The Rundown

Ohio House Health Committee chair doesn’t want leadership listening to hospitals during pandemic

By: - September 3, 2021 12:30 am

Ohio House Health Chairman Scott Lipps. Source: Ohio General Assembly.

Ohio House Health Committee Chair Scott Lipps said in a May text the last thing he and his allies need is for House Speaker Bob Cupp or the rest of the Republican majority leadership to be listening to hospitals — during a pandemic now in its fourth wave that has killed 20,866 Ohioans.

The Statehouse News Bureau reports that Lipps, a Republican from Franklin, was texting with state Rep. Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester, about House Bill 248, Gross’ proposal to eliminate all vaccine mandates for all vaccines.

From Statehouse News Bureau:

Lipps appears angry at times, accusing Gross of not controlling rumors among anti-vaccination activists and of coordinating with former Rep. Candice Keller, a far-right Republican who’s made misleading statements about vaccines and has threatened to find a primary challenger to Lipps.

On May 3, Lipps advises Gross that: “The last thing we need is the Speaker, or Leadership, digging their heels and listening to the Governor/media/hospitals.”

Gross apologizes to Lipps several times and writes in one text in May: “I adore you. And I am not lying to you and I tell you my very favourite chairman.”

The two coordinate messaging about the bill and witnesses, including Sherri Tenpenny, who Gross calls a “world renowned physician” in a text on May 26. Two days later Lipps writes Tenpenny “sounds great” and will testify on June 8.

Tenpenny did, making some wildly false claims about COVID vaccines; that they “magnetize” people and that they “interface” with 5G cell towers.

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The Tenpenny episode was a national embarrassment, for all of us in Ohio who would rather not be thought of as a state who takes seriously folks who claim vaccines magnetize you. But here is our Ohio House Health Committee chairman saying it “sounds great” to have Tenpenny hold forth for Statehouse lawmakers.

And why not? This is the same Ohio House Health Committee chairman who told a video conference of one of Ohio’s prominent anti-vaccine political groups in April 2020, “We’re gonna face a couple bills that this group does not like. And I have to have energy to stop this vaccine shit that’s coming.”

They’ve worked up quite a bit of energy for him indeed. But it’s not to stop any bills that the group does not like. It’s to enact bills the group likes. And it’s to stop anybody trying to do anything to slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease that has killed 641,725 Americans.

(That’s a big number so here’s a way to imagine the gravity of that many lives lost: The Ohio State football ‘shoe can seat 104,944. So that’s just over six Ohio Stadiums full of Americans who have died from COVID-19. Ohio represents 20,866 of that. Nationwide Arena seats about 20,000.)

Lipps took another go at HB 248 in a special committee meeting this August, I assume in an attempt to turn in a performance from advocates that wasn’t totally nationally embarrassing.

But the real, essential embarrassment to me is to have a Health Committee chairman who doesn’t want House leadership listening to hospitals during such a deadly, tragic, and traumatic pandemic.

Lipps is failing, miserably, at his primary function in Health Committee chairmanship: to promote the health and well-being of Ohioans.

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David DeWitt
David DeWitt

David DeWitt has more than 15 years experience covering Ohio government, politics and policy, including education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, state and local government, business, labor, energy, environment, and social issues. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS, and Plunderbund.com. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and is a board member of the E.W. Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends.

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