Kelly Ayotte celebrates endorsement from “vaccine death report” state rep

Republican candidate for governor Kelly Ayotte on Wednesday released a slate of new endorsements from current and former Members of the New Hampshire State House, with State Representative Ken Weyler, who in 2021 resigned as chair of the powerful State House finance committee after sending an email laced with COVID-19 misinformation to colleagues on the finance committee. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

By Colin Booth

January 12, 2024

Republican candidate for governor Kelly Ayotte on Wednesday released a slate of new endorsements from current and former Members of the New Hampshire State House, with one individual drawing more attention than the others

Among her announced endorsements was one from State Representative Ken Weyler, who in 2021 resigned as chair of the powerful State House finance committee after sending an email laced with COVID-19 misinformation to colleagues on the finance committee. Weyler became the subject of national ridicule and statewide embarrassment.

Weyler sent his colleagues a document containing the so-called “vaccine death report”, a manual of conspiracy theories centered on COVID-19, including claims that COVID deaths are driven by a plot orchestrated out of Vatican City, the vaccine contained tentacles, and somehow satan and 5G were also involved.

The incident attracted the attention of Stephen Colbert, who satirized the incident on The Late Show, as well as a number of statewide and national outlets.

The publicity also brought greater attention to how Rep. Weyler was using conspiracy theories to hold up $27 million in federal vaccine aid at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the overwhelming negative publicity, Governor Chris Sununu was forced to weigh in.

“I have repeatedly expressed directly to Speaker Packard about the need to remove Weyler from this position of leadership,” Sununu said in a statement. “These latest absurd emails have accelerated the urgency that the Speaker needs to take action,” Sununu said in a statement following fallout from Weyler’s email.

RELATED: NH Republicans’ extreme abortion bills draw ire of medical community

Weyler did resign as chair of the committee, but the resignation was short lived and he was reappointed chair at the beginning of 2022, a decision met with anger from Sununu.

“It’s a terrible move,” said on the “New Hampshire Today” morning radio show at the time. “… We drove him off the committee a year ago. And I’m kind of curious as to what nonsense could come out of Ken Weyler’s mouth next,”  Sununu said, per reporting from Seacoast Online.

“He is an unreasonable egotist,” Weyler said of Sununu after his public remarks.

This incident around the death report was not the end of Weyler’s infamy. 

In December of 2023, during debate over House Bill 601, a bill that would allow state employees to automatically enroll their Medicaid insurance claimants into free and reduced school lunch programs in public schools, Weyler made the inflammatory statement that there are “no hungry children” in New Hampshire.

The bill was killed by a single vote in session on Jan. 6 this year, with Weyler testifying that the bill was a “slush fund” for schools.

Despite this record, Ayotte is proudly touting Weyler’s endorsement. 

The Democratic candidates for Governor were quick to respond to the endorsement.

“From leading the charge for a national abortion ban in DC to embracing radical conspiracy theorists here in New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte has proven time and time again that she’s too extreme for Granite State voters,” Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington said.

Councilor Warmington’s remarks on abortion are referencing Ayotte’s support for the repeal of Roe v. Wade and her historic blocking of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, which ultimately played a large role in the Court’s  rollback of abortion rights. Ayotte has since denied the existence of the standing abortion ban in New Hampshire, which Republicans passed in the 2021 state budget.

New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley was direct in his assessment of why Ayotte would celebrate an endorsement from such an embattled lawmaker.

“Ken Weyler is a lawmaker who has humiliated New Hampshire on the national stage, and now he’s helping Ayotte humiliate herself right here at home. It’s clear if Ayotte is publicly accepting endorsements from routine embarrassments like Rep. Weyler, they’re already scraping the bottom of the barrel.”

Former Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig’s campaign spokesperson Craig Brown responded to the endorsement by pointing to several other fringe elements Ayotte has appealed to during her time in conservative politics.

“It’s simple, Kelly Ayotte is attracting extreme supporters because her record and plans for New Hampshire are extreme. Ayotte voted for a national abortion ban and was the only Senator from New England to vote against universal background checks after Sandy Hook. Granite Staters know that Kelly’s campaign is dangerous — and they’d have an all-access pass to the Corner Office if Ayotte is elected Governor.” 

Reached for comment, John Corbett, spokesperson for the Ayotte campaign said “We do not respond to requests for comment” from this reporter.

Author

  • Colin Booth

    Based in Epsom, Colin Booth is Granite Post's political correspondent. A Granite State native and veteran political professional with a deep background in journalism, he's worked on campaigns and programs in battleground states across the country, ranging from New Hampshire, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

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