Republican Sen. Cory Gardner continues to trail Democrat John Hickenlooper in the polls with two months to go until Election Day. According to new data from Morning Consult, Hickenlooper maintains a 9-point lead over Gardner, with an astounding 29-point advantage among Independent/Unaffiliated voters.
Gardner’s well-worn strategy of trying to be all things to all people doesn’t appear to be convincing many voters to back him for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Anyone who has followed Gardner’s political career is well aware of his penchant for changing his message depending on his audience; all politicians do this to some extent, but few are as blatant about it as Gardner.
Last weekend, Gardner was in Beaver Creek to take part in a COVID-19 panel discussion as part of the Steamboat Institute Freedom Conference Festival. Gardner vomited out an incredibly string of falsehoods to appeal to a conservative audience, including his belief that scientists were “politicizing” COVID-19 and that businesses were being forced to close their doors when competitors were allowed to stay open.
You can watch Gardner’s comments below, but we took the time to transcribe his remarks to give you a better sense of what Gardner is really saying about COVID-19 when he speaks in front of a right-wing audience (Gardner’s fellow panelists were two advisers to President Trump: Dr. Scott Atlas of the Hoover Institution and economist Arthur Laffer).
We’ll start with a question from moderator Hadley Heath Manning, who wanted the panel to comment on why the coronavirus response seems to have become so politically-charged. Here’s what Gardner said in response:
Colorado is a place where the work/life balance is what we live for, right? And we fight hard to work. We fight hard to live. And if we lose this economy — the damage will be catastrophic. Yes, we have a health crisis that we have to address and get through it, but we can’t do it while we tell people, Wal-Mart can be open, but you have to be closed.
I can’t tell you the number of people who came to me in tears [and said] I’ve been in business for 40 to 50 years. I’ve lost everything. But the business down the road that’s open? They do the same thing that I do and they’re fine. What have we done?
According to Gardner, the “government” is picking and choosing between competing businesses, allowing some stores to stay open while forcing others to close. It’s important to understand that Gardner isn’t talking about bars and restaurants versus other retailers; he’s saying that two different businesses that offer the same products are being treated differently. Gardner provides no evidence of this other than anecdotal conversations.
Gardner then pivots to another deeply-irresponsible and unproven allegation: That scientists and health professionals are telling Americans that the dangers of COVID-19 are different depending on your political preferences:
You want to talk about trust? Trust is when you hear health experts say, that, ‘I don’t agree with what you’re doing because it’s against the health rules.’ [Turns head as if talking to someone else] ‘But what you’re doing is just fine, because it agrees with me philosophically and politically.’ That destroys trust, and when we’re trying to base things on science, and the same scientists come up and say, ‘Well, if you were just of this political belief, you’d be okay.’ Because to me, and to many Americans, that’s what the message seemed to be for a very long time. That’s not right. That’s not fair. And that…kinda…has to stop. [AUDIENCE APPLAUSE]
What? Gardner says that “scientists” are telling the American people, “If you were just of this political belief, you’d be okay.” Who is saying this? When? Where?
From here, Gardner insinuates rather clearly that the coronavirus pandemic is some sort of political conspiracy — just before he accuses OTHER people of politicizing the virus:
This is something that I am passionate about, because I have more and more people come to me — my 8-year-old came to me and said, ‘Dad, I know when the pandemic ends.’ And I said, ‘You do?’ And he says, ‘Yes, the day after the election.’
Now, he picked that up somewhere or he heard that somewhere, or maybe mom and dad were talking too much around him. This is a serious crisis. A serious pandemic that created a serious economic crisis. We can’t have people toy with it on the national news for their own agendas or outcomes for November 3rd.
This is classic Gardner obfuscation. First he implies that COVID-19 will go away after the November election and then he immediately states that the coronavirus is “a serious pandemic that created a serious economic crisis.” Seriously?
Back to Gardner:
And so, so, I think we need the science, absolutely we do. We follow the science, absolutely we will. But when we have a media environment and others — opinion leaders and others who are commentating because of political beliefs — look, our family, we sell farm equipment. We sell tractors. People come into our business asking for their tractor to be fixed. They don’t ask for a Republican mechanic. They don’t ask for a Democrat mechanic. Our tractors are red, not green, so they don’t break down that very often. [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]
But people just want it to work. And that’s what millions and millions and millions of Americans who are out of work today because of what happened, they don’t necessarily say, ‘Gosh, I wish we had the Democrat solution here. Gosh, I wish we had the Republican solution here.’ They want a doggone solution. They want government to work. Government to get out of the way, to let America work, so that they can get on with their lives as they were back in late February. Without the politics, without the bias, without the media telling them they are wrong for believing in what they do. Anyway. [AUDIENCE APPLAUSE]
Gardner says here that Americans want “government to work” and that they want “government to get out of the way, to let America work, so that they can get on with their lives as they were back in late February.” What Gardner is talking about here has already been happening…and it’s a big part of why the United States is struggling to contain the coronavirus. The federal government HAS gotten out of the way of the pandemic; no country on earth has botched its response to COVID-19 as thoroughly as the United States.
At this point in the conversation, the moderator asks panelists to provide their perspective on “how this ends.” After Dr. Atlas says that the worst of the pandemic “is behind us at this point,” Gardner spins his own yarn:
I think Doctor Atlas — from a medical perspective, we have better treatments, you know? I remember having a conversation with a doctor in Denver who had talked about— and I’m going to get this wrong again on the medical terminology — but when people were placed on ventilators, they were placed on their stomachs instead of on their backs — swimmer’s position, versus being prone[d]. That’s a better medical outcome, and they were talking about how we were doing that in Colorado because we had the personnel to do it. They did not have the personnel in New York, and that led to lesser health outcomes. That simple change alone changed lives.
So, according to Gardner, patients needing a ventilator in Colorado fared better than patients in New York because in Colorado we had the “personnel” to make sure that patients were being placed on their stomachs instead of their back (in truth, this is something that doctors figured out after just a few weeks of ventilating patients). But to hear Gardner tell the story, apparently it takes more people to take care of a patient depending on which direction they are facing in bed.
Gardner then attempts to answer the question more directly before getting sidetracked once more:
How does it end? Look, we’re going to have a vaccine. I’ve spent, the last several days, I toured the clinic at Colorado State University, where they’re working on a vaccine right now. I talked to some scientists at Pfizer who were working on the vaccine out of Boulder, just a couple of days ago. And this is going to be similar to a flu vaccine, where you’re probably going to have to get it every year. And, you know, there will be different types of vaccines. And we’re going to get through this. And it’s going to be with us.
Now it’s time for Gardner to blame China for COVID-19 and to claim once more that he recognized the threat of the pandemic before most people in Congress:
You know, what happened early on with this pandemic could have been avoided if China had been transparent. If they had talked about what was happening and let the world know. If Congress wasn’t focused on politics at the time. You know, I urged the very first briefing on coronavirus. What we were seeing, what was happening around the world, we were seeing it on January 24th, is when we had Dr. Redford and Dr. Fauci and everyone in the Senate. 11, 12 Senators showed up. Every single reporter outside in the hallway wanted to ask about impeachment. So there were two, I think three confirmed cases in the United States at that time.
And, so, look, we will get through this. We will get through this together, but it’s going to take more studies and more research and our efforts to get that in the coming months — the tests, the vaccines, the treatments — and we will get it done sooner rather than later.
Gardner has said before that it was because he contacted the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Secretary of State’s office that the Senate was finally briefed on the coronavirus on January 24. This is not true. The briefing was announced a day earlier by Sen. Lamar Alexander — the Chairman of the Senate Health Committee, of which Gardner is NOT a member — and ranking Democratic member Sen. Patty Murray. Senator Alexander has often been cited as the driver for this briefing.
After Arthur Laffer sings the praises of President Trump’s payroll tax waiver and Dr. Atlas incorrectly claims that Democrat Joe Biden wants Americans to wear a mask “24/7…even when they are alone,” Gardner gets a new question from the audience:
UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: A lot of people are asking about that payroll tax cut, and if Donald Trump gets re-elected, then he will work to waive that payroll tax cut. But if Joe Biden is elected, what happens to that payroll tax cut? Are those businesses going to be responsible and are those employees going to end up being responsible for paying those taxes as soon as they come do.
GARDNER: Well, look, if Joe Biden gets elected, the 7+% increase in taxes are the least they’ll have to worry about. Because they also will have had a massive tax increase because he’s overturned the 2017 tax cuts, because he’s fired 230,000 people in Colorado who work in oil and gas, because he’s going to ban fracking, and he wants the Green New Deal which would cost this country $93 trillion dollars, and every one of us $65,000 dollars. So, there will be many, many more significant taxes, increases, and burdens on every working American, and every family in America as a result.
But, yeah, I think that’s a big concern. We have to make sure that we are protecting our safety nets and our trust funds, and we will do that and make sure that those are strengthened. Joe Biden has, I believe, come in and said that, no he’s not going to wave it. He’s opposed to this idea all of a sudden, although he supported it some time ago. I don’t know if he remembers. [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]
But let’s get back to this payroll tax nonsense. President Trump signed an Executive Order last month creating a six-month waiver period for payroll taxes. Trump’s EO did NOT create a payroll tax holiday — all Americans will still be responsible for paying these taxes in six months — but here Gardner is saying that it is Biden who will probably decline to forgive this payroll tax bill. We don’t have to wait for a President Biden to do this — Trump could do it right now.
So, I think, he is going to be — if you are looking for a recipe for economic recovery, we already have it. It’s getting government out of the way, letting America work, reducing regulations, reducing taxes, allowing investment dollars to come back from overseas into the United States. Growing our energy. Look, the way we get out of the debt that we’ve put on this country — it’s not going to be the Joe Biden path of increasing taxes or destroying jobs. It’s going to be record-setting economic growth. That’s what we have to get back to in this country. And so, I think Joe Biden on a number of fronts will stick the people of this country with the bill and make it impossible for this country to recover. That’s what he’s said he’d do, just by laying out a few economic morsels that he has. Not a recipe for success.
This is Cory Gardner’s big plan for fixing the economy: Just create record-setting economic growth! Easy peazy.
Before this discussion wraps up, Gardner gets another question from an audience member asking for an update on another potential coronavirus stimulus bill. Here’s Gardner’s reply:
You hear Nancy Pelosi say — I was just on a phone call with Mark Meadows and Secretary Mnuchin — who said that Speaker Pelosi is saying, well if you’ll just agree to $2.2 trillion dollars or $2.4 trillion dollars or whatever it is, then we’ll have a deal. That’s it. You have to agree to the top line dollar amount, and then she’ll flesh out the policy with you and what it is. That’s where she’s at right now. She also called Republicans “enemies of the state.” And so I’m not sure that she’s in a mood to negotiate for the hurting American people. And that’s tragic for the American people, because she seems more interested in the outcome of November 3rd, than the outcome of getting this country back on its feet.
And so, I think Republicans do want to move forward on some changes to the Paycheck Protection Program. For those companies that can have a proven revenue loss, we allow them to get a second loan through the Paycheck Protection Program. I think that’s something that many support. We have to have some transparency. We have to make sure that individuals continue to be okay and get through, [but] that’s not creating a disincentive to work, but making sure that they are going to be okay. I believe that there is a need to continue that work, but with right policies, not wrong policies. But it’s hard to say how interested Nancy Pelosi is or Chuck Schumer is when they’re calling fellow Americans — fellow Americans — enemies of the state.
The House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act coronavirus stimulus package in mid-May. The Senate, which is CONTROLLED BY REPUBLICANS, has not taken up the HEROES Act and left for its August recess without any sort of plan, yet Gardner and other Senate Republicans continue to insist that it is the Speaker of the House who is holding them up in the Senate. Gardner infamously said in May that it would be “unfathomable” for the Senate to leave town without passing another relief package; the Senate subsequently left town on multiple occasions without doing anything on another stimulus bill.
Other media outlets have noticed Gardner’s doublespeak from last weekend. The editorial board of The Vail Daily pointed out that Gardner’s words don’t match his actions:
Yet when he was here a week ago to sit on a panel at the Freedom Conference and Festival at Beaver Creek, Gardner didn’t have to answer to any of those out-of-work locals who have been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, he found a favorable, largely mask-free indoor crowd who listened to him crack jokes and talk about progress on a vaccine.
Justin Wingerter of The Denver Post also catches up with Gardner’s nonsense:
Gardner was asked by a panel moderator how the coronavirus pandemic became “so political” and why it had eroded “public trust in our media, in our institutions, in our government.” The senator, who faces re-election in two months, criticized public health experts, scientists, governments and the media for, he said, picking economic winners and losers based on political and philosophical beliefs.
Is all of this what Gardner really believes, or is it simply what he thinks he should say when he sits in front of a right-wing audience?
Either way, the answer is bad.