Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick faces criticism after COVID remarks


Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has infuriated Democrats by blaming them for not getting enough Black Texans vaccinated against COVID-19, even though Democrats question whether he’s promoted the shots with vigor.

Appearing on “Ingraham Angle” on Fox News late Thursday, Patrick acknowledged that the delta variant has sent new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations soaring in Texas.

But the Republican lieutenant governor sought to deflect criticism of the state’s response to the pandemic. He, Gov. Greg Abbott and other GOP leaders have eased business closures more quickly than their counterparts in other states. Also, this year, they’ve blocked local governments and school districts from requiring masks and accinations.

“Most of the [new infection] numbers are with the unvaccinated and the Democrats like to blame Republicans on that,” Patrick said.

“Well, the biggest group in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated. The last time I checked, over 90% of them vote for Democrats in their major cities and major counties. So it’s up to the Democrats to get – just as it’s up to Republicans – to try to get as many people vaccinated.”

Though top state GOP leaders repeatedly stress that getting shots is a personal choice and have pushed through a law barring businesses from requiring “vaccine passports,” Patrick sought to condemn Democratic leaders for not doing more to increase vaccination rates among Blacks.

“We’re encouraging our people who want to take it to take it, but they’re doing nothing for the African American community that has a significant high number of unvaccinated,” he said.

Sen. Borris Miles, a Houston Democrat who is Black, called Patrick’s comments “inflammatory” and “unacceptable.”

“Lt. Governor Patrick now blames the current surge in COVID on unvaccinated African Americans,” Miles said in a written statement.

“Using minorities as a scapegoat is nothing new for Republicans,” Miles said. “Governor Abbott blames the COVID surge on Latino immigrants on the border. Both of these views are irresponsible and use uninformed information.”

Patrick’s Democratic opponent for lieutenant governor, Mike Collier, joined Miles’ protest that the comment about Blacks amounts to a smokescreen.

Both noted that Patrick and Abbott, along with Attorney General Ken Paxton, are fighting against some local governments and school districts’ attempts to require masks and shots. The two Democrats said Texans are dying unnecessarily because of GOP mismanagement.

“More than 55,000 Texans are dead because of Dan Patrick’s negligence – not because of Black Texans,” Collier said in a written statement. “Blaming Black people for your own shortcomings is not only despicable but straight out of the pages of the Jim Crow playbook.”

Former state GOP Chairman Allen West also assailed Patrick, demanding an apology.

“I find the comments of Lt. Gov Dan Patrick blaming unvaccinated Black people for COVID spread in Texas disgusting, unconscionable, utterly disturbing, and highly insulting. I am an unvaccinated Black man in Texas,” tweeted West, who is opposing Abbott in next year’s GOP primary for governor. He said Abbott and Patrick should prevent unauthorized immigrants who’ve not gotten shots or tests from entering Texas.

On Facebook Friday, Patrick responded that he simply answered host Laura Ingraham’s question about criticism of state handling of the pandemic, using information from reputable sources. But “Democrat social media trolls” want to fan a controversy, he lamented.

“Federal and State data clearly indicate that Black vaccination rates are significantly lower than White or Hispanic rates,” said Patrick’s post.

“Republican leadership will continue to encourage vaccination without mandates in all populations.”

A June poll by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, though, showed only 8% of Democrats said they wouldn’t try to get a vaccine when it became available, compared with 38% of Republicans. Among whites, 26% wouldn’t try to get the shots, versus just 18% among Blacks.

In a June Dallas Morning News-UT Tyler poll, among the 60% of unvaccinated adults who hadn’t sought to make an appointment, Blacks were more than twice as likely as whites or Hispanics to say that was because they were concerned about side effects. 64% of African Americans not making appointments cited worry about the shots’ side effects, compared with 26% of whites and 23% of Latinos who hadn’t tried to schedule an innoculation.

In Patrick’s home county, Montgomery, north of Houston, while 64% of the population is white, only 51% of the 312,000 residents who’ve been administered at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine are white, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services’ vaccine dashboard. While 5.9% of Montgomery County’s residents are African American, 4.3% of those who’ve gotten at least one shot are Black.

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