President Biden again praised Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for continuing to encourage GOP-leaning men to get the coronavirus vaccine — as the White House declined to say if it asked the top Republican to do so.
The commander-in-chief made the comments on Tuesday afternoon while speaking to reporters at a White House event marking the 150 millionth COVID-19 vaccine administered in the US, after being asked what his administration was doing to combat vaccine hesitancy.
Biden responded that there were two groups that were seemingly hesitant, the first included people who were “not sure that they’re being told the truth” due to “past wrongs that had been done to them, like experimentation.”
“But then there’s another group that seems, to me, to be — I probably shouldn’t characterize it, but Mitch McConnell keeps speaking to them, which I give him credit for,” he continued.
“[McConnell] said the polling data shows Republican men, particularly young men, don’t think they should have to take the vaccine. It’s their patriotic right not to do it, their freedom to choose. And he’s saying, ‘No, no, take the vaccine. Take the vaccine.’”
“I’ll add a phrase he didn’t but I think he believes: It’s a patriotic responsibility you have.”
Biden was responding to McConnell’s comments on Monday during a presser he gave from his home state in Kentucky.
During the press conference, the top ranking Senate Republican appealed directly to the men in his party, saying, “I saw on some program last week that Republican men, curiously enough, might be reluctant to take the vaccine.
“I’m a Republican man, and I want to say to everyone: we need to take this vaccine. These reservations need to be put aside, because the only way — I think — we get to finally put this pandemic in the rearview mirror is with herd immunity,” he continued, noting that reaching that would require 75 percent of Americans to be fully inoculated.
McConnell’s comments, his second promoting the vaccine to Republican men, also earned the praise of the White House, which tweeted Monday, “Senator McConnell is right — and we thank him for his leadership.”
“It’s important every American do their part and get vaccinated when it’s their turn.”
Asked about McConnell’s Monday comments at Tuesday’s press briefing, specifically whether Biden had urged McConnell to make his comments, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration would not be offering the public details on private talks.
“I don’t have any private conversations…to communicate about, but certainly we see it as a positive for any member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, to be out there advocating for their supporters — people who follow them, who listen to them — about the safety and the efficacy of the vaccine,” she told the press corps.