Earlier this year, as Covid-19 vaccines became available to the public, several congressional Republicans with medical backgrounds did the right thing. The "Doctors' Caucus" released a video in April that not only encouraged Americans to get vaccinated, they even tailored their message to conservative audiences that might otherwise be reluctant to protect themselves from the pandemic.
Several of the GOP lawmakers, including Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland, appeared in white lab coats in the video, to help drive home the point about their credibility as trained physicians.
As encouraging as this was in the spring, Harris' message took a deeply unfortunate turn several months later. The Washington Post reported last month that the Maryland Republican, a practicing anesthesiologist, boasted about having prescribed ivermectin as a Covid-19 treatment, and even "lashed out at pharmacies for not making the drug readily available."
Harris neglected to mention that ivermectin — according to the FDA, CDC, WHO, and the company that manufactures the drug — is not effective in treating Covid-19.
At the same time, the congressman fielded a question call from someone who said instead of getting vaccinated, he was relying on a checklist created by a right-wing group called America's Frontline Doctors.
"Good idea," Harris replied. He went on to question whether mask protections actually "do anything."
It's against this backdrop that The Baltimore Sun reported this week that the GOP lawmaker is now under investigation in response to a complaint filed against him with a physicians board for prescribing a Covid-19 treatment that doesn't actually treat Covid-19.
The Republican said in a Monday discussion of vaccine mandates by the conservative House Freedom Caucus, an advocacy group, that a complaint has been lodged against him. "An action is currently being attempted against my medical license for prescribing ivermectin, which I find fascinating, because as an anesthesiologist, I know I use a lot of drugs off-label that are much more dangerous," Harris said, according to a Facebook video post of the event.
The congressman went on to tell the Washington Examiner that the matter is "in the investigation stage with the board of medical examiners."
Just as notable, despite Harris' sensible rhetoric in April, according to the Sun's report, he went on to say this week that vaccines may become ineffective.
"The way this pandemic is going, it looks like what we're just going to need are very good treatments because when the next variant comes around, this vaccine may be of no use against it," he said.
Harris neglected to mention that the more people get vaccinated, the greater the odds of preventing the emergence of new and dangerous variants.
The overarching question remains unanswered: Why would a trained medical professional and experienced member of Congress deliver responsible messages to the public in the spring, only to deliver irresponsible messages in the fall?
It's hard not to wonder whether the anti-science backlash across much of the Republican base is leading GOP officials who know better to say things they shouldn't.