In a tense meeting Wednesday afternoon, Speaker of the House Sherman Packard gave Finance Committee chairman Ken Weyler an ultimatum: Jump or get pushed.
The Kingston Republican turned conspiracy theorist was given the choice of either resigning his leadership position in the wake of his bizarre, unfounded claims about COVID-19 and the vaccine, or Packard would pull the trigger himself.
Weyler, who turns 80 in less than two weeks, stepped down. He will no longer be chairman of the Finance Committee, which means he will also no longer be part of the Joint Fiscal Committee overseeing the $27 million federal contract for statewide vaccine distribution and outreach.
Packard and House Majority Leader Jason Osborne had spent the past week attempting to deflect the issue, dismissing Weyler’s actions as merely those of a Fiscal Committee member who wanted to keep his fellow members informed. But the document was so filled with fringe theories and false claims — from squid-like creatures living in the vaccine to a Papist plot for world domination — it was impossible to defend.
Wednesday afternoon Packard released a statement claiming he “reluctantly” accepted Weyler’s resignation.
“Representative Weyler and I spoke about my deep concerns of the content in his emails and comments during committee meetings. He realizes his error in judgment and recognizes it has compromised his ability to lead the House Finance Committee and Joint Fiscal Committee both now and moving forward,” the statement read.
Weyler issued a written apology on Wednesday, claiming he was unaware of the full content of the manifesto he distributed.
“Considering the recent controversy surrounding an email that I sent, and the side circus this has created, I wish to remove myself as chairman so as not to further distract from the true issue at hand,” Weyler wrote. “I wanted to share the first dozen or so pages containing data about COVID reporting methodology and did not read the rest, which contained conspiracy material and sections that are offensive to groups of people.
“I apologize for not vetting this document more thoroughly, and to those who were offended. Hopefully, my resignation will focus the conversation less on me and more on a critical issue facing our state.”
In the first 12 pages of the so-called “Vaccine Death Report,” readers will find:
- False claims the COVID-19 vaccine has killed more than 15,000 people in the U.S. and millions around the world.
- A description of the vaccine as “an untested DNA altering injection.” (COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way.)
- “A grave warning that we are currently facing the greatest risk of worldwide genocide, in the history of humanity” from the vaccine.
That was why, though Packard says the decision was “mutual,” sources tell NHJournal it was, in fact, mandatory.
“They drove out to a marsh with a gun and a bag of cannoli,” one GOP source quipped.
Beginning with Weyler’s off-the-rails performance during the Joint Fiscal Committee hearing on September 19, when he challenged Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette’s statement that 90 percent of those hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated, some members of the House GOP had been begging Packard to push Weyler overboard.
Instead, Weyler got a warning about spreading anti-vax theories. He ignored it.
In an interview with the leftwing media outlet InDepthNH, Weyler defended his claims and denounced his detractors.
“If I’m a nut, why do I have others helping me? These are smear tactics liberals use. They viciously attack you,” Weyler said. “I just want to show my committee members there are other reports out there and they can judge the material for themselves.”
Those materials turned out to be the bizarre X-Files style document filled with fringe claims about how 5G “offers the possibility that machines can read our thoughts and can even insert thoughts, insert feelings;” and warnings of a Popish plot involving the “White Pope,” the “lesser-known Black Pope,” and the “Grey Pope.”
The document also includes a reference to “the dark spiritual origins of the Jesuits,” an anti-Catholic trope common among some Freemasons. Weyler is treasurer of Gideon Lodge #84 in Kingston.
In the days since NHJournal first reported on the manifesto’s content, Weyler has become a national laughingstock, with news stories appearing in Newsweek, USA Today, and Yahoo News.
“The damage has been done,” one Republican House member told NHJournal regarding the impact of Weyler’s story on the NHGOP.
Weyler’s resignation is a minor victory for Gov. Chris Sununu, who took the unusual step of publically calling for House leaders to throw Weyler under the bus.
“I have repeatedly expressed directly to Speaker Packard about the need to remove Weyler from this position of leadership,” Sununu said in a statement. “These latest absurd emails have accelerated the urgency that the Speaker needs to take action.”
House leadership didn’t appreciate Sununu’s intervention. During an appearance on Jack Heath’s radio show with an NHJournal reporter Wednesday morning, Deputy Speaker Steve Smith (R-Charlestown) retorted, “We don’t go bang on the governor’s door demanding changes of personnel.”
Democrats in the legislature have been demanding Weyler’s ouster for days, and Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) and Deputy Senate Democratic Leader Cindy Rosenwald (D-Nashua) released a statement after the news broke.
“It is long past time that Rep. Weyler steps down from his position as chairman of the House Finance Committee and Joint Fiscal Committee. His efforts to spread dangerous conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccine have done nothing but sow distrust in our medical professionals and caused further delays in the state’s vaccination efforts.”
However, Rosenwald has also been caught spreading unfounded COVID-related rumors. On September 8, she tweeted false claims about “ivermectin overdose patients” and reports from a “New Hampshire hospital president” on ivermectin cases. NHJournal followed up and found that no hospital in the state had made such a report.
Rep. Karen Umberger (R-Kearsarge) will be appointed chair of House Finance and by statute will also serve as chair of the Joint Fiscal Committee moving forward.