Jeff Shipley picked up the microphone when he was angry.
That was a bad idea.
The state representative from Fairfield had a rough day as the Legislature returned following over two months away during the pandemic. Shipley, a libertarian-minded outsider who won an upset victory in 2018, has danced to his own tune since arriving in Des Moines, but he may have given his final political performance today after an angry tirade spurred on by mean tweets.
Claiming this morning that the coronavirus “isn’t even killing anybody” during a speech to a group of vaccine skeptics outside the Capitol, Shipley unleashed a firestorm of criticism online. He doubled-down in responses on Twitter, then stormed back out to the rally to clarify a few things.
“I got a little angry because I spoke here, what, two hours ago,” Shipley told the Informed Choice Iowa crowd, captured on video by The Iowa Standard. “Apparently, I’m a risk to the public health and my opinions are going to put a lot of children and babies to death. I want to clarify that is not actually my position.”
The old saying goes that in politics, if you’re explaining, you’re losing. And if you have to explain that you aren’t actually “going to put a lot of children and babies to death,” man, are you ever having a bad day.
Iowans were not too happy about Shipley’s dismissal of the dangers of the coronavirus, which has already killed 570 people in the state. Many have become accustomed to Republicans’ insistence on quickly reopening the state, but Shipley’s comments crossed a line into the realm of weird — and dangerous — internet conspiracy theories.
“What I said earlier is no one is dying from the virus,” Shipley said, his arm outstretched. “I guess that’s not technically true. I should have worded that more carefully. The point I was trying to make is whenever they come out with this vaccine is certainly going to be more dangerous than whatever this coronavirus is going around.”
And as the day wore on, even after he made what appeared to be an apology (one can only imagine what Republican leadership said to him), Shipley continued putting out numbers that downplayed the severity of the virus.
The vaccine comment from Shipley drew applause from the crowd, helping him gather confidence.
“Right. Yeah, I understood that intelligent people can understand this,” Shipley said. “Talking to you guys, you are very intelligent.”
Like in his morning speech, Shipley derided the smarts of those who just couldn’t see the world through his same vision.
“I have to dumb it down for the people who, god bless them, are ignorant brothers and sisters,” Shipley said when explaining past studies of vaccines that didn’t work out that not everyone knows about.
As in every one of these stories, there of course has to be an antagonist. For Shipley, that is a familiar one: the media and Democrats.
“I think that is quite a misrepresentation by the Democrats of what I’m trying to say up here,” Shipley complained.
It should be noted that it was not the Democratic Party that formally responded to him, but various users on Twitter who disagreed.
Of course, it was a news outlet — Starting Line — that drew significant attention to his comments, even if all this outlet did was post long videos of his actual words. But Shipley was still wound up over a Des Moines Register editorial from five months ago.
“I do have something to say about this media … The Des Moines Register said I needed to be ‘vaccinated against my own ignorance,'” Shipley said. “I watch all these people wearing masks, shutting down society, closing down businesses, overturning their lives.”
He then waved a respiratory medicine study in the air that said there was no asymptomatic transmission associated with COVID-19.
And then things really went off the rails. Turning back to his interactions on Twitter, Shipley lit into folks who responded to him.
“So, I posted this on Twitter and some wiseguy says, ‘Oh, Representative Shipley knows more than every single health authority.’ Well yeah, I do, because those guys are all bought by Bill Gates,” Shipley said, his voice rising to a shout. “And God bless you, are you an idiot for not seeing that! And God have mercy on you for your ignorance, because your ignorance is putting us all at risk! Because if we don’t have hold these monsters accountable, they will experiment on our population!”
We could go into a long discussion of the debunked online conspiracy theories raging during the pandemic about how Bill Gates is developing vaccine microchips intended to control the population, but let’s not.
Shipley continued his rant, going off about “medical dictators” and “pharmaceutical fascists,” adding that Gates is “a monster.” Eventually, he wore down, thanked the crowd again, and walked back into the Statehouse.
“I identify as an eternal spirit which will live on long after my body passes,” Shipley tweeted late this afternoon after his tirade. “Why am I putting up with any of this nonsense?”
by Pat Rynard
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