Roper: Steve Merrill’s question sadly needs an answer

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

In 2019, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren apologized for formerly calling herself a Native American. Will the government need to define minority “identities” to prevent this from happening again? 

By Rob Roper

Steve Merrill, who runs a cable access news program in the Northeast Kingdom, was recently banned from Gov. Phil Scott’s virtual press conferences for asking a tough question:

“Governor, you’d mentioned set-asides for the BIPOC community. What with no tribal — federal tribal recognition and, you know, reservations or anything like that, how would one qualify as indigenous?”

Merrill then made a quip about Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who in the past classified herself as Native American in situations where such a designation may have helped her more easily gain employment.

The governor’s office subsequently banned Merrill from future press conferences for not being a “real” reporter. The Vermont press corps seemed to agree, a chorus of whom chimed in that the question was offensive. Jane Lindholm of VPR tweeted, “Can I just acknowledge how offensive this line of questioning is? We’re getting into things like the one-drop rule and a longstanding racist history in this country of quantifying and qualifying people based on rubrics of race and ethnicity and who gets to ‘count.’”

Though the quip about Warren’s cheekbones may have been a little gratuitous given the setting, Merrill’s question is more than valid. In fact, it is essential that it be answered. If we are going to go down the road of passing and enforcing laws that are predicated on things like race, gender, gender identity, etc., then race, gender, and gender identity need to be legally defined. Otherwise, how can such laws be fairly enforced?

We are seeing this kind of question appear more and more. Who is legally a woman when it comes to competing in women’s sports, for women’s scholarships, for economic reward? Vermont’s marijuana legalization law, for example, is supposed to favor “minorities, women, or individuals who have historically been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition” in regard to granting licenses. Burlington — among other state and local governments — is considering paying out some sort of slavery reparations. Who would qualify to get them, and who is required to pay? Merrill’s question was about certain citizens getting earlier places in line for receiving the Covid vaccine based on their ethnicity. So, legally speaking — and, yeah, good journalistic question — what exactly does this mean, and to whom specifically does the law apply? If we are going to have “protected classes” under law and public policy, we need to know exactly who is in those classes and who is not.

Of course, Lindholm is right too. When government starts to systematically divide its citizenry by race, etc., so that it can apply laws differently to different groups, some protected and some not, the process and the result is by definition “racist.” (Someone should coin a catchy term for this kind of dynamic!) But it’s not Merrill’s line of questioning that’s offensive, it’s the underlying policy. It is what it purports to oppose, and that’s the ugly truth.

If politicians want to implement these kinds of policies, they need to be able to answer questions about how they will work. Kicking the questioner out of the room is not acceptable. Merrill’s offense isn’t that he was the only person in the room not acting like a real journalist. His offense is, he was the only one who was. If this ban is allowed to stand, it will create a true chilling effect on the exercise of our and our media’s First Amendment rights.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr

10 thoughts on “Roper: Steve Merrill’s question sadly needs an answer

    • We all know this is happening. The question is, what can we do? We’re slowly descending into a bizarre police state wherein the new tyrants hide behind extremely questionable medical “data.” All of this data has been refuted, but it simply doesn’t matter.

      Now we’re told that even with vaccines we might have to social distance for years to come due to new strains coming out. With all the gain-of-function research going on throughout the world, is our fate to be continually bombarded by novel pathogens that force us to stay safe? Even assuming that SARS-CoV-2 is a natural virus, can we afford the risk of escaping novel viruses whose laboratory purpose is enhanced pathogenicity? This is what gain-of-function research is about.

      Meanwhile, the wrongly discredited drugs, hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, can act against any new strains since their basic action is as broad-spectrum antivirals against coronaviruses (and likely against other viruses as well.) Yet the new tyrants refuse to allow the people to have these drugs.

      What can we do besides protest?

  1. I have not called in to ask a question for the covid TV show because they are most likely screening the questions and would not let me ask it. Even if they did, they would then cut me off because it would embarrass the gov. THE KING HAS NO CLOTHES!!!

  2. They say (gov staff) wants only real reporters/journalists well we Vermonters want a REAL Governor.
    As for Elizabeth Warren, even her parents said there’s no Native American blood in the family. I am part Irish and Native American, but when people ask me what nationality am I I just tell them I am AMERICAN. Next Warren will say she’s Black..

  3. Turned out Warren has 1/1024 Native people blood and 1023/1024 European blood mixture, because 10 generations ago, one of her forefathers was intimate with a Native, according to her family folklore.

    It is completely hilarious for her to call herself a Native.
    She likely did it for political purposes.
    Please love me and vote for me!

    It turns out, the average American has a greater than 1/1024 ratio!

    Fortunately, they are sane enough not to call themselves Natives

  4. Great question, he’s a real reporter,

    that’s why they asked him to leave.

    Vermont does not want real reporters in Montpelier. Vermont government is only interested in towing the party line, the NWO party line.

    Well done Rob, Well done Steve……somebody else needs to ask the question. The whole press crew should ask the question, it’s a reasonable question.

    • He is “A true reporter”, Asking to complete the story, not stop in the middle.

      “How” is the perfect Reporters question

      not just a transcriptionist of what the Governor says,
      which of course is the only true thing.

  5. Thanks Rob: Well written as usual. This comment you made in the article almost says it all. “If politicians want to implement these kinds of policies, they need to be able to answer questions about how they will work. Kicking the questioner out of the room is not acceptable. Merrill’s offense isn’t that he was the only person in the room not acting like a real journalist. His offense is, he was the only one who was. If this ban is allowed to stand, it will create a true chilling effect on the exercise of our and our media’s First Amendment rights.”

    I say almost, because I think maybe there was another question that Steve Merrill asked that triggered the need to get him kicked out of the COVID-19 briefings. His question about the PCR test could be that reason. In another article written here on TNR, Michael Bielawski, wrote: “Merrill recently posed questions concerning the accuracy of the PCR test, the popular coronavirus test used in Vermont and much of the nation despite concerns that it may produce false-positives. “The guy who invented it [Kary Mullis] … said it’s not to be used as a test to diagnose anything,” Merrill said.”

    There is real science out there to support what he questioned but as with anything that does not fit the left-wing narrative, it is blocked and demeaned. As a pharmacist, I can tell you that what I read in this regard is very credible and the PCR test can be manipulated by the number of amplification cycles that are used to magnify anything it is looking for. When you get to a certain level of that, you get false positives. The question should be what the number of amplification cycles are being used. If any reporter gets to ask the governor or the Commissioner of Health a question on this, ask them the number of amplification cycles that are used when evaluating Vermont tests? If they do not know the answer, ask them to get it.

    For more on this read this link below. Dr. Mercola says anything over 17 amplifications will produce false positives. When you get to 35 or 40 amplifications, the false positives outweigh the positives. Anything below 20 amplifications you probably have the disease but above that it becomes very questionable.

    Sounds like he was asking a truly journalistic question here but not one that could comfortably be addressed by a press conference that will not allow for a scientific question that does not meet their liking.

    Could it be?

  6. Thank you Rob for saying it straight. I have watched the governor’s COVID sessions and am amazed at the plethora of stupid nitty gritty questions. I don’t give a damn why Suzy got a vaccination before Johnny did. This pissing and moaning on the part of so many journalists just shows that they are fishing for conflict to exploit in their writings, real or not.

    • That’s precisely why I can’t bring myself to watch these disgusting conferences.

      Perhaps they should allow real people (not employed by a ‘news’ organization) to ask real questions once a month.

      Our governor should stop his staff from trying to shield him from hard questions – it makes him look more like the bully he is.

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