To the editor,
Over the past few weeks, state Sen. Scott Jensen has appeared on the Laura Ingraham show to talk about the COVID-19 pandemic. He has used those appearances to cast aspersions on the medical community and to suggest that the number of COVID-19 deaths is exaggerated. As with many things one hears on Fox News, the idea that we are over-counting COVID-19 deaths is not only false, it is the opposite of the truth.
Epidemiologists and reliable news sources from across the political spectrum are all reporting that the number of COVID-19 deaths in America is likely far greater than the current official count. Yale University’s School of Public Health recently estimated that the actual death toll from COVID-19 may be two to three times higher than current figures. Undeterred by national fact checkers who have corrected him, Senator Jensen continues to make the rounds of right-wing television and radio repeating falsehoods and stoking conspiracy theories. As recently as May 1, he downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic, musing on Twitter that “…an optimist sees one more challenge for an ever-expanding immune capability, a realist sees a flu-like illness…”. The fact that a physician at this point in time would still refer to COVID-19 as a “flu-like illness” and cast it a simply an opportunity for us to boost our immune systems is both irresponsible and frankly offensive to anyone who has lost a loved one to this terrible disease.
The GOP, once the proud party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as public intellectuals like William F. Buckley Jr., has devolved into a party whose leaders now spread conspiracy theories, court racists, and deny science. This process has been going on for decades and has reached its peak in the Trump administration, where anything can become the truth if one repeats it often and loudly enough. Republican leaders have a choice to make: continue down the cynical path they are on or reorganize around a core of those who continue to support conservative principles without sacrificing the truth or their integrity. I fear Senator Jensen has made his choice.