The Potluck

Walz: Jensen’s COVID-19 stance is ‘killing people’

By: - August 10, 2022 3:34 pm

Gov. Tim Walz and Republican-endorsed challenger Scott Jensen had their first debate for Minnesota governor at FarmFest in rural Morgan, Minnesota, on Wednesday. Photo by Michelle Griffith / Minnesota Reformer

Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday said his gubernatorial opponent Scott Jensen is “killing people” by spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, noting the Chaska family doctor has himself declined to get vaccinated.

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, which hosted several winners from Tuesday’s primary election, Walz noted that social media platforms have banned Jensen due to COVID-19 misinformation. Walz said he hopes Minnesotans learn about the impact Jensen’s COVID-19 beliefs have had on people.

“Putting out false information around COVID, yourself not being vaccinated and telling others (not) to — it’s killing people,” Walz told MPR News editor Mike Mulcahy. “I think giving a platform for that … that’s not who we are.”

Jensen won his primary election by a wide margin on Tuesday. He rose to prominence by questioning the scientific community’s consensus about the danger of COVID-19 and the safety of vaccines. 

Jensen, who appeared on MPR prior to Walz, said he approaches issues with scientific skepticism, which he characterized as a positive quality that makes him fit to be Minnesota’s next governor.

“I’m thoughtful and I’m balanced, I’m measured, but I’ve always been a skeptic,” said Jensen. “I think that even during the entire COVID pandemic, I’ve always tried to inject a certain level of context into the conversation because I think that’s what helps people have reasonable conversations.”

In the early days of the pandemic, Jensen called COVID-19 a “mild four-day respiratory illness which poses little risk to more than 95% of people.”

Jensen signed onto a lawsuit seeking to stop 12-15 year olds from getting vaccinated and compared it to Nazi experimentation. He erroneously claimed COVID-19 death counts have been inflated and many people who died of COVID-19 would have likely died in a few years anyway.

Jensen said public safety is a key issue in the race. Minnesotans who are not activated by the issue, he said, “They’ve got their head buried in the sand.”

Jensen and Republicans have spent months attacking Walz on public safety.

Walz, who secured the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, agreed that Minnesotans are concerned about crime and noted his decision to send State Patrol officers to Minneapolis. He also said more needs to be done to reduce gun violence.

“There’s way too many guns on the street. My opponent needs to acknowledge the ridiculous nature of having guns and especially weapons of war and fully automatic weapons,” Walz said.

MPR also interviewed DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison and his Republican opponent Jim Schultz; and the winners of the 1st Congressional District primary.

GOP-endorsed candidate Brad Finstad, who won a special election Tuesday, will head to Washington to finish out the term of late Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died earlier this year. Finstad also won the Republican primary in the race for the seat’s full two-year term and will again face Democrat Jeff Ettinger in November.

Finstad told Mulcahy that if he was sworn into the U.S. House before the Inflation Reduction Act comes to a vote, he would cast a “nay.” The legislation, which the Senate passed on Sunday, includes provisions to lower prescription drug prices and historic federal investments to counter climate change.

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues. For two years she was also a corps member with Report for America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms and news deserts. She lives in St. Paul and likes to knit and watch documentaries in her free time.