House Rep. Scott Tipton, State Senator Ray Scott and Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese all were recently outed in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel for spreading false information on social media that was put out by Colorado Counties, Inc.
The false story went like this: Governor Jared Polis was intentionally withholding federal funds intended for local governments under the Coronavirus relief bill approved by Congress last month, and he was going to use those badly-needed funds to balance the state’s budget instead, forsaking people in rural Colorado who desperately needed the funds.
They didn’t read the bill
In truth, the bill Congress approved designated relief funds only to state and local governments that serve populations of over 500,000 people.
“A unit of local government eligible for receipt of direct payment includes a county, municipality, town, township, village, parish, borough, or other unit of general government below the State level with a population that exceeds 500,000.”
“Exceeds 500,000” means eligible units of government must serve a population OVER 500,000.
In case that isn’t clear enough, here is a listing (pdf) naming all of the units of local governments in Colorado that ARE eligible for these federal funds. One must only read it to see that Mesa County and Grand Junction are not on the list.
All three Republican officials condemned Governor Polis for this supposedly evil plan he had to withhold relief funds from local governments like Mesa County.
All were quick to jump on what they saw as a golden opportunity to rip into Colorado’s Democratic Governor. Not one of them saw fit to vet the information and make sure it was correct before amplifying it on social media.
Things Republicans said and did in the past used to be just ridiculous. Now it is threatening lives.
In the past when our Republican officials have done something ridiculous — like deny accepted science, cite full-on wacko sources of information or spread nutty conspiracy theories, we just shook our heads and laughed.
But it’s not funny any more.
This episode with Tipton, Ray Scott and Pugliese points up a dangerous problem common to virtually all Republican elected officials as well as candidates for office: They have ZERO ability to differentiate legitimate, authoritative sources of information from lies, misinformation and conspiracy theories. They give more weight to information they find on cuckoo websites like InfoWars or NaturalNews.com than peer-reviewed studies published in scientific and medical journals or issued by the National Institutes of Health. They can’t tell the difference.
This is an extremely dangerous trait in an elected official and a common thread from top Republican leadership in the country all the way down to Mesa County.
Deadly recommendations from the top
Against the recommendations of his own medical experts, President Trump recently pronounced the unproven malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, “a game-changer” in the fight against Coronavirus. Shortly after, a man in Phoenix died and his wife ended up in critical condition after taking chloroquine phosphate to prevent the infection. When the woman recovered enough to talk, she told NBC News, “Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure.” Prescriptions for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine surged after Trump mentioned them on TV, but there is no proof they work against COVID-19.
But that body county wasn’t enough for him and soon Trump did it again. He went on to say on live TV that injecting disinfectant into the body could be a possible cure for Coronavirus:
“I see disinfectant, where it knocks [the Coronavirus] out in a minute—one minute—and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning,” Trump mused on live TV. “Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that. So you’re going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds interesting to me.”
The President’s statements horrified medical experts and prompted the makers of Lysol and Clorox to issue public warnings telling people not to ingest or inject their products, saying doing so can be deadly.
This is a prime example of irresponsible, uninformed Republican behavior in the age of Coronavirus, and it’s not confined to the federal government.
Our local elected Republicans are doing it, too.
Local Republicans’ pronouncements can now be deadly, too
Ray Scott issued a statement to his constituents in March saying “The Flu virus has taken many more lives than COVID-19…” ignoring the far higher mortality rates and transmissibility of COVID-19. He also wrote that “there will be medications and a vaccine available [against Corona virus] in the near future.”
At best a COVID-19 vaccine is 18-24 months away, probably more. And there currently aren’t any medications that can be safely prescribed to treat coronavirus. It’s all hit or miss so far and human experimental trials take years to complete.
Janet Rowland and Rose Pugliese are similarly spewing misinformation. They are both pushing a dangerous “reopen” ideology that has suspicious astroturf origins and that is aimed at undermining public health authorities’ efforts to keep Coloradans safe. Rowland and Rose Pugliese are both saying the relatively few people hospitalized with the virus locally is a reason we should give up the protections currently in place, throw open the doors and open up the economy, instead of recognizing it as a signal that what we are doing is working and urge people to keep up the safety measures.
Republicans would rather disseminate incorrect information, stir up discontent, encourage dangerous behavior and spew happy talk than consult with public health authorities and give truthful scientific information to the public.
If locals believe Republican leadership, they’ll be ingesting disinfectants, taking hydroxychloroquine and going back to work with the virus still spreading silently throughout the community, risking their lives and the lives of those around them.
It’s bad for all of us, but Republicans don’t seem to care
Now more than ever we need leaders who are guided by science and who can recognize and accept reality. We don’t need leaders who spew ideology, mindlessly forward misinformation and intentionally undermine public health.
Science, data, Intelligence and common sense will get out of this. Not Rose Pugliese, Janet Rowland, Ray Scott or Scott Tipton, at least not the irresponsible, unconscionable way they are currently acting.