Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst seemed to embrace on Monday a thoroughly-discredited QAnon conspiracy theory about U.S. deaths from COVID-19 being a mere fraction of what has been reported. As the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier wrote, Ernst said she was “so skeptical” of the official death count when asked by an attendee if the government was over-reporting coronavirus deaths.
“They’re thinking there may be 10,000 or less deaths that were actually singularly COVID-19,” Ernst said, seemingly referring to the debunked conspiracy theory that only around 6% of COVID-19 deaths were due to the virus. “I’m just really curious. It would be interesting to know that.”
Going even further, however, Ernst also suggested that doctors were intentionally falsifying coronavirus cases in order to receive more money for caring for the patient.
Then on Wednesday, she realized how fucking stupid that sounds:
Asked later what she meant, Ernst said she was repeating what she’s heard.
“I heard the same thing on the news. … They’re thinking there may be 10,000 or less deaths that were actually singularly COVID-19. … I’m just really curious. It would be interesting to know that.”
Later Wednesday, Ernst said in a statement, “Over 180,000 Americans have died because of covid-19,” adding that “what matters” is that Iowa gets the resources it needs.
According to a tracking project by The New York Times, Iowa has had the most new virus cases per capita of any state over the last seven days. Ames and Iowa City, home to Iowa State University and the University of Iowa, rank second and fourth nationally among metro areas with the most cases per capita over the past two weeks.
Ms. Ernst’s comments seemed to track a false claim spread by President Trump over the weekend, and removed by Twitter for violating disinformation rules, because it is linked to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.
The claim, retweeted by Mr. Trump, inaccurately said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “quietly updated the Covid number to admit that only 6%” of deaths — or about 9,000 people — “actually died from Covid.”