Colorado Republican congressional candidate Lauren Boebert, already labeled a QAnon supporter by national press, is appearing at a private fundraiser this evening hosted by a GOP donor who gained national notoriety of his own in 2014 when he raised doubts about whether the Sandy Hook school massacre actually took place.
At the time Dr. Tom Ready was running for Pueblo County Commissioner. During a debate his opponent asked him to defend a Facebook post he shared claiming the shooting was fake. Ready responded that there was “still question as to whether it really happened…Nothing wrong with an open discussion.”
Less than two weeks ago, Boebert appeared at another Pueblo event with a host that has promoted a conspiracy that a different mass shooting was staged.
On Sept 6. she accepted the endorsement of Gun Owners of America, a group whose founder claimed that the Aurora theater shooting may have been staged by the federal government in order to drum up support for gun control legislation.
Conspiracy theories about shootings and gun laws are popular within militias and so-called “Patriot” groups, a demographic Boebert enthusiastically supports.
Dr. Tom Ready is a dentist, former chair of the Pueblo Republicans, and a longtime donor among Southern Colorado conservatives. In the weeks after his statement at the debate, he told the Denver Post he was “sorry he hurt those impacted by the massacre,” but he never walked back his doubts about the shooting, instead insisting not everything was known about the shooting and comparing it to the Kennedy assassination.
Ready routinely posts fake news as well as racist and anti-LGBTQ memes, yet despite his extreme statements, his annual “Steak Fry” fundraiser remains a standard event for GOP candidates. This 2015 post includes a fabricated meme falsifying racial data on crime statistics once tweeted by then-candidate Donald Trump.
Two years later Ready shared a debunked conspiracy blaming U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for a deadly fire aboard an aircraft carrier in 1967, when the former pilot and war hero was in fact a victim of that disaster.
Since Ready’s debate statements, numerous Republican office-seekers have attended Ready’s events. Boebert’s vanquished primary opponent, Congressman Scott Tipton, was a regular guest.
According to the invitation, tickets for the event start at $50 and include food and drinks. “Open carry (of firearms) is welcomed.” The campaign also states that it is “closely monitoring public health officials’ guidance regarding COVID-19. The event will adhere to CDC, State of Colorado and local health officials’ guidance regarding social distancing and capacity.”
Pitkin County public health issued a warning letter to the campaign after a news report of attendees ignoring the COVID-19 plan Boebert’s staff promised officials they would enforce for an Aug. 31 fundraiser in Aspen. The letter noted a the event wasn’t held outdoors as per the plan, as well as a lack of mask-wearing and social distancing.
The invitation states that masks and hand sanitizer will be provided to all attendees and that any guests “who are uncomfortable participating” should let organizers know and they will “make appropriate accommodations.”
Pueblo County Health officials said they have no record of the Boebert campaign reaching out to them, but since the event is taking place at a private residence rather than a public location or a licensed facility, no advance plan is required. Instead the event falls under the state COVID-19 guidelines, which limits private gatherings to ten people.
Neither Dr. Ready nor the Boebert campaign responded to messages requesting comment. This article will be updated with any response received.
UPDATE: Dr. Ready responded by phone following publication. He described the fundraiser as a success, with 50-60 people eating “high-end hot dogs” in his backyard. He praised Boebert’s speech and said it was well received. Asked whether he had any concerns that his statements on Sandy Hook could create a problem for the campaign, he answered, “not at all,” yet reaffirmed his belief that some aspect of the mass shooting was staged.
“I think I’m turning out to be more correct than not, before we’re done here.” Asked directly if that mean he still thought that maybe the massacre didn’t happen, Ready replied, “oh no it happened. I never doubted that. Some of the players involved I think were phony.”