State Rep. Jeff Shipley kicked off his return to the Iowa Statehouse today by claiming the coronavirus hadn’t killed anyone, saying a vaccine would do more harm than good, and doubting the virus could be transmitted by asymptomatic people.
The first-term Republican legislator from Fairfield made a series of peculiar and factually inaccurate statements during a winding, boisterous speech this morning on the steps of the Capitol. He was speaking to a group of about 100 people with the Informed Choice Iowa, an organization that lobbies against mandatory vaccines.
“Oh, nothing can get back to normal until there’s a vaccine. We’ve heard the political leaders say it. We’ve heard the media say it ad nauseam,” Shipley said during his remarks. “It doesn’t matter that this vaccine doesn’t exist. It’s probably impossible to develop a safe vaccine. It’s hardly going to work anyway, and this virus isn’t even killing anybody.”
As of 3:30 on Wednesday afternoon, 570 Iowans had died from COVID-19, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s tracker.
Here is video of State Rep. Jeff Shipley, a Republican legislator from the Fairfield-based swing district, saying, “This virus isn’t even killing anybody” to a crowd of Anti-Vaxxers at the Statehouse pic.twitter.com/baKtXivX7Y
— Iowa Starting Line (@IAStartingLine) June 3, 2020
Before downplaying the danger of the virus, Shipley mocked his colleagues in the Iowa Legislature who had shown up wearing face shields this morning. Several lawmakers, including older ones with health conditions, had expressed their concern about returning to the Statehouse in recent weeks.
“I don’t think anyone knows what’s going on, certainly not in this building,” Shipley said. “I don’t know what to do anymore, but just laugh at it. If you go in there, you’ll see a lot of lawmakers, the men and women we’ve elected to lead our state into health and prosperity and freedom, they’re covering their faces with a plastic face shield. I don’t understand this … Looking ridiculous aside, I don’t understand the scientific validation of some of these things. Seems to me like a lot of in-group virtue signaling … This professional political class that wants them to know they’re better than us. Wants them to know they’re healthier than us.”
Most Democratic legislators wore masks of some sort in the Iowa House today, though some Republicans did as well.
Throughout other parts his speech, Shipley talked about a potential need to “abolish” governments that implement restrictions like those seen during the pandemic. At one point, Shipley suggested collaborating with Antifa organizations to carry that mission out.
“Make no mistake: if we don’t fix this, if we don’t start respecting freedom and liberty, it will be on you to alter and abolish it,” Shipley said. “And, who knows, maybe our brothers and sisters in Black Lives Matter and Antifa, we gotta find out a way to collaborate. But if there are some institutions that are disrespecting human dignity, they gotta go!”
Shipley also had some thoughts on ventilators and questioned whether the health care system was actually helping those that were infected.
“When someone who’s sick … we’re just going to lock them up in quarantine, throw them on a ventilator, not even pray for them, just wait for them to die and languish while our health care system does nothing,” Shipley said. “This isn’t about helping people, you know this. They told us this was all about ventilators back in March, then we learned the ventilators were killing people.”
The lawmaker closed out his speech thanking the crowd.
“I appreciate the opportunity to express myself. It’s difficult sometimes. I guess not everyone appreciates freedom,” he joked.
After videos of his comments quickly spread through Iowa political circles, Shipley doubled-down on some of the topics when responding to people online.
In several subsequent tweets, Shipley questioned whether there was actually evidence for asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 and stated that a vaccine for the virus would likely cause more harm than the virus, which has killed over 100,000 Americans, itself.
However, once blowback continued, Shipley changed his tune and issued a clarification on his comments, seeming to walk some of them back.
“What I meant to say is that the threat of illness is never enough to justify a mandatory vaccine,” Shipley tweeted around three hours after appearing at the rally. “I failed to prepare my remarks and thus spoke poorly, I’ll promise to do better in the future.”
What I meant to say is that the threat of illness is never enough to justify a mandatory vaccine.
Thanks for covering the rally.
I failed to prepare my remarks and thus spoke poorly, I’ll promise to do better in the future.
— Jeff Shipley ??? (@RepShipley) June 3, 2020
Shipley was first elected to House District 82 in 2018 by just 37 votes in a surprise upset. A libertarian-aligned group helped knock doors for the sauerkraut salesman and stand-up comic from Fairfield, while Democrats felt the district was safe enough and concentrated on other races. Many in the transcendental meditation community around Fairfield and Vedic City supported Shipley, including those who typically vote for Democrats.
Phil Miller, a well-know local veterinarian who lost to Shipley in 2018, is running again this year in a race that is being much more closely watched this time around.
House District 82 covers most of Jefferson County, along with all of Davis and Van Buren counties. It’s been a swing seat in recent years.
by Pat Rynard
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