Lester Holt cites ‘free will,’ ‘mistrust in science’ for partial blame on 1 million COVID deaths mark

While closing out his Wednesday night newscast for NBC’s “Nightly News,” Lester Holt took a moment to reflect on the fact that the country has crossed a “soul-crushing milestone” by surpassing one million deaths from COVID-19.

It was a moment for gravitas and a degree of magnanimity, given that these deaths can be attributed in no small measure to the actions of the Chinese Communist Party and the inadequacies of the federal government and its response to the pandemic. Instead, as Fox News reported, Holt chose to blame “free will” for the resultant death toll, essentially shifting the onus for the casualties onto the victims themselves.

“Today’s soul-crushing milestone,” Holt explained in his monologue, “comes just as we begin to peek out from behind our masks, lower our guard, willing the pandemic to be over.” As he spoke, a montage of caskets and people at airports and in airplanes played on the screen.

“But the slowly rising tally of the dead won’t let it be, and forces us to confront some tough questions—like how many of those one million deaths might have been prevented. We counted on the tools, the vaccines, the masks, the distancing—but we forgot about the unpredictability of free will, mistrust in science, and simple human behavior,” Holt continued, as images of anti-vaccine and anti-mandate protests were shown.

Holt continued: “It was hard enough to process 750,000 deaths, 500,000, a quarter-million before that—each milepost leaving us as unsure as the next as to what such a moment called for. Maybe because the pandemic changed our rituals of death and grief. Tearful goodbyes between families and dying loved ones, not at bed sides, but via iPad. Funerals delayed or bypassed altogether. At the moments we most needed the comfort of others, we were forced to be apart. How could it not have changed us?”

Interestingly, there was no reflection by Holt on why such measures were enacted, and whether they were necessary to contain the pandemic. Nor was there any acknowledgment that the majority of COVID deaths have occurred on Biden’s watch.

Introspection of this kind has been widely lacking in the media, and despite Holt’s brief and obligatory COVID retrospective, occasioned by the one-million-death milestone, most mainstream outlets seem to have little interest in exploring the COVID response—in “re-litigating the past,” as they like to say. Holt’s monologue seemed to imply that if only the public had obeyed, with unquestioning and childlike trust, the diktats of “experts” like Fauci, there would not be one million COVID deaths.

“One million dead sounds like an ending to a horrible story, not a chapter, but that’s what it is,” Holt continued. “A number that shakes our consciousness, demands our attention, forces us to pause and consider who and what we have lost.”

“You’ve got to believe there are better days ahead,” Holt concluded his remarks.

The exercise of free will, of course, is one of the hallmarks of a democratic society—but a plurality of media outlets, including Holt’s NBC, demonized and “othered” those who protested or even merely questioned the advisability of unceasing lockdowns, to say nothing of draconian mask and vaccine mandates, during the pandemic.


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Todd Jaquith


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