Legislator leaves panel leadership over false COVID claims
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican state Rep. Ken Weyler on Wednesday stepped down as chairperson of the House Finance and Joint Legislative Fiscal committees after Gov. Chris Sununu said he should be removed because he continued to spread COVID-19 misinformation.
“Representative Weyler and I spoke about my deep concerns of the content in his emails and comments during committee meetings,” House Speaker Sherman Packard said in a statement. “He realizes his error in judgement and recognizes it has compromised his ability to lead the House Finance Committee and Joint Fiscal Committee both now and moving forward.”
Packard added the two “came to a mutual decision” that it would be best for Weyler to step aside. Packard named Rep. Karen Umberger, a Republican from Kearsarge, as Weyler’s replacement.
On Monday, Democratic committee member Rep. Mary Jane Wallner released a statement saying Weyler sent the fiscal committee an email containing a 52-page “report” with disinformation on COVID-19, including claims that live creatures with tentacles are entering people’s bodies through the vaccine and that technology was placed in the vaccine to control people’s thoughts.
She and other Democrats first asked for Weyler to step down as chairperson last month; they renewed their request on Tuesday.
Weyler, in his resignation letter Wednesday, said he had meant to share only the first dozen or so pages of the report, which contained material about COVID-19 reporting methodology that concerned him. He said he did not read the rest of the report, which contained what he called “conspiracy material” and offensive sections.
He added, “I apologize for not vetting this document more thoroughly, and to those who were offended. Hopefully, my resignation will focus the conversation less on me and more on a critical issue facing our state.”
Sununu, a Republican said in a statement Monday that he has “repeatedly expressed” to Packard the need to remove Weyler from his leadership position, calling the latest emails “absurd” and saying they have “accelerated the urgency that the Speaker needs to take action.”
Sununu had added, “Disseminating this misinformation clearly shows a detachment from reality and lack of judgment.”
Last month, Weyler, of Kingston, told state Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette at a committee hearing he doubted the state’s figures showing that 90% people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Shibinette said his assertion was incorrect and was misinformation.
Weyler, in his letter, also commented on a delayed committee vote on $27 million in federal aid to boost New Hampshire’s vaccination efforts. The request from the Department of Health and Human Services would be to spend federal pandemic relief money on a public health manager and a dozen workers to promote the COVID-19 vaccine and address public concerns about it.
He wrote that weeks ago, the committee requested more information relative to possible federal obligations tied to the contract but hasn’t received an answer.
“We are bound to ‘assist’ the federal government in quarantine and isolation orders ... what does that mean?” he wrote.