former schoolteacher, reindeer rancher, Santa Clause impersonator, Iraq war veteran and actor in extremely low-budget movies such as the 9-11 Truther movie The President Goes to Heaven, Bentivolio is also a fringe conspiracy theorist who probably got elected more or less by accident after Thaddeus McCotter managed to miss the deadline. In 2014, Bentivolio participated at the “The Freedom Summit: Prepare to Govern!” conference together with Jim Garrow, a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist who believed that then-President Obama should be killed for treason.
In 2013, Bentivolio promised, in response to a request from a voter, to hold a hearing on chemtrails. It would be natural to interpret the promise as having been given just for show, but given Bentivolio’s antics, we’re not so sure. At one point, Bentivolio asked a Homeland Security spokesperson in a committee hearing about the “FEMA camps”. And in 2018 Bentivolio hosted an antivaccine roundtable with state representative Jeff Noble, a couple of antivaxx activists (Amie Kremer, Gretchen Perry-Emery, Dave McDowell) and the antivaccine group Michigan for Vaccine Choice – two years before anti-vaccine conspiracies went well and truly mainstream among wingnuts. Bentivolio’s contribution to the event was to promise to “reform” the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 if reelected (here’s a reelection ad) and basically eliminate the Vaccine Court, which would not help parents who (falsely) believe that their children are vaccine-injured but might benefit their lawyers – as well as motivating pharmaceutical companies to stop producing vaccines given the already low profit margin. Bentivolio also swore that soldiers in his unit were more depressed and irritable, and that morale plummeted, after they received the anthrax vaccine in Iraq, though he hadn’t documented the observations. And that is a shining example of the phenomen known as biased memory recall of information.
Bentivolio has, of course, expressed anti-vaccine views more recently as well. Describing his opposition to COVID-19 vaccines, he stated that “the problem with vaccines is we don’t really know the long term effects of those vaccines,” which sort of neglects the rather crucial comparison with the long-term effects of getting COVID, which we know to be worse.
Diagnosis: Wild-eyed though colorful fringe crank – not worse than some of the deluded loons currently in Congress, perhaps, but a terrible loon nonetheless.
Hat-tip: Respectful Insolence