News & Politics

'Blind Side' Author Slams Heritage Foundation on Coronavirus: 'They're All Under a Rock.' FACT CHECK: False

Kay Coles James, photo credit Gage Skidmore.

On Thursday, left-leaning journalist and author Michael Lewis slammed the Heritage Foundation and libertarians (as if Heritage were libertarian rather than conservative), claiming that “they’re all under a rock” during the coronavirus crisis. Fact Check: Pants on Fire. The Heritage Foundation has not only produced research on the coronavirus pandemic, but its National Coronavirus Recovery Commission has released concrete guidance to fight the virus and boost the economy. The Heritage Foundation also briefed President Donald Trump as he formulated his guidance for reopening the economy.

Lewis, author of Moneyball, The Blind Side, and The Big Short, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the Heritage Foundation had not addressed the crisis.

“This isn’t gonna last two weeks. We’re going to be living with this for a long time … You’re not hearing a lot from libertarians. Where’s the Heritage Foundation, you know? They’re all under a rock right now,” he said at an Axios virtual event.

Lewis appears to have attacked Heritage in order to bolster his advocacy for an aggressive one-size-fits-all federal government response to the coronavirus.

“Most of the time, the vast majority of the time, you have no sense of what the government did because they prevented something. Here we have a case where the bad thing happened … and you can see the performance of our government compared to foreign governments. You can also see the effect of having a problem that is naturally centralized that really should be managed from one spot not being managed from one spot,” Lewis said.

Yet Lewis was extremely mistaken. While there is some overlap between the Heritage Foundation’s conservative advocacy and the libertarian approach to shrinking the size and scope of the federal government, Heritage is not a libertarian think tank but a conservative one.

More importantly, he could not be more wrong on Heritage being “under a rock.” Instead, the conservative think tank launched the 17-expert National Coronavirus Recovery Commission in April. The commission has released 179 recommendations for governments and business leaders to reopen America. The White House is considering the commission’s ideas.

In addition to the commission’s work, the Heritage Foundation has released 218 research articles and reports on the coronavirus, held 74 briefings on the crisis, and had experts participate in 165 television interviews and 347 radio and podcast interviews. The foundation has had 927 print mentions regarding its work on the coronavirus, according to a statement Heritage released on Friday.

Rob Bluey, vice president of communications at Heritage, addressed Lewis’s claim head-on.

“We’ve been producing policy research on the coronavirus pandemic ever since it began. We even created the National Coronavirus Recovery Commission to put forward recommendations for all of society, not just some centrally-managed government approach that you prefer,” Bluey said in a video statement.

Axios later added a note to its report on the interview with Lewis. “Worth noting: The Heritage Foundation has launched its own National Coronavirus Recovery Commission, which put forth 179 recommendations for government and business leaders to safely reopen the economy,” the outlet added.

In reality, Michael Lewis is the one “under a rock,” the Heritage Foundation quipped.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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