White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a daily White House news briefing at the White House on July 2, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

How ‘Misinformation’ Becomes Common Knowledge. Plus. . .

Nellie Bowles on Gavin Newsom. Tanya Gold on ‘The Bear.’ A neurologist on Biden. The Free Press Book Club. And much more.

On today’s Front Page from The Free Press: why Gavin Newsom won’t save the Dems; a neurologist diagnoses Biden; the overwrought cooking at the heart of ‘The Bear’; and much more. 

But first, here’s Nellie Bowles, introducing today’s lead stories from Joe Nocera and Timur Kuran. 

When the legacy media encounters an inconvenient fact—Biden’s age, say, or Hunter’s laptop, or the lab leak, or the complexity of puberty blockers, or the riots of the summer of 2020—it likes to take some time to process the problem. 

Reporters need to discuss the issue over dinner, wring their hands about what to do, get yelled at for possible thought crimes by a righteously angry intern, mull some more, get yelled at again by another intern. To have more drinks, more meetings.

There’s no rush to tell the American public about anything inconvenient. It’s important to be careful. To keep that information private for a year, maybe two years. Maybe three. 

But at a certain point—once a critical mass of outside, independent voices who don’t follow the same set of rules and who don’t covet what the reporters covet—say the inconvenient thing, finally and with a collective sigh, the mainstream press can tightly hold hands, take a step together, and recite in unison: Biden is in mental decline

If the spectacle of watching every legacy publication suddenly stand together and say just that gave you vertigo, it’s understandable. Did they all just happen to notice our aging president at once? Of course not.

Every White House reporter, every fancy magazine profiler, they knew exactly what was going on with Joe Biden. They just didn’t think you, the reader, were ready to know. Also, did we mention the risk of getting yelled at by an intern? That’s hard. 

The Biden era has to be one of the least covered White Houses in modern history. Read the mainstream press, and you’d think Trump had been president these last four years. 

The strangest part is how obvious it all is. Our president is 81. Is it really that hard to believe that someone who is 81 would suffer cognitive decline and show it? This is what happens to a lot of people in their 80s. It’s mortality. But acknowledging and reporting on mortality—when it doesn’t suit your political ends—is apparently too much to ask. 

Today we bring two important pieces about this phenomenon, one by Joe Nocera and one by Timur Kuran. They help explain how it is that the mainstream media could pretend Biden’s aging mind was either a nonfactor or a crazy thing to worry about. Until suddenly—boom—it was a simple fact. A truth universally acknowledged. 

As an aside, this is in part why The Free Press is necessary. If there’s a conspiracy of silence around a topic, that’s what we want to puncture. We’re not driven by which side gains or loses from our publishing the truth. We side with the truth, convenient or inconvenient, popular or unpopular. And we’re grateful to you for supporting that mission. —NB 

Read Joe Nocera on how the mainstream media consistently gave us one narrative, when the opposite was true. 

Read Timur Kuran to find out why smart people follow the herd. 

And become a paid subscriber to The Free Press today: 

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  1. More post-debate polls have now landed, and—contrary to the claims of the Biden campaign—they show that the president has lost ground. The day before the debate, Trump had a 1.6 point lead over Joe Biden in the Real Clear Politics polling average. By Tuesday afternoon, that gap had widened to 2.4 points. (Real Clear Politics)

  2. Are things any better in the battleground states? Not according to post-debate internal Democratic polling leaked to Puck. It shows a bloodbath in the states that matter, with the president dropping by about 2 points in “core” battlegrounds. Biden is losing by 10 points in Georgia and Arizona, and is leading by only a tiny margin in places like Virginia, Maine, and New Mexico, once seen as safely Democratic. The survey also shows the president polling behind Kamala Harris. (Puck

  3. Hunter Biden has started showing up to meetings with his father and senior aides. That’s the big change we know of in Biden’s workplace since the debate, bringing in someone who would likely fail a background check for this kind of role were he not the president’s son. No wonder, as Axios reports, everyone inside the White House is “freaking the fuck out.” (NBC)

  4. The Anti-Defamation League is pressing state attorneys general to investigate the tax-exempt status of two anti-Israel groups linked to protests in support of Hamas since October 7. These organizations claim to be in the business of “current affairs education.” The ADL’s ten-page letter to New York Attorney General Letitia James lays out a grim picture of antisemitic speech, ties to terrorist organizations, and suspicious accounting. (Washington Examiner

  5. Suspected Chinese spy bases in Cuba are getting much more extensive, according to satellite images. The surveillance technology there could be used to spy on U.S. citizens. And yet some still wonder if we are in a new Cold War. (Wall Street Journal)

  6. French parties have stepped up their cooperation to limit the number of seats Marine Le Pen’s National Rally wins in the second round of parliamentary elections on Sunday. More than 200 candidates have announced they are stepping aside to avoid a split in the anti-RN vote. (Reuters

  7. Ahead of Britain’s election on Thursday, Nigel Farage’s populist Reform party is outperforming the governing Conservatives among young voters. It’s part of a broader trend, also visible in France, of under-30s abandoning the center and breaking left and right. An anonymous British Zoomer explains why. (Matt Goodwin)

  8. Why are there so few conservative professors? And can anything be done about it? Steve Teles dives deeply to unravel the tangle of factors that made higher ed so hostile to conservatives. (Chronicle of Higher Education

  9. Everyone loves a good rant, and today’s screed comes from Freddie deBoer, who has fallen out of love with today’s NBA. “I just hate watching the modern NBA, where teams have made the correct tactical decision to just launch and launch and launch three-pointers and in so doing made the project frequently unwatchable.” (Freddie deBoer

  10.  Those crazy kids known as Gen Z have found an unlikely anthem in Billy Joel’s “Vienna.” They say it captures their ennui. Not so ambitious for juveniles! (The Guardian

It’s only two months old, but you guys are already getting hooked on the Free Press Book Club, where each month one of our writers recommends a new book they love and pairs it with a classic work from the past. Last month, our host was veteran Free Presser Peter Savodnik, who picked two books about yuppies—and his essay, published on Saturday, generated a lively debate in the comments about whether this slice of American society really explains all our problems.

So, given how enthusiastic you’ve all been about the book club, we wanted to let you know that in July, it’s going to be hosted by one of our newest staff writers, River Page, who’s already made his pick. Rest assured, it’s epic—a deep dive into the dark heart of an American subculture that is too often overlooked. “I couldn’t put the book down,” River says. “People will love it.”

All will be revealed at the end of the month. But if you really can’t wait to find out what River’s recommendation is, you might be interested to know that we have 15 copies of it sitting in the Free Press office right now. And we want to send them to subscribers who love a good story as much as we do. We’re looking for people who still make time to sit down and read a book cover to cover—and then share their thoughts on it. If that sounds like you, please write to us at and tell us why you want early access to this month’s book club. You’ll hear from us if a book is coming your way. Don’t forget to include a postal address! 

We’ll also be hosting a real-life book club, in a part of America that The Free Press has never ventured to before. Stay tuned for more details. And in the meantime, happy reading! 

→ Biden has Parkinsonism, a neurologist tells The Free Press: On yesterday’s Front Page, Emily Yoffe called for the president to address questions about his fitness for office by undergoing a medical assessment conducted by a group of independent doctors and making the findings public. Biden’s team doesn’t appear to have any appetite for further medical scrutiny. Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said a cognitive test was “not warranted in this case.” 

But whether the White House likes it or not, medical experts are observing Biden closely and coming to their own conclusions. One of them, an emeritus professor of neurology at a top medical school, wrote to Emily to say he thinks the president has Parkinsonism. He did not want to be named, for fear of making himself a target. Here’s his full note: 

Dear Ms. Yoffe,

I read your piece in The Free Press on President Biden’s obvious neurologic illness.

Neurologists frequently make diagnoses by observation. In fact, most movement disorder diagnoses are made by direct observation or description by patients and families. Mr. Biden has Parkinsonism, an umbrella term that refers to neurologic conditions that cause slowed movements, rigidity, and tremors. By observation, he has a masked face, reduced blinking, stiff and slow gait, hunched posture, low volume voice, imbalance, freezing, mild cognitive disturbance, and difficulty turning. I have seen one video of tremor. All these diagnose Parkinsonism. He would need further investigation by experts to determine which specific disease within the broad term he has, such as idiopathic Parkinson’s disease or another specific disease.

While there is no cure for the many conditions comprising Parkinsonism, there are effective treatments for many of the symptoms. By failing to get a diagnosis, the president is denying himself such treatments, and so worsens his own situation.

The long history in the U.S. of so many “covering” for the president going back to Woodrow Wilson should now be broken.

→ The trouble with Gavin: The quick-witted, smooth-talking governor of California would be an obvious pick for Biden’s replacement—in some ways. Gavin Newsom has been Biden’s surrogate throughout the campaign, and he’s good at it, always appearing vigorous and alive, seeming to genuinely enjoy sparring with Republicans. He’s charming; he’s dashing; he’s funny. And he runs the most important state in the union, California, the world’s fifth-largest economy. You can complain about its politics all you want (I do, I have, I will in the following paragraphs), but the numbers don’t lie: the state is a world power unto itself. Plus, there is his age. Newsom looks like a teenager next to our gerontocracy. He is only 56 years old. Sure, that’s about ten years older than Bill Clinton and Barack Obama when they began their terms, but that’s not what matters. To our eyes now, adjusted for Trump and Biden, a 56-year-old president is basically a teen mom—shocking, wild, vibrant

You know what else is going in Gavin Newsom’s favor? His ex-wife is Donald Trump Jr.’s fiancée, which is funny, strange, and definitely falls in the pro column. Plus, he’s managed to wrangle the rest of California’s political class of corrupt communists without ever seeming too corrupt or too communist himself. He’s done some vaguely moderate things. I do believe Gavin Newsom believes in the free market, and that’s a big deal for an elected Californian in the year 2024. 

But Gavin Newsom would probably fail as a Biden replacement. Because he does, I’ve heard, have weaknesses. What are they? 

Well, there’s the homelessness situation. California’s cities are overrun with tent encampments. Root causes: lack of cheap housing thanks to “environmentalists” and neighborhood heritage types who block anything that’s not a single-family home, preferably with a chicken run out back. Also: empathetic-seeming but insane drug policies that all but pay people to do more fentanyl. 

There’s the high-speed rail. This boondoggle has so far cost $18 billion across 15 years, with no train in sight, though the project randomly announces a few feet of track has been laid in a desert every couple years. The top railroad operator in France was supposed to help build it before abandoning the state to build one in a region that was “less politically dysfunctional” (that region: North Africa). 

There’s the fact that California’s required ethnic studies courses are pretty antisemitic. There’s the fact that Newsom was eating indoors with all his friends at the French Laundry during the pandemic when everyone else was banned from indoor dining. I mean, don’t even get me started on Gavin’s lockdown policies. 

As for the top issue on many voters’ minds: he’s not exactly an Abolish ICE guy, but he’s not particularly strong on the border. You’ve heard of sanctuary cities, but Newsom wants the whole state to be “a sanctuary to all who seek it.” Which is a lovely notion but. . . the entire world would like to move to California for a little Santa Monica sanctuary. 

Personally, I like Gavin. (Stop throwing things at me, I am who I am!) But he’s too vulnerable on too many hot-button national topics right now, and I think the DNC knows that. —Nellie Bowles

→ Panic attack on a plate: I am a restaurant critic, and in 2018, I ate at what had just been named the best restaurant in the world. Osteria Francescana, in Modena, is run by the famous chef Massimo Bottura, and to dine there feels like eating his internal life. His memory of a childhood holiday in Normandy was lamb, kelp, and cider; his description of autumn in Northern Italy was mushrooms, chestnuts, and truffles. It was not unpleasant, but it was odd, with an intensity I just don’t want from food. 

I kept eating because the meal would cost the newspaper I was writing for a fortune, and it would be rude not to, but my digestive system was a victim and a pawn. The dish I liked best was the lasagna. It was a tiny moment of sanity—too tiny. A portion for ants.

But that is the tasting menu restaurant for you: an invitation to a chef’s inner life. It isn’t about you and the food you love: it’s about them and their desire to impress and remake the world on tiny plates. That is what I think when I watch The Bear, which has just reemerged for its third season.

It follows Carmen Berzatto—a highly trained chef, played by Jeremy Allen White, who has returned home to Chicago to turn his recently dead brother’s sandwich shop into a restaurant worthy of a Michelin star. People loved the sandwiches: they queued around the block for them. They only admire Carm’s would-be Michelin-starred food. There’s a difference and I think it’s this: the first satiates the diner. The second satiates the chef. 

In flashbacks, we see that Carm got his start at a restaurant in New York City. Its kitchen is like an operating theater. I think it’s based on either Per Se or Eleven Madison Park, tasting menu palaces that Michelin stars fall on like snow. The former is run by Thomas Keller, who has a cameo in this season of The Bear. Working in this restaurant, Carm is tortured by the head chef. In Season 3 they meet again, and he tells Carm he needed to be tortured to be great. 

What becomes of this torture? I have reviewed both restaurants. Per Se, I hated. I thought it pretentious and loveless, a glossy cave above Columbus Circle, preening with self-love, serving quite repulsive food. Sitting before Keller’s plates, I thought: What does this food, so tiny and overwrought, have to do with me? Why am I eating a panic attack that isn’t my own? When I got back to the hotel, I threw up.

Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park was better: that is, I didn’t feel actively hated there. It was just weird. The duck with lavender flying from its ass was good, but unnecessary. I don’t know what Humm’s variations of turnip were trying to do. Perhaps Humm was trying to save the turnip—but why elevate it above all root vegetables?

Food can do anything—Massimo Bottura told me that—and I want chefs to do less with it. I love these guys, I admire them, I pity them. But for all I have eaten, the meal I loved best was red snapper, pulled from the Caribbean Sea, and cooked in a shack only half rebuilt after a hurricane. It had a simplicity and an honesty to it. That is, it was happy to be itself. —Tanya Gold 

Brian writes: In honor (or should that be honour?) of your British editor, I recommend Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore. There are no new recordings (that I know of), but two excellent snippets are on YouTube, one from Sideshow Bob and one from Star Trek’s Picard, Data, and Worf. And if you want the whole thing, then you can’t go wrong with the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston’s cast recording. (Houston and Victorian comic opera—who knew?) 

Faith recommends another speech by Frederick Douglass: Follow “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” with Douglass’s “The Slaveholders’ Rebellion.” Delivered in Himrod’s, New York, on July 4, 1862, it demonstrates Douglass’s love and admiration for this country and his conviction that it belonged to all, regardless of race. What a shame these two speeches are never read in tandem. Worse, the latter has been all but forgotten. I guess it doesn’t fit the narrative.

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Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

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