The Bulletin Board

Sununu says fiscal committee chairman should be removed over COVID vaccine misinformation

By: - October 4, 2021 5:33 pm
Chris Sununu stands at a lectern with an American flag behind him

A spokesman for Gov. Chris Sununu said the site of this week’s Executive Council meeting was “chosen due to its accessibility, security, and venue size, allowing for public access while also ensuring a safe and orderly democratic process.” (Courtesy)

Gov. Chris Sununu said Monday he supports removing Rep. Ken Weyler as chairman of the powerful Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee following Weyler’s continued dissemination of unproven and outlandish claims about the COVID-19 vaccine, including octopus-like creatures living in the vaccine and vaccinated parents having babies with “pitch black” eyes and premature aging.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Sherman Packard, who has not publicly responded to Democrats’ request for Weyler’s removal, defended Weyler Monday. “It is not uncommon, whether one agrees or disagrees with the content, for a committee chair to share constituent information with committee members,” Packard said in a statement.

Sununu disagrees.

“I have repeatedly expressed directly to Speaker Packard about the need to remove Rep. Weyler from this position of leadership, and these latest absurd emails have accelerated the urgency that the speaker needs to take action,” Sununu said Monday after Weyler sent committee members an unsupported report written by two anti-vaccine advocates. In addition to claims about octopus-like creatures living in the vaccine, the report, recently debunked by PolitiFact, also alleged COVID-19 death counts are inflated and that the Spanish flu killed only those who had been vaccinated. “Disseminating this misinformation clearly shows a detachment from reality and lack of judgment,” Sununu said.

Weyler, a Kingston Republican, sent the material to committee members as they prepare to vote on $27 million in federal contracts for vaccination outreach. 

Led by Weyler, the committee voted along party lines in mid-September to table the contracts. 

Following that meeting, Democrats sent Packard a letter asking him to remove Weyler as chairman for claiming – contrary to evidence – that most hospitalized COVID-19 patients are vaccinated. The House Democratic Office said they have not received a reply. 

The committee was scheduled to take up the federal contracts last week until Weyler announced he had canceled the meeting, citing a failure by the state Department of Health and Human Services to provide the committee with requested information. The department did not return a message seeking comment.

In his statement, Packard noted that the committee will consider the state’s information as well. “The fiscal committee is still interested in learning what additional information the state agencies can provide on future obligations that could be tied into acceptance of the federal money,” he said.

The committee meets again Oct. 22. 

“As we prepare … to take up the $27 million in federal aid, weeks behind where we could’ve been in pandemic response, we are left wondering what information we are waiting on as it certainly can’t be this,” Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, a Concord Democrat on the House Finance Committee, said in a statement. “The continued dissemination of disinformation on COVID from Rep. Weyler is a danger to public health in New Hampshire and to the credibility of the Legislature as a whole.” 

Weyler could not be immediately reached for comment. 

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications. Email: [email protected]