Pro-Trump Rep. Faces Backlash After Saying ‘Americans’ Should Get Vaccine Before ‘Hispanics’
A Republican Congresswoman is receiving a well-deserved pummeling on Twitter after saying Hispanic people “are very good workers” but then implying they aren’t Americans in comments she made during a congressional hearing on vaccine distribution plans, AZCentral reports.
Rep. Debbie Lesko, who represents a district that includes Sun City, land of elderly white-privileged people, said she has compassion for Hispanic people, then lumped them in with illegal immigrants in a statement that at least one of her colleagues is condemning as insensitive.
You can judge her comment for yourself:
“I worked with people that are Hispanic,” she said at the hearing. “I mean, they are very good workers. You know, we’re compassionate people, but for goodness sakes, we have to take care of American citizens, or people who are here legally, first.”
“I’m just not going to be able to explain to my senior citizens that we’re giving away the vaccines to people that (are) here illegally. I just think that’s totally wrong.”
That’s when Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego stepped in.
“In a state that is 30 percent Latino she can’t even claim to have Latino friends. Just worked with them,” Gallego responded in a tweet.
In a state that is 30% Latino she can’t even claim to have Latino friends. Just worked with them. https://t.co/mSxKHEd5hQ
— Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) February 14, 2021
Other members of the Twitterati also gave her a good upbraiding.
“This is disgusting. Lesko needs to go,” noted Stormy Haffey in one such tweet. “The virus DOES NOT care about status. Not vaccinating people will just perpetuate the spread. And another thing — Hispanics are NOT the only immigrants in AZ.”
This is disgusting. Lesko needs to go. The virus DOES NOT care about status. Not vaccinating people will just perpetuate the spread. And another thing- Hispanics are NOT the only immigrants in AZ. 🤦🏻♀️🤬 https://t.co/cGtZV9LxRH
— Stormy Haffey (@stormyrh7) February 13, 2021
Other Twitter users had thoughts too.
Lesko's lack of humanity flag is flying here.
Also, she seems in no way worried that unvaccinated workers in the food supply chain, or in-person retail/service jobs, will spread the pandemic further.
I'm 2500 miles away. Is she always like this?
— Well-seasoned Cast Iron (@T_Rolston) February 14, 2021
What an evil, horrid woman. AZ needs to get rid of her-vote her out!
— Anne of Green Gables☮️🌊 (@igypup9) February 15, 2021
Ahem. She arrived in AZ from WI.
Her constituency is largely white AZ retirees and transplants from elsewhere in the US.
They bring with them the sensibilities of their homes.
Racism towards people of latin nations who have coexisted here in the southwest for generations.
— The ship is Back on Course. (@AnUnevenKeel) February 14, 2021
— 😷 Wear a Mask 😷 (@FootyBootyMFDH) February 14, 2021
Everyone within the borders of the USA should be vaccinated. Every. Single. person.
— Ron -I'm no expert, but I wear a Mask. 🇺🇸 🌵 (@RonCross_67) February 14, 2021
"Lesko said she would not be able to explain to senior citizens..why undocumented people would be getting the vaccine along with the rest of the population"
Who does she think is taking care of those senior citizens? COVID doesn't care if you are documented#VaccinesSaveLives
— I♥NYC •Wear a mask Stop the spread Wash your hands (@ClearlyNYC) February 14, 2021
I can't tell what's worse, that she appears to think Hispanic == undocumented, or that she appears to think the virus checks immigration status
— Covidiocracy (@ampersine) February 14, 2021
In a statement to The Arizona Republic defended her remarks while acknowledging they “could be misinterpreted.” She stood by her position that undocumented workers shouldn’t receive vaccinations before citizens do.
“Arizona seniors are in desperate need of COVID-19 vaccines. I stand by my support for the amendment that puts American citizens and legal residents before illegal immigrants to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” Lesko said. “Taken in context, my remarks clearly were aimed at ensuring that seniors receive taxpayer-funded vaccines before illegal immigrants. During debate on the amendment, after being interrupted several times, I said something that could be misinterpreted, but it certainly was not my intent.”
She made her remarks last Thursday at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where COVID-19 relief was being debated.
Republicans offered an amendment to a Democratic bill that would have prioritized Americans, but the Democrats responded that the change wouldn’t slow down the spread of the disease because undocumented immigrants frequently work in jobs that carry a higher risk of exposure.
Fortunately, the amendment failed. It certainly didn’t sound like an effective measure for dealing with the virus.
While supporting the amendment, Lesko argued her senior citizen constituents would be unhappy to know that Democrats didn’t favor the amendment.
“My Democratic colleagues are putting illegal immigrants over them,” Lesko said at the hearing. “If I read it right, all this amendment says is put Americans first. Put Americans first and once they’re all vaccinated, then you can go to the illegal immigrants.”
“After that, she [Lesko] made her comments pitting the health needs of “Americans” against Hispanics.”
But Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who followed Lesko, noted the amendment “is really, really dangerous.”
“The vaccine has no clue about where you come from, whether you have papers, whether you’re considered a citizen or legal or not,” she said. “We have people that are working as front-line healthcare workers and working in various industries, and when that group is qualified to get a vaccine to say now you have to prove whether or not you’re a citizen … it makes no sense. This is dangerous.”
Indeed, it is dangerous. The coronavirus does not differentiate between rich, poor, white, black, brown, or any other skin color. It infects Americans and immigrants whether legal or illegal and providing the vaccine for some people while ignoring others is one way to ensure the virus stays with us for a long time.
So people aren’t wrong to criticize Lesko for her racist remarks and she is just plain wrong.