On Wednesday, CBS News reported that the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has fired Emily Skala, their principal flutist for more than three decades, after she repeatedly promoted conspiracy theories on social media.
"Principal Flutist Emily Skala has been dismissed from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in accordance with the progressive discipline policy agreed to in our collective bargaining agreement with the Musicians' Association of Metropolitan Baltimore Local 40-543, AFM," said Peter Kjome, the BSO President. "Ms. Skala has had discipline imposed upon her over these past few months; unfortunately, she has repeated the conduct for which she had been previously disciplined, and dismissal was the necessary and appropriate reaction to this behavior."
"Skala had a history of sharing conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the 2020 election," noted the report. "She'd claimed COVID-19 was made in a lab in North Carolina and sold to a lab in Wuhan, China, where it was then planted in a wet market ... Skala reportedly also made incendiary comments in internal emails. She defended herself in a March letter to The Baltimore Sun, claiming management had created a hostile work environment."
Skala, who admits she went maskless in her workplace when dropping off tax forms, told the Sun that the BSO has "repeatedly violated my constitutional rights in response to audience and donor and subscriber pressure," and "committed many crimes against me."
The world of music is currently facing a reckoning with COVID-19 deniers in their midst, as the Delta variant raises new questions about the safety of large public events. The 90s punk-rock group The Offspring recently announced they are parting ways with their drummer Pete Parada after he declined to be vaccinated.
QAnon follower to plead guilty after threatening 'crazy stupid' attack in DC tied to Trump's 'reinstatement'
A QAnon follower from Wisconsin is set to plead guilty, after threatening a "crazy stupid" attack in Washington, D.C. on March 3 – a day before some who adhere to the conspiracy theory believed former president Donald Trump would be inaugurated again, the Journal Sentinel reports.
Ian Olson, 31, was arrested 12 days later after he drove a car spray-painted with QAnon slogans to an Army Reserve Center in Wisconsin, before getting out and firing paintballs at two Reservists while screaming, "This is for America!" until his AR-15-style rifle jammed.
FBI terrorism agents subsequently began investigating Olson, who vowed to cause a "mass casualty" event if he was released from jail, and said he'd just returned from Washington where he "attempted to deliver a message."
The Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly warned about possible violence associated with the QAnon belief that Trump will somehow be reinstated, and numerous QAnon followers have been arrested on charges stemming from the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
After Olson's arrest, authorities discovered a variety of weapons and other gear in his car and home, including a real AR-15, seven magazines of ammunition, a gas mask, throwing knives, two-way radios, military-style vest plates, and a three-page, hand-written "manifesto" with a number of comments referencing "Q" and "my plan," the local Fox affiliate reported.
In Washington, Olson had approached some National Guardsmen and announced he was "maybe going to do something crazy stupid tomorrow," asking them not to shoot him. Olson said he wanted to "test the National Guard to see if they were loyal to the people or to the president," and that he was "willing to die to fulfill this mission." He also claimed he had been "taken over by the Spirit of Christ to lead the people to unity."
Capitol police officers took Olson into custody for a psychiatric evaluation. He was hospitalized for four days and diagnosed with a "brief psychotic disorder," before being given medication and released — whereupon he returned to Wisconsin.
Olson faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison, a $10,000 fine and one year of supervised release on federal charges related to his attack on the Army Reserve center. His plea hearing is set for Aug. 18.
DOJ officials shot down colleague's attempt to interfere in Georgia's election certification: report
The aftermath of the United States' 2020 presidential election was unprecedented in U.S. history; never before had a president who was decisively voted out of office refused to concede, made false and debunked claims of widespread voter fraud, and tried to overturn the election results in states that he lost. One of those states was Georgia, and according to new reporting from ABC News, officials for the U.S. Department of Justice rejected a fellow DOJ official's request to possibly overturn now-President Joe Biden's victory in that state.
In an article posted on ABC News' website on August 3, journalists Katherine Faulders and Alexander Mallin report that "e-mails dated December 28, 2020 show the former acting head of DOJ's civil division, Jeffrey Clark, circulating a draft letter — which he wanted then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue to sign off on — urging Georgia's governor and other top officials to convene the state legislature into a special session so lawmakers could investigate claims of voter fraud."
The draft letter, which has been posted on ABC News' website, was addressed to three Republicans: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and Georgia State Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller. And it reads, "The Department of Justice is investigating various irregularities in the 2020 election for President of the United States. The Department will update you as we are able on investigatory progress, but at this time we have identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple States, including the State of Georgia."
The draft letter also says, "While the Department of Justice believe[s] the Governor of Georgia should immediately call a special session to consider this important and urgent matter, if he declines to do so, we share with you our view that the Georgia General Assembly has implied authority under the Constitution of the United States to call itself into special session for [t]he limited purpose of considering issues pertaining to the appointment of Presidential Electors."
In December 2020, Trump was furious when Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both conservative Republicans, rejected his claim that widespread voter fraud had occurred in Georgia. Both Kemp and Raffensperger acknowledged that Biden legitimately won Georgia, which was heavily Republican in the past but has evolved into a swing state. Biden's victory in Georgia in November 2020 was followed by two more statewide Democratic victories when the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won special U.S. Senate races in Georgia in January 2021, giving Democrats a narrow Senate majority and making Chuck Schumer Senate majority leader rather than Senate minority leader.
Other prominent Republicans who rejected the Big Lie — Trump's false claims of widespread voter fraud — in December 2020 included then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Although Barr had been one of Trump's most outspoken loyalists and defended him vigorously during the Ukraine scandal and Trump's first impeachment, he rejected Trump's bogus voter fraud claims. And Trump was furious when Barr told the Associated Press that he had "not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome of the election."
Donoghue, according to Faulders and Mallin, flatly rejected Clark's request to send out the draft letter — saying, "There is no chance that I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this. While it may be true that the Department 'is investigating various irregularities in the 2020 election for President' (something we typically would not state publicly) the investigations that I am aware of relate to suspicions of misconduct that are of such a small scale that they simply would not impact the outcome of the Presidential Election."
Donoghue quoted Barr in his response to Clark, saying, "Given that, I cannot imagine a scenario in which the Department would recommend that a State assemble its legislature to determine whether already-certified election results should somehow be overriden by legislative action."
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