Senator Joni Ernst Says Biden's Vaccine Mandate Is Timed as 'Diversion Away From 9/11'

Senator Joni Ernst is accusing President Joe Biden of diverting attention away from the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks with his recently-announced vaccine mandates.

While appearing on the Fox News show America Reports, the Republican senator from Iowa told hosts John Roberts and Sandra Smith that the Biden administration is "leading by coercion" with the timing of his announcement.

"I would agree with the point that is being made by so many of my colleagues that this is a diversion away from 9/11 away from the 20th anniversary and away from the debacle that was his Afghanistan withdrawal," said Ernst.

Ernst said that Americans who were left in Afghanistan "should be a very pressing issue for the president," and that Biden "doesn't want to deal with that."

Joni Ernst
Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa is accusing President Joe Biden of diverting attention away from the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks by announcing vaccine mandates. Above, Ernst speaks at a news conference following a policy luncheon at the Capitol Building on August 3, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Getty Images

"Forcing these federal mandates was one way to divert us," she said.

"It gave business owners and employees something to focus on rather than to try to honor those that have served our country in the global war on terror over the last 20 years and focusing on existing terrorism within the country of Afghanistan," Ernst added.

On Wednesday, Biden announced that all federal employees must be vaccinated via his "Path Out of the Pandemic" plan or risk losing their jobs. Employers with over 100 employees must require their employees to either be fully vaccinated or submit weekly testing results under the new mandate.

Additionally, "employees of contractors that do business with the federal government" must also be vaccinated, according to the plan.

Biden stated on Thursday that increasing the vaccination rate and weekly testing will allow America to combat the spread of COVID-19 in an aggressive manner. Currently, less than 70 percent of the American population is vaccinated, which is the minimum threshold experts believe can lead to herd immunity.

While speaking at a Washington D.C. middle school on Friday, Biden voiced his frustrations with Republican governors and their disdain for vaccine and mask mandates.

"I am disappointed that, particularly some Republican governors, have been so cavalier with the health of these kids—cavalier with the health of their communities," said Biden. "We're playing for real here—this isn't a game."

The vaccine mandate currently does not apply to members of Congress and their staff, according to White House officials.

Newsweek reached out to Senator Ernst for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.