Indiana’s top lawyer, Attorney General Todd Rokita, who irresponsibly suggested that COVID data was not to be believed, got a well-deserved scolding from Gov. Eric Holcomb last week. Not content to just undermine the governor’s emergency authority in court, Rokita is now pouring salt on the wounds of sick Hoosiers and care providers living through a public health nightmare.
Rokita, whose office is representing the Indiana General Assembly in a lawsuit pending at the Indiana Supreme Court against fellow Republican Holcomb, said this recently in a media interview regarding the state’s recording of COVID deaths and cases:
“I don’t believe any numbers anymore, and, I’m sorry about that, but this has been politicized.”
Holcomb wasn’t having it. “I will say that I was stunned and somewhat blindsided by the attorney general when he said he didn’t trust any information because that to me, hit home, and it’s quite serious when you accuse or insinuate anyone of inflating numbers. In my book, that’s called fraud,” Holcomb said during a COVID-19 press briefing on Wednesday with state health officials.
Holcomb further challenged the AG. The governor said if Rokita really has a beef with the numbers, he should take it up with the Indiana Inspector General’s Office. But Rokita won’t do that, because he’s a bully, and bullies cower when confronted. He just wants to say whatever he likes, facts be damned, because that plays well with a sizable portion of his political base, who have been conditioned to distrust institutions and scrap norms.
It’s one thing for an average Joe on the street or in a tweet to spout conspiracy theory nonsense, but it’s quite another for Rokita as the state’s top elected lawyer. He knows better. He swore oaths to conduct himself professionally as an attorney, and to represent the interests of all Hoosiers as AG.
Instead, Rokita chose to place himself and the state Attorney General’s Office in the middle of a ridiculous legal spat on the side of the Republican supermajority in the legislature against Holcomb over his COVID emergency orders. It also happens that Rokita is widely considered a likely candidate to run for governor in 2024 when the term-limited Holcomb’s tenure concludes.
Rokita’s comments are patently offensive. Nearly 19,000 Hoosiers have died due to COVID, according to records compiled through established means and norms from every county in this state. More than 1.2 million Hoosiers have tested positive.
If Rokita doubts the numbers so much, perhaps he should walk into any hospital in the state at any time to see for himself. But the last thing Rokita wants to do is actually face reality. That’s why he rejects the numbers.
And these are the numbers Rokita so distrusts: As of Dec. 30, 3,061 Hoosiers were in the hospital due to COVID. Just 9 percent of the state’s ICU beds were available. That’s because critically ill COVID patients were in 38 percent of those beds.
Here’s another number Rokita can believe or not: 51. That’s where Indiana lands — dead last — in a recent WalletHub survey ranking the safest states plus D.C. during COVID. The survey says Indiana is the most dangerous state during the pandemic.
With folks like Rokita setting such miserable examples of leadership, is it any wonder?