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Arizona Senate COVID listening to gentle on info, heavy on misinformation

10 min read

A two-day particular listening to on the
Arizona Senate geared toward analyzing the state’s response to the COVID-19
pandemic was rife with conspiracy theories, misinformation and
fear-mongering round vaccines and public well being — all endorsed by the
Republican state legislators who sat and listened intently and provided
no pushback. 

The Novel Coronavirus Southwestern
Intergovernmental Committee featured testimony from a gaggle of supposed
well being specialists who unfold a myriad of misinformation about vaccines and
the pandemic in the course of the committee’s time. Lots of them have already got a protracted historical past of doing so. 

The committee had beforehand confronted
criticism for its title, which has been promoted in acronym kind by the
QAnon-friendly political nonprofit The America Venture. The acronym,
NCSWIC, can be a generally used acronym within the QAnon world for the phrase “Nothing Can Cease What Is Coming,” alluding to predictions of arrests of members of the “Deep State.” 

Though the official title of the panel
spells the phrase “southwestern” accurately, the committee’s outdoors
boosters deliberately divided the phrase into “south western” with a view to
use the acronym of their promotion.

The Republican elected officers on
the panel had been state Sens. T.J. Shope and Janae Shamp, the chair and
vice-chair, respectively, of the state Senate’s Well being and Human
Companies Committee; state Rep. Steve Montenegro, who chairs the state
Home of Representatives’ Well being and Human Companies Committee; and U.S.
Reps. Andy Biggs, Eli Crane and Paul Gosar. 

Whereas the state legislators had been in
attendance, Biggs, Crane and Gosar solely appeared electronically and
delivered pre-recorded video addresses because the debt ceiling debate nonetheless
continues in Congress. 

Though 11 audio system had been initially
anticipated, solely six in the end confirmed as much as give testimony. Shamp alluded
to medical malpractice insurance coverage being raised for audio system who selected to
communicate on the listening to as one of many causes some individuals dropped out. She
additionally cited fears of being “canceled” as another excuse. 

However Shamp stated she was undeterred.

“Silencing me on social media is just not
sufficient,” she stated on the primary day when introducing herself to applause
and cheers from the viewers. 

Shamp, a former nurse who has claimed
she was fired as a result of she refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine, got here up
with the thought for the listening to, Shope stated.

The conspiracy-filled listening to comes
on the heels of the same listening to earlier this yr on elections, which
in the end led to the expulsion of freshman GOP lawmaker Liz Harris when
a speaker she invited made unfounded accusations that quite a few elected
officers — together with some within the room — and the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-Day Saints had been concerned in a bribery scheme with a Mexican
drug cartel. 

Public well being and vaccination advocates had been sharply important of the listening to.

“They invited witnesses to talk
about false public well being claims which were disproven by a number of
sources,” Becky Christensen, Founder and State Campaigns Director of
SAFE Communities Coalition, the nation’s first pro-vaccine political
advocacy group, stated in a press release to the Arizona Mirror.
“Defending public well being is one among our lawmakers’ biggest

“Giving a platform to those that search
to discredit the insurance policies which have stored us protected from preventable
ailments for many years, reminiscent of routine childhood immunizations, does a
grave disservice to the individuals of Arizona and to our nation as a complete.”

Day one

Early on the primary day, Dr. Peter
McCoullough boldly proclaimed when introducing himself that the COVID-19
virus got here from a lab in Wuhan, China, and was created with “U.S.
actions.” There is no such thing as a consensus on the precise origin of the virus, and the lab-leak concept implicates China, not the US. 

McCoullough is understood for spreading
unfounded claims, particularly across the origins of the virus. He
beforehand has acknowledged that he believed the pandemic was “deliberate” and has promoted the QAnon conspiracy movie “Plandemic.”  

McCoullough has turn out to be a darling to
these in each QAnon and the broader conspiracy world, showing
repeatedly on reveals just like the one hosted by conspiracy theorist Stew
Peters, who stated the COVID vaccine is a “bioweapon.” Peters additionally was behind a number of QAnon conspiracy documentaries that made doubtful claims in regards to the vaccine, together with that it included snake venom. 

McCoullough has additionally appeared on disgraced retired Gen. Michael Flynn’s “Reawaken America” tour, the place he has denounced drag shows and gender identification points. 

Throughout his opening remarks, McCoullough unfold a sequence of false claims, amongst them that social distancing didn’t work and that hospitals received “perverse incentives” for COVID sufferers who died. 

McCoullough and others spent the
first day spreading misinformation in regards to the effectiveness of the COVID
vaccines and various remedies, particularly attempting to attach the
vaccine to adversarial impacts and deaths which might be non-existent. 

Dr. George Fareed, who stated throughout
the committee that the vaccines don’t present safety, additionally claimed
that the virus was created in a lab and talked about a number of instances
all through the day that he was utilizing the “McCoullough protocol” on

The “McCoullough protocol” seems to
be a routine that features hydroxychloroquine and different medicine which have
not been confirmed to adequately deal with COVID. Fareed and others usually
touted a research finished by McCoullough and others on a small variety of
outpatient COVID sufferers as proof of the validity of

Later research that includes a lot bigger pattern sizes
have concluded that the “protocol” finished by McCoullough, in addition to
hydroxychloroquine, weren’t efficient and had no impression on treating

McCoullough additionally appeared to make
claims that alluded to a conspiracy concept broadly adopted by QAnon
adherents, and featured in a discredited movie by Peters, claiming that
blood clots present in individuals’s our bodies had been brought on by the COVID vaccine. 

The movie, “Died Immediately,”
suggests it’s all a part of a shadowy plot to depopulate the world. However
specialists who’ve examined the movie’s claims have stated that lots of the
clots look like autopsy clots. Instances of clots brought on by the
vaccine are “very uncommon,” in response to one research that discovered solely roughly 1,000 circumstances out of two million. 

Probably the most spurious accusations about
the vaccine got here from Aaron Siri, an lawyer who’s most well-known for
his work with a company known as the Knowledgeable Consent Motion
Community, or ICAN. 

“Vaccines weren’t given by God at Sinai, they’re simply merchandise,” Siri stated throughout his testimony. 

Siri tried to attach vaccines to
autism by claiming that there have been no research that had absolutely refuted the
declare that vaccines weren’t inflicting autism. That merely is just not true,
as a number of research have discovered no connection between vaccines and autism. The preliminary report that began the controversy round vaccines and autism was retracted and has been broadly debunked within the 25 years because it was revealed.  

Siri additionally claimed that the polio
vaccination doesn’t work, which isn’t true. The vaccine labored so effectively
that polio was eradicated within the Americas by 1994, in 36 Western
Pacific nations in 2000 and in Europe by 2002. India was declared
polio-free in 2014.

ICAN has been on the frontlines of
anti-vaccine misinformation and is funded by New York billionaire Del
Bigtree. The group was listed as one of many Biden
administration’s “disinformation dozen.” . 

The committee additionally heard from a neighborhood
Arizonan named Kurtis Bay who stated his spouse was hospitalized for
pneumonia. He claimed she was additionally handled for COVID whereas within the
hospital, regardless that she examined unfavourable for the virus when she was
admitted. He spoke emotionally about his spouse having to be shifted in
and out of the intensive care unit whereas medical doctors tried to deal with her,
finally resulting in a last choice the place Bay and his sons needed to
say their goodbyes to her whereas she was within the ICU. 

Bay and the panel appeared to consider
that the sepsis and blood clots present in her system had been indicators of
one thing nefarious, with McCoullough making observe of it. Pneumonia is
the commonest explanation for sepsis and septic shock. 

Day two 

On the second day of the listening to, Dr.
Lela Lewis arrange a “post-spike protein and publicity cell medical
middle”outdoors the state Capitol constructing. 

Lewis and McCoullough each consider that the vaccine and virus could be “detoxed” out of your physique — for a value. However that’s unfaithful, and there’s no science backing up the claims. 

McCoullough, Fareed and one other
member of the committee, Dr. Richard Urso, all urged the significance of
preventative remedy of COVID and the usage of the “McCoullough
Protocol” or an “HCQ cocktail.” 

These cocktails can price as much as $500 and are additionally stated to deal with RSV and influenza. There is no such thing as a proof to point out they deal with any of those situations. 

Urso made quite a few outlandish
claims Friday, together with that the virus might need been created by the
Protection Superior Analysis Initiatives Company, an company of the U.S.
Division of Protection. 

Urso is a part of a gaggle known as
America’s Frontline Docs (AFLDS), which is led by Stella Immanuel,
who’s infamously referred to as the “Demon Sperm Doc”
for her claims in a viral video that endometriosis is brought on by having
intercourse with demons in your goals. Urso praised Immanuel for her “analysis”
in the course of the listening to Friday.

Through the peak of the pandemic,
AFLDS pushed for the usage of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin and acknowledged
there was no scientific proof for the efficacy of face masks, amongst different false claims.
The group has additionally claimed to have “cured” COVID with a cocktail it
sells, although it refused to submit the declare to look overview.

Urso claimed Friday that masks don’t
work, evaluating carrying a masks to carrying a swimming go well with in a pool and
urinating, to laughs from the viewers in attendance. 

Urso and others have distorted latest
research to say that masks are ineffective, resulting in the authors of
the research to return out and tackle individuals like them instantly. Science reveals that masks — significantly N95 and KN95 masks — work to guard in opposition to the unfold of COVID. 

Through the second day of the
committee, McCoullough, Urso, Fareed and others continued to advertise
various medicines. Additionally they known as on lawmakers to strip
oversight powers from the medical boards that oversee medical doctors. 

Urso stated that the legislature has
finished a “good job,” however ought to look into giving physicians meting out
authority so individuals like Urso might dispense medicines like ivermectin
and hydroxychloroquine. 

The audio system additionally continued to unfold lengthy debunked claims, getting lawmakers in on serving to unfold the claims. 

At one level in the course of the committee,
Shamp held out a clean package deal insert for a Moderna COVID vaccine,
displaying it as proof that sufferers had been by no means given security info on
the vaccine. 

This declare started spreading in December 2021, however the fact is that the data is available on the FDA’s web site. 

Urso additionally claimed that “double vaccinated” youngsters are “52 instances extra possible” to die, in response to information within the UK. There is no such thing as a fact to that assertion and relies on the work of a blogger who took the info out of context. 

One other speaker, Dr. Pierre Kory,
additionally made quite a few unfounded claims. Kory is the co-founder of a
COVID-denying group known as the Entrance Line COVID-19 Crucial Care
Alliance. The FLCCC is an anti-vaccine misinformation group. 

Kory has known as ivermectin a “miracle drug” and made quite a few unsubstantiated claims
about what it could do. He additionally has gone on conservative speak reveals
saying that there are “tons of journals” displaying that the COVID vaccine
is unsafe, regardless of that being an unequivocally false assertion. 

Kory has additionally had his personal scientific work retracted attributable to flawed outcomes.
A paper he authored pushing for unproven COVID remedies was retracted
after the ability cited within the research stated the info was incorrect.
Throughout his presentation Friday, Kory claimed the retractions had been half
of a coordinated marketing campaign to suppress him and his colleagues. 

He has additionally been charging individuals hundreds of {dollars} for his personal COVID protocols.

Kory and McCoullough instructed that
hundreds of deaths could be attributed to the COVID vaccine, re-upping
claims that had been debunked as a result of they mischaracterize CDC information. 

The ultimate speaker of the day, Lewis, spoke about her group and its scientifically unsound
plan to assist individuals take away spike proteins from their physique. Lewis
appeared to counsel throughout her presentation that the COVID vaccine makes
spike proteins keep in an individual’s physique for a protracted time period,
inflicting all kinds of ills together with harm to the mind and coronary heart.
(McCoullough additionally claimed the vaccine prompted myocarditis; solely about 1,000 individuals have been discovered to have vaccine-related myocarditis.)

This isn’t true, because the spike
protein within the vaccines mimics the one on the COVID virus, and helps
our bodies discover ways to struggle off the virus by triggering an immune
response, creating antibodies. These spike our bodies keep in our our bodies for weeks, however not longer. 

Lewis touted her “Edenic Protocol”
throughout her presentation, during which she claims quite a few natural
dietary supplements assist “break down” the spike protein. Not one of the natural
cures instructed by Lewis have been discovered to have vital impression
on COVID. 

The committee additionally heard from one other
native Arizonan who misplaced a liked one. Anne Teixeira stated her mom
obtained subpar remedy whereas hospitalized for COVID. 

Because the listening to wound down, Shamp stated that extra committees like will probably be coming. 

“This has been historic, as a result of this
has been the primary time we have now come collectively to debate how we’re
going to maneuver ahead,” she stated, including {that a} committee addressing
masking, colleges and public well being businesses all will likely be forthcoming.
“That is only the start.” 

Urso thanked Shamp and Montenegro for his or her time and for permitting him a platform to share misinformation. 

“They face vital reprisal for
standing up for the precise factor,” he stated. “With out these sorts of
occasions, we’re with out a good platform.”

Caitlin Sievers contributed to this report.

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