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Idaho Republicans, including Lt. Gov. McGeachin, decry pandemic measures in new video

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 27, 2020

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin is sworn in on the steps of the State Capitol building on Jan. 4, 2019, in Boise.  (Otto Kitsinger)
Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin is sworn in on the steps of the State Capitol building on Jan. 4, 2019, in Boise. (Otto Kitsinger)
By Nicole Blanchard Idaho Statesman

BOISE – Several Idaho lawmakers appeared in an Idaho Freedom Foundation video published Tuesday in which they question the existence of the coronavirus pandemic and state that they will ignore any state or local emergency orders that they claim violate their rights.

The video features cameos from Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, state representatives Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton; Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley; Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls; Christy Zito, R-Hammett; Chad Christensen, R-Ammon; Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird; Tony Wisniewski, R-Post Falls and Heather Scott, R-Blanchard; as well as Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, and Karey Hanks, R-St. Anthony, both of whom are unopposed for election to the House in November. The lawmakers’ script is a “declaration to Idaho residents and officials” that the Idaho Freedom Foundation published on its website in early October.

Hundreds of people, including the lawmakers in the video, have signed on to the declaration, which says it was “ratified by the people of Idaho October 1, 2020.”

The declaration focuses on public health and emergency orders related to the coronavirus pandemic. The Republican lawmakers and IFF claim that the safety measures are infringing on Idahoans’ rights.

“The fact that a pandemic may or may not be occurring changes nothing about the meaning or intent of the state constitution in the preservation of our inalienable rights,” Hanks reads in the video.

The declaration goes on to “demand an end to the emergency orders issued by state and local government officials and the restoration of our constitutionally protected rights.”

“We want to remind people that, ultimately, their health is their responsibility, whether they want to wear a mask or not,” IFF spokesman Dustin Hurst told the Statesman in a phone interview. “Personally, I wear a mask, but I respect others’ right not to.”

Hurst said the clips in the video were filmed a few weeks ago, but “timing (of publishing the video) worked out yesterday after the governor’s announcement.” Gov. Brad Little announced Monday that Idaho would move back to Stage 3 of its coronavirus reopening plan amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases.

The move back to Stage 3 mostly just affects large gatherings of 50 or more. Businesses remain open, including bars and restaurants, in-person church services may continue and travel is not restricted. All school decisions are still made at the local level.

Idaho has no statewide mask mandate. Some counties and cities have instituted them.

It’s not the first time the GOP lawmakers have been critical of Little’s pandemic response. Seven of the eight representatives in the IFF video attended a rogue “special session” this summer where lawmakers declared Little’s actions, including his stay-home order in the spring, unconstitutional. The Idaho Attorney General’s Office has defended the legality of the governor’s moves.

McGeachin, who in the video displays a Bible and a handgun as she reads a line from the Idaho Constitution, has attended rallies in opposition of Little’s orders.

Gov. Little first signed an emergency order on March 13. It remains in place indefinitely.

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