From Masking Naysayer to COVID Victim: The Louie Gohmert Story

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Democratic Representative from California and Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass, speaks with Republican Representative from Texas Louie Gohmert during a House Judiciary Commi... WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Democratic Representative from California and Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass, speaks with Republican Representative from Texas Louie Gohmert during a House Judiciary Committee markup on H.R. 7120 the "Justice in Policing Act of 2020," at the US Capitol in on June 17, 2020 in Washington, DC. The death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis has sparked global protests and a call for policing reform. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger-Pool/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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July 29, 2020 12:13 p.m.
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With the news that Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) has been diagnosed with COVID-19, it’s worth looking back at the congressman’s stance on the virus in recent months.

Gohmert, who’s become known on Capitol Hill for often refusing to follow public health experts’ guidance to wear a mask, said in June that he’d mask up in the event that he got sick.

Given that masks are meant to protect against asymptomatic people spreading the virus, the comment was just one in a long line of bizarre or wrong statements about the virus from the Texas lawmaker.

Here’s a look back through his greatest hits.

March 9: Gohmert led Capitol Building tours after possible COVID exposure

One of the first big news stories about widespread COVID-19 exposure came in early March with the Conservative Political Action Conference. After learning that they’d come in contact with a man at the conference who later tested positive for the virus, several lawmakers chose to self-quarantine. Gohmert was not one of them.

Instead, he continued to lead tours of well more than 100 people through the Capitol Building. (Gohmert did tell the groups that he wouldn’t shake hands.) This was well after CDC Director Robert Redfield and others said publicly that asymptomatic spread was “driving transmission.”

April 7: Gohmert claims nonexistent ‘mist’ can kill virus for two weeks

In an interview, Gohmert claimed that German health care workers were using a “mist” to sanitize themselves that not only killed the virus on contact, but also killed any virus that came into contact with it for the next 14 days.

“It is being used in Germany as a mist,” Gohmert said, after referring to an Arizona product he said was similar. “Health care workers go through a misting tent going into the hospital and it kills the coronavirus completely dead not only right then, but any time in the next 14 days that the virus touches anything that’s been sprayed it is killed.”

A spokesperson for a German hospital association told PolitiFact that the congressman’s claim was “absolute nonsense.” Another German, speaking for the German Society of Hospital Hygiene, said the group hadn’t heard “about that magic powder.”

“Thank you for your mail,” the spokesperson added. “Finally, something to laugh about.”

In the same interview, Gohmert also advocated for the President’s favorite unproven COVID-19 treatment, hydroxychloroquine, falsely saying that “it’s not been known to have side effects.”

April 15: Gohmert accuses WHO of coverup

Gohmert backed Trump’s move to withhold funding from the World Health Organization, accusing the organization of covering up “the contagiousness to humans and deadliness of the disease.” (An interesting position, given that Gohmert was not wearing a mask in the halls of Congress at the time.)

“It is encouraging to see our President put the lives of Americans first throughout this crisis, instead of throwing away hundreds of millions of dollars each year on an organization that helped create a crisis by applauding lies from the source of the current pandemic,” Gohmert said.

April 23: Gohmert pushes to ‘reopen’ because ‘we’re social animals’

A supporter of the President’s rhetorical push to “reopen” society despite the coronavirus threat, Gohmert said in an interview in April that “We’re social animals, we like to be around people. And it helps avoid the coronavirus to be solitary,” he told KETK. “But at the same time, it’s not good for mental health, according to psychologists.”

Texas began its “reopening” just a few days later, on May 1, only to pause and reverse parts of it after the virus exploded in the state.

May 8: Gohmert dismisses masks while at White House, despite recent cases

During a meeting at the White House in which dozens of politicians and media were present, including the President and members of his Cabinet, Gohmert defended the lack of social distancing and mask-wearing among the Republican crowd by singling out the reporters in attendance.

“I do want to advise our media friends before they write stories about how we didn’t wear masks and we didn’t possibly socially distance adequately, that you saw to it that we had tests, and that nobody in here had the coronavirus unless it’s somebody in the media,” he said. “So the only reason we would wear masks is if we were trying to protect ourselves from you in the media. And we’re not scared of you. So that’s why we can be here like this.”

Vice President Mike Pence’s spokesperson Katie Miller had confirmed just a few hours earlier that day that she had tested positive for coronavirus. The day prior, one of Trump’s personal valets at the White House had tested positive for the virus.

May 15: Gohmert insists Congress vote in person

According to a March 11 Politico report, Gohmert sought signatures for a letter to have lawmakers come back to Washington, D.C., no matter the state of the virus. Singling out New York, the letter hammered “poor leadership at the state level,” Politico reported.

“This is why we, as Republicans, must demonstrate leadership for the country by safely and responsibly coming back to work in Washington in order to minimize an impending economic calamity which could ultimately cost lives and dramatically increase misery across the United States,” Gohmert’s letter said, according to Politico.

In a floor speech raging against proxy voting, Gohmert described fears of dying of COVID-19 as “wishy-washy, maybe we should be afraid that we might get something and die.”

“They didn’t do that in the Spanish Flu days! They didn’t do that in the Civil War! But now we’re going to do it?!” the congressman screamed.

June 27: Gohmert says he’ll wear a mask… if he ever gets sick

Asked by CNN why he wasn’t following the lead of many of his fellow lawmakers and wearing a mask around the Capitol Building, Gohmert answered by dismissing the widespread medical advice.

“I don’t have the coronavirus, turns out as of yesterday I’ve never had it. But if I get it, you’ll never see me without a mask,” he said. Asked about the threat of asymptomatic spread, the congressman doubled down: “But I keep being tested and I don’t have it. So I’m not afraid of you, but if I get it I’ll wear a mask.”

Though he’s worn a face covering at times, Gohmert has mostly refused to wear a mask for months.

Cristina Cabrera contributed reporting. 

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

TPM’s COVID-19 hub.
Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.
COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).
Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).
Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).
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