Panelists make outrageous claims in conservative Covid committee 

Covid, Senate panel, Shamp, Will Humble

Conservative lawmakers hosted a panel on May 25, 2023 with speakers who claim that the federal government intentionally lied and mishandled Covid and that hospitals intentionally killed people. They also made statements that medical professionals say are untrue. (Photo by Pexels)

Panelists make outrageous claims in conservative Covid committee 

Updates: Adds information from the second day of the committee meeting, May 26.

Conservative lawmakers hosted a panel on Thursday and Friday where invited speakers made wild claims that the federal government intentionally lied and mishandled Covid, that hospitals intentionally killed people, and many more theories that Arizona medical professionals say are untrue. 

The panelists also told listeners that the federal government, most media and medical groups are intentionally lying to people about Covid, insisting that they are the ones telling the true story. 

“I feel really sad for people,” who believe “that nearly every healthcare worker in the country was involved,” and that there was a “mass conspiracy to make profit over letting people die,” said Arizona Partnership for Immunization Interim Executive Director Bob England. 

Covid panel, Shamp, Shope
Dr. Peter McCullough (Photo courtesy of ABC News)

One panelist, Dr. Peter McCullough, a cardiologist, perpetuated the most striking claims during the meeting of the Novel Coronavirus Southwestern Intergovernmental Committee. He said Covid is highly contagious, but also that it can only be transmitted indoors after long exposure and doesn’t spread outside. He said the government constructed a “tapestry of fraud” to convince people to get vaccinated. 

McCullough said that patients were “captured” by hospitals unnecessarily for money. “Covid-19 was the number one revenue generator for most hospitals for a couple years,” he said. 

McCullough was fired from Baylor University Medical Center and a Texas court granted a restraining order against him for still claiming to work there. The American Board of Internal Medicine also, according to McCullough, warned him to stop spreading misinformation about Covid. He’s appeared on many programs and in front of other governmental bodies to say these things. 

“I’m the most published person in my field in the world in history,” McCullough claimed.  

Panelists made a host of unproven claims about Covid vaccines, including but not limited to: they kill children, cause infertility and autism, and have never been tested. 

Covid, House, Senate, Shamp, campus, parents
Sen. Janae Shamp, R-Surprise (Capitol Media Services 2023 file photo by Howard Fischer)

“Vaccines didn’t prevent transmission, they didn’t prevent the vaccinated from infection, and they did not prevent death,” state Sen. Janae Shamp, R-Surprise, chairwoman of the committee said. 

England strongly disagreed with Shamp. 

“Oh, my heavens no,” he said. “This vaccine was much, much, much more effective at making this disease less severe in people who were immunized. … It saved a lot of lives.” England said in hindsight, the pandemic was politicized in a way that is disappointing and that he never expected. He sees this as an example of that. 

A spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Health Services said the agency declined to comment on the committee’s actions. 

Executive Director for the Arizona Public Health Association Will Humble left after the first couple hours of the committee. “I could see early on it was a waste of my time, so I left and I’m not going back,” he said. Humble said he strongly agrees with Shamp and said early in the meeting that she wants to talk frankly about what can be handled better and what went right.  

“But I totally disagree that this meeting would achieve any of those things. This wasn’t that,” Humble said. He called the committee a “free for all” and McCullough a “charlatan.” 

Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, compared Arizona to other states like California, which had even stricter rules during the pandemic. He called it a “haven” for people who wanted to do normal things like go out to dinner. Covid was also the leading cause of death in Arizona two years ago. 

England noted that Arizona had one of the highest death rates in the country and that people are still dying from Covid.  

Shamp was fired for refusing to get vaccinated against Covid. She said today that she also never tested for Covid because she didn’t want to swab her nose. 

Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Goodyear, asked the doctors why hospitals took an “anti-science” route in response to testimony from the panel. 

A man called Kurtis Bay came and testified about his experience with his wife during Covid, and her death in a hospital in Arizona. “She never had a chance with the protocols in place,” Bay said.  

After listening to Bay’s story, McCullough told him that his wife could have survived and that she was intubated because intubated Covid cases would get more money for the hospital. 

Democrats condemned the meeting online and fundraised off it, asking people to help prevent things like this in the future. 

In response to various things said in the committee meeting today, the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association emailed a statement simply saying that the pandemic was devastating, and healthcare workers are trying hard to provide care.  

“The stories we hear from patients and our healthcare workforce are heartbreaking. There is no question that the pandemic strained every aspect of our world – both at a personal and professional level. The best available science and data drove hospitals’ use of evidence-based care. The public health interventions implemented across the state worked as we saw COVID-19 case rates decline while in use. Arizona hospitals and healthcare workers were, and remain, committed to providing the very best care for the patients within their communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” the statement said. 

The Novel Coronavirus Southwestern Intergovernmental Committee was the subject of controversy before it started on Thursday.  

The committee is shortened to the acronym NCSWIC, which is also the acronym for a popular QAnon phrase “Nothing Can Stop What Is Coming.” NCSWIC also stands for the unrelated National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators, as Shamp pointed out on Twitter. 

The Arizona Republic posted an article explaining the rumor that the committee is tied to QAnon, which Senate Majority Communications Director Kim Quintero and Shamp brushed off as “goofy.” 

Quintero said she doesn’t believe that Shamp or Shope (the chair and vice-chair respectively) are in any way influenced by QAnon. 

Senate staff wouldn’t say who named the committee or gave it the acronym that received so much attention.  

The acronym appears on the Legislature’s calendar and on a digital flier Shamp shared on Twitter that was seemingly generated by The America Project.  

The America Project is a conservative group supplying funding for this committee and lists itself as the organizer of this event. Before the committee, The America Project posted a detailed agenda of the committee’s meetings and the order they’d be conducted in. 

The America Project was co-founded by Michael Flynn, who was banned from Twitter for furthering Qanon theories. “Given the renewed potential for violence surrounding this type of behavior in the coming days, we will permanently suspend accounts that are solely dedicated to sharing QAnon content,” Twitter stated at the time. 

Congressmen Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar and Eli Crane were scheduled to appear on the committee, but they didn’t come. A spokesperson for Biggs confirmed that he is in Washington, D.C., working on the federal debt ceiling issue. 

Gosar did send in a video message saying some of the same things, namely that government officials lied about Covid for a political agenda. “It’s important that all data be reviewed including any incentives that propelled misinformation,” he said. 

Shamp said in her closing comments that this is just the first of several more Novel Coronavirus Southwestern Intergovernmental Committee hearings.