Louie Gohmert has tested positive for coronavirus. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Anti-mask and anti-gay Texan lawmaker Louie Gohmert sent shudders through the Republican Party Wednesday (July 29) after announcing that he has tested positive for coronavirus.
The 66-year-old, who once said gay men should be thrown onto a deserted island so they could “die-off”, may himself have to get used to isolation.
He declared his positive result for COVID-19 only moments before a planned trip on Air Force One with US president Donald Trump to Midland.
He was tested during a pre-flight screening at the White House, an insider told CNN.
In a video recorded from his Capitol Hill office, a smiling Gohmert casually declared he had acquired the “Wuhan virus”. How? Because he’s been wearing a face mask for the last two weeks, he said.
My statement about today’s diagnosis: pic.twitter.com/qvf7zIcgdN
— Louie Gohmert (@replouiegohmert) July 29, 2020
He said he was asymptomatic and that “the reports of my demise are a great deal premature”. Later, he told KETK TV that he may have acquired the virus incorrectly wearing his mask.
“I can’t help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place, that if I might have put some germs or some of the virus onto the mask and breathed it in,” Gohmert mused, adding he would isolate for 10 days.
Louie Gohmert tests positive for coronavirus, sending all of Congress into panic.
Gohmert’s declaration was certain to rankle his fellow Republicans, who are choreographing a risky dance of inflaming civilian disdain for face masks and minimising the ongoing pandemic as a still distant threat.
All the while, the American death tolls balloon to figures seen nowhere else in the world.
Donald Trump himself acknowledged last week the urgency to wear masks, bringing an end to a months-long approach of downplaying the virus and, in turn, the measures needed to curb it.
The news prompted House speaker Nancy Pelosi to announce a new mandate demanding lawmakers and staff wear a mask on the House floor and in House office buildings.
Moreover, Gohmert, who has this week actively voted and engaged in congressional hearings, often wearing a bandanna, sparked several rank-and-file lawmakers and aids to quarantine and even attorney general William Bar to get tested.
It has prompted questions about how safe Congress is. Across the pond in Britain, parliament temporarily enacted measures to allow lawmakers to digitally attend legislative proceedings in April and enforced social distancing when in building chambers.
According to monitoring group GovTrack, Gohmert the tenth legislator to test positive.
Republican Texan has a long, long history of anti-LGBT+ comments.
Since 2005 Gohmert has represented a deeply conservative patch of east Texas. During his career, he has levelled vile attacks against LGBT+ people.
As a senior-level lawmaker, American queer activists were stunned in 2015 to hear Gohmert devise a plan to stop the debate over marriage equality – sending queer men and women to a deserted island.
“Take four all-male couples and put them on an island with all they need to sustain life,” he said. “Take four couples of women, married, and put them on an island, and let’s come back in 100 to 200 years and see which one nature says is the preferred marriage.”
His track record doesn’t quite end there, however.