Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) on Tuesday called his home state’s Republican Party a “death cult,” referring to Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottMcConaughey says he won't seek political office 'at this moment' Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills One-quarter in Texas unwilling, unlikely to get vaccinated: poll MORE (R) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's (R) response to the coronavirus crisis.
“This is one of the most craven, callous failures of leadership that I’ve ever witnessed in my life,” the former Democratic presidential candidate said during an interview on MSNBC.
O’Rourke's comments come amid a significant surge of coronavirus cases in the Lone Star State, noting that hospitals are at near-full capacity and bodies are being stored in refrigerated trucks due to full morgues.
The former congressman slammed Abbott for preventing local government from enforcing their own coronavirus restrictions.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez issued an emergency order on Monday that mandated people shelter in their residences, restricting travel and limiting gatherings. The order also established a countywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., with exceptions for medical emergencies or those working in essential services.
Furthermore, the order encouraged and recommended that all commercial businesses "cease their activities, unless they are essential, like activities related to health, safety or necessary supplies."
However, Abbott’s spokesman John Wittman told The Texas Tribune that the order has “no enforcement mechanism.” Under the governor's statewide orders, local governments cannot enforce their own stay-at-home orders, rendering Cortez's policy a recommendation.
“I am asking for all of us to come together and fight this battle as one,” Cortez said in a statement. “This action will help us do the right thing to save and protect each other from this deadly disease by sheltering at home.”
O'Rourke said that Abbott is making a choice, to "allow people to die when he could choose to allow county judges to save their lives."
The former congressman suggested that Abbott’s decisionmaking is based, in part, around fending off potential competitors in the 2022 gubernatorial Republican primary, including a challenge from his lieutenant governor.
O’Rourke referenced Patrick’s remarks in April that called for the reopening of his state in which he said there are "more important things than living.”
The former Senate candidate noted that Hidalgo County’s population is 95 percent Mexican American, adding that Latinos and African Americans are disproportionally impacted by the effects of the virus.
“In other words, let’s get on with the dying,” O’Rourke said. “Knowing full well that it will be those front-line workers making $7.25 an hour, which is the minimum wage in Texas. It will be African Americans, it will be Latinos and Mexican Americans who will be doing the dying right here in Texas.”
“This is a death cult. The Texas GOP. Only they want you to do the dying,” he added.
Abbott took the lead among governors in relaxing coronavirus restrictions in an attempt to jump-start the state’s economy. The state's stay-at-home order expired on April 30, and some businesses were allowed to reopen on May 1.
The state has since emerged as one of the hot spots for the outbreak in the United States, on Tuesday reporting more than 1,000 new fatalities within the last 10 days.
The state averaged 9,358 new cases per day and 10,604 current hospitalizations within the last week, according to data released by the Texas State Health Services.
#COVID19TX update: https://t.co/ofycOLqWQZ#Texas reports 1,000+ new #COVID19 fatalities in the last 10 days.— Texas DSHS (@TexasDSHS) July 21, 2020
In the last 7 days, (7/21-7/15), Texas averaged:
9,358 new cases per day
10,604 current hospitalizations
118 new fatalities reported per day#HealthyTexas pic.twitter.com/h7Wu8EqrKw