ROUNDUP: Sununu Owns The Anti-Vaxxer Mob That Shut Down Wednesday’s Executive Council Meeting
After a group of right-wing protestors halted the work of state government at Wednesday’s Executive Council meeting, the overwhelming consensus was that Chris Sununu — who for months has supported the anti-vaxxers’ agenda — was responsible for the extremist mob. Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy noted that the mob was “an alarming demonstration of the dangerous and reckless behavior that has been allowed to manifest under Governor Sununu and the elected Republican majorities.” House Democratic Leader Renny Cushing agreed, saying in a statement, “The insurrectionist takeover of today’s Executive Council meeting is a disturbing example of how Governor Sununu and Republican leadership have encouraged behavior endangering the very foundations of our democracy in New Hampshire.” And the Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen criticized Sununu for “minimiz[ing] what had happened” on Wednesday — likening him to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in the wake of the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. On Wednesday, Sununu himself admitted that he texted and had personal conversations with many of the protesters and his Chief of Staff last week even met with one of the leaders of Wednesday’s mob — raising even more questions about his role in enabling the anti-vax fringe which has now blocked the state from conducting its business twice: Read more: Boston Globe: Kevin Cullen: Live Free and Die
The open and blatant attempts to intimidate public officials is a huge headache for Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican who casts himself as a moderate in a state where many in his party are anything but. Sununu chairs the Executive Council but neither he nor two other councilors emerged from a back room before the meeting was canceled.
“I will not put members of the Executive Council or state agencies in harm’s way,” Sununu said in a strongly worded statement. “State Police had to escort state employees to their cars after unacceptable, unruly behavior.”
But, like Kevin McCarthy, the US House minority leader whose initial strong words about the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington gave way to mealy-mouthed platitudes, Sununu’s criticism softened later in the day. At a press conference, Sununu minimized what had happened, suggesting that only one or two protesters “crossed the line.”
Annmarie Timmins, a reporter for the New Hampshire Bulletin, reported that “while four people were the loudest Wednesday, dozens in the crowd chanted with them, calling for the meeting to be shut down.” The crowd of angry protesters would have been much larger, but Saint Anselm officials, citing fire codes, wouldn’t allow more of them into the meeting.
Last month, when the state’s Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee postponed approving the $27 million in federal aid to increase the state’s vaccination rate, the committee chair, State Representative Ken Weyler, disputed Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette’s assertion that 90 percent of those hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated. Weyler, a Republican, repeated discredited claims that most people hospitalized with COVID are vaccinated.
Weyler, who is not vaccinated, told the NH Journal he got his information from talk radio shows and the Internet.
This is how democracy dies. Thugs shout down and shut down the democratic process and craven politicians make excuses for them and repeat their bogus claims. Jan. 6 was just the beginning.
“Last month, the governor criticized Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers, calling it ‘federal overreach.’ As one of just three Republicans at the helm of states with blue-leaning electorates, Sununu is likely to continue facing criticism over his approach to vaccine promotion on both sides of the aisle. His take on one of the country's most salient policy debates is also likely to weigh into 2022 prospects, given that he would be a top Senate recruit for Republicans in what is sure to be one of the nation's most high-profile races.”
Adam Sexton: “Democrats are seizing on the governor’s words there, quote ‘I wouldn’t say it’s troubling.’ It drew a rebuke from the lone Democratic Councilor Cinde Warmington who called the governor’s statement, ‘shocking.’ She says she believed what happened at the Executive Council meeting today was an assault on democracy.”
Later Wednesday, Sununu announced that the finale of summerlong “Super 603 Days” – a series funded by donors during which he has visited small businesses, state parks, coffee shops, hiking trails and more -- had been canceled.
As we first reported on Twitter, Sununu wrote in an email to friends and supporters that the HarvestFest event scheduled for Sunday at Alyson’s Orchard in Walpole – will not happen “due to the behavior demonstrated by the protestors today and the likelihood of their disruption of Sunday’s festivities.
The crowd’s action was criticized by both Democratic and Republican legislative leaders, but the Democrats also said the unruly behavior has been allowed to manifest this year under Sununu and Republican leadership.
But Democratic chairman Raymond Buckley said Sununu’s actions are directly responsible for the anti-vax mob. “Sununu needs to stop playing partisan politics and indulging far-right extremists and start putting public health first,” he said.
Gov. Chris Sununu and some councilors never emerged from a back room before Councilor David Wheeler announced the meeting was canceled nearly 45 minutes after it was to start. [...] At a press conference later Wednesday, Sununu characterized the situation a bit differently, saying there were only one or two protesters who “crossed the line.” (While four people were the loudest Wednesday, dozens in the crowd chanted with them, calling for the meeting to be shut down.)
Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy blamed Sununu and GOP legislative leaders for creating this toxic scene. “It is long past time that the Republican leadership of this state stop coddling extremists who continue spreading misinformation and threatening the lives of our state employees to score political points,” Soucy said.
The protest had knock-on effects, as well: A “HarvestFest” scheduled for Sunday was canceled due to “the behavior demonstrated by protesters today and the likelihood of their disruption of Sunday’s festivities,” the governor wrote in an email to supporters. It also caused a postponement of a Thursday redistricting hearing, InDepthNH reported.
“Today’s Executive Council meeting was an alarming demonstration of the dangerous and reckless behavior that has been allowed to manifest under Governor Sununu and the elected Republican majorities. It is long past time that the Republican leadership of this state stop coddling extremists who continue spreading misinformation and threatening the lives of our state employees to score political points. This has gone on for far too long and needs to be stopped, now.”
"The insurrectionist takeover of today’s Executive Council meeting is a disturbing example of how Governor Sununu and Republican leadership have encouraged behavior endangering the very foundations of our democracy in New Hampshire."
“Today’s antics are a continuation of the disinformation campaign and coddling of extremists led by Governor Sununu, Speaker Packard and Republican leadership. When Governor Sununu signed a GOP budget refunding fines to businesses that violated his own COVID protocols, it was a clear signal to extremists that the Republican party is on their side and that the Governor was incapable of standing up to them.”
“Hearing that the Joint Fiscal Committee has also been cancelled as a result of today’s dangerous right-wing display is disappointing knowing that every day Republicans wait to accept $27 million in federal funds is another day the Granite State is behind in getting vaccinated and building back from the pandemic. New Hampshire has the lowest vaccination rate in New England due to the inadequacies of Governor Sununu and the GOP who have allowed conspiracy theories to infiltrate the process of government.”
“These protests are a direct result of the conspiracy mongering of those like Representative Ken Weyler, who just last week questioned the efficacy of vaccines. This dangerous behavior has been encouraged by New Hampshire Republican leadership and Governor Chris Sununu and Speaker Sherman Packard at every turn, and voters need to hold them accountable at every opportunity.”
“Chris Sununu’s actions are directly responsible for today’s anti-vax mob at the Executive Council meeting. For months, Chris Sununu has criticized efforts to get more Granite Staters vaccinated and expressed support for anti-vaxxers and their agenda. At today’s Executive Council, Granite Staters saw the consequences of the Governor’s actions supporting the anti-vaxxers’ agenda,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “Governor Sununu needs to stop playing partisan politics and indulging far-right extremists and start putting public health first.”
Councilor Cinde Warmington - @CindeWarmington: I am shocked that this insurrectionist behavior has come to NH. It is not only disruptive, it is dangerous. Today’s meeting of the Governor & Executive Council was canceled because a far-right fringe mob put the safety of our dedicated state employees at risk. [12:00 PM, 9/29/21]
Senator Becky Whitley - @BeckyWhitleyNH: This is so sad and horrifying. My heart goes out to the state employees who feel threatened just for presenting facts and a path forward. It is past time for @GovChrisSununu & GOP leadership to denounce the dangerous and extreme misinformation flying across the state. [11:09 AM, 9/29/21]
Representative Matt Wilhelm - @RepWilhem: NH’s democracy was hijacked today by extremists. Woke up excited to see Rep-Elect Catherine Rombeau get sworn in by @GovChrisSununu + Executive Council. Instead, angry protestors shouted, “We know where you live,” effectively cancelling the meeting. No swearing in. [11:33 AM, 9/29/21]
Louise Spencer - @LPS_KentStreet: You already were clear @GovChrisSununu: You failed to lead when leadership was most needed. You let these disrupters impede the work of government: a duly elected state rep was not sworn in; much needed federal vaccination $'s were put at risk. YOU let this happen. [8:17 PM, 9/29/21]