitt 31:51
I agree with that. I agree with that. And as I said, on Fox News, from the South Lawn, is that right in a moment where I think the Fox and Friends folks thought they had to be in a gotcha. But I do think this sort of the spirit of saying everybody who had a hand in a success, should get credit is a really important one. And there are a lot of people going back number presidencies that had been responsible for investing in the mRNA platform. And the portfolio bet that the Trump administration took saying, we’re gonna bet on six horses, or I think that was a number. Was that a very smart bet?
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 32:34
Andy Slavitt 32:35
Well, Sheryl, thank you so much for being here. Listening to this conversation, you can feel no less settled. But certainly, you made a lot clear how the dividing lines are drawn, both in the scientific community and the political community. And I think, again, thank you for all your work covering this issue, bringing it to the American public.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg 32:56
Well, thank you, Andy, and thank you for your work too.
Andy Slavitt 33:10
Thank you, Cheryl. Hey, did I ever mention to you guys that this week was our third anniversary? I think I might have mentioned it like 50 times. Anyway, we have one more surprise for you. And I want to hand it over to my amazing Senior Producer Kyle Shiely.
Kyle Shiely 33:27
surprisingly, Annie. I don’t know if you had mentioned it. But it turned out the word got out. And we fielded a bunch of calls from people this week. past guests and friends of the pod who wanted to send you a special message of congratulations for this anniversary. Here are without further ado, are the friends of in the bubble.
Bob Wachter 33:50
Hi, Andy. This is Bob Wachter.
David Agus 33:51
Hi, Andy. It’s David Agus.
Katelyn Jetelina 33:53
Hey, Andy, this is your favorite epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 33:59
Andy Slavitt. podcast host, world improver. It is your friend Stephanie Wittels Wachs.
Mark Leibovich 34:06
Hi, this is Mark Leibovich of the Atlantic and more to the point, a friend of the bubble, I just wanted to chime in here and wish Andy and the bubble team and the bubble family, a happy third year anniversary of the launch.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 34:21
I remember getting that email from you. I think it was around 8pm on a Saturday night, back in March of 2020. And I think the message was, hey, I need a podcast. And I want it like tomorrow and I really only want to make it with Lemonada. It truly was in those early days such a public service.
Speaker 7 34:43
We’ve known each other for a long time. And I have to say when you first invited me on the bubble, I was a little bit reticent. At the time what was going on with COVID was very political. Lots of debate back and forth and what you said really defined who you were, politically rather than who you whereas a scientist or a medical doctor or a data person, but I have to say is what you did was really remarkable. You presented the issues, you presented the data in a way that I think made many people in this country feel better.
Katelyn Jetelina 35:13
We all agree that this pandemic has been nothing short of just an absolutely wild ride. And for me, part of that wildness is meeting giants like you who have not only been helping the general public understand what the hell is going on. But asking the experts really hard questions, you are one of the few that can really keep me on my toes during podcasts and interviews.
Bob Wachter 35:39
Let me thank you for giving me one of the peak opportunities of my life when I had a chance to step in for a few months to host in the bubble. During my time there I came to recognize that your combination of brilliance empathy, snarkiness and wit, plus the fact that you somehow know something about everything made you literally irreplaceable.
Mike Osterholm 35:59
Hi Andy, Mike Osterholm. As I’ve said to you, on multiple occasions, I look to you as my North Star for information. You’re someone who is visionary, but you’re very practical. You’re incredibly trustworthy. When you tell me something, I can take it to the bank.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 36:16
Whenever I was struck with some sort of what felt like a life and death question, thinking I need, I need to talk to Andy, I need to turn to And.
Speaker 7 36:28
I am proud to call you a friend. I’m proud of what the bubble has become in your evolution. You have a certain way of attacking things where with some understanding, but humor and also at the same time, you know, respecting who you talk to.
Jason Kander 36:45
Hey, Andy, it’s Jason Kander, huge congratulations on the show. You know, I was thinking about it. My appearance on the show wasn’t just one of my favorite podcast episodes that I did. It’s actually I think, one of my favorite conversations that I’ve had this year. It just happened to be that we were recording and other people got to hear it.
Jessica Cordova-Kramer 37:05
Hi, Andy, Jess, CEO of Lemonada, and the biggest in the bubble fan ever. I just want to thank you all. It’s been three years of keeping us calm, keeping us safe making us laugh, dad jokes, best guests on the planet. Best host there has ever been. The show has a really special place in our country. Andy, you’ve done so much for us as listeners, but also as citizens.
Al Franken 37:32
Hey, Andy, it’s Al Franken, thank you for having me on as a guest. So often, I just have to say what a thrill it is to be on a podcast that’s hosted by someone who knows what he’s talking about most of the time.
Zach Slavitt 37:47
Hey dad, this is Zach. I just wanted to congratulate you and the team on three years of in the bubble. I’m happy to see that you guys have continued the show. And it’s continuing to help inform people. I’m glad we were able to start this together. And I can’t wait to see where it goes.
Mark Leibovich 38:04
I am very, very glad that it’s here because there are way too many podcasts in the world. But not enough good podcasts and even fewer great podcasts. And the bubble is a rare one of those.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 38:14
I couldn’t feel more grateful that you have been with us network for the last few years that you have brought your trusted voice to Lemonada and to your audience who absolutely adores you,
Bob Wachter 38:27
Congratulations on in the bubble’s three year anniversary.
Katelyn Jetelina 38:33
So thank you for all of your work on in the Bible. Thank you for being a friend and mentor. I am one of your biggest fans and I cannot wait to follow your journey within the bubble.
Mike Osterholm 38:45
Congratulations and thank you.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 38:47
Happy anniversary. And congratulations and thank you.
Kyle Shiely 38:53
Congratulations Andy from all of us. The team hear me James No. Martine and Catherine, Alex, Chrissy and Ivan before us it’s been such an honor to work with you on this show and to help people and obviously all these people too, we love you. So thank you.
Andy Slavitt 39:13
You rarely get me speak. Are those people stupid. Appreciate that.
Kyle Shiely 39:32
Alright, I’ll let you off the hook and remind everybody Monday we’re back. We’re talking about should the US government be involved in banning TikTok what’s happening? And we’ll have some great guests on that and some other excellent shows here on in the bubble year for it’s going to be bigger and better than ever. Thanks again, Andy. Thanks, everybody, for listening. From everybody here on in the bubble. We’ll see you Monday.
Thanks for listening to IN THE BUBBLE. We’re a production of Lemonada Media. Kathryn Barnes, Jackie Harris and Kyle Shiely produced our show, and they’re great. Our mix is by Noah Smith and James Barber, and they’re great, too. Steve Nelson is the vice president of the weekly content, and he’s okay, too. And of course, the ultimate bosses, Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs, they executive produced the show, we love them dearly. Our theme was composed by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill, with additional music by Ivan Kuraev. You can find out more about our show on social media at @LemonadaMedia where you’ll also get the transcript of the show. And you can find me at @ASlavitt on Twitter. If you like what you heard today, why don’t you tell your friends to listen as well, and get them to write a review. Thanks so much, talk to you next time.