Why Are Montana Republican Legislators Promoting COVID-19 Lies?

Yesterday, I poked some fun on Twitter at Montana State Representative Barry Usher, who claimed on Facebook that he, not the frontline doctors and nurses fighting to keep us safe, knew the truth about COVID-19.

He posted this statement, an accusation that a friend of a friend knew that country singer Joe Diffie had not, in fact, died of COVID-19, as his friends, family, and medical officials said.

It was a strange comment from a person known to spread Internet conspiracy theories as if they are true, but this one was different, as Usher was claiming personal knowledge.

That was especially strange when I searched for others who might be sharing this conspiracy theory about Diffie. It turns out that someone on Facebook named Tony Phillips had the exact same friend—and phraseology—about Diffie on April 12, something posted in a group called “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine.”

That post, from someone who works at a greenhouse and claims to have studied “brain surgery” at Harvard, got 79,000 shares on Facebook.

Now you might be thinking that Usher didn’t intend to be conveying this as his personal experience, that he just inadvertently copied and pasted someone else’s experiences as if they were his own. That is until you read the comment on his page, in which he doubles down when someone called him out for hid sad plagiarism of a Facebook post:

Barry Usher is a member of the Montana Legislature and business owner. He willfully spreads misinformation that fits his political agenda all the time, but this time, he went so far as to, during a global pandemic that will cost hundreds of thousands of lives, claim that a family and doctors lied about the death of a loved one to promoted his anti-science, anti-medicine agenda.

Facebook, which refuses to take down false claims about COVID-19, is fueling the fires of ignorance and hatred in our country. It’s a malignant force on our political and social life, and one that lets the dishonesty of people like Representative Barry Usher dangerously proliferate.

Shame on Representative Usher for his lie. And shame on Facebook for leaving it there unchallenged.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

4 Comments

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  • Zuckerberg has created a total cesspool with Facebook. 10 or so years ago, someone posted a page soliciting a response to whether President Obama should be assassinated. The resulting storm of outrage was ignored for several weeks, until it finally got loud enough to compel action. That’s when I found out, that whatever personal information you post on Facebook is theirs in perpetuity. You can’t quit, you can’t expunge that information – they just keep selling it to whoever wants it.

    As useful as social media is in connecting and coordinating with people, personally I don’t find it worth tolerating the corrupt, unethical conduct of the site. I can do without that, along with the crap from Breitbart, Infowars, Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly and the other scum infesting the extreme right.

  • You didn’t have to redact my name. I stand by my words! My conversation with Usher this morning was particularly frustrating. Diffie’s obituary, presumably written by his family, contains his cause of death. His casts doubt on the veracity of the original post, let alone Barry Usher’s obviously false claim of personal knowledge of the incident.

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