A Republican lawmaker in New Hampshire who went to battle with the state’s top health official last week and ultimately voted to table $27 million in federal vaccine aid has since doubled down on his coronavirus misinformation, suggesting the jab might contain something that would make it possible for the government to “control us.”
“They want everybody to get the shot. Why? Are they getting paid off by Big Pharma?” state Rep. Ken Weyler said in an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio published Wednesday. “Is there something in the shot that’s going to help them control us? There’s lots of things I’m reading that make me very suspicious.”
Hours after the interview was published, New Hampshire House Democratic Leader Renny Cushing and a ranking Democratic member of the House Finance Committee, Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, issued a letter to state House Speaker Sherman Packard, urging him to remove Weyler from his leadership role on the committee and “replace him with a member who respects science and the employees of state departments.”
“We believe that for the legislature to continue working effectively with other branches of government, Representative Weyler must be removed as Chair of the Joint Fiscal Committee,” they wrote.
“By publicly stating that he does not trust state officials, Representative Weyler is directly harming efforts to work collaboratively to slow the spread of COVID and using his platform as Chair to misinform the public. It is particularly concerning that Chair Weyler ignored your advice to respect state officials and has continued to publicly question the credibility of DHHS,” they added.
Weyler declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment about the letter on Wednesday.
During a hearing last Friday, Weyler refused to back down when the state’s Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette told the legislature’s finance committee that 90 percent of COVID hospitalizations in the state stem from its unvaccinated population.
“That is in doubt,” Weyler claimed Friday as the committee voted to table $27 million in federal virus relief funds intended to bolster the state’s vaccine program.
He insisted that he had heard from emergency personnel who said that 90 percent of those admitted to hospitals had been vaccinated. (Weyler later told the NH Journal that he got his information from a “talk show” that had featured a woman claiming to be an ER nurse.)
“That is incorrect and that is misinformation,” Shibinette shot back, according to a video shared by WMUR-TV. “I have no idea why someone would say that but that is incorrect, and that is the problem that we are having in increasing our vaccination rate: spreading misinformation about the COVID vaccine.”
The Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee ultimately voted along party lines to delay its decision on the request from the Department of Health and Human Services to use the federal aid for new positions, which would include a public health program manager and 12 workers to promote vaccines and help providers with the state’s vaccine registry, according to the New Hampshire Bulletin. It’s now unclear when the request will come to a vote.
Gov. Chris Sununu issued a statement on Friday that did not directly name Weyler but conveyed his support for Shibinette and her department’s position on using the funds, warning that elected officials “absolutely cannot contribute to the spread of misinformation—it is dangerous and wrong.”
But even after that implicit rebuke, Weyler gladly told NHPR on Tuesday that he’s not been vaccinated for COVID and insisted federal authorities could not be trusted on health matters.
“I’ve had 25 years of flu shots. I believe I have antibodies,” he said.
He also said that he receives “links from reports” to sources that he deems far more credible than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Many people have sent me links to these things I’ve discussed,” he told the outlet. “I’ve seen links from reports from all sorts of credible sources. But [Shibinette] is just listening to the CDC as far as I can see. And I don’t consider the CDC a credible source, or Dr. Fauci a credible source.”
The New Hampshire House’s communications director, Jennifer Tramp, told The Daily Beast that state House Speaker Sherman Packard (R) had addressed Weyler’s comments with him directly, but did not have further comment.
“He’s had the conversation with Representative Weyler and is firm that none of us are medical professionals and we should respect and take the input from our health officials as they give it to us,” Tramp said.
As far as whether or not there will be repercussions for House members who continue to spread false information about the vaccines, Tramp said the speaker “hasn’t indicated anything at this moment.”
Days before the debate between Weyler and the state’s top health official last week, state Rep. William Marsh swapped his party affiliation from Republican to Democratic after New Hampshire House Republicans staged a rally last Tuesday opposing President Biden’s new requirement for federal and private-sector workers to get vaccinated.
A day after the rally, Gov. Sununu, who called himself as “pro-vaccine as they come,” said during a press conference that “mandating a vaccine is not good government,” and that it forced Americans to choose between their livelihood and the vaccine with “the swoop of a pen.”
Marsh told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that Weyler was “completely off base on his facts,” with regard to people hospitalized with COVID who have gotten the jab.
When asked if he had the authority to remove Weyler from the committee based on the remarks, he said he would.
“The Speaker has the ability to replace people on committees at any time,” Marsh said, adding that he had been swiftly removed from the Election Law committee after changing his party affiliation last week.
“It was completely inappropriate what he did,” Marsh said.