Two days after a Texas man was sentenced to six months in prison for making threats to Dr. Leana Wen, federal authorities in Maryland unsealed charges against a Massachusetts man who also allegedly threatened the former Baltimore health commissioner.
Wen, who did not comment on the first case, told The Baltimore Banner on Thursday that the continuing threats “are part of a disturbing pattern of intimidation and harassment against public health officials that have escalated during COVID-19.”
“It’s not right that medical professionals who are trying to help patients and their families have to fear for our lives,” Wen said. “People who have differences of opinion over policies need to address them in civil and respectful ways.”
The charged cases reflect just a sampling of the threats and heavy criticism directed at Wen, a CNN contributor who was scorned by the political right for advocating vaccines. The FBI said Wen “has been subjected to harassing and threatening messages, many of which refer to his/her national origin (Chinese) and race (Asian).”
In more recent months, Wen has been a target of left-leaning criticism for supporting the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
In the new case unsealed Thursday, the FBI has charged Philip Lee Sullivan Jr. with sending Wen an email that said: “KEEP PUSHING YOUR THIUGHTS [sic] AND YOU WILL END UP IN PEICES [sic]. THIS IS A PROMISE FROM ‘A SPECIFIC CARTEL’. WE HAVE BEEN PAID HALF TO KEEP EYES ON YOU.”
It concluded, “Of [sic] you believe this is a joke, test us.” The message came after a segment about Wen aired on Fox News, the FBI said. Sullivan’s email address used a pseudonym, but investigators obtained his identity through his IP address.
In February, Scott Eli Harris pleaded guilty to sending violent messages to Wen related to the vaccine. “Never going to take your wonder drug. My 12 gauge promises I won’t .… I can’t wait for the shooting to start.”
He was sentenced Wednesday to six months in federal prison, following by three years of supervised release.
Wen has more recently been accused of promoting “unscientific, unsafe, ableist, fatphobic, and unethical practices during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to claims made in a petition circulating among health professionals that asks that she be removed as a speaker at the 2022 American Public Health Association’s annual meeting.
Wen wrote a column for The Washington Post with an accompanying Twitter thread this week in which she explained her evolution from “extremely cautious” regarding COVID-19 precautions to resuming pre-pandemic activities.