The Intercept: Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s Coronavirus Rhetoric Has Put His Seat At Risk
September 30, 2020
HOUSTON, Texas -- Yesterday, The Intercept published a deep-dive story on Dan Crenshaw’s COVID-19 disinformation, the 100+ Houston medical doctors holding him to account, and Sima Ladjevardian’s aggressive effort to expose the congressman’s dangerous rhetoric and actions.
The latest news in Dan Crenshaw’s COVID-19 saga comes as Texas approaches nearly 16,000 coronavirus deaths, with Harris County accounting for the state’s highest death toll.
Click here for the full article, and see below for some key points.
By Rachel Cohen
September 29, 2020
Rep. Dan Crenshaw has spent much of the pandemic playing down the threat of the coronavirus, mocking Democrats and health professionals for overreaction, and broadly using Covid-19 as an opportunity to, as they say, own the libs.
But the outspoken Texas freshman does not serve in a solidly Republican district, and the explosion of cases in his hometown of Houston, along with his dismissal of the threat, has become a critical liability in the last weeks of his reelection campaign.
Sima Ladjevardian, the Democratic candidate running to represent Texas’s 2nd Congressional District — which includes much of northern and western Houston — is out Tuesday with a seven-figure ad buy going after Crenshaw for his handling of the coronavirus and health care. In mid-July, as the pandemic was ripping through Houston, more than 100 doctors took the extraordinary step of condemning Crenshaw publicly for his reckless refusal to wear masks and his downplaying the crisis to his millions of followers.
The 30-second spot, which will air between now and Election Day on cable, broadcast, and digital, will be the Ladjevardian’s campaign main negative ad buy of the cycle. Titled “Doctors,” it opens with footage of Crenshaw in early March downplaying the effectiveness of masks, followed by four doctors expressing frustration and anger over what they see as lies spread by the representative. “He’s playing politics with people’s lives,” says Dr. Kanene Ubesie, a general surgeon in Houston. A narrator then says Crenshaw’s lies began before the pandemic, when he voted against a House bill that wanted to lower drug costs. “Dan Crenshaw is not the leader that we need right now,” concludes another local physician, Dr. Hina Pandya, before cutting to Ladjevardian.
The Ladjevardian campaign says it was not expecting Crenshaw’s coronavirus pandemic response to play such a major role in their race but that his continued rhetoric and behavior amid the rising death toll in Texas, combined with all the anger they heard from health care leaders, elevated it as a central focus. When Texas’s hospitalization rate started spiking after Memorial Day, Crenshaw dismissed it, claiming the hospitalizations were “really not a lot. … We’re so far away from being in over-capacity or even close to it that it’s laughable.” Around the same time when a Harris County judge warned that Texas may be on the brink of a disaster, Crenshaw slammed her for “fear-mongering.”
Feeling anxious about the congressman’s denials, in mid-July, as The Intercept first reported, more than 100 doctors, medical professionals, and emergency room physicians in the Houston area signed their name to a letter condemning Crenshaw for spreading misinformation about Covid-19. The Texas coronavirus death rate was rising faster in July than during all the previous months of the pandemic.
In their letter, the doctors blasted Crenshaw for “undermin[ing] the advice of our public health experts at every turn — enabling millions of his followers to the same.” His mixed messaging, they argued, left health care workers “handicapped in our mission” to protect Texans from the start of the pandemic. One of the letter’s signatories — Dr. Bich-May Nguyen — appears in the Ladjevardian campaign’s new ad.
She pointed to a GOP event from August, where Crenshaw appeared in photos posted online not wearing a mask. An Austin resident filed a complaint about the gathering, and Travis County is now investigating it. A Crenshaw spokesperson told the San Antonio Express-News that the congressman wore a mask except when he was speaking “and for a few, brief photos that were taken outside.”
Throughout the pandemic, Crenshaw emerged as one of Trump’s most ardent defenders regarding his public health response; Ladjevardian pointed to Crenshaw’s reaction just earlier this month regarding Trump’s comments to journalist Bob Woodward in February and March downplaying the coronavirus. The president “never uses the right words, let’s just be honest here, but it’s also pretty clear his intent was very good,” Crenshaw had said. “Do not make people panic.” In a subsequent interview, Crenshaw told local TV news host Khambrel Marshall that Trump’s comments were “clumsy” but that his point about minimizing panic reflected what Trump had been saying publicly.
It’s evident that Crenshaw has grasped the political downsides of his Covid-19 dismissiveness, as he’s been touting his pandemic response in recent weeks, noting for example that he distributed 50,000 masks and advocated for more funding for testing sites in Houston. In July, he sent out a mailer where he defended himself against some of Ladjevardian’s specific attacks, including claiming that his early March comments about mask effectiveness were just reflecting federal encouragement to reserve them for health care workers. It’s true that at the time many public health officials and news organizations were misleading the public about the efficacy of masks. … Crenshaw, however, continued with that theme for months, ultimately drawing the public rebuke from Houston medical professionals.
Sima Ladjevardian (SEE-ma LAHJ-ee-VAR-DEE-un) is a lawyer, a mother of two, a breast cancer survivor, and a political activist who has called Houston home for more than 30 years. After fleeing the political upheaval of the Iranian Revolution, her family immigrated to the United States for their shot at the American Dream. Eventually settling in Houston, Sima has become a local leader in cross-cultural dialogue, bringing Texans of all backgrounds and faiths together for social justice. As an activist, she has worked tirelessly to turn Texas blue and elect candidates up and down the ballot — all while serving senior roles in Beto O’Rourke's senate and presidential campaigns. She has been recognized by the University of Houston for her tireless philanthropic and nonprofit work in the community, and she is fueled by the desire to fight for quality, affordable health care, justice, and unity in the United States Congress.
Sima has been added to DCCC’s Red to Blue Program and endorsed by EMILY’s List, Congressional Black Caucus PAC, BOLD PAC, End Citizens United, Planned Parenthood, AFL-CIO, AAPI Victory Fund, AAA Fund, Emgage PAC, Giffords PAC, Brady PAC, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Human Rights Campaign, NewDems Action Fund, Texas American Federation of Teachers, Foreign Policy for America, ASPIRE PAC, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Cory Booker, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, former US Senate/presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, former Sec. of HUD/presidential candidate Julían Castro, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, and Congresswoman Katie Porter.