Former President Donald Trump may be losing some hard-core supporters over his recent endorsement of the COVID-19 vaccine, but at least one of his most outspoken allies still has his back.
Far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., relayed Trump’s position on Twitter Monday, apparently attempting to assure skeptics that Trump’s promotion of the jab does not equal support for COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
“I have President Trump’s permission to tell you all that he is 100% AGAINST the mandates, but he still encourages everyone to get the vaccine and booster,” Greene wrote, saying she had just spoken to him on the phone. “That is his position. He also said if he was President he would never mandate the vaccines, and no one would be fired [for not getting vaccinated].”
While the freshman congresswoman did not go so far as to advocate getting inoculated against COVID herself, the post was notable in light of Greene’s own track record as both an opponent of the vaccine and a constant source of misinformation about the coronavirus.
The tweet seems to reflect the awkward position many outspoken supporters of the former president have found themselves in as a result of his recent vaccine advocacy. At an event with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in Dallas on Dec. 19, Trump confirmed that he had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and revealed that he had received a third shot, a comment that prompted boos from some people in the audience. In another interview with conservative commentator Candace Owens later that week, Trump continued to tout the efficacy of the COVID vaccines, which were developed under his administration.
“The vaccine is one of the greatest achievements of mankind,” Trump told Owens. “And if you take the vaccine, you’re protected. The results of the vaccine are good.”
The comments drew immediate criticism from some prominent far-right figures, like conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who said Trump’s words were “nothing but a raft of dirty lies” and warned, “You are either completely ignorant ... or you are one of the most evil men who ever lived.” Others, like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood, attempted to defend Trump. In a statement to the Daily Beast last week, Lindell said that while he is “100% against the vaccine!” he wasn’t concerned about Trump’s support for it because “he is 100% against mandates!” Wood suggested Trump’s vaccine endorsement was part of his “wartime strategy” and urged followers to hold off on “passing judgment.”
Even Owens seemed caught between supporting the former president and opposing the vaccine after her interview with Trump, saying that while she had “no issue with any person who wants to get the vaccine,” she did not trust it and would “never, ever” let it into her body.
Monday’s messaging appeared to be Greene’s attempt to reconcile the recent comments made by her “favorite president of all time” with her own vociferous anti-vax stance.
Greene, who has also promoted the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory, was suspended from Twitter twice this year for sharing false or misleading claims about the coronavirus pandemic.
In July, she was locked out of her account for 12 hours after saying COVID was dangerous only to those who were over 65 or obese. She was suspended again for a week in August for saying the vaccines were “failing” and ineffective, though Insider reported last week that she owned shares of three companies that produced vaccines.
Greene has repeatedly compared those promoting mask and vaccine usage to Nazis, continuing to make the offensive analogy even after issuing a public apology for it. During an appearance on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast last month, Greene once again railed against “vaccine Nazis” and stated proudly that she is “not vaccinated, and I’m not getting the vaccine because I’m an American.”
The United States has seen an increase of more than 105 percent in COVID cases and 6 percent in hospitalizations over the last 14 days, per New York Times tracking. Experts have said they’re concerned about the potential of an additional post-Christmas surge following holiday gatherings, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying last month that the unvaccinated are 14 times more likely to die than those who’ve received the shots.
Health officials hope the promotion of the vaccine by Trump could help close the partisan gap in those receiving the jabs. Per the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 59 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of independents are already vaccinated, versus 91 percent of Democrats. A study by NPR found that residents of counties that voted heavily for Trump in 2020 were nearly three times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those of counties that went for Joe Biden.
Trump initially received the COVID-19 vaccine in January but did not publicize that fact, in contrast to officials from both parties who shared photos and videos in an attempt to promote others to follow suit. Trump has recommended that people get the vaccine multiple times over the course of the year, telling Fox News in March, “I would recommend it, and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it.”
In August, Trump had called the boosters a “money-making operation” and the following month said he would “probably” not get one. In the early days of the pandemic, the then-president downplayed the virus, held large rallies, railed against mask mandates and promoted misinformation about treatments.
In a Dec. 22 interview with Fox News, Trump noted his position against vaccine mandates, saying, “It’s a matter of getting people out to, ideally, get the vaccine. If you have the mandate, the mandate will destroy people’s lives — it destroys people’s lives, just as the vaccine saves people.”
Trump’s anti-mandate stance is messaging shared by many in his party. Earlier this month, every Republican senator and two Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, voted to nullify the White House’s vaccination and testing mandate for large private businesses. (The measure is unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled House and could be vetoed by President Biden.)
The White House has embraced Trump’s comments promoting the vaccine.
“We’re grateful the former president got the booster,” press secretary Jen Psaki said during the Dec. 23 White House press briefing. “We’re also grateful that he made clear in a recent interview that they’re effective and they’re safe. That’s an important message for anyone to hear.”
“It may be one of the few things he and I agree on,” Biden said. “People with booster shots are highly protected. Join them. Join us.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, told ABC News he was “dismayed” that Trump was booed, but he praised Trump’s comments.
“I think that his continuing to say that people should get vaccinated and articulating that to them, in my mind, is a good thing,” Fauci said in a Sunday interview. “I hope he keeps it up.”