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Smithtown Fire District chief being investigated for email about vaccine

Officials said the majority of the Smithtown Fire

Officials said the majority of the Smithtown Fire Department received COVID-19 vaccines. Credit: James Carbone

Smithtown Fire District officials are investigating the department chief's alleged use of his official email account to forward a video falsely claiming that COVID-19 vaccinations kill patients, said the vice chairman of the district's board of fire commissioners.

Vice chairman Michael McMahon said in an interview that Chief Kevin Fitzpatrick may have violated a district policy about social networking and internet use, but likely would not face disciplinary action after commissioners discuss the matter at a meeting Monday.

"I don't look at it as an issue — I look at it as a mistake," McMahon said. "There are a lot of decisions made in eight years and you're going to make a mistake here and there."

Newsday contacted commissioners about the video after obtaining an email thread that appears to show it was forwarded from Fitzpatrick's official email account.

Fitzpatrick, a 31-year department veteran, has served as assistant chief or department chief for eight years and has about a month before his term as chief of department expires, McMahon said. Fitzpatrick and his assistant chiefs have been "very supportive" of vaccinations for Smithtown firefighters, most of whom have been vaccinated, McMahon said.

Fitzpatrick, an emergency department registered nurse at a Suffolk County hospital and a retired NYPD sergeant, according to his Facebook page, did not respond to interview requests or emailed questions.

The video is linked in an email thread that a Colorado man, Steve Mandell, shared with Newsday. That thread originates with a Jan. 31 email from an AOL account used by Fitzpatrick, according to a Newsday database, and sent to Fitzpatrick's department email.

According to the thread, the video was forwarded from Fitzpatrick's department email to a private email; from there it was forwarded to Mandell's relative, who lives on Long Island. Mandell shared with Newsday an email he sent to the chief's official account, asking the chief to revise his warning in light of the prevailing science. The reply: "Thank you for your comments … It is unfortunate that there is so much conflicting information."

Newsday shared copies of the thread and the email exchange with district and department officials, including Fitzpatrick. They did not respond to requests for comment.

The 12-minute video, hosted by a Dutch conspiracy website, is titled "Why People Will Start Dying A Few Months After the First MRNA ‘Vaccinations.’ " That claim is baseless, Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University, said in an interview.

The video cites as evidence a 2012 scientific paper whose lead writer is a University of Texas researcher, but that paper urged caution about a different kind of vaccine for diseases caused by different coronaviruses.

"It is scientifically inaccurate and deceptive" to apply that research to the current COVID-19 vaccines, Raul Reyes, a University of Texas Medical Branch spokesman, said in an email.

The video has been viewed 259,000 times, according to a counter on the host website. That website also hosts videos about alien-human hybrid babies and mind control.

The video's main speaker, Dolores Cahill, is a professor and politician whose employer, University College Dublin, last year dissociated itself from comments she made about the virus to a person the Irish Times described as an "online alt-right interviewer." That newspaper and others have described the Irish Freedom Party, which she chairs, as far-right.

In the video, Cahill says that vaccines now in wide use will cause patients to "go into septic shock and then they will go into organ failure."

Columbia’s El-Sadr called Cahill’s claims "irresponsible and misleading," pointing out that 100,000 or more people safely took COVID vaccines in clinical studies without evidence of septic shock or organ failure. Millions more have safely taken vaccines since with no reports of these claims.

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