Very Serious Doctor Person Jane Orient, with Very Serious Stethoscope. Respect her!

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing today on early outpatient treatment of COVID-19, which is the sort of thing you'd expect the Senate to hold a hearing on during a pandemic. The only reason it's making much news is that, among the MDs from institutions like Stanford's med school, a few hospitals, and a pharmaceutical company, one of the witnesses is Jane Orient, MD, the executive director of the impressive-sounding "Association of American Physicians and Surgeons." Don't let the name distract you: it's bunch of rightwing quacks that has claimed — against decades of evidence — that there's insufficient proof AIDS is really caused by the HIV virus, pushes the debunked myth that vaccines cause autism, and — a particular Wonkette fave — still carries on its website a piece arguing that Barack Obama isn't so much a powerful orator as a master of "hypnotic induction," because lord knows nobody in their right mind would have voted for him.

Oh, yeah, and then there's all the climate denial and advocacy for the idea that a global thermonuclear war wouldn't be all that bad, really.

Not all that surprisingly, the New York Times reports Orient was invited to speak by the saddest, weakest poop in the US Senate, who is also the chairman of the committee, professional dingus Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin, he works in a lumbermill there). The Times notes that a spokesperson for Johnson "did not immediately return an email message asking why Dr. Orient had been invited to testify." Maybe Johnson just thinks crackpot conspiracy advocates, being such a key Republican constituency, deserve some representation when we're talking about science.


Dr. Orient first came to Yr Wonkette's attention in 2019, when "Physicians for Civil Defense, " one of the roughly five million organizations she heads from an office building in Tucson, Arizona, sent us an email explaining that the Green New Deal was part of a plot to advance the UN's Agenda 21, that perpetual source of worry for wingnuts. Among other things, the email explained that since it's just OBVIOUS that renewable energy alone can't provide enough power for our great nation,

the Green New Deal means energy starvation. Proponents of the UN Agenda 21, on which the GND is based, envision a world in which people are allowed 320 square feet of living space and about 1 ounce of meat per day.

As we noted then,

Dr. Orient is a veritable nexus of connections to the science-denying Right. She's got her own page at the Heartland Institute, which fans of Merchants of Doubt know got its start denying the links between tobacco and cancer, and which since has become one of the chief outfits peddling denial of climate science.

She's also a "Professor of Medicine" at the "Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine," an outfit run by Art Robinson, the guy who wants to collect your pee and freeze it to find the secret of longevity, and whose libertarian leanings got billionaire Robert Mercer interested in politics. Mercer and Robinson also think radiation can be good for you, which may soon be Trump administration policy.

Speaking of Art Robinson, we see he won a seat in the Oregon state Senate, so that should make 2021 interesting. The Democratic supermajority should keep any damage he can do to a minimum.

Oh, yes, and Dr. Orient was even among the progenitors of the Hillary Clinton is Dying RIGHT NOW conspiracy story in 2016, getting an approving mention in a Breitbart story for questioning why the media was ignoring the "evidence" of Clinton's possible brain damage.

And now she gets a prominent platform to spread her extremely good science about COVID-19, mostly so she can call on the Senate to push hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug the FDA pulled its emergency authorization for because clinical trials show it doesn't do a damn bit of good for COVID-19. Clearly, if all the research points to it being ineffective, that's proof the government is hiding something.

In an interview with the Times, Orient said she doesn't like being called an anti-vaxxer, despite her having written in a pre-pandemic statement to Congress that vaccine mandates are "a serious intrusion into individual liberty, autonomy and parental decisions."

As for the COVID-19 vaccines likely to be approved in the US soon, she's also against 'em, not that she's anti-vaccine, you see:

"It seems to me reckless to be pushing people to take risks when you don't know what the risks are," Dr. Orient said, adding: "People's rights should be respected. Where is 'my body, my choice' when it comes to this?"

It's probably worth noting that, as of yet, the COVID-19 vaccines aren't mandatory, although the government is urging people to get the vaccines when they're available. And all those clinical trials are being done precisely so the risks will be known.

Orient also fretted in the interview that younger Americans might want to think twice before getting the coronavirus vaccine "because the effect on fertility has not been determined." The Times dutifully points out that there isn't a whit of evidence to suggest the coronavirus vaccines have any effect on fertility. OK, then, but what about whether they affect people's chances of getting windmill cancer?

While she was at it, Orient slagged Dr. Anthony Fauci, who's literally the top infectious disease expert in the government, asking, "Why is he dictating care for 340 million Americans?" We suppose we could point out the whole thing about him being the country's top infectious disease expert, but then, Orient's entire libertarian schtick is that government shouldn't do much of anything in the middle of a pandemic, so she'd probably insist the government should leave expertise up to the free market.

We're also looking forward to the next Senate hearing on NASA's budget, to which we can only assume Ron Johnson will invite the leaders of the Flat Earth Society.

[NYT / Ars Technica / Atlantic / Merchants of Doubt]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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