Last month, Georgia construction executive Marjorie Taylor Greene won the Republican primary in Georgia's heavily red 14th congressional district, all but ensuring Greene a seat in Congress.
The victory was notable because Greene is a believer in QAnon, the widely debunked conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump is secretly working to expose a ring of satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles operating at the highest levels of government and entertainment.
Greene's victory and Trump's near-immediate endorsement signaled that the far-right conspiracy theory was seeing greater legitimization within the Republican party.
This week, Republican Iowa Senator Joni Ernst bolstered that criticism when she floated another false QAnon conspiracy: that doctors were secretly inflating virus deaths for financial gain.
According to the Cedar Falls Courier, Ernst said she was "so skeptical" of the current death toll, which is over 180 thousand people and rising every day.
"They're thinking there may be 10,000 or less deaths...I'm just really curious. It would be interesting to know that. These health care providers and others are reimbursed at a higher rate if [the virus] is tied to it, so what do you think they're doing?"
Several prominent QAnon accounts have put forth the false claim that fewer than 10 thousand people have "actually" died due to the virus—one of the claims was even retweeted by Trump himself.
The claim that healthcare workers are falsely reporting cases and deaths of the virus in order to make more money has been largely debunked as well.
People took Ernst's claim as another signal of QAnon's growing representation in the Republican party.
People slammed the Senator's comments.
Ernst is currently in the midst of a reelection campaign against Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield.