GOP lawmakers pretend to be 'physicians' in letter demanding Biden reopen schools

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Georgia Rep. Buddy Carter is not actually a doctor, but he did own a drug store once.

A group of 16 House Republicans penned a letter on Tuesday urging President Joe Biden to immediately reopen schools, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

While the letter's text stated the signers were "physician Members," however, many in fact lack any sort of epidemiological background.

The letter, addressed to Biden and his COVID-19 response coordinator, was sent by the GOP Doctors Caucus, a group formed in 2010 by a group of anti-Obamacare House Republicans.

"As physician Members of Congress," they wrote, "we urge you to work with the governors of each state to follow the science and safely get our children back in the classrooms as expeditiously as possible." The authors noted research suggesting that in-person learning has not significantly contributed to community spread of the coronavirus.

While some of the caucus members behind the letter may indeed have public health expertise, not all are even actually physicians.

Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-TN), a first-term lawmaker, says on her official website that she has "graduated from Mercer University College of Pharmacy with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree" and "has been a licensed pharmacist and a successful business owner for over three decade."

According to Baker & Gilchrist, a medical malpractice law firm in Indiana, "While pharmacists are required to hold a doctoral degree in pharmacy, they are not medical doctors or physicians."

Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) does not even have a doctoral degree: He earned his Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at the University of Georgia. His biography notes, however, that he "owned Carter's Pharmacy, Inc." for over 32 years.

Asked whether he identifies as a physician, a Carter spokesperson said in an email that he "is a pharmacist."

A Harshbarger spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) is a podiatrist with a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree. Reps. Brian Babin (R-TX), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Drew Ferguson (R-GA), and Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) are all current or retired dentists.

While some dentists do consider themselves to be "physicians," their expertise is typically not in epidemiology.

While Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) is indeed a physician, his credibility took a hit in 2017 when it came out that he had falsely claimed most psychiatrists believe transgender people have "a disease."

Still, these members joined their Doctor of Medicine colleagues in telling the Biden administration how to safely reopen schools at a time when more than 100,000 Americans are still testing positive for the coronavirus each day.

"Being Members of Congress with medical backgrounds and direct patient care experience," they said, "we remain concerned for the health and education of our children if they cannot return to the classroom."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.