May 15, 2020

MNGOP Convention Countdown: Jason Lewis Repeatedly Denigrates Health Experts, Spreads Misinformation, and Shares Debunked Conspiracy Theories About Coronavirus

The MNGOP Convention is tomorrow Saturday, May 16, and Republicans are expected to formally endorse Republican candidate Jason Lewis for Senate. Lewis has been downplaying the seriousness of coronavirus (COVID-19) for months—pursuing his own rigid ideology while denigrating public health experts–and spreading misinformation throughout the state.

In March, Lewis belittled medical professionals and scientists working on treatments and a vaccine, saying “they think this is all one big sabbatical to do a four-year study.” Then, a month later, Lewis said “I simply don’t trust the experts on much of this,” and “too often the so-called ‘public health experts’ have failed us.”

In mid-April—on a day when Minnesota saw its then-high of coronavirus deaths and new cases—Jason Lewis ignored public health experts and took part in protests at the Governor’s residence in St. Paul. Lewis was seen shaking hands and taking selfies in violation of social distancing guidelines and without a face covering.

Lewis also continues to spread misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 to Minnesotans. Recently, Lewis doubled down on a COVID-19 conspiracy theory that the government would make people get “vaccines with tattoos to make certain you’ve got one.” This conspiracy has been repeatedly debunked numerous times (herehere and here). And just this week, Lewis claimed steps to flatten the curve and save lives–such as the importance of social distancing–are an attempt to “scare people,” saying “they’re just trying to basically scare people, which has long been a tactic of the state, to scare people into anything — you can give up your liberty because you’re scared.”

Lewis has also made the following comments about COVID-19:

  • Feb. 28: On the “War Room 2020” podcast, Lewis called COVID-19 a “big buying opportunity for Wall Street” and a “wintertime sickness.” In this same interview, he also compared it to the flu and common cold.
  • March 20: On a Facebook Live event hosted by his campaign, Lewis touted a fake study that claimed chloroquine had a 100% success rate in treating COVID-19. The author self-published the “study” in a Google doc and falsely claimed it was backed by Stanford University, the University of Alabama, and the National Academy of Sciences. The study was removed by Google for violating the terms of service, as reported by POLITICO.
  • April 20: On Justice & Drew [05:50], Lewis said COVID-19 should have “presumption of innocence.” Here’s the full quote: “The reason that we have in our English common law heritage a presumption of innocence is not for someone that everyone knows is guilty; it’s for someone who might be innocent. So when you say, ‘Well, we know this virus will kill millions if we don’t do this,’ that may or may not be true in any particular circumstance, but what happens when it isn’t true and someone who would abuse power uses that as a pretense? That’s why we have these predictions, and to John’s point, we now know — from these mortality rates from what may or may not be something worse than the season flu, what happens if we shut everything down based on bad data?

April 27: On Justice & Drew, Lewis pushed the conspiracy theory that the COVID-19 death toll is being artificially inflated by public health officials “assuming infections.” Dr. Fauci has called this a conspiracy theory.

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