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Volume One - Issue seven                                           December 3, 2021

Amidst rising COVID cases in Columbia County, and growing fears of a new, contagious COVID variant, Omicron, Columbia County anti-vaxxers held a large, unmasked indoor Columbia County fundraiser on November 21, and are planning a large December 4 conference in Poughkeepsie. On top of spreading dangerous, false information about COVID and life-saving vaccines, the events likely spread the COVID virus itself.

November 21 fundraiser for Columbia County anti-vaxx “church”

The November 21 fundraiser for "ArkLight" in Austerlitz, just off Route 21, near Hillsdale and Ghent, featured speakers who have spread dangerous COVID misinformation nationally - Naomi Wolf, Kevin Jenkins, Tom Cowan, and Professor Mark Crispin Miller. Jenkins has been named one of the COVID “disinformation dozen” due to COVID falsehoods. Wolf was banned from multiple social media platforms for the same reason. The State of California no longer allows Cowan to practice medicine, and NYU was reviewing Miller’s conduct. 

The fundraiser was held at and is part of an effort to raise $1.95 million for a newly proclaimed “church”, named “The ArkLight House”, built behind the house of local anti-vaxxer Dale Hartka. The speakers shared a laundry list of blatantly false claims and outrageous conspiracy theories about COVID, vaccines, and a host of other topics. It’s not possible to tell how many people attended from the online videos of the speakers.

Naomi Wolf outrageously compares health measures to Jim Crow

Journalist Eoin Higgins reported that Naomi Wolf essentially claimed in her ArkLight talk that “New York City’s vaccine restrictions make the metropolis akin to the Deep South in the Jim Crow days.” Wolf said, “I'm unvaccinated, I think a lot of us were vaccinated—we couldn't find a bathroom because we couldn't go indoors. It was, literally, like before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in New York.” A previously scheduled Juneteenth Naomi Wolf talk at ArkLight was canceled, after her plan to compare public health measures countering COVID with slavery in the US was met with national outrage.

Discredited ex-Doctor Cowan claims viruses don’t exist

In his ArkLight talk, anti-science ex-doctor Tom Cowan falsely claimed to have proven that the COVID virus, and other dangerous viruses - HIV, ebola, measles, chickenpox, smallpox and mumps - do not exist. He called life-saving vaccines “bio-weapons,” and said “there is no reason to do social distancing or wear a mask. There is no virus.” Cowan gained notoriety in March 2020 when his video falsely claiming that 5G caused COVID went viral.


NYU Prof Miller falsely asserts vaccines sterilize children

In his talk, NYU Professor Mark Crispin Miller - dubbed “The Professor of Paranoia” by The Chronicle of Higher Education - called vaccines “toxins that will sterilize” children, and labeled vaccination “a project of depopulation.” He also said 9/11 was a conspiracy by US elites; claimed Trump did not really win the 2016 election; denied climate change; and falsely stated that the early anti-AIDS drug AZT is what killed 300,000 gay men in the US, not AIDS.

Anti-Jewish conspiracy theorist Leland Lehrman complains of “third rail” of US politics

A local organizer of the November 21 ArkLight event, Hillsdale’s Leland Lehrman, introduced another speaker, Cat McGuire, by saying that he and McGuire shared a preoccupation with “another one of those third rails of American politics” that “you can’t talk about.” McGuire later said that Lehrman was alluding to her support for “9/11 truth.”


Neither Lehrman or McGuire explained that both promote the view that Jews and Israel were really responsible for 9/11, along with promoting a variety of other anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. McGuire organized a 2017 Manhattan talk by Christoper Bollyn, advertised as about “‘the Zionist cabal’ behind 9/11”, which the venue ultimately canceled. In a 2017 online event titled “Naming Israelis as lead perpetrators in 9/11”, McGuire claimed, “ten of the twelve families running the planet” are “Zionist.” Discussing COVID and Jews, she explained, “We should always distinguish between elite Jews and their minions, versus regular Jews.” 

Similarly, Lehrman authored a piece in 2006 titled “Involvement Of Republican Jewish Coalition & Israel In 911.” He also published an article on an antisemitic website where he attempted to authenticate “the Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, a forged, discredited early 20th century anti-Jewish document that claims to record a Jewish plan to control the world. Lehrman detailed his anti-Jewish views in a 75 minute 2005 interview with a leading antisemite.

December 4 Poughkeepsie “Health Freedom” regional gathering

Lehrman works with other organizers from the Columbia County anti-vaxx group DoWeNeedThis?, which is holding a Saturday December 4 Poughkeepsie “Health Freedom Regional Gathering” at the Pentecostal Faith Assembly Church. Speakers will include Tom Cowan; right-wing anti-vaxx commentator Bobbie Anne Cox; and head of a conspiracy and anti-science group “Rethinking AIDS/Unmasking Covid”, Tom DiFerdinando. Kingston media activist and anti-vaxxer Eric Francis Coppolino, who videoed the November 21 fundraiser and introduced speaker Mark Crispin Miller there, is among those leading workshops at the Poughkeepsie event.

Vaxx Facts is produced by local people in the interest of promoting public health.

Vaxx Facts monitors anti-vaxx campaigns in Columbia County for misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories and racist content and exposes their activities to the public and the media.

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Archive: e-mail blast / Anti-Vaxxers sabotage vaccine campaign for children (Nov 16)
Archive: Volume One - Issue Six (Oct 26)
Archive: e-mail blast / Community Health Action (Sept 24)
Archive: e-mail blast / Higgins - The Atlantic (Sept 22)
Archive: Special Issue (August 14)
Archive: Volume One - Issue Five (August 2)
Archive: Volume One - Issue Four (July 25)
Archive: Volume One - Issue Three (June 22)
Archive: Volume One - Issue Two (June 11)
Archive: Volume One - Issue One (June 8)
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