Rep.-elect Julia Letlow (R-La.), who won the seat vacated after her husband died from the coronavirus, on Sunday implored Republicans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Reports show that disinformation and political bias are causing some party members to refuse the shot.
Her husband, Luke Letlow, was elected to represent Louisiana’s 5th District in November 2020, but he died from coronavirus-related complications in December and never joined the new Congress.
“Look at my family. Use my story,” Letlow said on CBS’s “Face The Nation” Sunday morning, cautioning the virus “can touch every family out there.”
“There is a vaccine that has life-saving capabilities,” she added. “I want to encourage everyone to trust it and get the vaccine.”
Recent polling from PBS, NPR and Marist found that at least 41% of Republicans don’t plan on getting vaccinated, concerning public health officials as states across the country expand vaccine eligibility. More than 100 million doses of the vaccine have been administered, but the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the U.S. Several states have rushed to relax precautions meant to slow the spread of the virus, even as new, highly contagious variants have emerged.
Letlow’s public service announcement to Republicans was a reminder of the party’s campaign over the past year ― led by former President Donald Trump ― to downplay the severity of COVID-19 and spread misinformation about treating it.
Trump, who was reportedly vaccinated in secret in January, repeatedly misrepresented how serious COVID-19 was and discouraged Americans from taking life-saving precautions to avoid spreading it. In an effort to deflect blame and political consequences for his handling of the virus, Trump understated the disease’s deadly effects and led the Republican Party’s anti-scientific revolt against public health officials.
Trump endorsed Letlow to replace her deceased husband in Congress. Letlow said Sunday that Trump and President Joe Biden were “gracious” in offering condolences over the phone. Biden, she said, “shared with me he understood the pain that I was walking through.”