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Governor blasts Eagle River Republican for spreading COVID-19 misinformation: ‘You deceived the people of Alaska’

Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, says this is a “political assault” and that she has been blindsided
The governor has blasted Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, for spreading COVID-19...
The governor has blasted Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, for spreading COVID-19 misinformation.(KTUU)
Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 3:53 PM AKST
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy has written a scathing letter to Eagle River Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold, accusing her of deliberately spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic during legislative hearings and of berating executive branch officials.

Reinbold chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and has repeatedly called Dunleavy administration officials to testify about the pandemic. The governor said that those officials will no longer attend judiciary hearings.

“I will not continue to subject the public resources of the State of Alaska to the mockery of a charade, disguised as public purpose,” the governor said, claiming that Eagle River and Chugiak residents “are deprived of meaningful representation” by Reinbold’s actions.

Reinbold’s COVID-19 pandemic judiciary hearings have seen her repeatedly grill and speak over Dunleavy administration officials.

She has pushed conspiracy theories related to masking and inconclusive alternative coronavirus treatments and questioned the safety of the vaccine and whether Alaska residents have consented to receive it. She raised doubts when Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, told the committee that no one had died in Alaska as a result of taking the vaccine, debunking a rumor that had spread on social media.

“I think that definitely contradicts things that I’ve definitely been following online,” Reinbold said in response.

She has also asked Dunleavy administration officials why schools and businesses are closed.

“How can you justify extending this?” Reinbold asked Commissioner Adam Crum of the Department of Health and Social Services in early February about the state’s COVID-19 disaster declaration. “Knowing how many businesses are suffering, how many children are suffering, how many rights are being violated. How can you justify this?”

Those concerns are months out of date. The state’s now-expired COVID-19 disaster declaration had no impacts on how school districts are operating or whether businesses are open or closed.

In the letter, Dunleavy said that the Legislature has oversight authority over the executive branch, but that Reinbold has been improperly using her position as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee to impugn the motivations of unelected officials with baseless allegations.

“Time and again, when provided the information unequivocally illustrating the blatant inaccuracies in your public statements about the State of Alaska’s responses, you persisted in continuing to betray the public trust with those statements,” the governor wrote. “You deceived the people of Alaska about their government’s response to the largest public health crisis in a century. In doing so, you violated the obligation you have, as a member of the Legislature, to promoting and protecting public health.”

By text message, Reinbold did not answer whether she has deliberately spread COVID-19 misinformation despite being corrected by Dunleavy administration officials. “Administration officials have been spreading incorrect information and fear mongering for months,” she claimed.

Reinbold has also made questionable assertions as a member of the Senate Health and Social Services Committee. She claimed during a legislative hearing that the governor had implemented a system during the pandemic that was similar to living under martial law.

During a press conference last Wednesday, the governor was apoplectic.

“For those that say, and continue to say today, that we are contemplating things like martial law, that we are contemplating things like forced vaccinations, that we are making this out to be a police state, or some type of Stalinist state, they are just completely wrong,” the governor said. “And I think they’re doing all of us a disservice.”

The governor said Alaskans should ask officials to show them proof of those claims.

After an initial request for comment from Alaska’s News Source, Reinbold said by text Thursday that she had just received the letter and did not have time to process it. She said that the governor “makes glaring accusations with no specifics” and that Dunleavy is acting like “a disgruntled minority legislator” and not the governor.

In a follow-up text sent soon after, Reinbold added that Dunleavy’s letter was a “political assault” and that she was blindsided. She called the letter inappropriate and said that the governor has declined to meet with her to discuss concerns on both sides of the aisle.

Under the Legislature’s uniform rules, the Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction to scrutinize the Alaska Court System and the Department of Law and to consider legislation related to them. The Senate Judiciary Committee has no bills before it that are related to the pandemic.

Reinbold said that the disaster declaration and the governor’s mandates, which she says were unconstitutional, have been backed by the Department of Law, meaning she has the authority to scrutinize them.

More broadly, the governor accuses Reinbold of using her position in the Legislature to spread wild COVID-19 conspiracy theories and to waste the administration’s time.

“It is clear, from the unrelenting correspondence between yourself and the members of my administration, that your demands are not based in fact, or in concert with the intent granted legislative oversight,” the governor wrote. “Your baseless, deleterious, and self-serving demands on government resources amount to an abuse of public services and will no longer be endured.”

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