Some of the 97 Republicans who aren’t sharing their vaccination status told CNN they don’t have a responsibility to model behavior to their constituents.
“I don’t think it’s anybody’s damn business whether I’m vaccinated or not,” Republican Rep.
Still a few of them offered some explanations during hallway interviews with CNN this week.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida told CNN “that’s very nosy of you,” when CNN started asking about his vaccination status, but the congressman cut off the question before it got to whether or not he was vaccinated.
“I think we should be talking more about freeing Britney,” he added.
Rep. Andrew Clyde, a Republican from Georgia, told CNN he couldn’t believe that reporters were asking about his vaccine status.
In the Republican Senate conference, 46 of 50 senators confirmed to CNN that they are vaccinated. Only two refuse to say if they are not vaccinated: Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.
“I don’t feel like it is my job to encourage people to do something that they don’t want to do,” Cramer said.
More and more Republicans
“There is this fixation on certain things and vaccinations are one of them,” Cramer said. “None of the treatments or therapies have ever been given any credit … and people intuitively know that is not right.”
And then there are the select few that go further than not disclosing their vaccine status by stating they don’t plan to get vaccinated at all. Two GOP senators, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rand Paul of Kentucky, confirmed to CNN that they are not vaccinated. And in the House, Thomas Massie of Kentucky is the only member since the vaccine became widely available to confirm to CNN that he was not vaccinated.
Co-chair of the GOP Doctor’s Caucus Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland told CNN members not sharing their vaccine status does not impact positive messaging around the vaccine.
“I would say not at all,” Harris said. “Look, we believe in health privacy.”
Freshman Republican Peter Meijer of Michigan, who has been open about being vaccinated and encourages his constituents to do so, told CNN that while it is his colleagues’ choice whether or not they want to get the vaccine or disclose it, “I think individual leaders should do right by those who support them. And in my view, that’s, being upfront and honest. And it’s also not doing anything that may harm those individuals.”
As silence on vaccine status remains, misinformation looms
The silence from some Republicans does even more damage when considering the extent of misinformation that some Republican lawmakers are spreading.
Freshman Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene
In the latest sign that Republicans are increasingly shifting messaging strategies on the necessity, safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, Minority Whip Steve Scalise announced he had finally received his first shot this week and went on Fox News to encourage others to get vaccinated before it was too late.
Scalise said he got the Covid-19 vaccine now because of the rising number
“We all do,” Burgess said. “Look — down in my part of the world, is probably the heart of Trump country, where’s the best place to open a vaccine hub? A NASCAR racetrack. And we did. And it ran for months, and the vaccination rate was incredible. Now the hard part is getting that last mile of people who need vaccinations.”
For some Democrats, the Republican evolution in messaging, which has been drastic across conservative media as well, is too little too late.
Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said he thinks many of his Republican colleagues in the Senate have handled the vaccine issue responsibly, but he’s argued GOP members in the House have been complicit in allowing misinformation to spread.
“There is no doubt that a big swath of the national Republican Party is sending an anti vaccine message to their base,” Murphy said. “It is not the Senate Republicans, but the House Republicans have been criminally negligent when it comes to how they have approached the vaccination campaign.”
Some Republicans that have pushed for Covid vaccines all along
Although a significant portion of the Republican conference has been slow to get on the bandwagon, some Republicans have made the push to get their constituents vaccinated an ongoing fight.
“It is discouraging that so many people remain unvaccinated. I am a big fan of vaccinations. I had a personal experience with that in my own life and it is pretty clear from all the evidence that if you get the disease, you are much more likely to survive it if you get vaccinated,” McConnell told CNN last week.
Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, told CNN that he, too, has been making a vaccine push back home, teaming up with his Democratic colleague Sen. Jon Tester to encourage people to get the shot in a public service announcement.
“It is important we try to get the message out there in as many avenues as possible. Some people trust Steve, some people trust me,” Tester said.
Freshman House Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa, who took to the House floor on Wednesday to reassure that the Covid vaccine is safe and effective, is a doctor who has administered vaccines to constituents in her district.
Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina and the ranking GOP member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he makes his vaccine status a topic when he’s talking to constituents.
“What I tell them is, if you don’t want to go to the hospital and you don’t want to die, get a vaccine,” Burr said. “We have always had an anti-vaccine group in America. This is for a different reason, but they should not take it lightly. This is a very serious virus. People should not risk their lives or their children’s lives.”