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Ricketts fires back at criticism from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow
special report

Ricketts fires back at criticism from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow

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LINCOLN — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts on Friday fired back at MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow, who on Thursday night criticized the Republican governor for “not letting anyone know what’s happening” with infections in the state’s meatpacking plants, nursing homes and prisons.

Ricketts, during his daily coronavirus briefing, said Maddow’s claim was “factually wrong” because he had released aggregate information earlier Thursday about the number of infections involving meatpacking workers and residents and staff at nursing homes.

Pete Ricketts mug

Pete Ricketts

“She has her own agenda,” the governor said.

Ricketts’ spokesman, Taylor Gage, later tweeted that Maddow was spreading “fake news” and engaging in “totally blind partisan gamesmanship.”

Thursday, Ricketts said 1,005 of the state’s 6,771 positive cases reported at that time involved meatpacking plant workers, and that 267 nursing home residents and 188 staffers at those facilities have tested positive. Fifty-seven of the state’s 86 COVID-19 deaths as of Wednesday evening involved nursing home residents.

He said he would provide only “aggregate” state numbers on such infections, and would not specifically identify how many infections came from a specific plant or nursing home — figures that some people who live near such facilities are seeking.

Ricketts did not discuss on Thursday the number of infections within state prisons, which so far have seen five workers — but no inmates — test positive.

Maddow pointed out on her show that Nebraska hasn’t tested any prison inmates.

“What do you think the odds are that no prisoners in Nebraska have coronavirus?” she asked. Some other states have conducted widespread testing of inmates and found numerous infections involving inmates who are asymptomatic. One Ohio prison, for instance, reported that 80% of its inmates tested positive.

The Nebraska Department of Corrections has said it is testing only those inmates who show symptoms, and no inmates have presented the symptoms to warrant testing.

Maddow, in recent nightly shows, has harshly criticized both Nebraska and Iowa for not ordering the closing of meatpacking plants, where infections have spiked in recent weeks. About 1 in 6 infections in Nebraska, for instance, have come so far from the state’s hog- and beef-processing facilities, and the per-capita growth in positive cases in counties with meatpacking facilities has been among the highest in the country.

“This is the kind of thing you go down in the history books for, Gov. Ricketts,” Maddow said. “You’re going to be famous for this, long after you’re gone.”


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Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-670-2402

Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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