A coalition of right-wing groups, one of which is led by former national security advisor Michael Flynn, has plunged a respected Florida hospital into chaos with incendiary allegations that the facility has been killing COVID-19 patients, Mother Jones reports.
Sarasota Memorial Hospital, a 98-year-old public hospital that serves more than a million patients each year and whose mission is to provide care to underserved communities, has become a target of right-wing groups in recent years.
Hospital board meetings that were typically sparsely attended saw more than 100 people attend a December gathering, and the crowds have since swelled into the hundreds, with many attendees traveling from hours away to protest COVID-19 restrictions.
As the crowds grew, meetings started to become unruly, hospital spokesperson Kim Savage told the news outlet.
IN OTHER NEWS: Third Georgia phone call blows a hole in central Trump election tampering defense
Around 300 attended a February meeting that got especially ugly, with attendees accusing the doctors of killing COVID-19 patients.
“Our board meetings are open to the public, and for the first time, we feel like we have to wand people,” she says.
“We worry that the language these groups use might incite someone who is not stable.”
The campaign against the hospital was made up of members of the anti-vaccine and “parents’ rights” movements along with election “truthers” with ties to the Jan. 6 insurrection.
In 2022, the campaign fielded four far-right candidates who ran on the “medical freedom,” of which three were elected.
The “medical freedom” movement has the backing of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Stew Peters, a conspiracy theorist who produced the anti-vaccine movie “Died Suddenly,” emerged as one of the campaign’s ideological leaders. He accused the hospital of withholding the drug ivermectin from COVID-19 patients.
During an Augus 2021 episode of his show Peters alleged “It would appear that the treatment of patients is being deliberately made to worsen the condition of patients reported to be hospitalized with Covid-19.
“Hitler would be very proud of what’s happening at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.”
In 2022, four hospital board candidates ran on a so-called medical freedom platform, and three of them successfully unseated former board members.
“People were not sure what ‘health freedom’ stood for, but it sounded good,” Savage said.
Flynn has helped amplify the campaign against the hospital.
After attending a February board meeting, he said “I attended this meeting and the Sarasota Memorial Hospital took what could have been a rebuilding of trust and further damaged this institution with a ‘fox inside the henhouse investigation.’”