Suzanna Lee, co-owner of Aspen Laboratories, said Friday that her now highly publicized email to best-selling author and conservative political commentator Candace Owens was “private communication that was never intended for public print.”
Owens, who was denied service by Aspen Laboratories earlier this week, shared the email she received from Lee on social media for her millions of friends and followers to see.
Lee’s email explains why Owens’ COVID-19 testing appointment had been canceled. In it, Lee accused Owens of “proactively” working to make the pandemic worse by “spreading misinformation politicizing and discouraging the wearing of masks and actively dissuading people from receiving life-saving vaccinations.”
Lee also informed Owens in the email that the only other local testing option was the free kiosk near Aspen City Hall. She added that the site mailed its tests to Texas, had inconsistent result times and didn’t take appointments.
“I wrote that email in four minutes at the end of a very long day when I was truly exhausted and burnt out. I wrote that email in support of my staff after they texted and called me,” Lee said in an interview Friday afternoon concerning her email to Owens that was sent Tuesday at 4:46 p.m. “That email was never polished and perfected for public consumption.”
Lee said “never in a million years” did it occur to her that Owens might share the email with her social media followers.
“In all honesty I barely know who she is, she’s a marginal public figure,” Lee said of Owens. “We did not Google her; she is a public figure. That is how she was recognized. However, she’s extremely marginal and … we’re dealing with much higher-profile people at this lab every day.”
When asked Friday if she still stood by her email to Owens, the Aspen Laboratories co-owner replied, “I think my email speaks for itself.”
Lee said she opened Aspen Laboratories with her business partner Isaac Flanagan in December 2020 not to turn a significant profit, but because of a lack of COVID-19 testing in the region at the time. The co-owners of Aspen Laboratories also denied having prevented Owens from accessing a COVID-19 test in Aspen, saying there were other testing options available.
Aspen Laboratories offers instant PCR tests for $425, PCR tests for $185 and rapid antigen tests for $135 and has tested “thousands” of people for COVID-19 according to its co-owners. The private company, which Lee and Flanagan maintained does not receive federal, state or local pandemic-related funding, also offers a “VIP concierge service.”
Lee described the VIP experience as a “very high-cost premium offering” and said Aspen Laboratories did a “very low volume of” the concierge testing service.
Lee and Flanagan declined to comment on how much Aspen Laboratories billed customers for the VIP service.
“Like every single receipt that we send out says, we do this to keep our local community safe and our businesses open — that was our motivation,” Flanagan said. “And, we’re enormously proud that we’ve gotten to do that over 10,000 times.”
Lee declined to comment on the extent of threats she received as a result of the incident. However, Lee did say on the record that Aspen Laboratories had experienced a high volume of fake bookings as a result of Owens sharing the email on social media channels.
Flanagan and Lee also both denied that race had anything to do with Aspen Laboratories having refused Owens service.
In an Instagram post, Owens said, “the last time a white Democrat refused a Black person service who said it’s because, ‘I don’t like your thoughts and ideas,’ we were in the Jim Crow era. But here we are, and we’re actually in Aspen, Colorado.”
“It’s a completely undignified accusation,” Flanagan said. “Let’s stop with the performative outrage.”
Owens also alleged on Twitter that Aspen Laboratories “receives both state and federal funding” and that the incident was being looked into by government health officials.
Owens did not return a request for comment.
Following Friday’s interview, Aspen Laboratories also issued a public statement on its website concerning the incident.
“As a privately funded and operated business, with no public financing, we are under no obligation to provide our services to anyone who leverages their sizable public platform to undermine basic containment measures aimed at reducing the effects of this pandemic. We absolutely do not condone any form of discrimination or bullying,” the statement says.
“As an employer, we are equal opportunity and unprejudiced in our hiring practices. As a service provider, we would never pick and choose who we serve based on their race, politics or vaccination status, or other criteria. We respect the privacy of our clients and are very proud to have helped so many diverse, wonderful people this year from all walks of life, of all ethnic backgrounds and of all political perspectives.”