Rachel Herzog of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette expanded this morning on a story first broken last week by the Daily Beast and it’s a doozy.
In short, Huckstering is BACK in Arkansas and not only because the former Gov. Mike Huckabee has established a home in Little Rock. Just imagine what grifts the former governor can cook up if his daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, moves into the Governor’s Mansion. You have to wonder if that prospect might have figured in Education Secretary Johnny Key’s receptiveness to this Huckster money-maker.
It centers on a company co-founded by Huckabee, EverBright Media, best known for publishing right-wing histories for kids, sometimes with a Trumpian built-in automatic renewal payment plan. In 2020, it struck a deal with the state Education Department to provide $245,300 worth of booklets, “the Kids Guide to the Coronavirus.” How? A Republican political operative who does work for Huckabee and the publishing company, Chad Gallagher, pitched the idea to former Republican senator Key and he was happy to buy. He used federal pandemic relief money (which Huckabee sometimes has problems with in other settings).
Key’s description, through a spokesman, of the value of the booklets, doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. He said it would help children understand why they should wear masks. Herzog reports:
But the booklet doesn’t talk about the benefits of mask-wearing. Though they encourage children to social distance, wash their hands and use good hygiene, one section discouraging hoarding of supplies states in part that “face masks aren’t recommended as a way of preventing Coronavirus for healthy people.”
The state wasted a quarter-million on booklets that discourages use of masks and thus lends comfort to the already strong resistance in Arkansas.
That’s not all of the grift. The state is going to spend $265,448 to send an “updated” version of the booklet to Arkansas kids this year. And, who knows? Perhaps for many years to come.
Gallagher insists the book will be updated and include talk of the importance of vaccines.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, congratulations. You’re a subscriber to Huckabee’s political tract of the month club.
I’ve asked for email communications between Gallagher and Key. I’ve asked if the state is committed to spending $265,000 more without reviewing the content first.
UPDATE: The state says it has reviewed the second publication but it hasn’t been completed. But they reviewed the first and said nothing about the bad mask comment. I’ve asked for the draft version.
It might not surprise you to know that the Centers for Disease Control provides a wealth of free information for families and children about COVID-19. The American Psychological Association published a kids’ guide to coronavirus for younger children that is available FREE by download. That book’s advice on masks:
You might see people wear masks when they go outside. You might even get one of your own. Super-heroes wear masks to protect their secret identities, right? Now super-people everywhere are wearing masks to protect each other from coronavirus.
Perhaps Johnny Key should look into this bargain. Or any of a number of other resources available free on the web targeting children. Perhaps Governor Hutchinson, who wrote a cover letter for the first edition, will at least take care to see that masks aren’t knocked in the updated version the state is planning to purchase. You think a legislative committee, which has time to review faculty assignments at the UALR Law School and assorted other trivia, might have time to review this half-million, politically connected expenditure?
The Daily Beast articles details the way Huckabee’s company EverBright Media, has ridden the Trump train by promoting conservative “books” masquerading as education. It presents quite a bill of particulars including the companies use of testimonials attributed to people whose photos apparently came from a stock photo house.
There are lot more ideas where this one came from. If things go according to plan, state government will be more receptive than ever come January 2023.
Bring on the Velveeta!
And the Better Business Bureau perhaps should prepare to gear up. See some recent complaints.
Here’s another account of an unsatisfied customer, who got suckered into buying the “flimsy” coronavirus pamphlet and found herself locked into other purchases from the Huckster’s company, heavy on Trump propaganda.