KSL Truth Test: Fact-checking claims from tense end to Utah GOP Senate debate

Jun 11, 2024, 6:49 PM | Updated: Jun 12, 2024, 5:30 am

SALT LAKE CITY – A debate for Republican candidates vying for Utah’s open U.S. Senate seat ended with a heated exchange Monday, when Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs criticized Rep. John Curtis for a past financial investment in a COVID-19 testing company and Curtis fired back in self-defense.

Staggs made this claim in the final moments of the debate. “On March 4th of 2020, Abbott Laboratories was awarded a federal grant. On that same day, John Curtis purchased stock in that company. This is the problem in Congress. At a time when somebody should be looking out for their constituents, they end up looking out for their own profit.”

“You’ve accused me of a felony here tonight,” Curtis responded. “You better have very good evidence, and I’d like to challenge you to produce that evidence.”

To cut through the back-and-forth, the KSL Investigators fired up the KSL Truth Test. Here’s what we found:

On March 27, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted Abbott Laboratories “emergency use authorization” for a rapid COVID-19 test Abbott had developed.

A U.S. House disclosure form shows on the same day, Curtis listed a purchase of stock in Abbott Laboratories.

Curtis said there’s no wrongdoing here. Corey Norman, Curtis’ chief of staff, told KSL that a company handling the congressman’s stock portfolio made the trade, not Curtis. Norman said Curtis didn’t know about the FDA authorization at that point.

“This is a desperate and dishonest attack by a failing campaign,” Norman said. “As a congressman, John has always followed all legal and congressional rules for investment decisions which are publicly disclosed through the House Ethics Committee and can be reviewed by any member of the public.”

Staggs and his campaign said after the debate that Staggs wasn’t accusing Curtis of insider trading or a felony.

“Look, what I said is that on the same day that a company was granted, or given a grant, that he traded stock in that same day,” Staggs told reporters Tuesday night.

Curtis, for his part, said he no longer owns stocks.

“I’ve tried for a very long time to isolate myself from criticism,” Curtis said after the debate Monday night. “My conclusion is part of the price of service is to divest yourself of those things, and that’s what I’ve subsequently done.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

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KSL Truth Test: Fact-checking claims from tense end to Utah GOP Senate debate