By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – As soon as House Speaker Sherman Packard announced Rep. Ken Weyler, R-Kingston, was stepping down from chairing the Joint Fiscal Committee, Democrats criticized him for appointing Rep. Karen Umberger, a Republican from Kearsarge, to take Weyler’s place.
“Representative Weyler and I spoke about my deep concerns of the content in his emails and comments during committee meetings. He realizes his error in judgement and recognizes it has compromised his ability to lead the House Finance Committee and Joint Fiscal Committee both now and moving forward,” said Packard, a Londonderry Republican.
“We came to a mutual decision that the best thing for him to do was to step aside as chair of the House Finance committee. Since his chairmanship of the Fiscal Committee was statutorily dependent on his chairmanship of the Finance Committee, he will no longer be chair of the Fiscal Committee,” Packard said. Weyler couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Wednesday night.
Umberger will be appointed as chair of House Finance, and by statute will also serve as chair of the Joint Fiscal Committee moving forward, Packard said.
At issue was recent information Weyler emailed to committee members, including “The Vaccine Death Report” that Democrats on the committee said contained outrageous disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and bigoted anti-Catholic remarks.
State Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley, said: “The past few weeks have revealed just how beholden New Hampshire Republicans are to the anti-vax, extreme fringe. Sununu, Packard, and Umberger all waited way too long to publicly call for Weyler’s resignation and their delay continues to fuel anti-vaxxer extremists.
“Sherman Packard has appointed another extreme Republican who refused to stand up to Ken Weyler’s conspiracy theories and who has her own disturbing record. Rep. Umberger played a key role in drafting Sununu’s anti-choice budget and has been a high-profile defender of Sununu’s abortion ban and mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds. In recent weeks, she said nothing as Rep. Weyler spread dangerous and bigoted conspiracy theories about vaccinations. Removing Rep. Weyler cannot change the fact that anti-vax extremists now control the New Hampshire Republican Party,” Buckley said.
House Minority Leader Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, said Weyler’s resignation from chairing the House Finance and Joint Fiscal Committees is long overdue.
“While New Hampshire remains the least vaccinated state in New England, under Weyler’s direction the Joint Fiscal Committee has delayed acceptance of $27 million in federal funds critical to increasing vaccine availability. I called on Speaker Packard to remove Weyler from leadership weeks ago because of his inappropriate conduct toward Department of Health and Human services employees,” Cushing said.
On Monday House Democrats accused Weyler of spreading “pages of disinformation” about COVID-19 vaccinations to members of the Joint Fiscal Committee for sharing a video and documents that included one called “The Vaccine Death Report.”
While Weyler said he believed it contained some exaggeration, he wanted committee members to make up their own minds. The death report says there “is evidence of millions of deaths and serious adverse events” resulting from the COVID-19 injections, and “The data suggests that we may currently be witnessing the greatest organized mass murder in the history of our world.”
At that time, Packard still backed Weyler saying, “It is not uncommon, whether one agrees or disagrees with the content, for a committee chair to share constituent information with committee members. The Fiscal committee is still interested in learning what additional information the state agencies can provide on future obligations that could be tied into acceptance of the federal money.”
Gov. Chris Sununu, who closed down Wednesday’s Executive Council meeting when demonstrators opposed to vaccine mandates became so unruly police had to escort state employees to their cars for safety concerns, said Weyler should step down from chairing the committees.
Democrats have also accused Sununu of coddling people opposed to vaccine and mask mandates.
On Monday, Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, D-Concord, Ranking Democrat on the House Finance Committee, said in news release that Weyler’s emails to the Joint Fiscal Committee contained a “report” compiling lengthy disinformation on COVID, “including claims that live creatures with tentacles are entering people’s bodies through the COVID vaccine, that 5G technology was placed in the vaccine to control people’s thoughts, calling the Pope and the Catholic Church satanists and luciferians for supporting public health measures, and claiming that the babies of vaccinated parents are born with pitch black eyes and can stand and even walk at only three months old.”