As many Republican elected officials and conservative media figures are encouraging people to get vaccinated, they continue to face the fact that some of their most prominent voices continue to muddle the waters.
During a press conference on Thursday, members of the Republican Doctors’ Caucus were quick to note the role they have played in encouraging people to get vaccinated.
“We urge all Americans to talk to their doctors about the risks of Covid, talk to their doctors about the benefits of getting vaccinated and then come to a decision that’s right for them about the vaccine,” Rep Andy Harris of Maryland said. At that same conference, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said he had recently been vaccinated after he had previously tested positive for antibodies, despite the vaccine being available to lawmakers since the beginning of the year.
“But with the Delta variant, I felt that I wanted that extra level of protection,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Similarly, Sen Josh Hawley of Missouri, a state that has seen a recent outbreak of Covid-19 cases, said the best thing to do is to encourage people to get vaccinated and give them the right information.
“It’s a medical decision, people will make their own medical decisions. You can’t force them to,” Mr Hawley, who is the youngest Republican senator, told The Independent on Monday. “You can’t force them to, I don’t believe in brow-beating people about it. I usually share that I’m vaccinated, I encourage people to get vaccinated.”
Mr Hawley is often speculated as a potential candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2024, much like Florida Gov Ron DeSantis, whose state makes up a fifth of the nation’s new covid cases.
“If you are vaccinated, fully vaccinated, the chance of you getting seriously ill or dying from COVID is effectively zero,” Mr DeSantis said in St. Petersburg on Wednesday. “If you look at the people that are being admitted to hospitals, over 95 percent of them are either not fully vaccinated or not vaccinated at all. And so these vaccines are saving lives. They are reducing mortality.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had polio as a child, has also pushed for vaccination.
“It never occurred to me that after three highly effective vaccines were developed in under a year that we’d have difficulty getting Americans to take the shots,” he told reporters earlier this week.
Conservative media figures like Sean Hannity and Fox & Friends co-host Steeve Doocy have both promoted the efficacy of the vaccines this week, despite the fact that other hosts on the network have raised questions about the vaccine. The sudden turnaround even prompted President Joe Biden to tout the network’s “altar call” on vaccination.
But the problem is that some of the most prominent faces in conservative media have either dithered when talking about vaccines or flat-out lied about them. Mr Doocy and Mr Hannity’s colleague Tucker Carlson undermined them when he mentioned how someone in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office tested positive for Covid-19 after visiting with Texas lawmakers in Washington.
“Weird how many vaccinated people seem to be spreading the virus at this point,” Mr Carlson said.
Similarly, while former President Donald Trump has taken credit for Operation Warp Speed, his administration’s program to accelerate Covid-19 vaccine development, he has instead chosen to tie vaccine hesitancy and the Biden administration’s efforts to his own gripes about the election, which he continues to wrongfully claim was stolen from him.
“He’s way behind schedule, and people are refusing to take the vaccine because they don’t trust his Administration, they don’t trust the election results and they certainly don’t trust the Fake News, which is refusing to tell the truth,” Mr Trump said of Mr Biden.
Mr Trump, who had Covid-19 last year, was vaccinated in January and did say at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February “So everybody, go get your shot.” But it was once again couched in his ramblings about the election and the message got muddled.
Similarly, Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene, the conspiracy-peddling congresswoman from Georgia, was briefly suspended from Twitter after she tweeted that the virus was “not dangerous” for people who were younger than 65 and not obese. But when she was asked people young children and skinny people who died of Covid-19, she laughed the question off.
As long as the most prominent voices of the conservative movement continue to either muddy the waters or flat-out promote mistrust, it is highly unlikely that any of the efforts from more elite Republicans will bear any fruit. Covid mistrust, much like a virus itself, has spread rampantly through the conservative movement.