AUSTIN, Texas — On Fox News on Aug. 19, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick claimed that “African Americans who have not been vaccinated” are “the biggest group in most states” that are contributing to the spike in COVID-19 cases. His statement is false, and it's drawing criticism from constituents and fellow politicians.
During an interview Thursday night on Fox News, Patrick was asked about the COVID-19 crisis in Texas. Host Laura Ingraham said, "The increased COVID numbers, hospitalizations, deaths are up in Texas and they're saying – a direct assault on your governor's policies and your state's policies. Very brief response?"
"Well, Laura, the COVID is spreading, particularly, most of the numbers are with the unvaccinated, and the Democrats like to blame Republicans on that. Well, the biggest group in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated," Patrick responded. "Last time I checked, over 90% of them vote for Democrats in their major cities and their major counties. So it's up to the Democrats, just as it's up to the Republicans, to try to get as many people vaccinated. We respect the fact that if people don't want the vaccination, we're not going to force it on them. That's their individual right."
There's a lot to digest there. But he is suggesting that Black people are driving the current pandemic surge.
So, let's look at this claim that "the biggest group in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated."
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 40 states report vaccines by race. And among those that do, yes, Black people have the lowest vaccination rate at 40%, compared to 50% of white people.
But Black people only make up 12% of the American population. So that means that for every one unvaccinated Black person in America, there are four unvaccinated white people.
Looking at Texas, we cross-referenced 2020 census data and data from the Department of State Health Services. Of the roughly 3.4 million Black people in Texas, 2.4 million are unvaccinated. And of the 11.5 million white people in Texas, 6.8 million are unvaccinated.
Now, keep in mind, not everyone is eligible to get the vaccine.
But for every one Black Texan who isn't vaccinated, there are three white unvaccinated Texans and three Hispanic unvaccinated Texans.
Lawmakers such as Sen. Borris MIles are speaking out against the lieutenant governor's comments.
"For the second time in the past month, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has made prejudiced, inflammatory statements about African Americans and that is unacceptable," part of Miles' written statement said.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Twitter that Patrick's "statements are offensive and should not be ignored."
Patrick eventually released a statement on Twitter:
"Last night on Laura Ingraham I was asked about Democratic attacks on Texas' COVID-19 response. I shared with her information recently reported in both the Houston Chronicle and Texas Tribune, as well as on the Texas Department of State Health Services website. Not surprisingly, Democrat social media trolls were up late misstating the facts and fanning the flames of their lies.
"Federal and State data clearly indicate that Black vaccination rates are significantly lower than White or Hispanic rates.
"Democrats continue to play politics with peoples' lives, pandering to rather than service certain constituencies. Republican leadership will continue to encourage vaccination without mandates in all populations."
During a COVID-19 briefing with Austin Public Health the day after Patrick's comments, Dr. Adrienne Sturrup, interim Austin Public Health Director, said his comments represent a "slight misinterpretation of the data" and could create a divisive environment.
"That's not what we need to get out of this. We need a collective call to action, a collective response to be able to get out of this pandemic," Sturrup said. "What I will say is that the data shows that Blacks are more severely impacted by COVID, and that is an indicator of we the fact that we have more work to do to address the structural and systemic inequities in our country that allow health disparities to persist."
The NAACP also released a lengthy statement after Patrick's comments:
"The Texas NAACP and State Representative Ron Reynolds are greatly concerned about the comments of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Gary Bledsoe, Texas NAACP President says that “this is a harmful distraction, intending to divert from the fact that it is the anti-mask anti-science based political decisions by Texas’ Republican Leadership that have led to the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus in our State. The CDC and the Texas Medical community have been clear but the extreme Republican policies allow you to go without a mask, even in our public schools, and this is what is causing the spread. This kind of rhetoric is dangerous and will lead to the kind of outrageous action that we saw yesterday in Washington, D.C. This is mindful of lynchings, when all people had to do was find the nearest Black person and say he did it and the white community would follow in line, According to the State’s own data, African-Americans are only 16 percent of the current infected group and only 10.2 percent of our total fatalities in this State. Further, the Texas Tribune says that experts estimate that 5.6 million whites compared to 1.9 million blacks are not vaccinated in Texas. The facts just don’t support his extreme comments. As I heard an outstanding scholar say the other day, in God we trust, all others need data.” TLBC Vice-Chair Ron Reynolds said that “it is comments like these that let us know the real motivation behind proposed election protection. We call upon Texans of all races to Gary L. Bledsoe, President Alisa Simmons 1st Vice President Ericka Cain, Secretary Lawrence Myers, Asst. Sec. TaNeika Driver-Moultrie, Treasurer Terry Mustapher, Asst. Treasurer repudiate this kind of race baiting. We care about all Texans, but it is clear that this wave is being moved forward by white conservatives who live in urban areas. A recent Texas Tribune analysis found that 28 percent of African-Americans in urban areas are vaccinated while 33 percent of the mostly white rural and nonmetropolitan areas is vaccinated, and the whites in Texas still outnumber African-Americans 4 to 1.” Bledsoe said “you can’t blame a state epidemic on 12 percent of the population who mostly live amongst themselves in segregated areas. The data defies the comments made by the Lieutenant Governor. We need to change our policies in this state to be consistent with science. The NAACP calls upon the Lieutenant Governor to admit this is not accurate and then pledge to work with Texas’ diverse communities so we can come together for the good of us all.” Reynolds added that Representative Garnet Coleman passed a health disparities bill, HB 4139, out of the House but the Lieutenant Governor’s Senate did not even give it a hearing, so his comments are even more dubious. We are hopeful that the recognition of the error in his comments might lead to him wanting to work with us and not always against us”. The Texas NAACP sought the advice of a medical expert, Dr. Dona Murphey, on the truth of the Governor’s comments. Dr. Murphey said “It is particularly harmful and dangerous to say African-Americans are the cause of the spread. They have suffered the greatest harm from the spread and we should be directing our attention towards addressing this and not targeting this community. The Governor’s stand on mask mandates, the failure to vaccinate sufficient numbers of Texans and the campaign of disinformation are all much greater causes to the increased spread.”
"Bledsoe and Reynolds say they intend to reach out to the Lieutenant Governor in an attempt to discuss ways of coming together in order to address the problem of the growing numbers of Texans infected by the coronavirus, particularly as a result of the new delta strain."
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