Democrats and others on Monday blasted Iowa freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks for sharing a fake news article from a satirical online news website falsely claiming Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration of withholding health benefits from unvaccinated veterans.
Miller-Meeks, a licensed ophthalmologist and member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, retweeted the fake story from www.delawareohionews.com with the headline “Biden Orders VA To Withhold Health Benefits From Unvaccinated Veterans“ to her 11,000 followers from her personal Twitter account late Sunday. In sharing it, she added “if true, this is insane!”
Delaware Ohio News includes the following disclaimer on its site: “Everything on this website is made up. Do not rely on anything said here.” The disclaimer further state: “Don’t believe us? Read our Legal Statements,” with a link to a more detailed disclaimer that further states: “All stories herein are parodies (satire, fiction, fake, not real) of people and/or actual events. All names are made up (unless used in a parody of public figures) and any similarity is purely coincidental.”
Miller-Meeks, in a statement, acknowledged sharing it and adding “if true, this is insane!” Miller-Meeks, however, went on to say, “The story and website is obviously satire and makes a powerful point. President Biden’s executive orders about COVID-19 have been classic examples of government overreach and these days the unbelievable has become reality.”
The statement continues: “With Americans trapped in Afghanistan, a (sic) immigration crisis on the southern border, and an unconstitutional overreach by President Biden to mandate COVID-19 vaccines, the media surely has more important things to cover than satirical tweets.”
Nothing in Miller-Meeks’ tweet sharing the fictional story, however, indicates that it is satirical, and instead insinuates that it might be true.
A representative for Miller-Meeks did not respond to follow up questions.
The tweet, from a 24-year Army veteran and former director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, comes amidst heightened tensions, vitriol and the spread of misinformation over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and public health responses, guidelines and mandates.
“Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks needs to apologize to Iowa Veterans and President Biden for sharing a blatantly false, satirical story on social media and lending credence to its claims,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ross Wilburn said in a statement. “Miller-Meeks couldn’t do the bare minimum of research. The source clearly states its satirical purpose as an outlet ‘... for real fake local commentary, news, and opinion.’”
Wilburn called the incident “an embarrassment to our state and a danger to our democracy.”
“It’s clear Miller-Meeks will do anything to stay in power — including relying on lies and disinformation to further her incompetent campaign,” he said. “That’s why Iowans are ready to see her go in 2022.”
Wilburn and others called on Miller-Meeks to take down the tweet, which had been up for 15 hours and had not been deleted as of 2 p.m. Monday. The tweet had received 10 likes, 58 retweets and 102 comments.
“Mariannette Miller-Meeks turned her back on southeastern Iowans by voting against COVID-19 relief in Congress, and has repeatedly spread misinformation threatening public health and jeopardizing our economic recovery from the pandemic,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Elena Kuhn said in a statement.
In July, Miller-Meeks said that children do not spread COVID-19 — a claim which runs contrary to CDC guidance and which a pediatric infectious disease specialist, who Miller-Meeks claims to have gotten her guidance from, told the Cedar Rapids Gazette is “absolutely false.”
Miller-Meeks won last year’s election for Iowa’s open 2nd district U.S. House seat by six votes, the narrowest victory margin in a House race in almost 40 years, after Democrat Rita Hart ended her 2020 election challenge before the U.S. House in March.
Iowa City Democrat and state representative Christina Bohannan announced her campaign last month to unseat Miller-Meeks in southeast Iowa’s competitive swing district.