McConnell using his campaign funds to run pro-vaccine ads

Published 3:56 pm Tuesday, August 3, 2021

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell will use funds from his campaign to run 60-second advertisements on more than 100 radio stations in Kentucky to promote vaccination for the coronavirus, Reuters reports.

McConnell, the leader of Senate Republicans, has blamed misinformation for the low rate of vaccination among Americans, “which are fueling a rise in coronavirus cases, particularly in Republican-dominated states,” Reuters notes.

“There is bad advice out there,” he told Reuters. “Apparently you see that all over the place: people practicing medicine without a license, giving bad advice. And that bad advice should be ignored.”

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In Kentucky, the daily average of vaccinations is 28 percent higher in the last seven days than the previous seven, but remains below the level seen at the start of the month, and that was lower than June. Just under 52% of Kentuckians have received at least one dose of vaccine; the U.S. figure is 57%.

“Not enough people are vaccinated,” McConnell said. “So we’re trying to get them to reconsider and get back on the path to get us to some level of herd immunity.”

In the radio ad, McConnell notes that he is a survivor of polio and says the Covid-19 vaccine is “nothing short of a modern medical miracle” and says, “Every American should take advantage of this miracle and get vaccinated. It’s the only way we’re going to defeat Covid.”

Christina Wilkie of CNBC writes, “It is highly unusual for members of Congress to use campaign funds for anything outside of their re-election efforts. But McConnell’s decision reflects the looming crisis posed by Delta-variant Covid infections in states with low vaccination levels.”

McConnell, 79, is widely expected not to seek re-election in 2026, and has $7 million in his campaign treasury. He has promoted vaccinations since he got one in December, but has passed up chances to criticize other Republicans who have refused to say whether they’ve been vaccinated and “attacked the shots as unnecessary or dangerous,” as Reuters puts it.

But in the Reuters interview, McConnell endorsed recent remarks by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who told reporters last week that it is “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks” for the surge in cases, as well as criticizing people spreading misinformation about the vaccines.

McConnell, a native of Alabama, told Reuters, “I was encouraged by what the governor of Alabama said.”

Ivey wrote in The Washington Post that those “pushing fake news and conspiracy theories about this vaccine are reckless and causing great harm,” adding that many of the unvaccinated are “being lied to.”

Reporter David Morgan of Reuters notes, “About 40% of Republicans are uncertain about the vaccine or are unwilling to be vaccinated, polling data published by the Morning Consult showed. That is more than double the 16% of Democrats who voiced those concerns.”