On Monday night’s “Prime Time” program, CNN host Chris Cuomo spoke to Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) in an interview that turned out to be a failed attempt at COVID vaccine shaming as well as yet another unethical yet familiar display of using his platform to bash the Governor of a state that unquestionably did better in handling the pandemic than his brother Gov. Andrew Cuomo did in his own state.
After the first minute or so where pleasantries were exchanged and Donalds talked about the high vaccination rate of senior citizens in Florida – which he correctly pointed out had been a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis from the start – Cuomo then started to lay into Donalds about how Republicans including DeSantis were supposedly “politicizing” the vaccine. As an example, Cuomo brought up the “Don’t Fauci My Florida” t-shirt and koozies being sold on DeSantis’ website. Cuomo then proceeded to take a recent quote from Donalds out of context to suggest that the Republican message about the vaccine was to not take it because it would make vaccination rates look better for President Biden or something:
CUOMO: And an aspect of vaccine hesitancy is politics, especially in your state. “Don’t Fauci Florida,” we all know that was about. Do you feel responsible for spreading a message, where “I’m not going to take it, because I don’t care what Biden wants. Byron Donalds is not going to take it because he doesn’t care what Biden wants.” You think that’s a good message for people to hear?
DONALDS: Well, the first thing is my message was never about Joe Biden. My message is about me and my own personal health. I’m 42- years-old. I had COVID already.
CUOMO: “I’m not getting vaccinated because I don’t want to.”
DONALDS: Hold on, Chris. Let me finish. Let me finish. Don’t–
CUOMO: Hold on, no, no, I want to read your words.
The interview didn’t get any better from there, with Cuomo continuously cutting Donalds off when he would try to answer a question while Donalds, to his credit, repeated the point that while he recommends people get the vaccine, he believes it should be a personal choice not mandated by the government. When Cuomo tried to shame him about not leading by example because he didn’t get the vaccine, Donalds kept his cool and told Cuomo that he and his family had already had COVID and because of that and after consultation with their doctor opted not to get the vaccine.
When Cuomo tried a “freedom” lecture on Donalds, the freshman Congressman was having none of it:
Cuomo then attempted to explain “freedom” to Donalds, telling him his choice not to get vaccinated “doesn’t make him a free person” and that freedom isn’t defined as being “bold” but rather “doing the right thing.”
Donalds pushed back.
“You are making the point that everybody has to get vaccinated in order to protect everybody. What I’m saying is that if Americans want to get vaccinated… go get the vaccine. I fully promote you doing that,” Donalds said. “But at the same time, if there are Americans who don’t want to get it, they shouldn’t be forced to do so.”
Republican Rep. Byron Donalds tells @ChrisCuomo he has made the decision not to get vaccinated “as a free person.”
“That doesn’t just make a you free person,” replied Cuomo. “…Its about doing the right thing, the best thing.” pic.twitter.com/wvQ2TqXjh6
— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) July 27, 2021
The funny thing here is that Cuomo thought that interview made him look good, but in reality it just confirmed all over again what a hypocritical and pompous jerk he actually is.
The last thing anyone in this country including Donalds needs from Chris Cuomo is a lecture on what “doing the right thing” means, especially when you consider the preferential treatment Cuomo received in the early days of the Wuhan virus outbreak when he and his family members were privileged enough to be put at the head of the line when it came to virus testing and alternative treatment options thanks to his obvious connections in the governor’s office.
Further, Cuomo – who, again, fancies himself as a moral arbiter on “doing the right thing” – broke quarantine (which is against CDC guidelines) while he had COVID, which was when the virus was doing maximum damage to his fellow New Yorkers (April 2020). Yet when called out on by an elderly bike rider who saw him sitting outside his East Hampton estate when he had the coronavirus, Cuomo insinuated on his radio program that he’d wanted to beat the guy up and whined about the constraints of being a public figure who had to restrain himself from doing what he really wanted to do in life.
As I’ve said before, getting the vaccine is a personal choice. Some opt to get it and some don’t. In some cases, you have people like Donalds who had COVID and because of that see no need to get the vaccine. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is in the same camp. My mom, dad, and I all came down with COVID last summer but we still opted to get the vaccine earlier this year as a precautionary measure, especially since my dad is exposed three times a week to health care workers and other senior citizens in a medical setting.
Sadly, vaccine shaming is becoming a political weapon to use against those who don’t get it, and unfortunately, some of the shaming is not just coming from the likes of Cuomo but also from some on the right. It’s got to stop.