Butte County’s all-hat, no-cattle congressman, Doug LaMalfa, is licking the boots of a prominent member of his party by perpetuating a coronavirus conspiracy theory, an apparent attempt to make a name for himself no matter the cost to his constituents.
Indeed, the county is on the gradual comedown of a recent surge that killed an average of one resident per day in August and September. Yet rather than focusing on efforts that would protect locals, including encouraging them to get vaccinated, LaMalfa is taking on one of former president Donald Trump’s rivals, in this case the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
With Trump sidelined at Mar-a-Lago, LaMalfa has been echoing an inane talking point proffered by Sen. Rand Paul, who has repeatedly castigated Fauci during congressional hearings on Capitol Hill. Without a shred of evidence, Paul has insisted that the virus that causes COVID-19 came out of a lab in Wuhan, China.
Despite being a licensed eye doctor, Paul isn’t exactly a shining example of scientific acumen. To wit, the senator from Kentucky was suspended by YouTube in recent months for perpetuating false information related to COVID-19.
In his latest line of attack, the one LaMalfa has adopted, Paul lays out a specious claim that Fauci lied when he denied that the U.S. had intentionally funded risky research—so-called gain-of-function experiments—inside the Wuhan lab. LaMalfa has snatched that political football and run way out of bounds. On the House floor a few weeks ago, he not only called for Fauci to resign but also said he should be prosecuted for perjury.
The fact that the National Institutes of Health funded experiments in Wuhan with Chinese partners has been conflated in right-wing circles with speculation on the origin of COVID-19. But as Fauci notes, a connection between the viruses studied via NIH funding and the one fueling the pandemic is “molecularly impossible.”
Never mind that were there a link, it would have happened on Trump’s watch. An Obama-era policy halted gain-of-function research on severe acute respiratory viruses, or SARS, which is the class of virus that includes SARS-CoV-2, the one that can lead to COVID-19. That prohibition ended during the Trump administration. Unsurprisingly, LaMalfa failed to point that out while lambasting Fauci.
The North State is used to being embarrassed by LaMalfa and disgusted by his voting record. We’re talking about the guy who was one of 14 nay votes out of the more than 400 cast by members of Congress, Republican and Democrat alike, to make Juneteenth a national holiday. He’s same person who has raked in at least $1.5 million in farm subsidies while calling for cuts to food stamps.
It’s easy to scoff at the congressman, but we mustn’t forget that his words and actions are dangerous. LaMalfa echoed conspiracy theories about the results of the 2020 presidential election and ultimately voted against certifying those results. He participated in the political brinkmanship that led to the siege on the Capitol last January—the sort that still threatens the nation—while ignoring the very real issues here in his backyard.
And in terms of the pandemic, he’s gone full retrograde on virtually all attempts to mitigate the virus through vaccination policy. Meanwhile, nearly 1,500 of his constituents in District 1 have died of the virus.
Calling for Fauci to resign is absurd. If anyone needs to be booted from Washington, it’s LaMalfa.