A lot has been going on in the news this past week but it’s important to know that this happened:
An organization that represents 6,000 physicians, residents and medical students in Iowa discussed with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst her recent questioning of the legitimacy of how hospitals are reporting COVID-19 deaths.The organization issued two news releases about the meeting: one after it happened and a second, more strongly worded release, after its members reacted to the first.At a town hall meeting in Black Hawk County on Aug. 31, an attendee told Ernst he believes COVID-19 deaths are being overcounted. Ernst responded by saying she, too, was “skeptical” of the numbers.
The Iowa Medical Society in its second statement said Ernst apologized for her comments during their Friday phone call but declined to pledge she’d make a public apology.
“Let us be clear, (the Iowa Medical Society) does not condone the implications that Iowa physicians are intentionally misreporting COVID-19 patient data or in any way seeking to personally benefit from this pandemic,” the second statement continued. “What we do believe is that patient trust and safety is paramount.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds, like Ernst a Republican, said Thursday the COVID-19 death totals reported on Iowa’s public health website are “accurate.”
Yeah, she won’t publicly apologize for her idiotic remarks. Luckily, Theresa Greenfield (D. IA) has been calling her out on this:
Since then, Ernst apologized to medical workers for her comment on a call with the Iowa Medical Society.
That’s not good enough for Greenfield, a Des Moines real estate executive who is in a competitive race to replace Ernst. Most polling — regardless of which candidate is leading — has shown the race to be within the margin of error.
“Sen. Ernst, I’m calling on you today to publicly apologize to our doctors, our nurses, our health care workers, our hospitals,” Greenfield said. “These folks are heroes, and they’re putting their lives on the line to keep us healthy and safe during this pandemic.”
Iowa Doctor, Selden Spencer, nails it:
Over 1,100 Iowans have died from COVID-19, so it would seem unbelievable to hear our U.S. senator sow doubt about their deaths. But that’s exactly what Sen. Ernst did at a campaign event, when an attendee said he believed deaths were being overcounted, and Sen. Ernst agreed that she was “so skeptical” of the reported numbers. She raised her conspiracy game up a notch when she implied that, because health care providers are reimbursed for COVID-19 costs, they may be inflating numbers for financial gain.
Of course, as a health care professional, I find such an assault on my profession and character from our representative despicable, but that’s not my main concern. What worries me most about this promotion of disinformation by a public figure is the further harm it could cause to Iowans and our families. Cases are increasing across our state, so much so that Iowa recently had the highest case rate in the U.S. If Iowans who trust Sen. Ernst are led to believe COVID-19 and the other awful health issues it causes can’t kill them, they may be less likely to take precautions to keep themselves and others safe. They may refuse to wear a mask, putting the lives of those around them at risk.
To put it bluntly, Sen. Ernst’s conspiracy theories are dangerous to the residents of our state. We must do more than just ignore her disinformation. We must reject them by pushing back, hard.
Pediatrician Dave Williams, UnityPoint Health’s chief clinical officer, also nails it:
Williams isn't the only Iowa doctor taking issue with Ernst's words to the voter Monday. The Iowa Medical Society, which is the state's largest physicians’ group, also criticized her.
“It is incredibly disappointing to see comments attributed to Senator Ernst implying that the Iowa medical community is doing anything other than continuing to uphold its long track record of providing the highest quality of care and rising to the evolving challenges of the pandemic with the greatest of integrity,” the group wrote on its Facebook page. “… Now is not the time to spread mistruths and distrust. We must work together to keep Iowans safe and healthy.
Williams said it’s true that many people have other health problems before they become ill with COVID-19.
“That doesn’t mean they didn’t die of COVID,” he said. “The example I would use is if you were walking across the street and had diabetes, and you got hit by a bus and died, you died because you got hit by a bus, not because of the diabetes.”
Also, from the Des Moines Register:
The death toll from the virus as of Sept. 9 was 189,000 Americans, including nearly 1,200 of Ernst's constituents in Iowa. If someone has a health condition before they become ill with COVID-19, the virus can still be what kills them. As one Iowa doctor said in response to Ernst's comments: “If you were walking across the street and had diabetes, and you got hit by a bus and died, you died because you got hit by a bus, not because of the diabetes.”
Rather than inflated numbers, the deaths are likely undercounted. Many of the hardest-hit cities did not effectively document every death early in the pandemic.
Though Iowa's junior senator later tried to walk back her comments, the damage was done. She should focus on using her job in Congress to provide relief to Americans during this pandemic — not spread misinformation that downplays the devastation.
These comments should haunt Ernst all the way to Election Day, considering how competitive her race is. From The Washington Post:
6. Iowa (Republican-held): We moved Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R) reelection to the toss-up category this summer, and it certainly deserves to stay there. Democrats now have a voter registration advantage over Republicans in the state, which one Democrat joked may be the only good thing to come out of the disastrous Iowa presidential caucuses in February. Iowa is among the reddest states in this toss-up category — Trump won it by nearly 10 percentage points in 2016 — and a new AARP poll of likely voters shows Ernst ahead at 50 percent over Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield at 45 percent. But polls from this summer showed Trump only narrowly leading Democrat Joe Biden. Senate Democrats’ campaign arm doubled its investment here. This race may come down to whether Greenfield has enough crossover appeal to rural, more Trump-leaning voters.
Joni Ernst first captured national attention in the 2014 US Senate race in Iowa, when she aired during the Republican primary an unusual ad. “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm,” she said. “So when I get to Washington, I'll know how to cut pork.”Six years later, the folksy image Ernst has cultivated stands between Democrats and a Senate seat they desire, one of a handful they may need to flip in order to seize control of the chamber this fall. The Senate Majority PAC, the largest Democratic outside group involved in Senate races, is trying to dismantle it, painting Ernst as a Washington insider instead.The Super PAC will reserve $7.4 million in ads in Iowa this fall, expanding on its initial $13 million effort.
Sen. Joni Ernst says it’s important to protect people with preexisting conditions, but a progressive advocacy group says her votes say otherwise.In a television ad launching today, People for the American Way blasts the Republican incumbent for “hypocrisy” on health care coverage for people with preexisting conditions.
“Joni Ernst has given lip service to the importance of protecting people with preexisting conditions while her actions have accomplished the opposite,” People for the American Way President Ben Jealous said.
Let’s keep up the momentum to flip Iowa Blue. Click below to donate and get involved with Greenfield, Biden and their fellow Iowa Democrats campaigns:
The Politicus is a collaborative political community that facilitates content creation directly on the site. Our goal is to make the political conversation accessible to everyone.Any donations we receive will go into writer outreach. That could be advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit or person-to-person outreach on College campuses. Please help if you can: