You may remember Denver talk radio host Chuck Bonniwell, who got fired for joking that a “nice school shooting” was needed to break up the boredom of the impeachment hearings.
He’s got a new podcast now, called the Chuck and Julie Show, and Wednesday he accused Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) of destroying the state’s economy so that nobody will accuse Polis of “killing old people” who might get the coronavirus.
Given Bonniwell’s own admission that lots of his radio utterances are “going to be controversial,” you could easily decide it’s best just to ignore him.
But thoughts like Bonniwell’s seem to be spreading, if not spiking.
So I’ve quoted Bonniwell, and co-host Julie Hayden, extensively here and asked an expert to take valuable time to address what they’ve said.
Hayden, who’s a former Fox 31 Denver reporter, appears to share Bonniwell’s views.
“It sounds so callous, and you’re not supposed to say it out loud, but we are talking about the at-risk people, which include us, who don’t have that long a life-expectancy anyway,” said Julie Hayden, who is a former Fox 31 TV reporter, on their show Wednesday. “So we are destroying lives, we’re destroying an economy. We’re destroying people’s dreams.”
“It’s the pansy-demic,” said Bonniwell, who’s the publisher of the Cherry Creek/Glendale Chronicle.
Bonniwell went further, saying potential coronavirus victims are already “costing society huge amounts of money.”
“The people who it’s killing are costing society huge amounts of money,” continued Bonniwell. “They are medically, in many cases, indigent, and they have very serious diseases, respiratory, diabetes, and everything else. So they are probably, net, and you don’t like to talk about lives as net, they are takers from the economy, on Medicare and whatever else.
“Their death is not hurting the economy, it’s enabling the economy. But we are never allowed to discuss those things. Our problem is that all the politicians in Washington, with a few exceptions, are in their 70s.”
Dr. Matthew Wynia, a Professor of Medicine and Public Health and the Director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus, graciously agreed to respond to Bonniwell’s and Hayden’s thoughts.
“These are disturbing quotes, but my hunch is they reflect fears and prejudices that are not as rare as we might like,” said Wynia.
“The most disturbing of these quotes are the ones that suggest some people are dead weight in society – eerily reminiscent of the ‘useless eaters’ argument the Nazi’s used to justify killing disabled people,” wrote Wynia in his emailed response. “I really don’t think our communities want to go there.”
“The idea that ‘only’ elderly and disabled people will be affected is wrong, since if our health care system gets completely overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, that will affect anyone who needs medical care, whether for a skiing injury or car crash, heart attack, etc.,” continued Wynia.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released preliminary figures Wednesday showing that about a third of U.S. coronavirus infections occurred in people 20-44 years old. A White House official expressed concern about the rising number of European young people getting “very seriously ill.” And health care workers have been sickened and killed across the globe.
Hayden and Bonniwell, whose show is popular among Republican activists in Colorado, spent most of their time Wednesday on the question of whether the economic upheaval was worth it to save lives.
Bonniwell accused Polis of creating a recession by closing down the oil-and-gas rigs and killing the ski, hotel, restaurant, and convention industries.
“He doesn’t care,” said Bonniwell of Polis.
“Are we sacrificing the economic health, so to speak, of one huge group of people for a little bit of extended longevity of a very small group of people?,” asked Hayden, who was offered a chance by the Colorado Times Recorder to amend her podcasted comments if she had a change of heart since Wednesday. “My question is, why are we doing this? In Colorado, for instance, every year, 400 people die in car crashes, right, which is more than are going to die of coronavirus. But no one says, we need to close all of the roads. We need to shut down highway transportation to preserve the lives of those 400 people who die in car crashes. It sounds so callous, but we’d destroying people’s lives economically.”
Wynia’s response: “There is of course some validity to the fact that we are currently trading economic security in exchange for (hopefully) reducing the number of people who become very ill all at once as a result of this pandemic. But if you look at Italy, France, Spain – or even Seattle and New York – Colorado is just days or weeks behind them on the epidemic curve. So the idea that ‘just’ a few hundred people might die in Colorado from COVID-19 is a tremendous under-estimate.”
Polis addressed the economic cost of the health crisis in a news conference Friday.
“We have to address the public health issue,” said Polis. “And you will continue to see additional guidance requirements in the coming days, because if we fail, the economic consequences of the virus running rampant will be far worse in the medium and long term. This will be difficult, but this will also be temporary.”