A wave of coronavirus denialism, disinformation and conspiracy theories has spread across the stage of the largest Republican conference.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Texas, prominent right-wing officials, media personalities and lawmakers have rejected Covid-19 vaccination efforts and suggested that the proliferation of the more-contagious delta variant is a manufactured crisis.
On the second day of the conference on 10 July, a writer who has spread a raft of false coronavirus claims said the federal government tried to “sucker” Americans into getting the vaccine, but that “it isn’t happening,” inspiring cheers from the crowd.
“It’s horrifying,” White House medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci told CNN on Sunday.
“They’re cheering about someone saying that it’s a good thing for people not to try to save their lives,” he said. “I mean, if you just unpack that for a second … it’s almost frightening. … I just don’t get that. I don’t think anyone who is thinking clearly can get that.”
Republican US Rep Adam Kinzinger, a prominent critic of his party, criticised his colleagues’ fear-mongering and vaccination disinformation in the face of a public health crisis and the deaths of more than 600,000 Americans.
“Absolute insanity,” he told CNN on Sunday.
“This is outrage politics that’s being played by my party, and it’s gonna get Americans killed,” he said. “Our party has been hijacked. My party has been hijacked.”
This week, GOP Reps Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Talyor Greene compared information campaigns to connect Americans to vaccines to Nazism. Ms Boebert went on to tell the crowd at CPAC to refuse Covid-19 vaccines.
Other themes central to the conference include the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, attacks on transgender athletes, false claims about “critical race theory”, and calls for Republicans to rely on those baseless narratives to run for local elections.
The conference has also attracted members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, proponents of QAnon, and fringe conspiracy theories that have increasingly shaped the modern GOP.
“It is on its way into the ground and for some people it’s a fun ride,” Mr Kinzinger said. “[They] can put this outrageous stuff on Twitter – ‘yeah, I’m getting all these retweets, and everybody knows me, I’m famous’ – but this plane is going to crash into the ground.”
The congressman called on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other GOP leadership to “call out these garbage politicians, these absolute clown politicians playing on your vaccine fears for their own selfish game”.
Dr Fauci urged Americans to “put aside this ideological difference or differences thinking that somebody is forcing you to do something”.
“The public health officials, like myself and my colleagues, are asking you to do something that will ultimately save your life, and that of your family and that of the community,” he said. “I mean, it’s ideological rigidity, I think. There’s no reason not to get vaccinated.”
Roughly 55 per cent of Americans are fully vaccinated from Covid-19, and roughly 48 per cent have received at least one shot, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The current seven-day average of new daily infections is 14,885, marking a 16 per cent increase from the previous seven-day average.
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