The MAGA medical group that spent the pandemic pushing horse paste and malaria meds as quack COVID cures has a new crusade: suing the Pentagon to stop its vaccine mandate. The lawsuit, first filed on behalf of Army and Marine Corps staff sergeants, has since enlisted the support of an Army lieutenant colonel and flight surgeon to help argue their case.
Lt. Col. Theresa M. Long, who serves as the brigade surgeon for the Army’s 1st Aviation Brigade, filed an affidavit late last week in support of the suit’s motion to block the vaccine mandate, arguing against the requirement based in part on her (false) belief that “all persons who have received a Covid 19 Vaccine are damaged in their cardiovascular system in an irreparable and irrevocable manner.”
Long did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Beast.
The affidavit was filed as part of a suit brought by lawyers working with America’s Frontline Doctors (AFLDS), according to the group, and requests a declaratory judgment blocking the vaccine requirement, on behalf of Staff Sergeants Dan Robert (USA), Hollie Mulvihill (USMC), and anti-vaxxers within the military.
The legal effort faces long odds in overturning Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s order directing the armed services mandate of COVID-19 vaccination for active duty service members. “We have a [Uniform Code of Military Justice] that really addresses all of the issues in the military and gives our leadership what they need to be able to enforce standards,” Austin said at a Senate hearing on Tuesday when questioned about the mandate. “Taking the vaccine is a requirement, and again I’ll just leave it at that.”
And despite the pushback, the military has a roughly 70 percent vaccination rate against COVID-19—notably high given the typically more vaccine-skeptic demographic of young males who make up a disproportionate part of the services.
The few officers and enlisted service members who have gone public with their opposition to the vaccine mandate are now finding increasing support among Republican members of Congress. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), James Lankford (R-OK), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), for example, have recently drafted proposed amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act that would gut the proposed vaccine mandate.
Long has joined a small but increasingly vocal group of field-grade officers encouraged by conservative activists and media as part of the right wing’s crusade against COVID-19 vaccine mandates. On Fox News, hosts Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson have feted the likes of Lt. Col. Paul Douglas Hague, an Army officer who resigned over the vaccine mandate, and Navy Commander J.H. Furman, who claims that the COVID-19 vaccine mandates represent a threat to national security.
In Long’s case, her debut as an anti-vaccine pundit hasn’t (yet) reached the heights of a primetime Fox News hit, but her treatise on the supposed dangers of the COVID-19 vaccine has been promoted by former Overstock CEO and election conspiracy theorist Patrick Byrne and AFLDS, the pro-Trump medical advocacy group behind the lawsuit.
Long’s affidavit traffics in a number of false and easily disproved anti-COVID vaccine talking points.
In particular, she singles out the presence of a small amount (.5 micrograms) of polyethylene glycol, which she calls “a derivative of ethylene oxide”—a key ingredient in antifreeze—in the Pfizer vaccine to insinuate that the jab is somehow dangerous. “I cannot discern what form of alchemy Pfizer and the FDA have discovered that would make antifreeze into a healthful cure to the human body,” the court document intones darkly.
The “Pfizer-is-filled-with-antifreeze” talking point has become a popular myth among anti-vaxxers. So much so that a number of state public health websites now include explainers debunking the claim. As health officials point out, polyethylene glycol, despite a similar name, isn’t antifreeze’s active ingredient. It is, however, found in common, over-the-counter products like laxatives.
The affidavit also relies on data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System or VAERS database to falsely claim 13,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 vaccines. The database, maintained by the FDA and CDC as a kind of early warning system for adverse reactions to vaccines, allows anyone to submit unverified claims of alleged side effects from vaccines. But the data in VAERS remains unverified until substantiated and can often be unreliable (a prankster once listed turning into the Incredible Hulk in the VAERS database).
Instead, Long recommends that the military “evaluate and immediately implement alternatives to mRNA vaccines,” including regeneron, remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine—the anti-malarial drug since debunked as a COVID therapeutic—and ivermectin, the anti-parasitic agent available by prescription through $90 consults offered by AFLDS.
The court filing has so far spawned at least one copycat affidavit, phrased in similar language, from a lieutenant colonel and flight surgeon in the Texas National Guard, Lt. Colonel Peter Chambers. But within the military, Long’s own court filing suggests that ardent anti-vaccine attitudes may not be that widely shared. Long wrote that she’s encountered “mixed results in terms of acceptance, rejection and threats of punishment” over her opinions.