'I Can't Wait for the Shooting to Start': Texas Man Threatens Doctor Over Vaccine Advocacy

U.S. Secretary of Defense, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Doctors are getting threatened by COVID conspiracy theorists.
A North Texas man who allegedly threatened a prominent doctor over her support for COVID-19 vaccines has been charged in federal court, officials announced this week.

Federal authorities say Scott Eli Harris, 51, of Aubrey, threatened the doctor in graphic messages, which were racist and sexist.

WBAL, a Maryland NBC affiliate, identified Harris’ target as 38-year-old Dr. Leana Wen. A CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore health commissioner, Shanghai-born Wen was also appointed president of Planned Parenthood in 2018 but served for less than a year.

A grand jury indictment charging Harris with the threats was unsealed Tuesday upon his arrest, according to the Justice Department. Harris could serve up to five years behind bars if convicted.

Court records show that in July 2020, Harris sent Wen the following threat from his cellphone:
"Fuck you in every Chinese hole you have.
Never going to take your wonder drug. My 12 gauge promises I won’t.
Take your idea of making my like [sic] difficult and shov [sic] it up your dock hole.
I’m a 5th generation U.S. Army veteran and a sniper.. I can’t wait for the shooting to start..
I hope you are ready.. Cunt.. where’s your fucking office?”
Harris’ initial appearance was scheduled for Wednesday morning at the U.S. District Court in Plano. A call to the Frisco attorney believed to be representing Harris was not immediately returned.

"If you get angry enough about that big lie that can escalate into violence of various forms.” – Heidi Beirich, extremism expert

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Since the coronavirus began to wreak havoc on the nation last year, more than 80% of Asian Americans said that violence against them in the U.S. is increasing, according to an April report by the Pew Research Center.

Meanwhile, anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists nationwide are ramping up attacks against health workers over COVID-19 misinformation. Last week, Insider reported that a Maryland man has been accused of killing his pharmacist brother, whom he believed was poisoning people with the COVID-19 vaccine.

Over the summer, a West Virginia man was arrested and charged after sending threatening emails to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser. One email said Fauci and his family would be “dragged into the street, beaten to death, and set on fire,” according to The Associated Press.

There's no question that COVID-19 conspiracy theories are motivating right-wing extremism, hate groups and violence, said Heidi Beirich, an expert on extremism and co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism.

Once someone gets sucked into the world of coronavirus conspiracy theories — including those surrounding masks and vaccines — they begin to see the medical establishment as the enemy, Beirich said. From there, they also begin to view people who advocate for health measures as targets.

This distrust has manifested in everything from mask-wearers being publicly criticized to doctors and nurses getting yelled at, she said. Such encounters have also unfolded at school board meetings, where the battle over whether masks can be mandated in class continues.

Some on the right-wing even theorize that "none of this stuff related to COVID is real," Beirich said. Instead, they falsely believe that the entire medical establishment is engaged in a sort of “big lie.”

“And if you get angry enough about that big lie,” she said, “that can escalate into violence of various forms.”