In campaign, Jensen vents over medical board

A person speaks at a press conference
Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen speaks during press conference after filing for the election at the Capitol on May 23 in St. Paul.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News file

Updated: 9 a.m.

Republican Scott Jensen zeroed in this week on an obscure state regulatory board with jurisdiction over his medical license, telling supporters at a governor’s race campaign event that he’ll “take care of that juggernaut” if he wins the race.

Audio of Monday’s meet-and-greet in Spicer, Minn. captures Jensen, a family practice doctor and former state senator, raising the repeated examination of his license as evidence of his fortitude and suggesting the Board of Medical Practice make-up is ripe for change.

“When they came after me the fifth time, I said, ‘Is this ever going to stop?’ And I almost quit caring. I did my responses, but I said, ‘I will beat you.’ And right now, I’m in the ninth month of my fifth investigation, and they’re not coming back at me, and I think the reason is they don’t know what to do with me. I wouldn’t know what to do with me. If I get elected in November, do you think their jobs are secure?” Jensen says to applause. “I get to appoint them. We’ll have picks”

He adds, “I promise you guys we’ll take care of that juggernaut.”

The audio was recorded by someone in attendance and shared by the DFL Party, which is working to reelect Gov. Tim Walz. Jensen won the Republican endorsement in May and is his party’s presumed nominee to face Walz in November.

Jensen hasn’t been shy about disclosing the investigations into his medical license, sometimes holding it up as a badge of honor for standing firm about his beliefs. He has taken to social media to claim he is under scrutiny for political reasons.

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In a video posted in October, Jensen described how he was informed by letter about the most-recent complaint filed with the board. He said it related to his call for civil disobedience over vaccine mandates, his public comments about the effectiveness of masks and suggestions he promoted alternative treatments, such as ivermectin, for COVID-19 treatment. 

He disputed some of the allegations but stood by his views on masking in public settings and the potency of natural immunity against future COVID infections. 

“I get to run for office if I choose. And people who want to politically weaponize the Board of Medical Practice, have at it,” Jensen said toward the end of the 3-minute video, which has been viewed more than 660,000 times. “I can't stop you.”

Jensen declined an interview request to discuss his campaign remark or appointment intentions. Instead, his campaign issued a written statement that criticizes the qualifications of a Walz pick for the Board of Animal Health and pivots to issues that offer more favorable political terrain for Jensen, crime and inflation among them.

"Every Minnesota Governor, regardless of political party, has the ability to appoint individuals to legislatively established boards. This is a regular, common practice that Mark Dayton and Tim Walz used, and it will continue until the Legislature changes the law,” read the Jensen campaign statement, which goes on to say he would “make sure he actually follows the law in appointing members to state boards.”

After declining to speak with a reporter about the topic, Jensen posted a late-night video to Twitter in which he defends his campaign-trail remark. “For the last two years, I have been forced to live under the cloud of a constant investigation,” he says.

DFL Party Chair Ken Martin issued a statement Friday calling Jensen’s board focus troubling.

“The doctors who serve on the board investigating Scott Jensen are not anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists, which is what makes them different from him,” Martin said in a written statement. “Scott Jensen’s extremism and enthusiasm for political retaliation don’t belong anywhere near the governor’s office.”

The Board of Medical Practice has 16 members. Ten are physicians, one is an osteopath and five are public members who aren’t medical professionals. All are appointed by the governor. Three reach the end of their term in January 2023. 

Board members receive nominal compensation for work days and are reimbursed for expenses. 

Governors have considerable latitude to fill hundreds of government posts at state agencies, regulatory boards and other commissions. Most industry boards have staggered terms so entire bodies are not subject to complete turnover in one swoop. 

The Board of Medical Practice hasn’t confirmed the existence of the complaints against Jensen, although he has shown off correspondence from board staff in videos posted online. Jensen has said four prior anonymously lodged complaints were disposed of without punishment. 

Board executive director Ruth Martinez said complaint information isn’t public record. She wouldn’t comment on the Jensen complaints other than to say, “I can confirm that the board has not imposed disciplinary action against the license of Scott Jensen, MD.”

On the board’s website, the complaint process is laid out.

“The board receives some complaints that do not lead to action against physicians. The board cannot take action against a physician unless there is sufficient evidence to show that the physician violated Minnesota's Medical Practice Act. The board must thoroughly review each complaint before it takes any action.”