Tennessee State Capitol (Photograph: John Partipilo)
Conservative firebrand Rep. Bruce Griffey is castigating lawmakers who favor vaccine mandates, calling them “medical Nazis” and seeking the use of ivermectin to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saying he is not opposed to vaccines for elderly Tennesseans with health problems, the Paris Republican, nevertheless, said in a letter to colleagues Tuesday he “vehemently” opposes mandates by government and Tennessee business owners.
“I am also very frustrated that we, today, apparently have a number of ‘medical Nazis’ in the TN House and Senate that think it’s OK for some Tennesseans (those with financial power via their business ownership or employment of other Tennesseans), to discriminate against fellow (powerless) Tennesseans by requiring vaccines by threatening them with the loss of their job and/or ability to conduct business,” Griffey says in the letter.
Griffey, who for months has pursued a special session on COVID-19 issues along with other House Republicans, calls vaccine mandates “a threat by the financial elite” against poor people and their ability to care for their families, saying, “This is something I would never believe I would see in America.”
Following a special session Oct. 18 to handle business related to the Ford-SK Innovation project at the Memphis Regional Megasite, a separate special session sought by Republicans is expected to be held starting Oct. 27 to deal with COVID-19 matters.
Vaccine mandates and their effect on the business community is likely to be the most highly charged question lawmakers will take up. Some Republicans don’t believe the Legislature should tell companies and businesses whether they can or can’t require vaccines.
Gov. Bill Lee and leaders such as Lt. Gov. Randy McNally oppose President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 employees. Yet they have urged Tennesseans to get vaccinated, saying it is the best method to stop the pandemic.
Some Democrats have come out in favor of Biden’s order, but the House Democratic Caucus has taken no action nor has it asked for a special session.
Griffey contends “history” and voters will harshly judge those who favor such mandates, raising the point that the nation’s Founding Fathers would be disappointed and noting that Adolph Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Community Chinese President Xi Jinping are “smiling with glee.”
In his letter, Griffey contends forcing people to get vaccinated will have the opposite effect of increasing the percentage of those vaccinated and says if given a choice and facts about the effectiveness of the vaccine, then the state will see a better vaccination rate.
Yet while also pointing out the survival rate of COVID-19 is 99%, and much higher for young people without underlying health conditions, he argues in the letter that “vaccines DO Not stop the spread of the virus!!!” He also says “silly cloth masks are a joke (in my opinion) and the science does not support their use!” He does acknowledge N95 masks are effective in stopping the spread of the virus.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Vincent Dixie of Nashville said in response Tuesday he considers Griffey’s letter “contradictory,” targeting his comment about masks.
“Do masks work or do they not work?” Dixie asked, noting medical doctors use cloth masks to protect themselves and patients by maintaining a sterile environment.
Dixie reiterated his stance that the state and nation have been dealing with the pandemic for more than a year and a half, yet elected leaders are still no closer to reaching a consensus on how to protect the public.
“We’ve had plenty of time to get this right. But instead, they keep putting out this false narrative about infringing on civil liberties, and the whole goal is just to keep people safe,” Dixie said. “We have vaccines, and that’s why we don’t have a lot of the illnesses they had in the late 1800s or early 1900s, because vaccines work.”
Griffey, who provides links to news articles and reports to support his claims, says decisions on the vaccine should be a “personal decision” and one made by parents in the case of children, “not the politically biased/charged TN Dept of health seeking to circumvent wishes of Tennessee parents via some informed minor doctrine.” He also accuses “corporate media” of failing to report on successful treatments such as ivermectin therapy in India and Africa. Ivermectin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat conditions in humans caused by parasitic worms but not for COVID-19.
In fact, studies have shown ivermectin to be a potential treatment for COVID-19, but the FDA found insufficient evidence to recommend for or against its use and determined that results from better clinical trials are needed to decide its effectiveness.
Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey has also said immunity through the vaccine is more effective than natural immunity by catching the virus.
In his letter, though, Griffey said he hopes a majority of lawmakers will join him and others and show the same “leadership” as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed an executive order prohibiting mandates for any vaccine. The move raised concerns about whether children would need to have vaccinations for mumps, measles and rubella.
“And to those members that fraudulently and intentionally ignore the distinction between personal health choices and decisions that end the life of another human being, I will pray for you and hope that one day you will realize your grave error in judgment and promotion of the killing of innocent human beings. May God forgive you for your ignorance. History will not be kind to you. Hitler didn’t fair [sic] well did he?” Griffey’s letter says.
Griffey appears to be referring to a tweet by Democratic state Rep. John Ray Clemmons of Nashville who posted a comment by former House Speaker Glen Casada: “Government should not mandate my personal health choices,” says yet another GOP male who has voted for every single bill limiting women’s #healthcare rights that has come across his desk, Clemmons notes in the tweet.
Clemmons didn’t respond to a text seeking comments.
But in response to Griffey’s comments about “medical Nazis,” Dixie said the GOP is the “biggest offender” when it comes to freedom of choice, especially for women’s productive rights.
“So you can’t have it both ways. Either it’s freedom for everybody or you’re going to pick and choose when it’s OK,” Dixie said.
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