Meredith C. Carroll: The unlikely gift Candace Owens got in Aspen
Kim Jong Un would be administered a coronavirus PCR test if he were a Pitkin County Jail inmate not because anyone wants to keep him alive or from suffering the effects of COVID-19 but rather no one wants his germs infecting anyone else. Kim discriminates but his cooties do not.
Likewise, the germs of conservative media personality Candace Owens do not discriminate. Yet when she was in Aspen a couple of weeks ago (as a visitor, not a prisoner), a private COVID-19 testing lab downtown denied her access to a test that she would have received whether she’d been locked up for genocide or her political views, the latter of which are wedged somewhere between Alex Jones, Tomi Lahren, and the Ku Klux Klan in a right-wing populism sandwich. (Which is ironic, of course, because in real life the KKK would never consent to being cheek by jowl with a Black person, even if the KKK and Owens have so many hateful inclinations in common.)
“We cannot support anyone who has pro-actively worked to make this pandemic worse by spreading misinformation, politicizing and DISCOURAGING the wearing of masks and actively dissuading people from receiving life-saving vaccinations,” the owner of the Aspen lab wrote in an email to Owens. (In related news, stay tuned for my next column entitled “The Most Badly Thought Out Emails Ever Sent.”)
Except while it is true that Owens is outspoken and emphatic against both science and logic on television and Twitter, it is also true that she complies with local mask ordinances and testing mandates in real life.
“Irrespective of what you think about my stance on vaccinations, I’m following COVID measures in Aspen,” Owens told The Aspen Times in a Sept. 2 interview. “I’m following COVID measures when I go to venues, when I go to events. I’m listening to what people want done. So if (the lab’s) goal is to keep the Aspen community safe … shouldn’t you say this is a good thing that unvaccinated people are at least being responsible to make sure they’re not spreading the virus?”
And she’s right. You simply cannot withhold a COVID-19 test from someone on the basis of them making a living spreading COVID-19 misinformation and then send them, COVID-19 status unknown, back into the community that you’re trying to protect against COVID-19. OK, well, obviously you can, because a COVID-19 testing lab in Aspen just did. But what the lab effectively did in its email canceling Owens is tee up the same woman who in 2019 said, “If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine,” to sound like the smartest person in the room.
To be sure, the lab is privately funded and legally entitled to refuse Owens a COVID-19 test on the basis of her political views. It wouldn’t have had to bake her a wedding cake, either, unless (a) they sold wedding cakes and (b) Owens were having a same-sex wedding, which seems unlikely given her unyielding animosity toward the LGBTQ community. (Then again, look who’s over here writing a column in defense of Candace Owens. It’s me. Hi.)
What the lab actually cannot do, however, is simultaneously turn away Owen from a COVID-19 test and then claim a stake in the moral high ground in the fight against COVID-19, especially when the actual ground on which they stand was established for the sole purpose of combating the same virus they’re accusing Owens of perpetuating.
By all means, open up a restaurant and refuse to serve Owens if she ever walks in for brunch. Turn her and her money away should she approach the register at your tchotchke shop. Go ahead and deny her a room at the inn. Keep in mind, though, that it’s hard to let the far-right talking heads look trashy when the left highjacks the dumpster.
Though you could argue that visiting Aspen is a gift unto itself, Owens also walked away with a priceless souvenir: a brief moment in the spotlight when reason and the truth were actually on her side. Of course Owens, who once told the Washington Post, “The more you smear me, the more you help me,” already knew that. She made it clear again in her mic-drop email response to the Aspen lab that she posted on Twitter.
“Nothing screams ‘This virus isn’t political’ quite like Googling the names of the people who book tests with you and determining on a case by case whether or not you will let them comply with your community covid measures. Nothing screams ‘I love my community’ quite like refusing to test people who are going to a local event and wish to ensure they are negative and therefore do not spread the virus.”
More at MeredithCarroll.com and on Twitter @MCCarroll.
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Like the trails we hike and ride upon, our forest journeys can be capricious, going down an intriguing path, unintended in the beginning, but bringing a sweet, or bitter, experience before we’re through.