We understand April was about five years ago, especially here.
But if you can, cast your mind back to that stage of Minnesota’s struggle with COVID-19.
That’s when family physician Sen. Scott Jensen (R-Chaska) was blowing up on Twitter. He’d taken issue with the way the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines on how to classify COVID-19 deaths, saying they were too “squishy” and could artificially inflate case counts.
That included a spot on Fox News, in which he called the policy “ridiculous” and alleged people were being allowed to “massage and game the numbers,” potentially for hospital revenue. He also frequently compared COVID-19 to the flu, which which can kill anywhere between a hundred to several hundred people in this state during a single year. (They’re both communicable respiratory viruses, but studies have found COVID-19 to be deadlier than the flu.)
Cue the influx of supportive responses from smooth brained analysts, who said Jensen’s contrarian comments proved a “deep state” Democrat conspiracy to overcount deaths and blow the virus out of proportion. Some even said this meant there “was no virus,” and it was all a “hoax.”
Jensen, who has in the past been called out for lending legitimacy to the anti-vaxxer movement, told City Pages he didn’t necessarily disagree with DFL Gov. Tim Walz and Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcom on how to handle coronavirus. Jensen said he had his doubts, that “sensationalism” had somewhat coopted his message, and stuck by what he’d said.
A little later, Jensen hosted GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis at his clinic, granting Lewis an official-looking backdrop to spout his fears about "de facto arrest" and "vaccines with tattoos."
On Sunday, he released another video, this time saying he's under investigation by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice for his public comments about COVID-19.
The allegations were twofold, he said. He had one strike against him for spreading misinformation regarding the completion of death certificates on air, and that his willingness to compare COVID-19 to the flu constituted “reckless advice.”
Most important video I’ve done...could this happen to you?— Scott Jensen (@drscottjensen) July 6, 2020
Share the message, no one’s immune to attacks. (part 1/2) pic.twitter.com/gbU06l9oEK
“When I got this letter, I was ticked,” said Jensen, who'd donned his lab coat and draped a stethoscope around his shoulders for the moment. “Doggone it, if this could happen to me, my view is it could happen to anybody. I mean, I‘ve been a family doctor for 40 years.”
Jensen didn’t respond to interview requests about whether he wishes he'd said or done anything differently, but in the video, he said he intends to fully cooperate with the investigation. He also said he felt “targeted,” and implied that Walz and the Department of Health were also culpable in spreading misinformation about COVID-19.
“I’m sure there are naysayers out there who think I’m getting exactly what I deserve. Fine,” he said.
The video has been retweeted thousands of times and had gotten 38,000 reactions on Facebook by Monday afternoon. Some are already claiming Jensen is a "heroic whistleblower" being "retaliated against."
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) released a statement supporting Jensen, and said questioning the investigation itself.
“We are looking into whether or not the board is compelled to investigate every complaint or if they are choosing to investigate Dr. Jensen. It’s also concerning there are two separate complaints, raising questions about coordination. Legislators should not have to fear regulators based on their speech. If the bureaucratic state can silence speech through investigations, we have very dark times ahead for our democracy," it said.
The Board of Medical Practice says it can’t confirm or deny whether Jensen’s under investigation or why. That information’s not public. But when the board receives a complaint, it’s compelled to investigate. Disciplinary or corrective action, on the other hand, is public.