A Republican state senator who questioned whether federal and Minnesota health officials inflated the number of COVID-19 deaths said Tuesday that the state medical board has dismissed complaints challenging his medical license.
Sen. Scott Jensen, a family physician from Chaska, disclosed in early July that the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice was investigating two complaints sparked by remarks comparing COVID-19 to the flu and questioning state and federal guidelines related to tallying deaths.
His remarks were carried on national television programs and quickly went viral on conservative websites, including some that promote conspiracy theories. At the time, Jensen said the state medical board probe was focused on allegations he was spreading misinformation and providing “reckless advice.”
In a Facebook post on Monday, Jensen announced that the board informed him it had completed its review and “dropped the complaints” without taking action on his medical license.
Ruth Martinez, executive director of the board, said she could not confirm Jensen’s claim. “Only a disciplinary or corrective action resulting from a complaint investigation becomes public,” she wrote in an e-mail to the Star Tribune.
Jensen’s account characterized the probe as an assault on free speech and independent thinking. “Cancel culture didn’t win this time,” he wrote in an extensive Facebook post casting himself as a victim of “unprecedented intolerance for contrarian viewpoints.”
Jensen, who was elected to the Legislature in 2016, said he does not know who filed the two complaints against him, nor has anyone come forward publicly.
“I was forced to respond to allegations from accusers I could not face. These people threatened to uproot my practice, my profession, and my life,” he wrote. “I chose to stay in the fight, to remain vocal, and to dedicate my time to continue to spread truth rather than allow fearmongering to run amok.”
The freshman senator, who is not running for re-election, gained a national platform in a series of televised interviews, including with Fox News host Laura Ingraham. He charged that federal and state guidance on reporting COVID-19 deaths could pressure local governments to misclassify and inflate their death tolls. He also suggested that doctors and hospitals had a financial incentive to inflate the numbers. His comments fueled conspiracy theories online suggesting that the pandemic was being overblown.
InfoWars, a conspiracy news site that has claimed that the coronavirus is a man-made bioweapon meant to stoke panic, linked to one of Jensen’s interviews where he said, “Well, fear is a great way to control people, and I worry about that.”
Many health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading member of the Trump administration’s Coronavirus Task Force and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have rejected claims that coronavirus deaths are being exaggerated.
Jensen’s disclosure that he was being investigated by the state medical board further elevated his profile. He backed the assertion by publicly sharing a portion of a board letter stating that it had received complaints “regarding public messages you made related to COVID-19.” The letter stated that under law, the board was “required to make inquiries into all complaints and reports wherein violations of the Medical Practice Act are alleged.”
Facebook posts related to the investigation were shared hundreds of thousands of time online, leading to another round of local and national interviews. Jensen has also been a vocal critic of Gov. Tim Walz’s pandemic response, questioning his use of executive authority and the accuracy of models used by state officials.
In an interview Tuesday, Jensen said he submitted a 5,000-word response defending his remarks to the board’s investigators, attaching dozens of medical journal articles and videos of news conferences with health officials as evidence. On Monday afternoon, he received an e-mail saying the complaints were being dismissed and no further action was required. A formal letter is expected to follow by mail.
As he announced the conclusion of the investigation, Jensen renewed calls to change the process to address the role of anonymous complaints.
“Legislatures all across the nation are going to have to look at are we allowing people, activists, political types to casually weaponize licensing or regulatory agencies in a mean-spirited fashion,” he said.