A weekend criticism of the COVID-19 vaccine posted by state Rep. Rob Chase was removed from Facebook after it was determined to have misinformation.
In the post, Chase drew several conclusions that have been disproven by a federal judge, health experts and medical ethicists. His comparison of the vaccine rollout to the Nazi medical experimentation that brought about the Nuremberg Codes was called "reprehensible" in a ruling last month by a Texas federal judge appointed by President Ronald Reagan.
"Why would anyone take a vaccine that is not a vaccine, is not tested, violates the Nuremberg Code, the insert is blank, cannot be sued for damages, was created by Eugenecists (sic) who want a smaller Global population, and there are many natural cures available anyway," Chase wrote in the post Saturday.
Chase, the Republican representative of a district that includes Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, parts of Mead and northwest Spokane County, defended his comments in an interview Tuesday, even as many prominent Republicans made public statements urging vaccination and amid calls from the White House warning that misinformation about the shots was a public health threat.
"It was kind of like having a town hall on the cheap," Chase said. "I'm hearing a lot of my constituents concerned about it."
The vaccine has received emergency approval for use by the Food and Drug Administration, following clinical trials in which participants received lengthy disclosure forms. The "inserts" referenced are pharmaceutical information cards, which include hyperlinks to online information so as to remain current with health guidelines. The makers of the vaccine have received some liability coverage for damages, but patients may also petition for compensation from a federal fund to compensate those injured by the vaccines. There is no known "cure" for COVID-19, only treatments.
As for the "eugenicists," Chase identified George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist tied in conspiracy theories to the functioning of the global economy and progressive politics, as well as Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Joe Uscinski, a professor of political science at the University of Miami who has authored two books on the development of conspiracy theories in the United States, said Chase's suggestions were "par for the course" of the anti-vaccination movement online.
"It's the same group of arguments everyone seems to make. It is all largely misinformation," Uscinski said after reviewing the posts.
Misinformation about the vaccines has been the recent target of the White House, with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy last week calling misinformation an "urgent threat" to public health. President Joe Biden went further Friday, suggesting Facebook users were "killing people" by posting false information on the platform.
Uscinski said the White House's message may be too drastic.
"We shouldn't assume that everything that's false out there is just convincing everyone in its path," Uscinski said. "If that were the case, we'd all be anti-vaxxers by now."
But he said the conspiratorial views of lawmakers, and people in positions of authority, should not be viewed as "harmless," either.
The Nuremberg Code comparison was made in the Texas lawsuit by 117 workers at Houston Methodist Hospital challenging the private healthcare provider's requirement that employees be vaccinated against COVID-19. They argued the requirement was, in effect, coercing them to take the vaccination to keep their jobs, an argument Chase echoed.
But Judge Lynn Hughes, in addition to calling the comparison reprehensible, said the code did not apply to the consequences faced by employees choosing not to get their shots.
"Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus," Hughes wrote. "It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their family safer."
Chase, who is not vaccinated, also echoed the claims of other politicians who have posted false information about the vaccine by saying that the removal of his comment from regular view was a form of censorship.
"It's kind of like Big Brother," he said. "I just hate censorship; this is America, for heaven's sake."
Chase's position against vaccination is not universally held among Republicans. Mitch McConnell, the Senator Minority Leader, urged all Americans on Tuesday to get vaccinated.
"These shots need to get in everybody's arms as rapidly as possible or we're going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don't yearn for — that we went through last year," McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill. "This is not complicated."
Chase joins state Rep. Jenny Graham, whose post to Facebook last year was also flagged as false for suggesting Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the president, was pushing the release of an untested vaccine.
Graham defended her own post, which is still flagged on Facebook as false, in an interview Tuesday, but also said she couldn't speak to what motivated Chase.
"It was simply a mother, and a legislator, putting politics aside and looking out for the people's health," Graham said of her post.
She said that people, and legislators who frequently meet with constituents about their concerns, should not be prevented from speaking publicly about those concerns. Graham also said the points raised by Chase were ones she and her family considered before her mother and uncle received vaccinations. Graham contracted COVID-19 and said she's had blood tests to show she has developed antibodies that fight the virus.
"It's like if we were in a committee hearing. People come in, they testify, they say what it is that's on their mind," Graham said.
Chase, for his part, said he wasn't elected "to keep his mouth shut."
"I can ask any question I want," he said. "That's what a representative does."