February 20, 2017

At a rally in Florida on Saturday, President Trump asked his audience, during a riff on terrorism, if they could believe what happened Friday night in Sweden. "Sweden, can you believe it?" Trump asked. No, Stephen Colbert answered on Monday's Late Show, no one believed it. "Well, not no one, but maybe someone who skips their intelligence briefings," he added, clarifying that nothing happened in Sweden on Friday night — a fact Sweden's former prime minister noted when he asked on Twitter what Trump has been smoking.

"Let's be real here," Colbert said. "This is the president of the United States. He has access to every and the latest intel at all times." So why did he appear to make up a terrorist attack in Sweden? According to Trump, he learned of a sharp increase in crime in Sweden from a Fox News report. "Oh, I guess Trump only accepts intelligence briefings with the logo 'As Seen on TV,'" Colbert said. Crime has actually dropped in Sweden since 2005, despite the country taking in thousands of immigrants, he added. "In fact, experts say 90 percent of Swedish crime actually occurs in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

"Clearly, Trump believes everything he sees on TV is real, which would explain his next tweet: 'America is a disaster! Our girls are broke! Our dead is walking! The pope's too young! It's a scandal! #shameless'," Colbert joked. "Tragically, Sweden is the third not-a-terrorist-attack that has not shocked the world in the last month. First there wasn't the Bowling Green Massacre, then no one was lost in Atlanta, and now it's not Sweden's turn. When will it begin?" But "just because this attack didn't happen, folks, doesn't mean we don't stand in solidarity with all the people who did not suffer," Colbert said, and you can watch his homage to Sweden in the video below. Peter Weber

10:40 a.m.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is pushing back against the "crazy" COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theory Fox News host Tucker Carlson floated on his highly-rated show.

Carlson in a segment on Tuesday night questioned why those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are still advised to wear masks and avoid large gatherings, proceeding to baselessly suggest of the vaccines, "Maybe it doesn't work and they're simply not telling you that." Asked to comment on these remarks on CNN on Wednesday, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, dismissed them as "crazy."

"That's just a typical crazy conspiracy theory," Fauci said. "Why would we not tell people if it doesn't work? Look at the data. The data are overwhelming."

Fauci added that "I don't have any idea what he's talking about." Asked by CNN's John Berman how "dangerous" these comments by Carlson are, Fauci said they're "certainly not helpful to the public health of this nation or even globally."

The remarks came at a key time when public health officials were seeking to prevent a rise in vaccine hesitancy after the FDA and CDC recommended a pause in Johnson & Johnson's vaccine due to six cases of blood clots. At a White House briefing on Tuesday, Fauci made the case that this pause serves as evidence of "how seriously we take safety" and should make people more confident in vaccines, noting that officials are investigating a "very rare event" seeing as just six blood clotting cases have been identified after 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the U.S.

Carlson drew heavy criticism for his baseless vaccine remarks, with former Fox host Gretchen Carlson writing, "For Fox to allow Tucker to go off the rails and tell millions it doesn't work — criminal." Brendan Morrow

10:19 a.m.

Bernie Madoff, the former Wall Street financier who was convicted of carrying out a massive Ponzi scheme, died in prison on Wednesday morning at age 82, a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson told The Daily Beast.

Madoff was carrying out his sentence at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, due to a terminal kidney disease. His death was of natural causes, The Associated Press reports, and is not believed to be COVID-19 related. In 2009, Madoff pleaded guilty and admitted to "swindling thousands of clients out of billions of dollars in investments over decades," writes AP. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison. Madoff said he was "deeply sorry and ashamed."

His scheme, considered the largest in U.S. history, nabbed an estimated $17.5 billion from investors, and "around $13 billion has been recovered since his conviction," reports The Daily Beast. The Week Staff

9:31 a.m.

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario has filed a lawsuit alleging two Virginia police officers violated his constitutional rights and assaulted him following a traffic stop in December.

As it turns out, the 27-year-old Nazario, who is Black and Latino, was related to Eric Garner, the Black man who died in Staten Island in 2014 after an officer placed him a chokehold. Garner's last words were, infamously, "I can't breathe."

Nazario called Garner his uncle, The Washington Post notes, though their exact relation, aside from sharing a cousin, is unclear. He also grew up around the corner from Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, in Brooklyn.

After Garner's death, their mutual cousin told Nazario the news and reportedly reminded him that if he was ever confronted by a police officer, he needed to "stay calm, comply, never make them feel threatened," the Post writes. As footage captured by Nazario's phone and the officers' body cameras suggests, Nazario did just that during the arrest despite the escalating situation. Carr told the Post she believes that composure and Nazario's decision to drive to a well-lit area, while unable to spare him from drawn guns and pepper spray, kept him alive. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

9:05 a.m.

Colton Underwood, former star of The Bachelor, has come out as gay in an emotional interview on Good Morning America.

Underwood, who was the star of the hit reality show's 23rd season in 2019 after previously being a contestant on The Bachelorette, opened up in a conversation with ABC's Robin Roberts that aired on Wednesday, revealing he "came to terms" with his sexuality earlier this year.

"I've ran from myself for a long time," he said. "I've hated myself for a long time."

Underwood told Roberts he struggled with thoughts of suicide and that it was a "wake-up call" when he got to a "dark" place where he "would have rather died than say I'm gay." Looking back on his time on the show, Underwood said he wishes he hadn't "dragged people into my own mess of figuring out who I was." He apologized to the women who were contestants during his season, including winner Cassie Randolph. They ended their relationship in 2020, with Randolph filing for a restraining order against Underwood that she later dropped.

"I loved everything about her," he said. "It's hard for me to articulate exactly what my emotions were in going through that relationship with her was because I obviously had an internal fight going on."

Opening up further about struggling with his sexuality, Underwood revealed that when he was cast on The Bachelor, he thanked God "for making me straight" after being raised Catholic and taught that being gay was a sin. But since coming out, Underwood said he's received "love" and "support" from his friends and family, so much so that he wishes he would have had more "faith" in them before.

"I'm emotional, but I'm emotional in such a good, happy, positive way," Underwood said. "I'm the happiest and healthiest I've ever been in my life, and that means the world to me." Brendan Morrow

7:58 a.m.

It seems recent reports about Sylvester Stallone joining former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club may not have been rock solid.

The Rocky star has shot down reports that he recently became a member of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, writing on Instagram, "I would like to say to everyone that this never happened. This is just not true. It NEVER ever happened."

It had previously been reported by Page Six that Stallone was at Trump's club last month after he bought an estate nearby, with a source claiming to the outlet, "Sly just became a member of Mar-a-Lago." That quickly drew backlash on the left, with George Takei simply tweeting, "Seriously?"

It sounds like Stallone really was at Mar-a-Lago recently, as his representative told The Hollywood Reporter he was there for a fundraising dinner, and "from that event it was mistakenly assumed that he was there as a member."

But the representative added that Rocky himself is "officially not a member of the Mar-a-Lago Club," as he "did not join the organization" or "pay initiation dues." He is, however, a member of the Breakers Club in Palm Beach. So there you have it. Stallone while denying the reports wrote on Instagram that he means "no disrespect to anyone," adding — in a phase that could probably use a comma — "so keep punching folks." Brendan Morrow

7:57 a.m.

While India, parts of South America, and other areas of the world are experiencing another wave of COVID-19, the U.S. appears to be treading water with new cases and continuing a downward trend in deaths. According to The Washington Post's tracker, the seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths was 765 on Tuesday, a slight uptick from the weekend but a rate last seen Oct. 20. A running count by economist Patrick Chovanec put Tuesday's seven-day average at 748, the lowest rate since Oct. 17.

While deaths have declined 2 percent in the past week, hospitalizations rose 2.6 percent and new cases were up 11 percent, the Post reports. And some parts of the U.S., notably Michigan, are faring much worse, with per capita cases up 18 percent to a new high and deaths rising 32 percent.

Overall, 563,449 Americans have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. And 122.3 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including 75.3 million people — or 23 percent of the U.S. population — fully vaccinated. Peter Weber

6:20 a.m.

President Biden isn't exactly coated in political Teflon, but he's "well regarded by voters" and "even Donald Trump, the Triumph the Insult Comic Dog of electoral politics, has had troubles landing a punch," Sam Stein writes at Tuesday's Politico Nightly. "His latest nickname for the president — 'Saintly Joe Biden' — was debuted to donors over the weekend. It was meant as derisive … we think."

But the bigger concern for the Republican Party, and a future Trump restoration campaign, is the lack of any real "grassroots movement emerging to confront the White House," Stein reports, noting that the Tea Party was already in full swing at this point in Barack Obama's presidency. "Biden’s perceived benignness — the difficulty in actually getting people to despise the guy" — is one reason, he argues, but the other big factor is Trump himself.

Proto-Tea Partier former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) and other Republicans told Politico that "a movement like the Tea Party emerges when people galvanize around ideas. When they galvanize around an individual, they're really just waiting for that individual to act or guide them. Put another way: While the Tea Party exploited a GOP leadership vacuum in 2009, there is a need for a vacuum in 2021." And "that may very well be the gift that Trump has given Biden," Stein said. "As the former president sits in Mar-a-Lago, plotting his next move, he has brought stasis to the Republican Party." Read more at Politico. Peter Weber

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