Republicans in Texas are trying to shift blame for COVID surge to Black people

Pressed on Fox News about GOP policies in Texas, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick turned to racism to deflect

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published August 20, 2021 12:34PM (EDT)

Lieutenant Governor of Texas Dan Patrick (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Lieutenant Governor of Texas Dan Patrick (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, blamed Black Texans for the country's recent surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations.

"African Americans who have not been vaccinated" are "the biggest group in most states" driving the new surge in the coronavirus cases, Patrick said on a Thursday night Fox News broadcast with host Laura Ingraham. Patrick's comments came after Ingraham asked the Texas official whether he thought lax Republican policies were enabling the spread of the virus. 

"Democrats like to blame Republicans on that," Patrick answered. "Well, the biggest group in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated. The last time I checked, over 90 percent of them vote for Democrats in their major cities and major counties, so it's up to the Democrats, just as it's up to Republicans, to try to get as many people vaccinated."

Patrick later defended people's choice to remain unvaccinated, saying "that's their individual right."

"[The Democrats] are doing nothing for the African American community that has a significant, high number of unvaccinated people," Patrick added. 

"TikTok videos. We've got a lot of TikTok videos," Ingrahm responded, eliding any context.

The Lt. Governor's comments drew immediate scorn online, with many critics suggesting his comments were blatantly racist. 

"The Lt. Governor's statements are offensive and should not be ignored," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote on Thursday. 

Political commentator Keith Olberman echoed: "Bluntly: @DanPatrick is this era's Orville Faubus or Lester Maddox. May he burn in hell for it."

"Lt. Gov. @DanPatrick is a lying racist," tweeted Dr. Jorge A. Caballero, clinical instructor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "We know this because [census] data shows that White Texans are responsible for twice as many cases as Black Texans, and there are 3 unvaccinated White Texans for every 1 unvaccinated Black Texan."

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Black residents in the Lone Star State made up 16.4% of the state's new cases and just 10.2% of deaths as of Aug. 13, as The Washington Post noted. In fact, the highest case rates are seen in the state's White and Hispanic populations, who respectively account for 34.9 percent and 35.8 percent of all coronavirus cases in Texas. 

Patrick's comments come amid a period of heightened partisan conflict in the state, with Texas' Republican leadership attempting to wrest control over policies regarding vaccine and mask mandates. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has been especially active on this front, fighting to ban mask mandates in school districts despite a sharp uptick in COVID cases amongst kids. 

On Tuesday, Abbot announced that he himself had contracted the disease – the very same day Texas requested five additional mortuary trailers to accommodate an expected wave of deaths.

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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African Americans Clip Covid Dan Lt. Gov. Patrick Shots Surge Texas Unvaccinated