Fox News anchor Chris Wallace repeatedly grilled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Sunday over what he perceived to be hypocrisy from the state’s right-wing leaders’ stance on vaccine mandates.
Last month, in response to the White House announcing that workers of large companies will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly, GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order banning “any entity” in the state from enforcing a vaccine mandate. On top of that, Abbott also attempted to prohibit schools from implementing mask requirements, an executive order that was recently blocked by a federal court.
On behalf of Texas, Paxton is suing the Biden administration over the federal vaccine mandates, claiming they are unconstitutional and a federal overreach. During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, however, the conservative attorney general was put on the spot over the seemingly contradictory positions he and Abbott hold.
Wallace brought up comments Paxton made in an interview last week, noting that the attorney general accused the president of “bullying businesses” while insisting companies should be given the freedom to “take care of the own workers.”
“You say that Texas companies should take care of their own workers. So, given that, how do you justify the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, issuing an executive order that bans any business in Texas from issuing a vaccine mandate, and how do you justify the governor issuing a ban on all school districts on mask mandates?” Wallace asked. “A ban that was overturned just this week by a federal judge.”
Saying that he “justified” it because the governor has the authority under state law to issue these orders, Paxton added that he was “perfectly comfortable” defending Abbott’s actions since the governor feels mask and vaccine mandates are unnecessary.
“I just want to drill down on this a little bit,” the veteran anchor shot back. “You said that Texas companies should take care of their own workers. Is that consistent with the governor’s executive order and your enforcement of that order, which bans companies from taking care of their own workers as they see fit?”
The attorney general contended that what he was “trying to say in that clip” was that President Joe Biden doesn’t have the authority to enforce vaccine requirements, prompting Wallace to once again press him on the issue.
“But you said that businesses should take care of their own workers and the governor is saying that they can’t see care of their workers as they see fit. They are prohibited from deciding, if they so choose, to issue a vaccine mandate,” the Fox News Sunday moderator declared. “That’s not consistent.”
Continuing to defend Abbott’s executive orders, Paxton stated that they’ve got no pending lawsuits against businesses over vaccine mandates before claiming that “there’s a lot more freedom with businesses to make their own decisions” in the state. He also urged Texas companies to “consider their employees” when it comes to requiring vaccines because “we can’t afford to lose transportation employees or health-care workers” in the current economy.
Wallace, on the other hand, remained undeterred and pressed the attorney general one more time.
“You are saying they should have the authority and the ability to decide what their workers should do and the governor’s executive order prohibits them from deciding what they want to do,” the host said. “He bans vaccine mandates.”
“Isn’t a mandate, by the federal government—are you saying there is a difference from a mandate to get a vaccine from the federal government is different in terms of the ability to take care of their own from a state mandate not to have vaccine mandates?” Wallace continued.
“Your question is confusing but yes, the federal government has no authority to do this,” Paxton replied, adding: “The governor has a different authority under state law that the legislature has given him and he’s operating under that state law.”
The Fox anchor fired back: “So he can tell private businesses what to do? That’s okay. So they can’t take care of their own?”
Paxton finally seemed to concede at least part of Wallace’s point, proclaiming that “states have more authority over these areas” than the federal government.
“Yes, states have a lot of authority to deal with what’s going on in their states,” he concluded. “That’s been clear from the founding of our country.”