Josh Hawley Making COVID 'Worse to Further His Political Career': Missouri Newspaper

A prominent Missouri newspaper didn't mince words Thursday when criticizing Senator Josh Hawley, accusing him of making the COVID-19 pandemic "worse to further his political career."

The Kansas City Star's editorial board has routinely published scathing critiques of the Missouri Republican's political maneuvers, particularly in the wake of the pro–Donald Trump attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. In its Thursday piece, the newspaper slammed Hawley over a letter he sent to Biden administration officials regarding the president's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal workers.

The GOP senator raised concerns about the religious exemption clause of the mandate, arguing that the guidance "is overbroad and riddled with woke propaganda." He suggested that the mandate showed "contempt for religious beliefs."

"Apparently, Hawley gets to decide what is and isn't sincere. That's ridiculous and dangerous," the pape's editorial board wrote. It went on to explain that the religious exemption requires those applying to answer a series of basic questions about their beliefs to ensure that the objection to vaccination is sincerely held.

Josh Hawley
A Missouri newspaper sharply criticized GOP Senator Josh Hawley over a letter he sent to Biden administration officials regarding the president's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal workers. Above, Hawley speaks to reporters outside the Senate chambers on October 5. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

"Like all Missourians, we wish Sen. Hawley would focus on real concerns: health care, education, infrastructure and a changing climate, perhaps. Instead, he wastes our time and his by focusing on imaginary affronts to the cloudless world in which he lives, mostly for perceived political advantage," the editorial board wrote.

"He is making the COVID crisis worse to further his political career. It is cynical and dangerous, and must be rejected by Missourians," the board concluded.

Newsweek reached out to Hawley's press secretary for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

The Kansas City Star has repeatedly criticized Hawley over the past year, particularly as the Republican senator has given credence and support to former President Donald Trump's false claims about the 2020 presidential election. Hawley infamously led senators in objecting to certifying President Joe Biden's win in key battleground states on January 6 and 7, even after Trump's supporters attacked the Capitol. A photo of the senator raising his fist in support of the rioters went viral during and after the assault.

"Hawley's actions in the last week had such impact that he deserves an impressive share of the blame for the blood that's been shed," a January 6 editorial in the Missouri newspaper said. It went on to emphasize that he was the first Republican senator to pledge opposition to the congressional certification of Biden's Electoral College win.

In mid-February, the publication's editorial board wrote that "Hawley's mind is permanently closed, open only in the service of his ambition." That criticism came after he voted to acquit Trump for inciting the violent mob that attacked the Capitol. "He will say or do anything to further his prospects, whether it's the White House or a bottle of wine from the top shelf," the editorial board wrote.

Fellow Missouri newspaper the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this month questioned whether Hawley aims to "incite more" violence. That editorial came after Hawley claimed the FBI was attempting to "silence" and target the parents of schoolchildren opposed to COVID-19 regulations. In reality, the Justice Department has provided additional resources to local officials to address threats of violence and harassment against school staff and teachers.

"Josh Hawley...offers the Orwellian notion that confronting harassment and intimidation by parents against school board members is, in itself, harassment and intimidation. Is Missouri's Republican junior senator trying to incite more of the kind of violence he incited on [January] 6?" the Post-Dispatch editors wrote.