Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and 10 Republican state legislators (or legislators to be) appeared in a video earlier this week in which they seemed to openly question the existence of the coronavirus pandemic while also insisting they would follow no state or local emergency orders relating to the fight against Covid-19.
“The fact that a pandemic may or may not be occurring changes nothing about the meaning or intent of state’s constitution and the preservation of our inalienable rights,” says Karey Hanks, who is running unopposed for a state House seat, in the video.
McGeachin, who has repeatedly clashed with Republican Gov. Brad Little over what she believes to be his onerous response to the pandemic, is featured in the video holding a Bible – and then placing a gun on said Bible – as she reads from the state’s Constitution.
Each person in the video, including Hanks, read lines from a statement they all signed.
The video is the work of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which describes itself as a “libertarian think tank” based in Boise. It was posted on the group’s YouTube site on Tuesday to coincide with Little’s latest decision to move the state back to Phase 3 in its response to the pandemic.
“My fellow Idahoans, we are in a crisis with our health care system in Idaho due to the pandemic,” Little said earlier this week. “I sincerely hope that some people have passed the point of thinking the pandemic is not real or is not a big deal, or that their personal actions don’t really affect anything.”
Coronavirus cases are up by 46% over the last two weeks, according to The New York Times’ data. Deaths from the virus have gone up 172% in that same period of time.
Despite those numbers, McGeachin immediately criticized Little’s move.
“I am disappointed that the governor believes our state needs to impose more restrictions on our already struggling businesses and limit the choice of individuals regarding their gatherings,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “Respecting individual liberty and property rights must remain the foundation of all policy decisions in our state.”
(Worth noting: The main changes Little is imposing by returning to Phase 3 in the pandemic response are limiting gatherings to 50 people and under and forcing people who visit nursing homes to wear masks. So not exactly radical changes in Idahoans’ ways of life.)
McGeachin has clashed with Little repeatedly since the start of the pandemic.
Earlier this year, the Idaho Statesman’s Cynthia Sewell reported that the two top Republican elected officials hadn’t spoken to each other in weeks, and that McGeachin had personally defied Little’s executive orders to control the spread of the coronavirus in the Gem State.
“She left the Legislature’s 2020 session early — the lieutenant governor presides over the Senate — to attend to her family business, a restaurant and pub in Idaho Falls. She has attended or supported rallies opposing Little’s stay-home order and has been urging him to let businesses re-open. She defied his state order earlier this month to attend an event at a North Idaho brewery that re-opened despite Little’s order.”
This latest statement by McGeachin – and 10 of her fellow Republicans – goes beyond simply criticizing Little for his “draconian” (McGeachin’s word) policies in regard to containing the spread of Covid-19. The Idaho Freedom Foundation statement seems to openly question whether the coronavirus is actually a pandemic, which is a weird argument to make, given that 44 million people worldwide have been sickened by it and more than 1.1 million have died from it.
McGeachin’s high-profile critique of Little is explained by, you guessed it, politics! The governor and lieutenant governor in Idaho are not elected as a ticket, meaning that McGeachin holds no real loyalty to Little despite the fact that they are both Republicans.
While he spent a decade as lieutenant governor, she is a former state representative and small business owner. He represents the establishment within the GOP; she stands for the Trump wing.
The tension could well come to a head in 2022, when Little will be up for a second term and McGeachin will have the right of refusal when it comes to challenging him.