Transcript: Jim Justice on “Face the Nation”

The following is a transcript of an interview with West Virginia Governor Jim Justice that aired Sunday, October 3, 2021, on “Face the Nation.”


MARGARET BRENNAN: Overall, two thirds of Americans over 18 are fully vaccinated, and a new study last week determined unvaccinated Americans were eight times more likely to get the Delta variant than those who are unvaccinated and were 57 more- times more likely to die. West Virginia is one state in crisis due to the Delta variant, and their vaccination rate is considerably below the national average. Republican Gov. Jim Justice joins us. Governor, you were leading the pack out of the gate and now you’ve hit this wall. Why aren’t you able to convince more of your constituents to go get immunized?

GOV. JIM JUSTICE: Well, MARGARET, we’re a long ways from being in crisis in West Virginia. If you look at our death rate compared to the national average, we’re still below the national average with our death rate. We got out of the gate right and vaccinated our people–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your hospitals are getting overwhelmed.

GOV. JUSTICE: I’m sorry?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your hospitals are getting overwhelmed; you have a high infection rate.

GOV. JUSTICE: We’re- we’re overwhelmed all across this country. I mean, for crying out loud, you know, West Virginia is managing it absolutely great. And- and in every way, from the standpoint of getting out first and vaccinating our people first in West Virginia, we wish that the boosters would have come along sooner, because we got out so early that really and truly, we were at the six month, you know, situation way before. And think about this for just one second, MARGARET. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well–

GOV. JUSTICE: On Tuesday or Wednesday of this coming week, we will have given and administered every single one of our Pfizer vaccines to every nursing home we have in this state. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But governor–

GOV. JUSTICE: To say West Virginia is in a crisis is wrong. That’s just all there is to it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor, you just asked the Biden administration for more monoclonal antibodies, which is one of the treatments for people who are hospitalized with this virus, and they denied it. You need that because people are very sick. Are you concerned that your request was denied?

GOV. JUSTICE: Well, sure, we’re- we’re concerned. We weren’t- we weren’t denied, it was just lowered. But with all of that, you know, MARGARET, the- the reality is the supply, you know, the southern states just gobbled up all the supply and everything. And- and- and again, the Biden administration is standing there holding the bag. We need more antibodies here, but we’re managing it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were talking about your dispute of characterization of where you are with vaccinations, but you do seem to have hit a wall with the younger people in your state. You’ve done all these things with mascots, with your bulldog Babydog. You’ve got- given away guns, you’re giving away these things. Why can’t you increase vaccinations?

GOV. JUSTICE: Well, I- just think about it. You know, since we came out with our campaign with a little old English bulldog, of Babydog, you know, it’s got a face that makes everybody smile and she loves everybody. You know, but with all that, we have vaccinated hundreds of thousands of more West Virginians. It’s been tremendously successful. You know, all of us, all of us, all across this nation hit a wall. We need- we all know that the more we get vaccinated, the more live, we all know that. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor–

GOV. JUSTICE: But at the same time, we protect our freedoms. Do we not?

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re going to talk more on the other side of this break. So stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION, we want to continue our conversation with West Virginia Governor Jim Justice. Governor let’s pick up where we left off, which is how your state is faring right now with vaccinations and with COVID. Your health officials, Dr. Clay Marsh at a press conference just this week, talked about how much your medical system is under strain right now, saying the number of COVID cases and hospitalizations is higher than it has been during the entire pandemic. And you yourself said you’re right in the eye of the storm. So, what’s the problem? Why aren’t people protecting themselves?

GOV. JUSTICE: Well, MARGARET, they are, you know, I mean, we are in the eye of the storm, we’re right at the peak of the surge right now. And from our hospital standpoint, we’re absolutely, you know, we’re- we’re still doing elective surgeries and we’re still doing all that. We’re not overloaded from the standpoint of our hospitals being- you know, having to turn people down and all that. We’re absolutely, you know, our managing this and managing it in a right way. But we are right at the peak of our surge here, and we’re very hopeful that it’s starting to decline. It is declining in certain ways. But we’re still- we’re still going to be very, very diligent in what we do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You yourself at your press conference this week encouraged parents to vaccinate their children. California’s governor is mandating kids 12 to 17 get a vaccine to go into the school room after around January. Are you going to mandate it for school kids as well?

GOV. JUSTICE: No chance.–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why?

GOV. JUSTICE: –No chance.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why are you mandate as governor- as governor, you mandate- we looked, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, polio, other vaccines, why won’t you put COVID on that list?

GOV. JUSTICE: Now, MARGARET, you know, you don’t have to come in so hot you guys asked me to come, you know? But MARGARET, to bottom line the whole thing is just this,–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I am asking you to clarify. 

GOV. JUSTICE: –I truly- I truly believe that the mandates only divide us and only divide us more. From the standpoint of mandates, I don’t believe in imposing upon our freedoms over and over and over. And I’ve said that over. I don’t know how many times I got to say it, but from the standpoint of our children, I’m going to still- I’m going to still encourage in every way because I truly believe that the more people that we get vaccinated, the less people will die. But at the same time, we still got to stand up for who we are. For crying out loud, we’re Americans.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know this has become a big issue for the Republican Party, which- which you are a part of in terms of framing this as a freedom of choice, but for small children. You mandate that their parents get them those immunizations so that they are safe in the classroom. They don’t have freedoms as children to choose whether or not to get polio or not. We protect them against that. Why don’t you want to protect those children by mandating it?

GOV. JUSTICE: MARGARET- MARGARET, to- to- to think that I don’t want to protect the children is ridiculous. I mean, we all want to protect our children. But parents have decisions to make in this- in this situation too, just like the local officials have decisions to make. For crying out loud, you know, that’s- that’s who should be making these decisions is the parents, you know. And- and from the standpoint of the federal government– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you’d make those decisions as a governor, actually.

GOV. JUSTICE: Well, we can go on and on about this forever, but- but in this situation, we’re not going to change and- and really and truly, it never has really mattered to me. You know, I do think this nation is so divided from the status standpoint of partisanship, it’s unbelievable. And right now, what you had AOC say just earlier, you know, our team needs to be better. Well, you elect individuals, you don’t elect a team, you elect individuals to come to Washington and voice their opinions. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

GOV. JUSTICE: Not elect a party. You know, you elect- you elect- you elect individuals.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Well, governor, thank you very much for your time today.