Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) is urging President Joe Biden to end “discrimination” against servicemembers who refuse to abide by a mask mandate for those unvaccinated against COVID-19 at an Army base in Alabama.
Brooks insisted that wearing face masks carries “unknown cancer and other health risks” in a letter to Biden on Monday. The Alabama Republican said that it was “un-American” for Major General David J. Francis, commanding officer of Alabama’s Fort Rucker, to issue an order last week that required servicemembers to be fully vaccinated or wear masks amid the ongoing pandemic.
“It has come to my attention that soldiers at Fort Rucker, Alabama are being forced to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination if they attempt to do their jobs without wearing a mask,” wrote Brooks. “I ask that you, as Commander-in-Chief, order base leadership to reverse this discriminatory practice and allow those who fight for our freedom and liberty to exercise those privileges themselves.”
Brooks, who is not a doctor or a medical expert, presented no evidence while arguing that “time will reveal” that mask wearing carries risks that doctors and experts have not yet detected. He maintained that there were “simply too many pro and con risks and benefits, known and unknown” for a mask mandate to be issued.
“I suspect time will reveal that masks, while arguably promoting health, also endanger the health of those who wear them,” Brooks wrote. “Masks have small fibers that regularly loosen and are lodged in users’ lungs. Some masks have inks and dyes which, when consumed by lungs, have unknown cancer and other health risks.”
“Certainly, all or almost all masks reduce oxygen intake into the human body, with all the risks this imposes,” he continued. “There is also the unknown risk that, in the heat and humidity of summers in the South, heat stroke risks increase among mask wearers.”
Experts have warned of a potentially increased risk of heat stroke when wearing masks in hot weather. Some have recommended that more “breathable” masks be worn in hot indoor environments, while masks generally do not need to be worn outdoors.
There is no evidence that typical face masks can cause cancer. In addition, research has shown that the wearing of masks does not decrease oxygen intake significantly or pose a risk in that regard.
COVID-19 cases have recently been increasing in Alabama, which medical experts have attributed to both the rise of the highly virulent Delta variant and a low vaccination rate in the state. Brooks said that vaccine hesitancy was “understandable” since the shots were produced at a “rapid speed.”
Former President Donald Trump, of whom Brooks is a staunch supporter, has frequently touted and taken credit for development of the vaccines under his administration’s Operation Warp Speed initiative. On Sunday, Trump said that “people are refusing to take the vaccine because they don’t trust” the Biden administration and the 2020 presidential election results.
The congressman argued that the “experimental” shots were associated with “death and other ill-effect risk,” citing rare side effects. Brooks failed to mention that over 338 million doses have been given in the U.S. alone, with the vast majority of experts agreeing with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the vaccines are “safe and effective.”
Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.