Congressman Krishnamoorthi Questions Public Health Officials On COVID-Driven Threats & Harassment, Highlights Links To Rise In Anti-Asian Hate Crimes And Anti-Semitism
WASHINGTON – In today’s hearing of the Special Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi questioned Dr. Jennifer Bacani McKenney, Health Officer of the Wilson County Health Department in Kansas and Dr. Joseph Kanter, State Health Officer and Medical Director of the Louisiana Department of Health, on the increasing threats and harassment they have faced over the course of the pandemic as well as the simultaneous surges in anti-Asian and antisemitic harassment and hate crimes. As the Congressman noted during the hearing, a Kent County, Michigan public health official was nearly run off the road at 70 miles per hour while the culprit shouted, “I hope someone abuses your kids and forces you to watch.” In Jefferson County, Colorado, someone threw live fireworks into a tent of public health workers administering vaccines, and in Ohio, someone fired a gun into the home of Ohio Department of Health Assistant Medical Director Dr. Mary Kate Francis.
During the Congressman’s questioning of Dr. McKenney, she discussed the anti-Asian bias she has witnessed during the pandemic as a person of Filipino heritage. Similarly, Krishnamoorthi questioned Dr. Kanter on a recent Louisiana State House hearing at which he spoke to the efficacy of mask-wearing and vaccines only to have one attendee claim he was “complicit in genocide” for making people take these vaccines. In his response, Dr. Kanter spoke to his experience with such personal attacks as the grandson of Holocaust survivors, and he emphasized the need to lower the temperature of the public discourse surrounding the pandemic.
“The anti-Asian and antisemitic tropes, which are already coursing through white supremacist groups are now also being directed at public health officials across our country, putting even more lives at risk through threatening the success of our coronavirus response,” Congressman Krishnamoorthi said. “It is imperative that we combat every form of hate and prejudice wherever they appear in our society to protect every member of our society, including the public health officials who are now increasingly at risk. We can only ultimately end this pandemic through coming together. The propagation of dangerous conspiracy theories and the violence they contribute to against countless communities and health care workers on the front lines will only extend this pandemic and cost more lives.”
Earlier this year, Congressman Krishnamoorthi introduced the bipartisan Hate Crime Commission Act, a bill with 153 cosponsors which would create a bipartisan commission to investigate and expand reporting on hate crimes throughout the United States. This commission would be comprised of a group of 12 members appointed by House and Senate leadership who would have one year to prepare a report on the rise in hate crimes, potential causes of increase, and how to combat it. The introduction of the legislation follows independent reports of record numbers of anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) hate incidents and a string of attacks in cities across the country.