Mitch McConnell Goes Against Fellow Republicans, Won't Blame Biden for Vaccine Hesitancy

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine as cases of the highly contagious Delta variant rise sharply across the U.S.

The Republican senator from Kentucky told unvaccinated Americans not to listen to "demonstrably bad advice" on vaccines, but his remarks have put him at odds with some in his own party who have placed the blame for vaccine hesitancy on the Biden administration.

Some prominent Republicans on Capitol Hill have strongly criticized the White House's efforts to get the public vaccinated, especially the plan for people to go door-to-door to encourage Americans to take the shot.

At his weekly press conference in the Capitol, McConnell said: "If there is anybody out there willing to listen: get vaccinated."

He added: "These shots need to get in everybody's arms as rapidly as possible or we're going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don't yearn for—that we went through last year.

"This is not complicated."

McConnell, who survived childhood polio, said people should ignore "bad advice" but didn't offer any examples.

His comments come amid a surge in COVID cases described as "a pandemic of the unvaccinated" by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although several prominent Republicans have publicly stated that vaccines are safe and called on Americans to accept them, some in the party have also blamed vaccine hesitancy on the Biden administration.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise—the second most senior Republican in the House of Representatives—received the vaccine on Sunday. After his shot, Scalise said the vaccine was "safe and effective."

However, he had held off on getting the vaccine for several months. Scalise said he had waited because he had tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies arising from a mild dose of the illness.

The vaccine is recommended for people who have had COVID and offers better protection, according to University of Chicago Medicine.

Scalise has blamed vaccine hesitancy on the Biden administration and called on the president and Vice President Kamala Harris to apologize for criticizing the Trump administration's vaccination efforts.

Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn, who have become prominent conservative voices in the party since their election in 2020, have both strongly criticized the administration's door-to-door strategy.

Cawthorn claimed the door-knocking campaign could lead to Bibles and guns being taken away, while Greene compared it to Nazi brownshirts.

On Tuesday, Greene refused to say whether she had been vaccinated. She has repeatedly raised questions about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines and also suggested focusing more on obesity than vaccination to battle the virus.

Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama said in June that vaccines were "safe" and "effective" and asked people to get vaccinated in order to beat the virus. But the Republican lawmaker has also said that vaccine hesitancy will continue unless the Biden administration recognizes the work done by the Trump White House.

Tuberville told Dr. Anthony Fauci at a Senate hearing on Tuesday: "Unless this administration acknowledges the efforts of the last one, a large part of Americans, they're going to continue to feel like nothing's positive. They're not going to take the vaccine."

Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas has made similar criticisms of Fauci and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, saying: "Every time Jen Psaki opens her mouth or Dr. Fauci opens his mouth, 10,000 more people say, 'I'm never going to take the vaccine.'"

Newsweek has asked Mitch McConnell for comment.

Mitch McConnell Appears During a News Briefing
Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and John Thune (R-SD) at a Republican news briefing on June 22 in Washington, D.C. McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has called on Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Alex Wong/Getty Images