West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Thursday slammed his fellow Republican governors in Texas and Mississippi for rushing to reopen their states and lift mask mandates amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, describing their actions as a performative “macho thing.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, reeling from criticism over his handling of the winter storm that left millions in his state without power and water, announced earlier this week that he was reopening the state “100 percent” and reversing mask requirements, despite all known variants of COVID-19 currently circulating in the Lone Star State.
Abbott’s decision drew a sharp rebuke from President Joe Biden, who kicked off a full-on right-wing media outrage cycle by decrying the governor’s “Neanderthal thinking.” Meanwhile, it was later reported that Abbott didn’t even consult with his medical advisers before ditching mask mandates.
Rather than rally to the defense of his fellow conservative governors, however, Justice told CNN that he didn’t understand the rush to lift restrictions, noting that masks have been shown to save lives.
Kicking off his interview with Justice, CNN anchor John King noted that another GOP governor, Kay Ivey of Alabama, recently extended her state’s mask mandate another month, declining to follow Texas’ lead. (The Alabama mask order was set to expire on March 8.)
“You’re considering additional relaxation of some of the restrictions, but there is still a requirement for face coverings in West Virginia, in most places, especially indoors in crowds. Do you think it’s time to drop the mask mandate, or do you think the president is right?” King asked Justice.
“Well, to be honest with you, John, I don’t want this to become a political football,” the governor replied. “I don’t want to be critical, but some people want to just move because it’s the most politically correct thing they can do.”
He continued: “It becomes almost a macho thing and everything. In West Virginia, we wanted to be cautious, safe, respectful of everybody’s rights and everything. With all that, we’ve done the right thing all the way through this thing.”
The governor would go on and tout his state’s leading status in administering vaccines, especially in nursing homes, adding that he’s “always listened to the experts” and that he’s not had any discussions so far about lifting his state’s mask mandate.
“I don’t know really what the big rush to get rid of the mask is because these masks have saved a lot, a lot of lives,” Justice added. “We’re going to do the smart thing in West Virginia. We’re not going to do the thing that’s politically correct.”
This is not the first time that the Trump-loving Republican governor has seemingly sided with Biden when it comes to the pandemic. Last month, while the GOP grumbled over the size of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, Justice urged Congress to “go big” and not worry about the budget.