Last week, after images of health care workers in hospital gear facing down demonstrators protesting stay-at-home orders went viral, Dr. Kelli Ward, chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, urged demonstrators calling for businesses to reopen to dress in scrubs and masks to confuse reporters.
“Planning protest to #ReOpenAmerica?” Ward tweeted on Friday. “EVERYONE wear scrubs and masks — the media doesn’t care if you are really in healthcare or not — it’s the ‘message’ that matters!”
Ward added the hashtags #ProblemSolved, #WeAreAllHeroic, #1A, and #JustWearScrubs.
Any city, state, municipality, or other governmental body that gives money or services to ILLEGAL ALIENS should NEVER receive ANY #taxpayer money! #AmericaFirst for #Americans! #Jesus #1A #2A #ProLife #Trump2020NowMoreThanEver #DemocratsAreDestroyingAmerica #BuildTheWall https://t.co/WCCcDB3khz— Nick Moutos (@votenickmoutos) April 27, 2020
The pandemic has killed more than 55,000 people in the United States and sickened nearly 1 million Americans, including more than 6,000 in Arizona. Public health experts are overwhelmingly warning that ending the restrictions too quickly risks prolonging and worsening the outbreak.
Ward, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and a conspiracy-mongering former state senator, is known for her far-right views and controversial comments about the late Sen. John McCain. She accused the counterprotesting health care workers of being “actors,” a charge often used by conspiracy-minded commentators such as Alex Jones to discredit movements they oppose.
“If anyone’s status as a health care professional should be questioned it’s Dr. Kelli Ward’s, considering her unwillingness to promote the advice of health experts,” Matt Grodsky, spokesman for the Arizona Democratic Party, said in a statement.
Governors of all 50 states had issued some restrictions, if not full lockdown measures, to combat the coronavirus. Restrictions were lifted in four states — Alaska, Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina — last week. Arizona’s stay-at-home order is set to expire on April 30.
Ward’s suggestion for protesters to impersonate health care professionals highlights part of an increasingly vocal fringe resistance to coronavirus restrictions.
A Yahoo News/YouGov poll released April 20 found that 60 percent of Americans oppose the protests, while just 22 percent support them. The same poll found that 71 percent of respondents were more concerned about opening things up too quickly versus too slowly.
And while the protests had the appearance of spontaneous demonstrations by angry citizens, many were in fact organized by conservative activists and pushed by Republican-allied gun groups. Demonstrators in several states with open-carry laws showed up at the rallies toting guns in what appeared to be an effort to intimidate counterprotesters.
Others promoting protests against stay-at-home orders have likened such measures to Nazi Germany.
“Know how the Nazis first sold concentration camps?” tweeted Robert Barnes, a lawyer for the conspiracy-peddling Infowars website, which has organized several of the protests. “They called it a quarantine.”