Updated 5/6/23 to reflect support for the REOPEN movement by the violent, seditious hate group The Proud Boys, anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists, and the homophobic comments Rowland made on a statewide political TV show in 2006.
In a move akin to appointing an arsonist as fire chief, Mesa County Commissioners Cody Davis and Bobbie Daniel appointed Commissioner Janet Rowland to the Mesa County Board of Public Health yesterday, Tuesday, April 25.
Rowland has been an outspoken enemy of public health for years.
She fought Covid-19 precautions before vaccines were available and disseminated disinformation about the virus that was linked to QAnon. Her social media posts promoted the notion that Covid-19 was no more deadly than the flu. She said things on social media about the virus that contradicted public health messages instructing people in how to stay safe and reduce spread of what was then a largely deadly virus.
In April of 2020, at the start of the pandemic, Rowland agitated against physical distancing and the temporary shutdown of non-essential businesses — the only tools available at the time to limit the spread of what was then a highly communicable and often deadly virus. At that time there was no prevention, no immunization, no treatment and no cure for COVID-19, and no way to test for the virus. America led the world in deaths from Covid-19 then, with around 25,000 deaths. Since then, more than 1.2 million Americans have been killed by Covid-19, an unthinkable number that was exacerbated in part by the national dissemination of lies disinformation about the virus by influential people, including Janet Rowland.
Rowland was running for Mesa County commissioner at the time. She posted lies about the virus that encouraged people to engage in behaviors that would spread it further:
She changed the header on her campaign Facebook page to a message suggesting her followers join an “action oriented group” to rebel against social distancing and the temporary closure of non-essential businesses where people could congregate and spread the disease:
The ReOpen Colorado movement was supported by the white nationalist hate group The Proud Boys, anti-vaxxers, those who wanted to undermine public health orders aimed at protecting the public, like social distancing and mask wearing,
Also on 4/16/2020, Rowland posted statistics from Mesa County Public Health showing how successful the current containment measures had been at reducing the spread of the virus in the County, and instead of urging people to continue using the behaviors that were saving lives, she came to exactly the wrong conclusion and urged an end to the measures that were actually working to control the virus:
Rowland publicly linked gay marriage to bestiality
Rowland once linked gay marriage to polygamy, bestiality, incest, and marriage involving 11-year-olds on the March 17, 2006 edition of the state-wide Rocky Mountain PBS television program Colorado State of Mind, during a discussion about a referendum to allow domestic partnerships in Colorado. Her comments were derided as “insensitive, closed-minded, derogatory and crude” by Bill Ritter, who at the time was the Democratic nominee for Governor. Such comments can contribute to isolation and persecution of members of the LGBTQ community and contribute towards increased rates of suicide among these groups.
No public health knowledge & promoting QAnon Covid-19 theories
Rowland had no educational background or experience in epidemiology, virology, microbiology, public health or any other field that would qualify her as an authority on how to effectively deal with a worldwide pandemic caused by a novel, virulent virus. She was, however, known for voicing extreme political and religious views that were far out of the mainstream, as well as several ethical lapses while she was a Mesa County commissioner before, from 2008-2012.
Rowland’s Q-Anon-linked social media posts linked to articles from discredited sources that told people there was no significant risk of getting Coronavirus when grocery shopping, or from frequently-touched common public surfaces like door handles, and that wearing face masks around others could exacerbate spread of the disease instead of reduce it.
At the time, American hospitals were getting overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients. The U.S. topped the world in Coronavirus deaths and the number was continuing to climb rapidly. FEMA was sending refrigerated trucks to New York City hospitals to hold the overflow of dead bodies from the virus the city was burying unclaimed bodies of Covid-19 victims in mass graves. Essential workers, like grocery workers, doctors, nurses, transportation workers and others, had started dying from the disease and as of April 13, 2020, just three days before Rowland posted her “Re-Open Mesa County” message on Facebook that said grocery shopping was safe, over 30 grocery store workers nationwide had died from Covid-19.
Rowland also promoted Alex Jones’ “InfoWars” conspiracy theory that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control was intentionally inflating the number of Covid deaths:
One reason Rowland gave for her notion of government conspiracy is that inflating the number of Covid deaths allowed hospitals to make more money. In truth, anyone who has ever worked in a hospital knows that hospitals get paid for treating patients, not for listing specific causes of death on death certificates. Claims that hospitals were deliberately miscoding patients as having Covid-19 were not supported by any evidence, but Rowland did not cite any credible evidence to support her assertion.
Promoting the Lizard Illuminati and Alex Jones’ theories of Covid-19
The Covid death “over-count theory” Rowland disseminated in May of 2020 was being advanced far-right conspiracy theorist David Icke, who was known for making claims (video) that George Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth and other modern-day world leaders were part of the Lizard Illuminati, a centuries-old reptilian-Satanist pedophile group, and that the moon is actually a hollowed-out space station that the Illuminati use as a base to control our minds.
Alex Jones promoted the QAnon death overcount theory on his Infowars website, to try to convince his followers that the government was inflating Covid deaths in order to terrorize people into relinquishing their freedoms and to benefit the vaccine industry.
If we give Rowland the benefit of the doubt and assume she meant well and didn’t have any true malicious intent, the only possible conclusion to all this is that she just didn’t know any better.
By mindlessly promoting dangerous theories to undermine public health, Rowland exhibited a dangerous lack of media literacy and almost total absence of critical thinking skills at a time when these skills were utterly crucial. Rowland showed outright during this time that she lacked the intellectual curiosity to research the origins of theories that sounded kind of wacky and determine their validity, or lack thereof, before promoting them. She demonstrated in real time that she is unable to tell credible information from nonsense — a fatal flaw for anyone in a position of authority with respect to public health, let alone an elected official.
What’s more, by spreading all this dangerous public health misinformation, she was willing to mislead Mesa County residents on a daily basis, endanger them and undermine their safety, which was unethical at the highest levels.