Gym owner who defied COVID lockdown calls Democratic governors 'foot soldiers' in closing states

"They were carrying out their mission and their mission was to lock the states down for as long or forever as possible," Ian Smith said.

Published: June 15, 2024 11:08pm

Updated: June 18, 2024 10:37am

A New Jersey gym owner who became well known for defying COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020 called Democratic governors "foot soldiers" who were used to keep states shut down as long as possible. 

"This was their mission," Ian Smith said on the "Furthermore with Amanda Head" podcast. "These people are nothing more than foot soldiers in a bigger war. They were carrying out their mission and their mission was to lock the states down for as long or forever as possible." 

Smith is the co-owner of Atilis Gym. He and co-owner of the gym Frank Trumbetti made headlines after they refused to shut down their gym in May 2020 even though Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said all nonessential businesses needed to be closed. 

Smith was hit with multiple fines due to his decision but it was announced that he was recently cleared of any wrongdoing after a long legal battle, according to a report from The New York Post.

"We were in a state where the governor really wanted a fight. And because we had so much attention, I think their hand was forced into not being able to quietly shut us down and sort of open this four year war against us," he said. 

Smith argued during the podcast interview that there was no scientific basis for masking people during COVID-19 and forcing small businesses to close down. "There was no scientific basis for masking," he said. "There was no scientific basis for the arrows up and down the one-way grocery store aisles. There was no scientific basis for PCR testing."

Smith is not the only individual who has pushed back on masks. Dr. Harvey Risch,  a professor emeritus at Yale University Public School of Health, said the continued embrace of masks is further eroding public trust in the health establishment.

Smith explained that when COVID-19 first hit, his gym did have safety precautions when it was open. 

"We did have our own contact tracing system," he said. "Our members voluntarily did a forehead scan of their temperature every day. They all signed in, registered their temperature and we put it on a little piece of paper, and we collected those until we hit I think over a million visits."

During 2020, multiple small businesses were closed down during COVID and when some who survived the shutdown opened back up, they had to take safety precautions such as standing six feet apart and wearing a mask. 

When it came to legal bills, Smith said that he was thankful that some of the fines were paid off by individuals donating. "That $750,000 legal bill was at least.....the burden was carried in a large way by people's generous donations [and] by the T-shirts that we wound up selling," he said. "I mean, we sold T-shirts, and we didn't really make a dime off of them. But we didn't have to.....we wouldn't have been able to finance that legal battle. We would have eventually gone broke."

He added that it was a "collective effort" to keep the gym open and fight the legal battles.

Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases admitted before lawmakers that "there was no science behind" the mandates for social distancing or the requirement of wearing masks.

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