Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick faced a sharp backlash Tuesday for suggesting that older Americans should sacrifice their lives for the sake of the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, with Democrats arguing that public health should remain the country’s top priority.
In an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Monday, Patrick had defended President Donald Trump’s call for the country’s businesses to reopen their doors in a matter of weeks, despite the guidance of public health officials to the contrary.
“Let’s get back to living,” Patrick, a Republican, said. “Let’s be smart about it. And those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.”
While older people and those with pre-existing health conditions face potentially life-threatening risk if infected with the coronavirus, the pandemic has affected people of all ages. And experts have warned that loosening federal guidelines for social distancing would likely accelerate the spread of the virus and put many more Americans at risk.
Among the Democrats taking aim at Patrick’s remarks was New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose state is among those hardest hit by the pandemic.
“My mother is not expendable,” Cuomo tweeted Tuesday morning, without naming Patrick. “Your mother is not expendable. We will not put a dollar figure on human life. We can have a public health strategy that is consistent with an economic one. No one should be talking about social darwinism for the sake of the stock market.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also weighed in on the issue, although she, like Cuomo, did not mention Patrick specifically.
“You can’t go to that place,” Pelosi told MSNBC in an interview from the Capitol when asked about Trump’s suggestion that if public health experts had their way, they would “shut down the entire world.” “The cost to the economy of many people getting infected and sick is an even bigger cost than what we’re seeing now.”
During Monday’s interview on Fox News, Patrick, who turns 70 next week, had made the case for restarting the country’s businesses, telling Carlson, “I’m not living in fear of covid-19. What I’m living in fear of is what’s happening to this country.”
“And you know, Tucker, no one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ ” Patrick said. “And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”
He added that “that doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that. I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me … what we all care about and what we love more than anything are those children.”
Patrick said that he will “do everything I can to live” and that if he gets sick, he will seek medical help. He also echoed Trump’s argument that the coronavirus mortality rate in the United States – so far – is not as alarming as it is in other countries.
“Let’s get back to living,” Patrick said. “Let’s be smart about it. And those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country. … Our biggest gift we give to our country and our children and our grandchildren is the legacy of our country, and right now, that is at risk. … I think we can get back to work.”