Candace Owens

Candace Owens uses a gesture to signify an air quote as she says the word “pandemic” in an Instagram video she posted Tuesday, in which she describes the context and her experience surrounding being declined an appointment to get a COVID-19 test in Aspen.

Candace Owens, a New York Times bestselling author and outspoken critic of the Democratic Party, said she was denied a COVID-19 test in Aspen, and not because of a lack of testing supplies.

On Thursday, she let her millions of friends and followers on social media know about her experience with Aspen Laboratories, which canceled an appointment to receive a COVID-19 test made by Owens’ assistant during her visit to Aspen. Suzanna Lee, co-owner of Aspen Laboratories, emailed Owens on Tuesday afternoon to let the conservative commentator know her appointment had been canceled, Owens said in an Instagram video.

“I’ve just learned of this testing request and as the owner of this business am going to refuse this booking and deny service,” Lee wrote to Owens on Tuesday. “We cannot support anyone who has pro-actively worked to make this pandemic worse by spreading misinformation, politicizing and DISCOURAGING the wearing of masks and actively dissuading people from receiving life-saving vaccinations.”

Owens — whose official pages have 4 million Instagram followers, 2.9 million Twitter followers and more than 3.5 million Facebook likes — shared Lee’s email on her social media platforms, and the story quickly found its way across the internet, onto outlets from Colorado to New York to the United Kingdom.

Owens, who is vocal about her decision not to receive the vaccination or get her family vaccinated, has called the pandemic “fake,” Dr. Anthony Fauci “evil” and mask mandates “totalitarianism,” also on her social media channels.

“I have been very outspoken in this COVID-19 pandemic,” Owens says in her Instagram video, posted from a home in Aspen. “Part of my outspokenness, if you will, I have made very clear that I’ve made a personal decision for me and my family not to get the vaccine. I’ve never said to any person they shouldn’t do it — I’m a personal freedom person. As a result of me not getting the vaccine … I probably have gotten literally something like 50+ COVID tests since the beginning of this pandemic.”

At the word “pandemic,” Owens uses a hand gesture creating air quotes.

“My team and myself have worked overtime, to exhaustion, unpaid and underpaid this past year, spending our own capital to ensure that our community remains protected. It would be unfair to them and to the sacrifices we have all made this year to serve you,” Lee also said in her email to Owens.

Aspen Laboratories, which also goes by Aspen COVID Testing on its website, charges $425 for an instant PCR test, $185 for a PCR test and $135 for a rapid antigen test out of its patient service center. A private business, Aspen Laboratories accepts private insurance and Medicare for its COVID-19 testing services. The private business receives no outside government funding, co-owner Isaac Flanagan confirmed.

Lee informed Owens that if she wanted to get tested locally that she would need to instead go to the free kiosk near Aspen City Hall.

“They mail their tests to Texas and have inconsistent result times, do not take appointments so its walk in only midday weekdays in their back alley,” Lee said to Owens about the COVID-19 testing site near city hall.

In her response email, Owens informed the Aspen Laboratories co-owner that she had “never laughed harder.”

“Nothing screams ‘this virus isn’t political’ quite like Googling the names of the people who book tests with you and determining on a case-by-case basis whether or not you will let them comply with your community COVID measures,” Owens emailed Lee. “Nothing screams ‘I love my local community’ quite like refusing to test people who are going to a local event and wish to ensure they are negative and therefore do not spread the virus.”

Some events, like this weekend’s JAS Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience — featuring Kings of Leon, Eric Church and Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band — will require its thousands of attendees, staff and volunteers 12 years of age and older to show proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test result in order to attend. According to the JAS website, the event will offer mobile testing sites to attendees for between $35 and $45.

When reached by phone Thursday evening, Aspen Laboratories Flanagan said he and Lee would be issuing a public statement on the businesses’ website, aspencovidtest.com, concerning the matter later in the night.

“This has been the most difficult day that we’ve ever had, and it’s been incredibly challenging. And I really regret how hard it’s been on our team that works so hard to serve this community,” Flanagan told the Aspen Daily News Thursday night.

Flanagan however declined to comment further until the public statement came out. As of the Aspen Daily News’ print deadline, Aspen Laboratories had not yet issued its public statement.

Owens did not mince words on the matter in the Instagram video that had garnered nearly 19,000 comments.

“I can’t even unpack the layers of stupidity — she accuses me of politicizing the virus while writing an email saying, ‘I’m politicizing the virus by declining to give you a COVID test.’ She’s literally saying, ‘I’m politicizing the virus because I don’t like your politics, and therefore I’m not going to allow you to comply with our local COVID measures,’” Owens said via Instagram. “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.”

More than 643,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and more than 4.5 million worldwide.

Matthew Bennett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at: matthew@aspendailynews.com