By Maggie Astor
Former President Donald Trump gave a full-throated endorsement of coronavirus booster shots Tuesday night and said politicians who refused to say whether they had received one were “gutless.”
After nearly two years in which Trump downplayed the threat of the coronavirus — and in which his allies spread misinformation about the vaccines — many of his supporters are resisting even their initial shots, much less a booster. Vaccination rates are much lower among Republicans than among Democrats.
Trump himself received his initial vaccine series quietly in January 2021, and did not publicly encourage Americans to get vaccinated until the end of February. When he said in an appearance last month that he had gotten a booster, the audience booed him.
In the interview aired Tuesday on the far-right One America News network, Trump said: “I’ve had the booster. Many politicians — I watched a couple of politicians be interviewed and one of the questions was, ‘Did you get the booster?’ Because they had the vaccine. And they’re answering like, in other words, the answer is yes, but they don’t want to say it. Because they’re gutless. You got to say it, whether you had it or not. Say it.”
Trump did not mention any politicians by name in his comments, but many viewers interpreted his statement as a criticism of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is one of those politicians — and who has not ruled out running against Trump in a Republican primary in 2024. DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Trump’s comments were in response to a question from OAN host Dan Ball, who asked if the former president regretted his push for vaccination “after so many months of the vaccine being administered and these side effects.”
Trump said that he had not experienced any side effects and added, “The fact is that I think the vaccines saved tens of millions throughout the world.”
But, Trump said, he continued to oppose vaccine mandates, which some state and local officials have enacted and the Biden administration is pursuing.