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The caped crusader occupying the Montana attorney general’s office soared to new lows recently when he apparently harassed and threatened health care providers at St. Peter’s Health in Helena over the treatment of a COVID-19 patient.

The office of Attorney General Austin Knudsen confirmed he took part in a conference call with hospital officials. A spokesperson for the hospital said the providers were contacted by three public officials and characterized the interaction as “deeply troubling to our physicians and staff because they were threatened and their clinical judgment was called into question.”

The AG’s office disputed the hospital’s statement and defended its actions, saying a Highway Patrol officer was sent to investigate “serious allegations the hospital was mistreating a patient and violating her rights.”

The patient in question was suffering from COVID-19 and requesting to be treated with ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasites in livestock and not approved for use in humans for the treatment of COVID-19. But misinformation about the drug has gone viral in the dark corners of the internet. The hospital spokesperson said the three public officials threatened to use their power to force doctors to administer the drug.

Why this incident wasn’t referred to the Helena Police Department, which has jurisdiction over the hospital, is unclear. The Lewis and Clark County Sheriff has contended the Highway Patrol does not have jurisdiction. In any event, the Highway Patrol officer reported findings in the case to the Lewis and Clark County Attorney, who said there was no evidence of a crime that needed to be investigated.

This isn’t first time Knudsen has stuck his nose where it doesn’t belong.

Earlier this year he ordered the Lewis and Clark County Attorney to drop charges against a man accused of assaulting a restaurant worker and brandishing a gun after he was asked to wear a mask. Knudsen has also issued a ban on the teaching of critical race theory in schools, challenged the federal ban on bump stocks for guns and decried a White House call for OPEC countries to produce more oil.

Let’s not be naïve: Knudsen has been angling for higher office since the day he was sworn in as attorney general. He apparently believes any right-wing extremist antics that keep his name in the news is the path to that goal.

If he wanted to use his influence constructively, he would encourage all Montanans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 instead of peddling the latest snake-oil cure making the rounds on social media.


Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Charles Rinker, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, either leave a comment on the page below or write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.