The congressional campaign for Lauren Boebert, a Rifle restaurant owner who last spring violated COVID-19 public health orders, is refusing to answer basic questions about President Donald Trump contracting the disease and whether there’s a need for a much more stringent national plan to combat the deadly virus.
Even as Colorado heads into a very uncertain ski season, with Trump’s own public health experts urging Americans to “hunker down” through the fall and winter, Trump has been holding in-person meetings and campaign events without masks and proper social distancing. He is now hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment, with officials saying his path to recovery is in doubt.
On Friday, the campaign for Boebert, a maverick Republican endorsed by Trump and seeking to represent most of the state’s Western Slope in Congress, declined to respond to whether she will change her anti-regulation tone and behavior on the disease in light of the president’s diagnosis. Health officials say Boebert is “stoking mistrust” on COVID-19, and Boebert was photographed in a maskless crowd of supporters in Walsenburg on Friday — the same day Trump was hospitalized.
Besides the Garfield County cease and desist order aimed at Boebert’s Shooters Grill in May when she reopened in violation of state public health orders, her campaign received a public health order warning from Pitkin County last month when supporters at her Aspen fundraiser reportedly did not properly social distance or wear masks.
Asked Friday morning by RealVail.com to comment on these issues beyond Boebert’s “power of prayer” tweet in support of the Trumps, Boebert campaign spokeswoman Laura Carno replied:
“The campaign won’t be responding to you as you’ve made it clear you are an opinion piece writer and not an objective reporter. For example, this is an opinion of yours — not reporting, not a question. An opinion,” Carno emailed, citing factual statements about Boebert’s previous violations of COVID-19 public health orders.
Carno did not respond to a follow-up question on whether the campaign is denying the facts about those previous orders and warnings.
The campaign for Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, a former state representative for Routt and Eagle counties who is taking on Boebert in the Nov. 3 election, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the same set of questions sent to Boebert’s campaign.
“Wishing the President and First Lady a speedy recovery,” Mitsch Bush tweeted Friday morning. “My thoughts are with them.”
Boebert also tweeted her support for Trump, who has wholeheartedly endorsed her unlikely campaign after she upset five-term Republican Scott Tipton in the 3rd Congressional District that includes 29 of Colorado’s 64 counties. Trump originally endorsed Tipton in the primary race.
“I believe in the power of prayer. Let’s hold the First Lady, President Trump and their family in prayer through this time,” Boebert tweeted Friday morning. “We have a country to save & we need you full strength, @realDonaldTrump. Rest up & let’s get this done!”
Mitsch Bush, a social scientist and statistician, said in an interview with RealVail.com in May that Boebert is missing an “underlying foundation” of science. Boebert reportedly dropped out of high school in Rifle but later earned her GED.
“Ignoring science is what we’ve seen writ large in [the Trump] administration … and that’s one of the reasons we are in the fix we’re in now,” Mitsch Bush said in May, referring to the economic shutdown of the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 207,000 Americans in just seven months.
Boebert tweeted her displeasure with “tabloid-style” reporting on president’s health, which she admits is a matter of “vital national security,” and on Saturday morning she tweeted her opposition to another stimulus bill to help struggling small businesses, unemployed people losing their health insurance and state and local governments facing critical budget shortfalls.
“The best stimulus package is reopening America!” Boebert tweeted Saturday morning.
A few hours later, Trump contradicted her with this tweet from the hospital: “OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS. WORK TOGETHER AND GET IT DONE. Thank you!”
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch MConnell, following the positive COVID-19 tests of three Republican senators, has said the Senate will not reconvene until Oct. 19 – narrowing the window for a possible stimulus package. McConnell is, however, pushing forward with the confirmation process for conservative Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, whose White House introduction on Sept. 26 may have served as a COVID-19 super-spreader event.
Boebert’s campaign also declined to comment on whether Trump’s diagnosis should prompt support for the Affordable Care Act, which legally prevents health insurance companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions such as COVID-19. The Trump administration is seeking to overturn the law in court, with a Supreme Court hearing looming in early November.
Boebert has previously criticized the law but still has not issued any sort of policy plan on how it should be replaced. It’s estimated more than 20 million Americans will lose coverage during the raging COVID-19 pandemic if the SCOTUS sides with the Republican ACA challenge.
Both Mitsch Bush and Boebert’s campaign did not respond to questions last week about Trump’s diagnosis in terms of the need for a more robust national testing system, more contract tracing and stepped up protective measures for the American public.
“I have always used science and evidence; I’m a social scientist,” Mitsch Bush said in May when asked about beating the virus. “I used to do research. Science is so critical in so many ways, whether it’s public health, understanding of viral transmission curve. And I’m a statistician; I trained as one. And so, understanding that curve, that line, is really important.
“It’s really important that you look at the data, and then people will say, ‘Well, you can do anything with statistics.’ That’s part of being a scientist or a social scientist. You’ve got to know how studies were done, how they were sampled,” Mitsch Bush added.
Also in a May phone interview, Boebert took issue with government COVID-19 restrictions.
“Government should not be taking away our rights. I’m fine with [Colorado Gov. Jared Polis] keeping us informed about the best practices that we should be able to use for our state and then determine for ourselves what risks we’re willing to take,” Boebert said.
“I don’t believe that all of our rights should be taken away just because there’s an illness out there — that’s a part of our life,” she added. “We take risks every day and we just need to be able to find that proper balance so we don’t wreck ourselves economically.”
Boebert’s campaign last week also declined to disavow right-wing militia groups and violent white supremacy organizations such as the Proud Boys, who have attended protest events where Boebert was also on hand.
At Tuesday’s brutally contentious presidential debate, Trump urged the Proud Boys – labeled by his own FBI as a violent extremist group – to “stand back, stand by” instead of stand down leading up to Election Day, failing to condemn the group until finally disavowing all white supremacist groups days later on Fox News after a torrent of criticism.
Boebert’s campaign did not return an email requesting comment on Wednesday morning, and her official Twitter feed didn’t weigh in either, instead simply declaring Trump the winner of the debate: “1st Place: President Donald J. Trump 2nd Place: Chris Wallace 3rd Place: Joe Biden.”
Trump’s refusal to disavow violent white supremacy groups that his own FBI director recently testified are responsible for the majority of domestic terrorism threats has become the dominant storyline of Tuesday night’s heated and often ugly presidential debate, especially during the nation’s ongoing reckoning with racial injustice.
Asked by moderator Chris Wallace if he would “condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities,” Trump first said, “sure,” but then added, “Proud Boys, stand back, stand by.”
Members of the white supremacist Proud Boys group immediately sent those words out in tweets with the group’s logo. The Proud Boys, who were on hand for the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, have been declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Boebert late last year attended an anti-Red Flag Law rally in Denver, which included members of the Proud Boys and other white supremacist militia groups. Trump, who said there were “very fine people on both sides” at Charlottesville, has wholeheartedly endorsed Boebert for Congress.
The Mitsch Bush campaign declined to comment on Trump’s Proud Boys statement on Tuesday but in the past has blasted Boebert for her ties to militia groups.
“Another day, another example of extremist Lauren Boebert appealing to the fringes of our society,” Mitsch Bush told supporters on July 27. “This time it’s a far-right militia with connections to violent white supremacists, and she proudly posed for a photo with them after protesting against common-sense gun laws that will save lives.”
Also in late July, the Mitsch Bush campaign sent this statement to KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs: “Lauren Boebert has aligned herself with extremist, white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys, and she seems to be more interested in national, hot button issues than the issues that matter to Coloradans. In Congress, Diane will work to represent everyone from every part of this district, not just the people who agree with her, and she will work across the aisle.”
Boebert campaign spokeswoman Laura Carno responded at the time, “We will not respond to such a disgusting allegation.” Asked on Wednesday if Trump’s “stand by” directive to the Proud Boys and calls on his “supporters to go into the polls …” were appropriate and whether Boebert backs the president’s stoking of violence on Nov. 3, Carno did not respond to an email.
In a May interview after Trump called on armed groups to liberate Michigan and militia members stormed the state legislature, Boebert said that was not something she would do.
“I don’t use my Second Amendment rights to intimidate others,” Boebert told RealVail.com. “It is for my protection and it is a protection against a tyrannical government, and so I don’t see that we would ever have to use our Second Amendment rights against our government, but that is what it’s for. It’s not for hunting. It’s not for target shooting or for sport.”
In fact, the Second Amendment simply reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Boebert also recently engaged in a war of words with a political action committee formed by two decorated military veterans in Pueblo who oppose her candidacy, labeling them members of the left-wing ideology of antifa.