In some of his most candid remarks to date about the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner told a conservative crowd that public health advice and science have been politicized in recent months, causing an erosion of public trust.
Gardner, a Yuma Republican, spoke in person to the Steamboat Institute’s annual Freedom Conference on Aug. 28. Video of Gardner’s remarks was uploaded to YouTube this week.
Gardner was asked by a panel moderator how the coronavirus pandemic became “so political” and why it had eroded “public trust in our media, in our institutions, in our government.” The senator, who faces re-election in two months, criticized public health experts, scientists, governments and the media for, he said, picking economic winners and losers based on political and philosophical beliefs.
“If we lose this economy, the damage will be catastrophic. Yes, we have a health crisis that we have to address and get through, but we can’t do it while we tell people, ‘Walmart can be open, but you have to be closed.’ I can’t tell you the number of people who came to me in tears. ‘I’ve been in business for 40 or 50 years,’ they’d say. ‘I’ve lost everything. But the business down the road that’s open does the same thing I do and they’re fine.’ What have we done?” Gardner said.
Small business owners across the country have complained that large retail outlets were able to stay open in the spring months while much smaller shops shut their doors, giving an unfair advantage to corporate giants.
“You want to talk about trust? Trust is when you hear health experts say, ‘I don’t agree with what you’re doing because it’s against the health rules but what you’re doing is just fine because it agrees with me philosophically and politically,’” Gardner said as he pointed from one person to another. “That destroys trust.”
“When we’re trying to base things on science and the same scientists come up and say, ‘Well, if you were just of this political belief, you’d be OK.’ Because to me and to many Americans, that’s what the message seemed to be for a very long time. That’s not right, that’s not fair, and that kind of — has to stop,” the senator said, mentioning he stopped himself from saying an expletive after “kind of.”
Gardner was referring to epidemiologists who have said people should not congregate at summer picnics, for example, but have defended massive Black Lives Matter protests. The extent to which BLM protests have spread the virus is an open question, but Republicans and other conservatives have accused public health experts of taking sides rather than offering objective health advice.
In June, nearly 1,300 health professionals from across the country — including a handful from Colorado — signed an open letter praising BLM protests during the pandemic but condemning protests against stay-home orders.
Gardner, a careful and talented speaker, was unusually frank in his remarks, acknowledging at one point that he’s “passionate about” the issue. At one point, he delivered with a straight face an apparent joke about when the pandemic will end.
“My 8-year-old son came to me and said, ‘Dad, I know when the pandemic ends.’ And I said, ‘You do?’ He says, ‘Yes, the day after the election.’ Now, he picked that up somewhere or heard that somewhere, or maybe mom and dad were talking too much around him,” Gardner told a laughing crowd.
The anecdote plays into right-wing conspiracy theories about the virus being used — or even manufactured — to harm President Donald Trump’s re-election chances. Gardner will face John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, on Nov. 3 and is currently trailing the former governor, according to public polls.
“This is a serious crisis. A serious pandemic that created a serious economic crisis,” Gardner told the Freedom Conference last Friday. “We can’t have people toy with it on the national news for their own agendas or outcomes for November 3rd and raise your hands if you think that has not been a problem here.”
Because of health restrictions in Steamboat Springs — or “government edicts,” as the event’s organizers called them — the 200-person Freedom Conference was held in Beaver Creek this year. Gardner spoke on a panel with Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist and controversial White House health adviser who has suggested letting all younger Americans contract the virus to create “herd immunity.”
“Over 185,000 Americans are dead and millions have lost their jobs because President Trump ignored the science as Senator Gardner stayed silent,” Hickenlooper said in a statement responding to Gardner’s remarks Friday.
“Now he’s parroting President Trump, implying that the coronavirus crisis is a hoax while disparaging public health experts. It’s maddening,” Hickenlooper added. “Senator Gardner needs to be back in Washington getting Colorado the help we need to get through this crisis, not telling bad jokes alongside the Trump advisor who thinks we should let the virus kill another two million of our neighbors.”
Source: Read Full Article