CNN anchor Jake Tapper repeatedly confronted Republican Gov. Tate Reeves on Sunday over his opposition to President Joe Biden’s vaccine policy despite Mississippi’s “heartbreaking” coronavirus death rate, flatly stating that Reeves’ “way is failing.”
Defending the administration’s vaccine mandates last week amid Republican promises to fight the new rules, Biden singled out Reeves, who had blasted the requirements as “tyrannical” and unconstitutional.
“In Mississippi, children are required to be vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis B, polio, tetanus, and more,” the president noted on Thursday. “These are state requirements. But in the midst of a pandemic that has already taken over 660,000 lives, I propose a requirement for COVID vaccines and the governor of that state calls it ‘a tyrannical-type move’? A tyrannical-type move?!”
Interviewing Reeves on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Tapper brought up Biden’s remarks, wondering aloud why the governor and Mississippi’s legislature were willing to mandate various vaccines for children but not open to the federal government’s rules surrounding the COVID-19 shots. All federal employees are now required to be vaccinated and employees at businesses with over 100 staffers will either need to be vaccinated or test negative on a weekly basis, according to the new policy.
“The legislature has enacted laws regarding vaccines of many types,” the governor, who notoriously resisted imposing lockdowns early in the pandemic, insisted. “It is unique to kids and their ability to go to our public schools, it’s not vaccines mandated in the workplace. But the question here is not about what we do in Mississippi, it’s what this president is trying to impose upon the American worker.”
After Reeves claimed that Biden only implemented the new vaccine mandates to “change the political narrative away from Afghanistan,” the CNN anchor noted the virus has now killed over 660,000 Americans.
“I mean, if there ever were a reason to use this law, wouldn’t it be during a pandemic with almost 2,000 Americans dying every day?” Tapper asked, noting that Biden is using the Occupational Safety and Health Act to justify the mandate.
Claiming that every Mississippian who has died from COVID-19 breaks his heart, Reeves went on to say that they’re in a “very difficult situation” because he believes the mandates represent a slippery slope of presidential powers.
“The fact is, if we give unilateral authority by one individual to do anything that he wants to do, whether it’s a jab in the arm or anything else, then this country is in deep, deep, deep trouble, and that’s not something that I’m willing to stand by and allow him to do,” the governor declared.
At that point, Tapper pointed out that Mississippi, by some measures, has the worst COVID-19 death rate in the nation, adding that if the state was its own country it would rank second in the world in terms of deaths per capita. Not so coincidentally, the state also has one of the worst vaccination rates in the country.
“That’s a horrible, horrible, heartbreaking statistic. With all due respect, governor, your way is failing. Are you going to try to change anything to change this horrible statistic from what you’re doing already?” Tapper pressed.
“Yeah, well, obviously in Mississippi our legislature is a part-time legislature. Sometimes, I wonder if in America, if our Congress was part-time, we wouldn’t be in a better position,” Reeves responded bizarrely, prompting the veteran anchor to interject.
“Better position than what?! Your state is second-worst in the world,” an incredulous Tapper exclaimed. “I mean, how can you say that?!”
The governor, meanwhile, attempted to wave off the extremely high death rate in his state by pointing out that the Delta variant first surged through Sun Belt states earlier this summer and that deaths are a “lagging indicator” when it comes to the spread of the virus. He also suggested his state was only experiencing a “very quick spike” on par with Great Britain and Israel, two highly-vaccinated countries.
“Timing has as much to do with that statistic you used as anything else,” Reeves said, adding: “The president wants you to believe that the Delta variant is only affecting Republicans in red states. That’s not true. That is not a fact. That is just not true.”
Tapper flatly shot back: “My question is, what are you going to do to change this?”
Asserting that the “best thing” for Americans to do going forward was to “protect themselves from the virus,” Reeves—who has also refused to re-impose a mask mandate—also said that he believes in “personal responsibility” and individuality.
“So you’re not going to change anything?” Tapper, likely speaking for much of his audience, concluded.
The conservative governor then complained that Tapper was only taking aim at “Republican governors,” grumbling that he wasn’t getting enough credit for the falling case numbers in his state and that the CNN anchor “refused to talk about” problems in Democratic states.
What he did not say: almost all of the states leading the national tally of daily COVID-19 deaths are conservative bastions, California being one notable exception.