North Texas man charged with threatening Maryland doctor over advocacy for COVID-19 vaccine

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A north Texas man who allegedly threatened a prominent doctor over his support for COVID-19 vaccines has been indicted in federal court, officials said this week.

Federal authorities say Scott Eli Harris, 51, of Aubrey, threatened the doctor in graphic, racist and sexist messages.

WBAL, a Maryland NBC affiliate, identified Harris’ target as Dr Leana Wen, 38. CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore health commissioner, Shanghai-born Wen was also named president of Planned Parenthood in 2018, but served for less than a year.

A grand jury indictment accusing Harris of threats was unsealed on Tuesday during his arrest, according to the Justice Department. Harris could serve up to five years behind bars if convicted.

Court records show that in July 2020, Harris sent Wen the following threat from his cell phone:

“Fuck yourself in all the Chinese holes you have.
I’ll never take your miracle drug. My caliber 12 promises not.
Take your idea to make me love [sic] difficult and shov [sic] it up to your dock hole.
I am a 5th generation US Army veteran and sniper. I can’t wait for filming to begin.
I hope you’re ready … dumb … where the fuck is your office?

Harris’s initial appearance was scheduled for Wednesday morning in Plano U.S. District Court. An appeal to Frisco’s attorney supposed to represent Harris was not immediately referred.

“If you get angry enough at this big lie which can escalate into violence in various forms.” – Heidi Beirich, expert in extremism

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Since the coronavirus began to wreak havoc in the country last year, more than 80% of Asian Americans have said violence against them in the United States is increasing, according to an April report from Pew. Research Center.

Meanwhile, nationwide anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists are stepping up attacks on health workers over misinformation about COVID-19. Last week, Initiated reported that a man from Maryland has been charged with killing his pharmacist brother, who he said was poisoning people with the COVID-19 vaccine.

Over the summer, a West Virginia man was arrested and charged after sending threatening emails to Dr Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser. An email said Fauci and his family would be “dragged down the streets, beaten to death and set on fire,” according to the Associated Press.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 conspiracy theories are driving right-wing extremism, hate groups and violence, said Heidi Beirich, extremism expert and co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism.

Once someone is sucked into the world of coronavirus conspiracy theories – including those surrounding masks and vaccines – they start to see the medical establishment as the enemy, Beirich said. From there, they also start to see people who advocate health measures as targets.

This mistrust has manifested itself in everything from wearers of publicly criticized masks to doctors and nurses being yelled at, she said. Such encounters have also taken place at school board meetings, where the battle over whether masks can be mandatory in the classroom continues.

Some on the right even believe that “none of this COVID-related material is real,” Beirich said. Instead, they mistakenly believe that the entire medical establishment is engaged in some sort of “big lie”.

“And if you get angry enough at this big lie,” she said, “it can escalate into violence in various forms.”



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