Donald Trump's Vaccine Stance Sees Steadfast Supporters Turn on Him

Former President Donald Trump has faced backlash in recent days for encouraging supporters to get vaccinated against COVID-19, including from his own rallygoers.

Trump was booed by members of the crowd at his rally in Cullman, Alabama on Saturday when he encouraged them to get vaccinated against the virus and quickly moved to stress he believed "totally in your freedoms."

On Sunday, right-wing radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has previously expressed support for Trump, launched a scathing attack on the former president for his stance on vaccines.

Jones said on The Alex Jones Show: "Shame on you, Trump. Seriously."

"Hey, if you don't have the good sense to save yourself and your political career, that's OK," he said.

"At least you're going to get some good Republicans elected and we like you, but my God, maybe you're not that bright. Maybe Trump's actually a dumba**."

Trump had told attendees at his rally on Saturday: "I believe totally in your freedoms, I do. You gotta do what you gotta do, but I recommend take the vaccines. I did it. It's good."

Amid boos from the crowd, the former president said: "That's OK, that's all right. You got your freedoms, but I happen to take the vaccine. If it doesn't work, you'll be the first to know, OK? I'll call up Alabama and say, 'Hey, you know what?' But it is working."

Thomas Gift, founding director of University College London's Centre on U.S. Politics, told Newsweek that Trump may ironically have become a victim of the "Trumpism" he created.

"The irony is clear: Trump has been so wildly successful in stitching a cultish straightjacket of political conformity—where no deviation is tolerated—that it's now even constricting his own movement," Gift said.

"At the same time, part of Trump's uncanny ability to resonate with the GOP base lies in his lack of strong ideological convictions. Unlike other politicians, who might continue to make a point that they believe even if it's unpopular with voters, Trump has no qualms about turning on a dime," he said.

"It's very possible that, after months of equivocating about the merits of the vaccine, his endorsement at his latest rally was simply a trial balloon to see how it would fly. But clearly Trump can take a hint. If the pro-vaccine message—even one couched in the language of personal choice—falls flat, he will ditch it in a hurry," Gift went on.

"Going forward, Trump may indeed find that—like other Republican politicians—even he himself is subordinate to 'Trumpism.' If that's true, it's yet more undeniable evidence of the profound and enduring impact he's had on reinventing the modern Republican Party," he said.

Several senior Republicans in Congress, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have urged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 but many Republicans remain skeptical.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor from July 15 to 27 found that 56 percent of Republicans said they had gotten the vaccine or planned to "as soon as possible." This was significantly behind the number of Democrats who said the same at 89 percent and Independents at 67 percent.

Newsweek has asked former President Trump's office for comment.

Donald Trump Addresses Supporters in Alabama
Former U.S. President Donald Trump addresses supporters during a "Save America" rally at York Family Farms on August 21, 2021 in Cullman, Alabama. Trump was booed by the crowd for encouraging them to take COVID-19 vaccines. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images