YouTube has suspended Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) from uploading videos for one week after a clip shared from his account showed the Wisconsin Republican touting hydroxychloroquine and another drug as treatments for COVID-19.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a YouTube spokesperson said the video had violated Google’s policy against medical misinformation.
“We removed the video in accordance with our COVID-19 medical misinformation policies, which don’t allow content that encourages people to use Hydroxychloroquine or Ivermectin to treat or prevent the virus,” a YouTube spokesperson said, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Johnson’s comments appeared to be a return to similar efforts made by Donald Trump, who while president, had repeatedly promoted the drug as a treatment for COVID-19. His praise of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, continued for months, in spite of concerns raised by federal regulators who suggested it should be used only for hospitalized patients or in clinical trials, due to its potential side effects.
In a statement Friday, Johnson denounced what YouTube’s decision as censorship and suggested that the company had amassed “unaccountable power.”
“Big Tech and mainstream media believe they are smarter than medical doctors who have devoted their lives to science and use their skills to save lives,” Johnson said. “They have decided there is only one medical viewpoint allowed and it is the viewpoint dictated by government agencies. How many lives will be lost as a result? How many lives could have been saved with a free exchange of medical ideas? Government-sanctioned censorship of ideas and speech should concern us all.”
The video that was removed was a clip from a virtual event hosted by the Milwaukee Press Club earlier this month, the Journal Sentinel said.
According to the Washington Post, a full video of the event was also removed on Friday for violating the media platform’s community guidelines.
“I think that is one of the real blunders of the previous administration and the current administration and our health agencies in completely ignoring — actually, not only ignoring, but working against robust research, robustly exploring the use of cheap, generic drugs that can be repurposed for early treatment of COVID,” Johnson said during the event, according to the Post. Among those drugs, he named both hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
Johnson tested positive for coronavirus last fall, and told CNN in March that he hadn’t been vaccinated against coronavirus due to his prior positive diagnosis for the virus. It remains unclear whether he has been inoculated since then.
The Wisconsin lawmaker’s efforts have also extended beyond his own vaccination to the broader public where he has cast doubt over the “big push” to vaccinate.
In April, Johnson questioned efforts to vaccinate as many people as possible against the COVID-19, musing during an interview with local conservative radio host Vicki McKenna: “What do you care if your neighbor has one or not?”
He returned to McKenna’s show in May, and appeared to misuse data when he suggested there had been “over 3,000 deaths” within 30 days of taking the shot among vaccinated people.