Biden Tells States to Make All Adults Eligible for Covid-19 Vaccine by May 1

WASHINGTON—President Biden pressed states to widen Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to all U.S. adults by May 1, calling for an all-hands effort to defeat the coronavirus to set the stage for small gatherings during Independence Day weekend.

“If we do this together, by July the Fourth, there’s a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” Mr. Biden said during a Thursday night prime-time address from the White House, his first as president.

The president spoke on the same day that he signed into law a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, one year after much of the U.S. economy ground to a halt, as the virus spread. In a 23-minute speech, Mr. Biden said the U.S. was operating on a war footing and urged the weary public to maintain vigilance against the virus. He also reflected on the toll that the pandemic has taken on millions of Americans.

“While it was different for everyone, we all lost something—a collective suffering, a collective sacrifice, a year filled with the loss of life and the loss of living,” Mr. Biden said. At one point, he held up a piece of paper he regularly carries with him that lists the current pandemic death toll.

At times, Mr. Biden struck an optimistic tone—touting the administration’s progress in its early stages—but he also reminded Americans that a return to normalcy would require caution and an adherence to public-health guidelines. Whether Americans will be able to gather in small groups by early July will depend on how successful the vaccination effort is, the president emphasized. “I will not relent until we beat this virus, but I need you, the American people,” Mr. Biden said. “There is hope and light and better days ahead, if we all do our part.”

The federal government, which doles out vaccines to states, has largely let them determine how to prioritize people for shots. An HHS spokesperson said the administration has “full authority” to direct that vaccines supplied to states by the federal government be distributed in accordance with its guidance.

Mr. Biden has said the U.S. will have enough supply for all American adults by the end of May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue issuing guidance explaining what individuals should and shouldn’t do after they are vaccinated, Mr. Biden said.

In addition, the Biden administration said it would work to double the number of pharmacies participating in the federal vaccination program; more than double the number of federally-run mass vaccination centers; deliver vaccines to an additional 700 community health centers; deploy 4,000 more active-duty troops to assist vaccination efforts; and expand the types of professionals who can administer vaccines to include dentists, veterinarians, medical students and others.

President Biden signing the $1.9 trillion relief bill.



Photo:

Doug Mills/CNP/Zuma Press

The administration will also create a new website and a call center to help the public find vaccination sites with available supply and provide technical support to states to improve their own websites through which most people have been scheduling appointments.

Mr. Biden condemned what he said were “vicious hate crimes” against Asian Americans during the pandemic. “They’re forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America,” he said. “It’s wrong, it’s un-American, and it must stop.”

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that Mr. Biden signed Thursday will provide direct payments to many Americans, extend enhanced jobless aid and disburse funds for vaccine-distribution efforts, marking his first major legislative victory as president.

That legislation includes roughly $130 billion to help reopen schools, which has emerged as a hot-button issue for Mr. Biden. The administration said the Education Department will begin distributing those funds this month to help schools implement mitigation measures recommended by the CDC to reduce risk of infections. HHS will also dedicate $650 million toward expanding testing for teachers, staff and students in K-8 schools.

The bill also includes $1.75 billion to expand genomic sequencing, which the administration said will help detect and deter new variants.

Thursday’s speech kicked off an administration-wide effort to promote the measure to the public, which will include speeches around the country by the president and his top aides. Mr. Biden is scheduled to travel to Pennsylvania and Georgia next week to discuss the coronavirus package, the White House said. Vice President

Kamala Harris

will travel to Nevada and Colorado, and she will join the president in Georgia.

The White House will host a ceremonial gathering with congressional leaders on Friday to celebrate the signing of the bill, according to aides.

Congress has passed the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill that provides an economic boost to Americans. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib breaks down what’s in the bill and why it’s significant for the Biden administration. Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann

The relief package offers $1,400 payments to many Americans, an extension of a $300 weekly jobless-aid supplement and a one-year expansion of the child tax credit that will provide periodic payments for many households. It also disburses money to schools, vaccine distribution efforts, and state and local governments; provides support to struggling multiemployer pensions; and makes the biggest changes to the Affordable Care Act since its passage in 2010, among other measures.

The first direct payments authorized under the relief package will be deposited into bank accounts as soon as this weekend, with additional payments rolling out in the coming weeks, White House press secretary

Jen Psaki

told reporters.

A resident of Moreno Valley, Calif. receives the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.



Photo:

Watchara Phomicinda/Zuma Press

After a year of living under social distancing rules, many Americans are chafing at restrictions on their activities. Some states, such as Texas, have begun allowing businesses to reopen at full capacity and dropping mask mandates against the advice of public health officials. As vaccine supplies increase, the country is grappling with the task of distributing the shots quickly and fairly.

Health officials predict that life may slowly start to return to normal, as larger portions of the population get vaccinated, but pandemic-related restrictions are likely to remain in place for some time. The CDC said this week that vaccinated people can gather in small groups with others who have received their shots. But it recommended that those who have been immunized continue to wear masks in public and refrain from travel.

Mr. Biden’s speech came one year after then-President

Donald Trump

delivered his own address on the coronavirus, describing what the nation faced as “just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome as a nation and as a world.”

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Mr. Trump announced in the speech that his administration would impose restrictions on travel from Europe into the U.S., and he promised small business loans and financial assistance to those hardest hit by the pandemic. That same day, the World Health Organization declared that the outbreak was a pandemic, and the State Department advised U.S. citizens against all travel abroad.

The NBA also abruptly suspended its 2019-20 season after a player tested positive for the virus, and

Dr. Anthony Fauci

testified at a congressional hearing that large gatherings should be canceled across the country. He warned: “The bottom line: It is going to get worse.”

Since taking office, Mr. Biden and his team have worked to increase the U.S. supply of vaccines. He reached deals with

Pfizer Inc.

and

Moderna Inc.

to provide a total 600 million doses of their two-shot vaccines, enough supply to vaccinate the eligible U.S. population.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden directed his administration to secure an additional 100 million doses of

Johnson & Johnson’s

Covid-19 vaccine, a move that would double the company’s previous commitment to the U.S. Biden administration officials said they hope to secure excess vaccine supply in case additional doses are needed for booster shots or to vaccinate children. The vaccines aren’t approved for those under 16 years old.

In his first 50 days in office, the president has made a point to publicly mourn the death toll from the virus. As of Thursday, more than 530,000 people have died in the U.S. as a result of the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has reported more than 29 million Covid-19 cases.

Although U.S. hospitalizations have fallen, new variants are spreading across the country.

The coronavirus relief bill signing was initially scheduled for Friday, but the legislation was delivered to the White House faster than aides expected.

Republicans called the aid package bloated and said it included Democratic priorities that weren’t related to the pandemic. The legislation didn’t receive any Republican support in Congress.

Mr. Biden and his aides believe the Obama administration didn’t do enough to sell the benefits of the 2009 stimulus law. They are planning to make speeches, conduct local media interviews and put in place a digital strategy to make sure the public understands the Covid-19 measure.

President Biden speaking during his prime-time address from the East Room of the White House.



Photo:

Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Write to Sabrina Siddiqui at Sabrina.Siddiqui@wsj.com

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The Covid-19 Relief Bill Has Passed. Now Biden and the GOP Both Plan to Tell Voters What’s in It.

WASHINGTON—President

Biden

signed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package into law Thursday, as he and Republican leaders in Congress began competing to shape voters’ perceptions of Mr. Biden’s first big legislative win and the early days of his presidency.

The new law will provide a $1,400 check to many Americans, with the first direct payments deposited into bank accounts as soon as this weekend. It will extend a $300 weekly jobless-aid supplement and expand the child tax credit for one year. It also will distribute money to schools, and state and local governments, and fund vaccination efforts along with offering support to multiemployer pensions and increasing subsidies for people who buy into health plans under the Affordable Care Act.

“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Mr. Biden said in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon, one day after the bill passed the House.

The president gave an address Thursday evening, laying out a plan for getting the pandemic under control one year after much of the U.S. economy slowed severely as the virus spread. Mr. Biden directed states to make all American adults eligible by May 1 to sign up to receive a vaccine and said that families and friends could gather in small groups to celebrate Independence Day if they continue to take steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

In his first prime-time address to the nation, President Biden called on states to expand Covid-19 vaccine access and make all adults in the U.S. eligible by May 1. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP

“There is hope and light and better days ahead if we all do our part,” Mr. Biden said.

The White House plans to host a ceremonial gathering with congressional leaders on Friday to celebrate the signing.

The president and Democrats are emphasizing the importance of expanding the government’s safety net during a pandemic and of boosting a nascent economic recovery with massive assistance from Washington.

Republicans, who have remained united in opposition to the aid package, are focusing on the fact that the economy is already pulling out of the doldrums and are portraying the new law less as a relief package than an expensive embrace of longtime Democratic priorities.

Congress has passed the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill that provides an economic boost to Americans. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib breaks down what’s in the bill and why it’s significant for the Biden administration. Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann

Both parties are seeking to frame public perception of the law in the early stages of the administration, leading into the November 2022 midterm elections. Those typically go against the party in power, posing a test to Democrats’ slender hold on the House and Senate.

The Biden administration plans a substantial promotional push. The president will return to campaign in battleground states next week, with stops in suburban Philadelphia on Tuesday and Atlanta on Friday, while Vice President

Kamala Harris

plans to visit Las Vegas and Denver next week and join Mr. Biden in Atlanta.

White House aides said the tour would include appearances by Mr. Biden with Republican mayors and governors. Some state and local GOP leaders, such as Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia and Miami Mayor

Francis Suarez,

have already expressed support.

“We will spend some time both in explaining and in deepening the understanding of what’s inside this package around the country,” said White House counselor

Steve Ricchetti.

President Biden is set to sign the Covid-19 relief bill into law Friday.



Photo:

al drago/press pool

Republicans contend that showing voters what is in the package will be effective—for them.

“We believe the American people need to learn more and more about it and we’re going to see that they do that in the coming months,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday, calling the measure a “classic example of big-government Democratic overreach in the name of Covid relief.”

GOP leaders didn’t present a full-fledged alternative to the Democratic plan, though a group of Republican senators offered a $618 billion package and some individual Republicans made proposals on the minimum wage and child tax credit.

Republicans have criticized the price tag of Mr. Biden’s bill, coming after Congress authorized about $4 trillion in relief last year. They point out that checks will be issued to people who have not lost jobs or income, that money will be spent on schools in future years and that funding is going to state and local governments even though the pandemic damage to their revenues wasn’t as serious as expected.

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“Run a poll and say, ‘Would you like the government to send you a big check?’ My guess is that’s going to poll pretty well,” said

Sen. John Kennedy

(R., La.). “But why are we sending checks to people who have never missed a paycheck?”

David Winston,

a Republican strategist, said that the bill included spending unrelated to coronavirus. “You have money for museums in there—not that that’s not an important expenditure at some point, but is it part of Covid?’’ Republicans will tell voters that they voted to help people struggling in the pandemic but drew the line at unrelated spending, he said.

Mr. Biden’s team has countered that the plan is popular with voters, pointing to public opinion polls. The bill drew 70% support among adults in a Pew Research Center survey this month, including 41% of Republicans, and it garnered more than 60% support in two polls released Wednesday, by Monmouth University and CNN.

Democrats are keenly aware of what they consider a failed effort to sell former President

Barack Obama’s

stimulus effort in 2009, which Republicans derided as bloated and wasteful, and the Affordable Care Act a year later. Mr. Obama’s party suffered sweeping losses in the 2010 midterm elections, a fate Mr. Biden hopes to avoid.

“Barack was so modest, he didn’t want to take, as he said, a ‘victory lap,’” Mr. Biden told House Democrats during a virtual meeting last week. “I kept saying, ‘Tell people what we did.’ He said, ‘We don’t have time. I’m not going to take a victory lap.’ And we paid a price for it, ironically, for that humility.”

Jen O’Malley Dillon,

White House deputy chief of staff, said in a memo that the administration would seek to highlight 10 aspects of the plan, including funding for vaccinations, direct payments to individuals up to a specified income threshold, financial aid to accelerate school opening, rental and mortgage assistance, and help for small businesses.

Some of the provisions in the bill are temporary. Enhanced unemployment benefits run through September. Additional subsidies for people who buy Affordable Care Act plans will expire after two years. The expanded child tax credit expires after a year. Democrats, who believe the expanded tax credit will be popular, are aiming to make the change permanent, potentially putting Republicans in the uncomfortable position of opposing it.

Mr. Biden will hold the first formal news conference of his presidency later in the month. In the coming weeks, he will address a joint session of Congress. One step Mr. Biden won’t be taking, which his predecessor did: Adding his signature to the memorandum line of the stimulus checks expected to be sent to qualifying Americans later this month.

At stake is the balance of power in Washington come the midterm elections in 2022. The party that holds the White House typically loses seats. Democrats, for example, lost more than 60 House seats in Mr. Obama’s first midterm, in 2010, and Republicans lost more than 40 seats in 2018, former President

Donald Trump’s

midterm year.

Democrats will be defending a narrow majority in the House and 50-50 control in the Senate, where the vice president currently casts any tiebreaking votes. In the Senate, Republicans will be defending 20 seats, including in states such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Ohio where GOP incumbents have announced retirements. Democrats need to defend a smaller slate of 14 seats, but they include seats representing presidential battleground states such as Georgia, Arizona and Nevada.

Republicans are expected to argue that, right from his first major legislative push, Mr. Biden abandoned the bipartisanship that he touted in the campaign, noting that Republican suggestions were rejected. “Frankly, what this really is is a lot of payoffs to special interests that the Democrats want. And that’s why they wanted zero Republican input,” said

Rep. Don Bacon

(R., Neb.).

The White House says the administration was willing to hear Republican input, but not to delay what they saw as an urgent process. “Republicans can be really tone deaf to the economic hardship that literally tens and tens and tens of millions are going through right now,” said

John Anzalone,

Mr. Biden’s campaign pollster. “This is a lifeline.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell exits the Senate floor in Washington on Tuesday.



Photo:

erin scott/Reuters

Polling also suggests Republicans worry about the bill’s effect on the national debt, but that the concern isn’t widely shared. In the Pew Research Center survey, 61% of Republicans, but only 33% of Americans overall, said they believed the bill spent too much money.

Gene Ulm, a Republican pollster who works largely for House candidates, said: “I think the bill’s best day for Democrats is right now, and every day further it will be on a decline.”

Rep. Brendan Boyle

(D., Pa.) praised the White House promotion of the bill, calling it key between now and the midterms, lest voters forget.

“I wouldn’t say worry, but the one concern I have is if it’s a year and 8 months from now and we’ve done such a good job on vaccine distribution and such a good job on reviving things, sometimes people have short memories,” he said.

and Andrew Restuccia contributed to this article.

Write to Ken Thomas at ken.thomas@wsj.com, Catherine Lucey at catherine.lucey@wsj.com and Aaron Zitner at Aaron.Zitner@dowjones.com

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo Aides Called Former Staffers to Discredit Accuser

In the days after New York Gov.

Andrew Cuomo

was first accused of sexual harassment by a former aide, the governor’s office called at least six former employees either to find out if they had heard from the accuser or to glean information about her in conversations that some said they saw as attempts to intimidate them.

Some of the people who received the calls said they hadn’t heard from the administration in months before getting the call about the accuser. One said a caller encouraged them to give reporters any information discrediting the accuser, Lindsey Boylan, who worked as an economic adviser for the Cuomo administration between 2015 and 2018.

The calls were made by current administration officials and former aides who are still close to the governor’s office, according to several recipients. The outreach came at the behest of

Melissa DeRosa,

the governor’s top aide, according to people familiar with the effort.

“I felt intimidated, and I felt bewildered,” said Ana Liss, a former aide to the governor who received one of the calls.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has denied touching anyone inappropriately and has apologized for any behavior that might have been misinterpreted.



Photo:

Seth Wenig/Press Pool

Ms. Liss, who earlier this month accused Mr. Cuomo of inappropriate behavior, said that Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Mr. Cuomo, phoned her on Dec. 21. The call came eight days after Ms. Boylan said in a post on Twitter that the governor sexually harassed her.

Ms. Liss hadn’t worked for the governor in more than five years and couldn’t remember the last time the administration had been in touch, she said.

She said Mr. Azzopardi reminded her on the call of how much she had accomplished during her time working for the governor and asked her if she had received a message from Ms. Boylan. She told him she hadn’t and said the conversation ended on a friendly note.

At a press conference following allegations of sexual harassment and calls from some to resign, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he apologized if he offended anyone or caused anyone pain by past actions, but he said he isn’t going to resign. Photo: Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Mr. Azzopardi said in a statement: “After Ms. Boylan’s tweets in December, she, and her lawyers and members of the press began reaching out to former members of the Chamber, many of whom never worked with her. Those former members of the Chamber called to let various staff people know and convey that they were upset by the outreach. As a result, we proactively reached out to some former colleagues to check in and make sure they had a heads up.”

Mr. Azzopardi said the calls weren’t coordinated by Ms. DeRosa. “There was no directed effort—this outreach happened organically when everyone’s phone started to blow up.” He added that they didn’t intimidate anyone.

In Twitter posts after this story was published, Ms. Boylan said she didn’t reach out to anyone in December and didn’t have a lawyer at the time.

Three former employees from his time as governor and one current aide to Mr. Cuomo have accused the governor of inappropriate behavior or sexual harassment in the workplace, prompting calls from Republicans and high-ranking state Democrats for him to resign.

‘I felt intimidated, and I felt bewildered,’ said Ana Liss, a former aide to the governor who received one of the calls.



Photo:

libby march for The Wall Street Journal

Democrats who dominate the state Assembly have launched an impeachment investigation that will look at the allegations as well as how the Cuomo administration handled Covid-19 in nursing homes. State Attorney General Letitia James is now overseeing an investigation into the accusations made by the former aides and how Mr. Cuomo’s office handled the complaints.

Mr. Cuomo has denied touching anyone inappropriately and has apologized for any behavior that might have been misinterpreted. He has also called for New Yorkers to withhold judgment until Ms. James’s investigation is complete.

Ms. Boylan has said Mr. Cuomo tried to kiss her on the lips in his office and, during a 2017 flight on his plane, suggested they play strip poker.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Cuomo has denied Ms. Boylan’s allegations.

Another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, said Mr. Cuomo asked about her sex life and whether she had relationships with older men. Ms. Liss has said he asked her if she had a boyfriend, touched her on her lower back at a reception and once kissed her hand when she rose from her desk. A fourth woman this week accused the governor of touching her inappropriately during an encounter at the Executive Mansion last year.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo said: “As I said yesterday, I have never done anything like this. The details of this report are gut-wrenching. I am not going to speak to the specifics of this or any other allegation given the ongoing review, but I am confident in the result of the Attorney General’s report.”

The governor, in previous statements, has encouraged women to come forward and said his office would cooperate with Ms. James’s inquiry.

But Mr. Cuomo and his aides have gone after accusers and rivals in the past, according to court documents and former staffers.

In October 2000, Mr. Cuomo, when he was the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, was accused of sex discrimination and harassment in an internal memo filed by Susan Gaffney, a former HUD inspector general. She accused Mr. Cuomo and other HUD officials of intimidation and harassment after she launched a congressionally requested audit into some of the work Mr. Cuomo had overseen.

Ms. Gaffney testified to Congress in 1998 that Mr. Cuomo’s aides attempted to smear her, including publicizing an anonymous letter that Mr. Cuomo had allegedly received saying she was targeting minorities.

At one point, Mr. Cuomo assured her that he had nothing to do with the actions by key aides, she said. “I suggested that, if his key aides were acting without his approval, he should fire them; the Secretary did not respond,” she said in the 1998 testimony, adding that tactics used by Mr. Cuomo and his aides were “dirty tricks” to force her to resign.

Ms. Gaffney couldn’t be reached.

After Ms. Boylan tweeted her account in December, she said in a Feb. 24 Medium post that media outlets received “parts of a supposed confidential personnel file” from her time with the administration. Ms. Boylan said in the post that she had never seen the file and that it was an effort to smear her.

In response to Ms. Boylan’s claim about her personnel record, Beth Garvey, the acting counsel to the governor, said: “With certain limited exceptions, as a general matter, it is within a government entity’s discretion to share redacted employment records, including in instances when members of the media ask for such public information and when it is for the purpose of correcting inaccurate or misleading statements.”

Ms. Boylan also said in the Medium post that “the Governor’s loyalists called around town, asking about me.”

One recipient of a call said the caller asked in December if Ms. Boylan had been in touch with the recipient, and what the recipient thought of her claims.

Another recipient of a call said that a caller, a current official in the Cuomo administration, asked if reporters had been contacted about Ms. Boylan and wanted to confirm the nature of the recipient’s experience with Ms. Boylan. “The subtext was clear: I was being asked to dish dirt on her,” the recipient said.

Write to Khadeeja Safdar at khadeeja.safdar@wsj.com, Deanna Paul at deanna.paul@wsj.com and Jimmy Vielkind at Jimmy.Vielkind@wsj.com

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Pentagon Brass Blast Fox Host for Disparaging Women in the Military

WASHINGTON—Defense Secretary

Lloyd Austin

voiced “revulsion” and other top defense officials condemned a Fox News host over his comments this week deriding the Pentagon’s efforts to retain and accommodate women in the armed forces.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, who described Mr. Austin’s reaction to comments earlier in the week by

Tucker Carlson,

told reporters that the U.S. military was working to make the military more inclusive and improve opportunities for women.

“What we absolutely won’t do is take personnel advice from a talk-show host or the Chinese military,” Mr. Kirby said Thursday.

Mr. Carlson’s comments were made earlier this week, after President Biden on Monday announced the nominations of two senior women to lead commands in the military.

“We all need to see and to recognize the barrier-breaking accomplishments of these women,” Mr. Biden said at the White House Monday, introducing Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost as his choice to lead U.S. Transportation Command, and Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson to become a four-star general to lead U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the Southern Hemisphere.

“We need the young women just beginning their careers in the military service to see it and know that no door will be closed to them,” Mr. Biden added. The event was part of a commemoration of International Women’s Day.

Mr. Carlson, in his televised remarks Tuesday, said that the Biden administration had feminized the military and complained that the Pentagon had devised maternity flight suits to accommodate pregnant personnel and had updated standards for hair styles. In contrast, Mr. Carlson said that China’s military was becoming more masculine.

Fox News officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the Pentagon’s criticism. Mr. Carlson wrote Thursday in a

Twitter

message that the Pentagon had treated him as a “hostile foreign power.”

Mr. Kirby’s comments were echoed by senior military personnel.

“I just think it’s insulting to those women to have a comment like that,” Army chief of staff Gen. James McConville told reporters Thursday.

The general, whose daughter is a captain and social worker in the Army and whose wife also served, said he was proud of the 185,000 women who serve in the Army.

He recalled that a female aviator had led a team of Apache helicopters that rushed to the defense of troops on the ground in Iraq in 2004 when he served as a brigade commander in Iraq.

In a video on Twitter, the Space Command’s senior enlisted leader, Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott Stalker, described Mr. Carlson’s comments as an example of “drama TV.”

“I’ll remind everyone that his opinion, which he has a right to, is based off of actually zero days of service in the armed forces,” he said. “The bottom line is that we value women in our armed forces.”

In 2015, the Pentagon lifted the ban that prohibited women from serving in units that engage in ground combat. That expanded on a 1994 decision that allowed women to serve in all roles except battlefield units whose primary mission  was “direct combat on the ground,” a Pentagon directive said.

Wall Street Journal parent

News Corp

and Fox News-parent Fox Corp. share common ownership.

Write to Michael R. Gordon at michael.gordon@wsj.com

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Child Tax Credit: How the Covid-19 Stimulus Package Gives Additional Money to Families

Under the prior law, the child tax credit allowed qualifying families to reduce their income tax bills by up to $2,000 for each child through age 16. The new law signed by President Biden on Thursday increases the credit to $3,000 a child and makes parents of 17-year-olds newly eligible. The credit rises to $3,600 for children under the age of 6 as of the end of 2021.

For a qualifying family with one child, the previous credit would have cut a $5,000 tax bill to $3,000. Now, the credit will cut the tax bill to $2,000, and to $1,400 if the child is under age 6.

Who is eligible?

More than 90% of families with children under 18 will get some benefit from the new law, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution.

To determine the size of the benefit, it is helpful to divide the credit into the pre-existing $2,000-a-child credit and the expanded credit that adds $1,000 for children ages 6-17 and $1,600 for children under age 6.

The expanded portion of the credit begins to scale down for individuals at $75,000 in adjusted gross income, single heads of household at $112,500 and for couples filing jointly at $150,000. It phases out at $50 for every $1,000 in additional income.

For a couple filing jointly with one child, that means the newly added portion of the credit would fully phase out at $170,000, and at $182,000 if the couple had a child under age 6, calculations by the Tax Foundation, a right-leaning tax-policy research group, show.

That family would still be able to claim the $2,000 credit, until it hit $400,000 in income, the Tax Foundation says. That portion of the credit would then start to phase out, disappearing at $440,000 in income.

For a single head of household with one child, the $1,000 expanded credit phases out at $132,500 in income, and at $144,500 if the filer has a child under age 6, the Tax Foundation says. The taxpayer could claim the old, $2,000 credit until reaching $200,000 in income, and the credit would disappear at $240,000 in income.

For families with more than one child, the credit phases out at higher income levels.

Is the child tax credit refundable?

The new tax credit is fully refundable, a substantial change in philosophy that some experts say will significantly help low-income families.

Under the prior law, parents earning $2,500 or less couldn’t claim the credit; and families that earned more, but not enough to pay income taxes, could receive no more than $1,400 as a refundable credit. In linking the credit to a parent’s earnings, the law was intended in part to encourage people to work.

About 27 million children in low-income families didn’t receive the full, $2,000 benefit available to higher-earning families, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Under the new law, the credit is fully refundable, and so parents with little or no income will get the full credit.

Elaine Maag,

principal research associate at the Tax Policy Center, said that this change, along with other elements of the new law, will cut the number of children living in poverty in half, to about five million children.

When will the payments begin?

In another substantial change, the law envisions that parents will be able to receive money regularly through the year, rather than in one payment when taxes are filed. The goal is for the Internal Revenue Service to make a monthly payment to qualifying families starting in July.

“Aspirationally, they are trying to deliver a monthly credit in July, but there’s some flexibility,’’ said Ms. Maag. “The IRS might decide they can’t start it that early. They might decide to make it a quarterly payment.’’ The IRS hasn’t yet provided details on the payment schedule.

One goal of switching to periodic payments is to ease the volatility in earnings of many low-income parents, who may hold seasonal jobs or who enter and leave the workforce for various reasons.

Taxpayers could opt out of receiving periodic payments and instead take the full credit on their annual returns, as under current law. Those choices may affect households’ typical patterns of receiving refunds.

What if I already filed my taxes?

Not to worry. The expanded tax credit applies to the current, 2021 tax year, for which taxes are due in April 2022.

Payments made under the tax credit this year would be applied against 2021 taxes, to be paid in 2022.

Will the expanded child tax credit remain after this year?

Current law expands the credit only for 2021. Democrats in Congress, who approved the legislation without Republican support, hope that the law will prove popular and that there will be pressure to extend it ahead of the 2022 elections.

Republicans have complained that the Democratic-backed, $1.9 trillion Covid-19 aid bill, which included the expanded child credit, is too expensive and includes items unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic. But some Republicans have proposed their own programs aimed at extending more aid to children, suggesting that there could be room for a bipartisan agreement on some form of extended tax credit.

President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill into law, providing an economic boost to Americans. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib breaks down what’s in the bill and why it’s significant for the Biden administration. Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann

Write to Aaron Zitner at Aaron.Zitner@dowjones.com

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Federal Renter-Assistance Effort Thrown Into Doubt by Conflicting Court Rulings

WASHINGTON—The Biden administration’s effort to help millions of tenants who have fallen behind on their rent avoid eviction has been thrown into doubt by a series of conflicting court rulings.

The rulings, including one Wednesday that declared a government eviction moratorium unlawful, come as the administration seeks to distribute some $46.6 billion in rental assistance authorized by Congress. The aid is being administered by state and local governments, many of which are still setting up their assistance programs.

The eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expires on March 31, and the administration is considering next steps, a process that could be complicated by ongoing legal battles. Court rulings so far have created uncertainty for landlords and renters around the nation and potentially place some tenants at risk.

“We are up against the clock, with a race to get the money to those who need it before thousands of mom-and-pop landlords go out of business and millions of renters wind up on the street,” said

Jim Parrott,

an Obama administration housing adviser who is now an industry consultant.

Spokesmen for the White House and the CDC didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. A Justice Department spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

The moratorium, which originated from an executive order signed by then-President

Donald Trump

in September, protects tenants who have missed monthly rent payments from being thrown out of their homes if they declare financial hardship.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge

J. Philip Calabrese

in Ohio declared the moratorium unlawful and invalid because it exceeded the CDC’s statutory authority as delegated by Congress. Judge Calabrese didn’t issue an immediate injunction blocking it, saying that extra step was unnecessary.

“The most natural and logical reading of the statute as a whole does not extend the CDC’s power as far” as the government maintained, Judge Calabrese wrote, though he acknowledged there are other court rulings that disagreed with his own.

Ethan Blevins, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, including a group of landlords and the National Association of Home Builders, said the ruling helps ensure that landlords get paid like any other small business.

“We don’t want smaller landlords to be going into foreclosure,” he said. “We want them to have the option to do what they need to do to survive the difficult economy.”

Diane Yentel,

president and chief executive officer of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said lawsuits to overturn the eviction moratorium are “frivolous” now that Congress has appropriated $46.6 billion to address rental arrears. She said the moratorium should be extended until aid is distributed.

“These landlords will be made whole, but it will take time to get the money into their hands,” she said.

The Ohio decision came two weeks after a federal judge in Texas issued a broad constitutional ruling that the moratorium exceeded the federal government’s powers to regulate interstate commerce.

The Justice Department is appealing that decision.

Other judges have rejected challenges to the moratorium.

In a December ruling in Louisiana, a federal judge said the CDC had clear legal authority to “take those measures that it deems reasonably necessary to prevent the spread of disease, so long as it determines that the measures taken by any state or local government are insufficient.”

That decision followed a similar ruling from Georgia last October.

Other cases are in progress, including one in which Realtors associations and several housing providers are challenging the moratorium in a Washington, D.C., federal court.

Write to Andrew Ackerman at andrew.ackerman@wsj.com and Brent Kendall at brent.kendall@wsj.com

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Merrick Garland Confirmed as Biden’s Attorney General

WASHINGTON—The Senate confirmed

Merrick Garland

as

President Biden’s

attorney general, putting a respected jurist and experienced former prosecutor in charge of a Justice Department poised to confront a rising threat of domestic extremism and aggressively enforce civil-rights law amid a nationwide reckoning on race and policing.

Mr. Garland, 68 years old, was confirmed in a 70-30 vote, with both Democrats and Republicans hailing him as uniquely equipped to restore morale, stability and institutional integrity to a Justice Department roiled by political storms during the Trump administration. Twenty Republicans joined all 50 Senate Democrats in confirming Mr. Garland.

One of them was Sen. Minority Leader

Mitch McConnell

(R., Ky.), who as majority leader blocked President

Barack Obama’s

nomination of Mr. Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016, said in a statement before the vote: “I’m voting to confirm Judge Garland because of his long reputation as a straight shooter and legal expert. His left-of-center perspective has been within the legal mainstream.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, right, applauds after swearing in Marcia Fudge as Housing and Urban Development Secretary on Wednesday.



Photo:

Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

Mr. Garland, who spent 24 years on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is expected to be sworn in Thursday. He has said he would combat extremist violence and make a first priority of an extensive federal investigation into the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. He has cited his own experience overseeing prosecutions into several major acts of domestic terrorism, including the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people. A senior Justice Department official at the time, Mr. Garland was personally involved in the investigation, which he has said solidified for him the urgency and complexity of the domestic terror threat.

While the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack is expected to continue largely unchanged under new leadership, Mr. Garland will oversee what is expected to be a dramatic shift in the Justice Department’s approach to a series of other issues, from civil-rights enforcement and police reform to the use of the federal death penalty and the level of discretion prosecutors have in charging crimes.

Mr. Garland said during his confirmation hearing that he would pursue strong enforcement of civil-rights laws, focusing on hate-crimes prosecutions, voting rights and the equitable treatment of minorities in the criminal-justice system after last year’s nationwide protests over killings of Black people by police. He said he planned to address “the problem of mass incarceration” and signaled that his Justice Department would show leniency for some lower-level drug offenders, reversing Trump administration policy.

Mr. Garland also expressed deep skepticism about the use of the federal death penalty, which Trump officials revived after a nearly 20-year hiatus and Mr. Biden has said he would end.

The new attorney general said he would be independent in his oversight of several politically sensitive investigations begun under the previous administration, including a criminal tax investigation into Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, and a special-counsel probe examining the origins of the FBI’s 2016 Russia investigation. He said he agreed to be nominated because Mr. Biden had promised that the Justice Department would make all decisions about investigations and prosecutions.

Michael Regan, seen in February with his son, was confirmed Wednesday as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency.



Photo:

Caroline Brehman/Press Pool

“I do not plan to be interfered with by anyone. I expect the Justice Department will make its own decisions in this regard,” Mr. Garland said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Senate voted 66-34 to confirm Rep.

Marcia Fudge

(D., Ohio), as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, drawing the approval of Mr. McConnell and some other Republicans. Ms. Fudge resigned from her House seat before being sworn in later in the day. A special election for her Cleveland-area district will be held in the coming months.

In her confirmation hearing, Ms. Fudge, the first Black woman to head HUD since the Carter administration, said her first priority would be to assist Americans who are behind on their housing payments and “get people the support they need to come back from the edge.” She also said she would work on improving access to quality, affordable homes.

By the same margin of 66-34, the Senate also confirmed

Michael Regan

as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, making the 44-year-old the country’s top environmental regulator at a time when Mr. Biden has promised stringent new rules to address climate change. Despite that controversial agenda, Mr. Regan’s nomination drew the vocal support of Republican senators from his home state of North Carolina, helping clear a path for approval in the divided chamber.

Mr. Regan, who spent more than nine years at the EPA early in his career and most recently ran North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, is expected to implement Mr. Biden’s campaign promise for rules requiring power plants, oil and gas producers, and auto makers to drastically reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions. At his hearing last month he said he would seek to collaborate with businesses and avoid overly burdensome regulation.

Write to Sadie Gurman at sadie.gurman@wsj.com

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Facebook Drops Plan to Run Fiber Cable to Hong Kong Amid U.S. Pressure

A

Facebook Inc.


FB 4.50%

consortium withdrew its bid to build a new internet conduit between California and Hong Kong after months of pressure from U.S. national-security officials, the latest sign of a deepening rift between the two governments.

The social-media giant told the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in a filing it would withdraw its application to land the Hong Kong-Americas project, known by its abbreviation HKA, pending a new request for “a possibly-reconfigured submarine cable system.”

Facebook and several telecommunications-industry partners first filed for permission to build the fiber-optic cable in 2018. It would have connected two sites in California with branches to Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“Due to ongoing concerns from the U.S. government about direct communications links between the United States and Hong Kong, we have decided to withdraw our FCC application,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement. “We look forward to working with all the parties to reconfigure the system to meet the concerns of the U.S. government.”

It is the latest cross-Pacific fiber project to stall due to U.S. resistance. A separate Pacific Light Cable Network funded by Facebook and Google owner

Alphabet Inc.

is also on hold as its builders seek permission to activate the data links that don’t touch Chinese territory.

Facebook and

Amazon.com Inc.

last year also withdrew their application to build the Bay-to-Bay Express system, a planned network linking Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the U.S.

Underwater fiber-optic cables carry most of the world’s international internet traffic. Facebook and Google have footed a large share of the bills for construction of new lines to meet the surging demand for bandwidth created by their own data centers. The new links across the Pacific give the companies greater bandwidth to a major internet hub with links to growing Asia markets.

Regulators in Washington routinely grant licenses to cable projects that land in the U.S. after sometimes lengthy reviews. But national security officials took a closer look at some applications after the web companies started planning more physical links to China. Beijing’s crackdown on protests in Hong Kong in 2019 deepened those officials’ concerns that the special administrative region’s legal autonomy could be at risk.

Companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter Inc. in July said they were suspending processing requests for user data from Hong Kong law-enforcement agencies following China’s imposition of a national-security law on the city.

The law includes a provision mandating local authorities to take measures to supervise and regulate the city’s previously unfettered internet, putting U.S. tech titans on a potential collision course with Beijing.

“We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement at the time.

People in Hong Kong long used social-media platforms to express political opinions and show support for protests against China’s growing influence in the city, and the services operated freely without restrictions from China’s firewall, which applies to mainland users.

U.S. tech companies operating in the city now face a delicate balancing act, according to analysts. If authorities ask them to remove user accounts or their content, the companies could alienate their user bases in Hong Kong and abroad. But if they refuse, they may face criminal action and punishment.

Still, while there are likely millions of combined users of the companies’ apps and social-media platforms in Hong Kong, the city is insignificant for their revenue on a global scale, analysts say.

U.S. companies’ submarine cable proposals have also faced scrutiny for including Chinese partners. FCC officials have threatened to revoke China-based telecom companies’ licenses to operate in the U.S., part of a broader effort to root out operators with perceived ties to Beijing from American networks.

Write to Drew FitzGerald at andrew.fitzgerald@wsj.com and Newley Purnell at newley.purnell@wsj.com

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Manhattan Prosecutors Advance Probe Into Trump’s Seven Springs Estate

Manhattan prosecutors are intensifying their investigation into

Donald Trump’s

businesses, taking aim at a Westchester County, N.Y., estate that the former president unsuccessfully tried to develop, according to people familiar with the matter.

In recent weeks, according to the people, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has issued new subpoenas and requested recordings of local government meetings related to the Trump Organization’s failed attempt to create a luxury subdivision at Seven Springs, a 213-acre property that the former president bought for $7.5 million in 1995.

Mr. Trump has valued the property at up to $291 million in financial statements that the New York attorney general’s office, which is also investigating Seven Springs, said were given to financial institutions. Inflating assets to help secure loans or other financial benefits can be a state criminal offense, legal experts said.

The scrutiny of Seven Springs is part of a broader criminal probe into Mr. Trump, his company and its officers that also includes financial dealings at properties such as Mr. Trump’s flagship Trump Tower in Manhattan, The Wall Street Journal has previously reported. Outside of New York, prosecutors are also examining a loan for the Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, people familiar with the matter said, which CNN reported earlier.

Manhattan District Attorney

Cyrus Vance’s

office has said in court filings it is investigating possible tax, insurance and bank fraud. Investigators now have Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial records after an 18-month court fight, allowing prosecutors to compare Mr. Trump’s statement to lenders with his representations to tax authorities.

Prosecutors in recent weeks have sent subpoenas to land-use lawyer Charles Martabano and engineer Ralph Mastromonaco, both of whom were involved in planning the Trump Organization’s proposal for Seven Springs, the people said.

Mr. Mastromonaco confirmed he had received a subpoena and said he had given the district attorney’s office materials including communications with others involved in the project.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance



Photo:

Peter Foley/Bloomberg News

The district attorney’s office also requested recordings of planning-board meetings in Bedford, N.Y., one of three towns on which the Seven Springs estate sits, people familiar with the matter said. Messrs. Mastromonaco and Martabano appeared before the board with Mr. Trump’s son,

Eric Trump,

in 2012 and 2013, meeting minutes show.

Lawyers for Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization didn’t respond to requests for comment. Last month, after the U.S. Supreme Court denied Mr. Trump’s efforts to block Mr. Vance, a Democrat, from obtaining his tax returns, Mr. Trump, in a written statement, called the investigation a “continuation of the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country.”

Prosecutors’ interest in the local planning process could relate to the property’s valuation, and whether it was improperly inflated on financial documents, lawyers said. Mr. Trump valued the property at $291 million in 2012, according to what he called his “statement of financial condition,” a collection of financial information compiled but not audited by his accountants. Mr. Trump valued the property at between $25 million and $50 million on financial-disclosure paperwork filed when he was president.

Local tax-assessment rolls list the market value of the property at about $19 million.

The new subpoenas add to the picture of what is known about Mr. Vance’s investigation. Prosecutors have previously sent subpoenas to some of Mr. Trump’s lenders and a longtime insurance broker.

The district attorney’s office has hired Mark Pomerantz, a former federal prosecutor now on leave from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, to work on the investigation, according to people familiar with the matter. A spokesman for Mr. Vance said Mr. Pomerantz was sworn in last month as a special assistant district attorney.

The office also has hired

FTI Consulting Inc.

to do forensic-accounting work on the case, people familiar with the matter said. An FTI spokesman declined to comment.

Manhattan prosecutors’ interest in Seven Springs stretches back to at least December, when they sent a different batch of subpoenas to the three towns, the Journal has reported. The subpoenas asked officials in Bedford, North Castle and New Castle to provide information about tax assessments, town communications and planning-board minutes, local officials said.

The towns have since turned over the materials, local officials said.

The information that prosecutors have requested centers on a yearslong effort to gain the necessary local approvals to build a subdivision of luxury homes after Mr. Trump’s original plan of building a golf course at Seven Springs fell through in the early 2000s. The subdivision effort dates to at least 2004 and continued through 2013, according to planning and zoning board documents.

By 2015, the Trump Organization had scrapped the development plans, instead opting to place 158 acres of land in a conservation easement, or land that an owner has agreed not to develop.

The final appraisal, sent to Mr. Trump in 2016, values the property at $56.5 million and the conservation easement portion at $21.1 million. Seven Springs LLC, which is part of the Trump Organization, claimed a $21.1 million tax deduction for the easement in tax year 2015, a lawyer for the attorney general’s office has said in court.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who in 2019 opened a civil-fraud investigation into Mr. Trump and his company, has said her office is investigating the conservation easement at Seven Springs. The Trump Organization has called the investigation by Ms. James, a Democrat, politically motivated.

Write to Corinne Ramey at Corinne.Ramey@wsj.com

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Meghan Markle’s Oprah Interview Throws Uncomfortable Spotlight on Race in U.K.

LONDON—An interview by Prince Harry and

Meghan Markle,

in which the couple said a member of the royal family asked how dark their unborn child’s skin would be, has thrust the British monarchy into the center of an uncomfortable discussion over the role of race in British society.

In a two-hour interview with

Oprah Winfrey,

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, known by their titles as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, said they experienced racism before and after they were married. The conversation stirred questions as to whether the British monarchy and the country they represent have done enough to tackle discrimination against Britons of color. It comes less than a year after Black Lives Matters protests divided British public opinion.

The Duchess of Sussex, who is biracial, said before the birth of her son Archie that there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born” with a member of the royal family. Neither she nor Prince Harry identified the person.

Asked by Ms. Winfrey whether racism drove the couple to relocate from the U.K. to the U.S. last year, Prince Harry replied “it was a large part of it.”

Buckingham Palace didn’t comment on the interview.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry spoke to Oprah Winfrey about their rift with Buckingham Palace. Markle said she had had suicidal thoughts, and the couple explained why they signed Netflix and Spotify deals after leaving royal-family duties. Photo: Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions/Getty Images

A number of opposition Labour Party lawmakers called for a probe to be launched by the palace into the claims.

“It is bigger in a sense than just the royal family because that experience of racism, I am sad to say, is too prevalent still in 21st century Britain,” said Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party.

Prime Minister

Boris Johnson

declined to discuss whether the palace should launch any investigation and said he “always had the highest admiration for the Queen.”

The interview is a damaging denouement to what could have been one of the monarchy’s great modernizing acts, say analysts.

The entrance of Ms. Markle, an American actress and divorcee, into the House of Windsor in 2018 could have represented a new chapter in efforts by the monarchy to make it more accessible, a process that started in the wake of Princess Diana’s death in 1997. However, within two years the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they were quitting as front-line royals and moving to North America. Last month they were stripped of all royal patronages and titles.

“The royal family really blew it on this one. It could have been a PR coup like no other,” said Gregory Claeys, a professor at the University of London. “For the country as a whole it is sending a message that is retrograde and xenophobic.”

The fallout is playing out against the background of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, which proved deeply divisive in the U.K. as it grappled over whether the country should apologize for its empire and role in the slave trade.

Several statues of prominent people linked to slavery were pulled down in British cities, but Mr. Johnson said statues shouldn’t be removed and Britain shouldn’t “edit or censor our past.”

Polls find that a majority of Britons don’t regard their country as racist—an Ipsos Mori poll last year showed that 89% of Britons would be happy for their child to marry someone from another ethnic group—but Black people in the U.K. feel they aren’t treated equally, according to surveys.

A report commissioned by the U.K. parliamentary human-rights committee in the wake of George Floyd’s death found that over 75% of Black Britons don’t believe their human rights are equally protected compared with white people.

Black people represented just 1.5% of managers and senior officials in the U.K., according to research last year by Business in the Community, a members group created by the Prince of Wales. Around 3% of the British population is Black. Sixty-five out of 650 members of Parliament are from ethnic minorities.

“In the U.S. there is history, the conversation is way further down the line” than in the U.K., said Kenny Imafidon, the managing director of ClearView Research, which conducted the polling on behalf of the parliamentary group. The fact that racism is less overt in Britain “can make people believe that those issues don’t exist.”

During his interview with Ms. Winfrey, Prince Harry said that he believed Britain wasn’t a bigoted country, but criticized the British press as such. “Unfortunately if the source of information is inherently corrupt…then that filters out into the rest of society,” he said.


‘In the U.S. there is history, the conversation is way further down the line’ than in the U.K.


— Kenny Imafidon, pollster

Soon after the couple started dating in 2016, Kensington Palace made a rare public statement on behalf of Prince Harry asking the press to leave Ms. Markle alone, citing “the racial undertones of comment pieces: the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls.”

Rachel Johnson, who is Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s sister, penned an article referring to Ms. Markle’s “exotic DNA.” The Daily Mail published an article with the headline “Harry’s Girl Is (almost) Straight Outta Compton.” Princess Michael of Kent, who is married to the queen’s cousin, was photographed wearing a blackamoor brooch, with the image of an African servant, to a Christmas lunch with the Queen and the Sussexes. She later apologized.

Members of the British monarchy have repeatedly condemned racism. Some royal watchers said the allegations were unlikely to harm the royal institution. “Behaving badly is perhaps too strong,” Judith Rowbotham, a constitutional expert said of the interview by Prince Harry and Ms. Markle. “They are behaving perhaps unfortunately…it is personal rather than institutional.”

The interview painted the palace as cold and uncaring, doing little to help the duchess settle into her new role or deal with her mental health problems. It also, unexpectedly, included criticisms of senior members of the British monarchy.

The Duchess of Sussex said that Prince William’s wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, made her cry before their wedding over a disagreement about bridesmaid dresses. Prince Harry said that his father briefly stopped taking his calls when negotiating their split from the family and left him feeling “really let down.” Prince Harry added he was “on different paths” to his brother Prince William. The couple, however, took pains not to criticize Queen Elizabeth.

Last week, the palace announced an investigation into allegations that the Duchess of Sussex bullied aides while she worked there. The duchess denied the allegation.

It wasn’t clear whether the palace would launch a probe into the racism allegations. Some expressed concern at double standards. “Now that Meghan has revealed comments about her child’s skin color, will they investigate racism in the palace? I won’t be holding my breath,” said opposition Labour lawmaker

Nadia Whittome

in a tweet.

Write to Max Colchester at max.colchester@wsj.com

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