Rand Paul spreads COVID lies, risking lives in low-vaccination rate Kentucky
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul's lie-filled social media posts got him suspended from YouTube for seven days. He posted a misleading video suggesting face masks don't prevent infection by COVID-19. | Stefani Reynolds / The New York Times via AP

“You can’t make this stuff up,” starts a fundraising email from Democrat Charles Booker, who wants to challenge Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul next year. Team Booker meant the widely publicized Paul video fib-fest on Twitter in which he shifted his chronic covidiocy into warp drive.

“This is just the latest in a series of political games that Rand continues to play, all while our neighbors are dying and being misled by COVID lies that he proudly shares,” the email said. “All this, too, is happening in the middle of a surge of COVID cases in Kentucky and across the US.”

In his video, Kentucky’s junior senator claimed—falsely—that masks don’t work against COVID-19. He declared, “No one should follow the CDC’s anti-science mask mandates.”

The video got him suspended from YouTube for a week, a banishment he claimed as “a badge of honor.” Anyway, Paul, an ophthalmologist, seems to have forgotten the Latin dictum that’s about as old as medicine itself: Primum non nocere. It means “first, do no harm.”

Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Joe Gerth didn’t forget it, though, when he wrote, “Paul’s anti-science, anti-life rant is going to do nothing less than get people killed.”

No doubt Paul thinks he’s scoring points with voters in mostly rural, Bible Belt conservative Kentucky—Trump country from Jordan to Jenkins. But politics is one thing, death and suffering are another. Unless you’re insane, the latter ought to trump the former.

Indeed, the news is filled with stories of people who, seriously ill and hospitalized with COVID, are begging for vaccinations. “A doctor in Alabama pleaded on Facebook this week for COVID-19 skeptics to get vaccinated—unlike some of her patients who paid the ultimate price,” wrote NBC’s Antonio Planas last month.

Dr. Brytney Cobia’s Facebook post has been widely circulated. She said people “are listening to her firsthand accounts of treating critical patients who regret never getting inoculated.”

Planas quoted the physician: “I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections. One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

It’s becoming a theme across the country in areas with low vaccination rates. Wrote NBC’s Suzanne Ciechalski this month: “An unvaccinated Virginia man who’s been hospitalized with COVID-19 is using social media to urge others to go out and get the shot.”

Complications from the virus put Travis Campbell, 43, in the pulmonary intensive care unit of a hospital. His wife and two of their children came down with COVID, too. Ciechalski quoted Kellie Campbell, Travis’s wife: “We just thought we were invincible and we weren’t going to get it. And we’ve just been so busy, and we just moved, and we prolonged getting the vaccine.”

She also quoted Campbell’s July 25 Facebook post: “I’m testifying to all my bulletproof friends that’s holding out, it’s time to protect your family, it’s not worth getting long term lung damage or death please go get the vaccine.”

Warned Gerth: “Every time [Paul]…tells people to resist recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he risks more and more people hunkering down in their refusal to get the vaccine that has already proven to save lives.

“If 100 people listen to his hogwash and catch COVID and if averages hold, two of those people will be dead because of him. And Lord knows how many more people would be infected and die because of those first 100 fools as the disease spreads from there. And each time he tells people they should fight back against mask mandates that are designed to keep schools from being raging cauldrons of the delta variant, he places the children at the schools and everyone they meet at risk. When he says your freedom to not take simple precautions to protect lives is more important than your brother’s freedom to breathe, well, my God, how did we come to this?”

Meanwhile, Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Linda Blackford suggested that Paul’s video really means he’s scared that Booker or some other Democrat might beat him.

“Could Sen. Rand Paul possibly be worried about his 2022 Senate campaign?” she mused. “Not many people think challenger Charles Booker has a chance in the crimson state of Kentucky, but this weekend Rand Paul put out a video on Twitter that seemed desperate and loony even by his standards.”

Blackford proposed that the Kentucky senator is bad enough when he’s calm and condescending, but perhaps the new Rand Paul is even worse. “Is the Senate campaign getting to him already?” she wondered. “Or was being called an idiot by Dr. Anthony Fauci hurtful to his feelings? How else can we explain his escalating lunacy?” Blackford took note of Paul’s frequent villainizing of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in his rants as of late. “Saying the words ‘Nancy Pelosi’ is a sure sign of desperate appeal to the Republican base, you usually save it for when you’re losing, which as far as we know, Paul is not.”

At any rate, it’s possible, however remotely, that fully vaccinated people like me can spread COVID. So I’m “doing unto others” by masking indoors where appropriate and encouraging my fellow Kentuckians to heed scientists, not puerile political hacks like Rand Paul.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article expresses the opinions of its author.


Berry Craig
Berry Craig

Lifelong Kentuckian Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, recording secretary for the Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council, webmaster-editor for the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, and a member of the state AFL-CIO Executive Board. His ninth book on the history of his state, “Kentuckians and Pearl Harbor: Stories from the Day of Infamy,” was published by the University Press of Kentucky in November 2020.