The Charleston Gazette- Mail published this editorial on Oct. 4:
Over the weekend, Gov. Jim Justice appeared on the CBS morning news show “Face the Nation,” during which he rebuffed the notion that West Virginia is a state in crisis as it pertains to COVID-19.
When confronted with his own words, and those of Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s COVID-19 czar, about hospitals being overrun and the state being in “they eye of the storm,” Justice said every state in the nation is in crisis.
The governor continually deflected when asked by host Margaret Brennan why vaccination rates in the state are so low, especially among younger residents.
The governor touted his “Do it for Babydog” vaccination sweepstakes as a success, despite the state’s low vaccination rates compared to the rest of the country.
His deflections in blaming the Biden administration for a lack of boosters, and other favorites that Justice pulls out during state COVID-19 briefings, failed to gain any traction, and Justice, clearly flustered and flailing, finally went after Brennan, which was embarrassing.
“Now, Margaret, you don’t have to come in so hot. You all asked me to (be on the show),” Justice said, as if talking to a female secretary in a scene from “Mad Men.”
Justice also said he wouldn’t enact vaccine mandates for teachers, staff and students in schools, while Brennan noted that school children younger than 12 aren’t eligible for the vaccine and, therefore, don’t have a choice in how well they’re protected. Brennan rattled off the list of all the mandatory vaccines children in West Virginia already have to get before they can set foot in a public school.
It was a good example of why Justice has continued to conduct his statewide briefings under such tightly controlled conditions. They’re still done remotely, and reporters have to call in to ask a question. Maybe they’ll get picked, and maybe they won’t. It’s obvious that reporters Justice favors are allowed a question every time. A Gazette-Mail reporter has a better chance of winning a cash prize from the “Do it for Babydog” raffle than being allowed to ask a question. There are virtually no followup questions, either. A question is asked, and Justice begins to riff, whether providing an actual answer or not.
That Justice couldn’t keep his cool for a semi-tough interview lasting barely more than seven minutes is telling. That he expected to be glad-handed is another sign of Justice’s delusional conclusions on how he’s handled the pandemic since the delta variant rapidly accelerated in West Virginia three months ago.
Justice was the darling of network and cable news early in the year, when the state was leading the nation in vaccine rollout. Of course, that was when the vaccines were being distributed to elderly patients, mostly in congregate settings.
After the vaccine became available to the public, there was some confusion about registration and how to get it, followed by a general malaise after everyone younger than 65 who wanted to protect themselves did, and those who bought into misinformation or the politicization of the pandemic didn’t.
Justice sat by and watched as cases and deaths skyrocketed. He tried his incentive program, but has done little else (other than talk out of both sides of his mouth, telling West Virginians that vaccinations are the only answer, and that they are safe and effective, while also basically saying he doesn’t want to step on the toes of any conspiracy theorists or those who have bought into the misinformation of political theater).
Justice knows the truth. He says it at every briefing. More people are going to die, as long as state vaccination rates trickle along. But that’s apparently acceptable, as long as the governor doesn’t have to answer uncomfortable questions about his responsibility as the state’s chief executive in this difficult time.