Trump’s pick for Arizona secretary of state suggested Covid didn’t exist and called vaccine a ‘crime against humanity’ – CNN

(CNN)Mark Finchem, the Arizona secretary of state candidate backed by former President Donald Trump, spread dangerous misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic on social media, calling the vaccine a “crime against humanity,” implying it was a “bio-weapon” and sharing an article last August that suggested Covid-19 did not exist in the Canadian province of Alberta.

A CNN KFile review of Finchem’s social media postings on platforms popular with the extreme right wing found that he repeatedly promoted anti-vaccine rhetoric and other false claims about possible Covid-19 treatments, the efficacy of mask-wearing and the severity of the virus.

In August 2021, Finchem shared a story riddled with misinformation on the coronavirus and vaccine on the platform Gab — a social media network popular with conservatives, the alt-right and some extremists — writing, “It ain’t a vaccine!!! Call it what it is, a crime against humanity.”

    Finchem also shared an image last August falsely claiming that a province in Canada had lifted its Covid protocols because “they can’t produce an isolated sample of SARS-CoV-2 to prove covid exists to back their mandates.”

      “Now that’s a problem,” he wrote on Gab.

        In July 2021, Finchem shared an article from a conspiracy website frequented by the far right that falsely says “the life expectancy of all who have taken the [vaccine] is only 2 years,” because it alters human blood cells, claims that have been thoroughly debunked.

        “Much more work needs to be don [sic] on the ‘vaccine’ than has been done. If this is true, and I am not saying it is or is not, then we need to brace ourselves for a new order of diseases that we have never seen before,” wrote Finchem on Telegram, a messaging app popular with the far right.

          Later in July 2021, he wrote in a post on Gab that he refuses to take the vaccine because he falsely believes it is a “potentially deadly gene therapy.”

          In other posts on Gab, Finchem downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic by comparing the virus to other infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, which the World Health Organization recognizes as “treatable and curable,” in one June 2021 shared post.

          “10 million people contracted Tuberculosis in 2019. 1.5 million died from this airborne infectious disease. Did you even know? Were you scared for your life? Did we wear masks, close schools, and ruin small businesses? No. Why? Because the media didn’t tell you to be scared,” read the post Finchem shared in June 2021.

          CNN reached out multiple times to Finchem for comment but did not receive a response.

          More than 27,000 Arizonans have died of Covid-19 since March 2020, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. The state has the second most deaths per 100,000 people, with 373. Covid-19 has killed more than 900,000 people in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, officially making the disease the most deadly outbreak in recent American history.

          While Finchem peddled anti-vaccine conspiracies, he also wrote and shared multiple posts on Gab and Telegram in 2021 supporting the use of hydroxychloroquine, a drug once touted by Trump, to treat Covid as a “beneficial medication.”

          The National Institutes of Health determined in November 2020 that use of the drug does not benefit adults hospitalized with the virus.

          Finchem also criticized scientifically proven Covid-19 mitigation measures, calling mask-wearing “crap psudeosciene” (sic) and isolating a “disaster.” He questioned the efficacy of social distancing by sharing a May 2021 post on Gab from an account that said they “don’t social distance” but are still alive.

          If elected, Finchem would be first in the line of succession for the governorship because Arizona does not have a lieutenant governor. In the most recently filed fundraising reports in Arizona, Finchem had the second-largest haul among all candidates, with nearly $663,000 last year, trailing advertising executive Edward “Beau” Lane, one of three other candidates seeking the GOP nomination, who had total receipts of more than $716,000.

          Before serving as an Arizona state representative starting in 2015, Finchem worked as a real estate agent, a firefighter and a law enforcement officer. He currently works as an energy policy analyst, according to his LinkedIn and financial disclosure form.

          Peddled election lies and other conspiracies

          As his profile grew from state lawmaker to statewide candidate, Finchem perhaps became best known for peddling lies about the 2020 election.

          He has become one of the most outspoken supporters of the lie that Trump won the election, earning him the former President’s endorsement last fall.

          The endorsement of Finchem came nearly a year after he had worked closely with Trump acolytes to sow doubt about the 2020 election. In a March 2021 podcast, Finchem said he had received a call from the Rudy Giuliani team, Trump’s former personal attorney, about organizing a meeting on election fraud in Arizona shortly after the 2020 election.

          Months later, Finchem attended the January 6 rally that preceded the attack on the US Capitol but has said he never came within 500 yards of the Capitol that day and has repeatedly denied participating in the riot. The Arizona Mirror later reported that Finchem was seen approximately 100 yards from the steps of the Capitol; Finchem did not respond to the publication’s comment request.

          Finchem has also peddled the QAnon conspiracy theory, writing in one deleted 2019 tweet that Congress was implicated in child abuse, and was a member of the Oath Keepers back in 2014, though it’s unclear if he still affiliated with the group.

          In one interview from January 2021, one of the hosts of the “Thrive Time Show” podcast falsely asserted that votes had been sent to Amazon servers in Frankfurt, Germany, to switch the votes using election software. Finchem responded, “You’re not making that up.”

            Finchem also promoted debunked Dominion Voting Systems conspiracy theories around the 2020 election, appearing on a QAnon talk show in May 2021 to say the company had “intent to throw the election.”

            He has similarly endorsed numerous other conspiracy theories surrounding the aftermath of the 2020 election. Finchem promoted a doctored CNN chyron two months after January 6 that said the insurrection had been orchestrated by “ANTIFA” and he shared a misleading video in May 2021 to say that complicit senior law enforcement leadership approved of an “open doors” policy to let rioters inside the Capitol.