The politicization of basic public health measures amid the coronavirus pandemic has had deadly consequences for hundreds of thousands of Americans over the last year. Despite all of the evidence that wearing masks, limiting gatherings and staying socially distant can help limit the spread of coronavirus and prevent hospitalizations and deaths, many Republican-led cities and states have held off on mandating masks be worn in public and instituting other health policies.
Yet as vaccinations continue in America and optimism is growing that with their help and continued vigilance the country could have a more normal summer than it had in 2020, entire states rolling back mask mandates and other restrictions has been criticized by public health officials and President Joe Biden.
In an interview earlier in the week, Biden described rolling back mandates in states like Texas as “Neanderthal thinking” and warned that continued support for mandates and caution would be important in order to stave off a fourth spike of cases since the virus first appeared in America last winter. That phrase, however, drew the ire of Marco Rubio, who tweeted that Biden should apologize for offending… people who descended from Neanderthals?
President Biden’s use of an old stereotype is hurtful to modern Europeans, Asians & Americans who inherit about 2% of their genes from Neanderthal ancestors. https://t.co/aXHJV5wLlr
He should apologize for his insensitive comments and seek training on unconscious bias.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 4, 2021
Rubio, who once was considered a viable Republican candidate for president before he forgot how hydration works, immediately trended on Thursday because of his Twitter take. But it was mostly to make fun of Rubio for feigning outrage for what many felt was valid criticism of “reopening” swaths of the country still caught up not only in a public health crisis but, in the case of Texas, an environmental one as well after freezing temperatures wreaked havoc on the state’s private power grid.
You weren't good at trying to be a serious politician but you're even worse at this
— actioncookbook (@actioncookbook) March 4, 2021
“Why aren’t there more conservative comedians?”
— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) March 4, 2021
BREAKING: Marco Rubio now believes in evolution! Long held denial of evolutionary process wiped away as Rubio embraces science and fact based explanation for mankind's existence. In effect, Rubio has evolved.
— Rogervanoo (@Rogervanoo) March 4, 2021
You love evolution now?
— Molly Jong-Fast🏡 (@MollyJongFast) March 4, 2021
As plenty of people pointed out online, taking offense to Biden’s criticism is pretty wild compared to the many, many things Donald Trump said while in office that never drew criticism from Republicans like Rubio.
Trump: Black athletes are SOBs, Muslims are terrorists, Mexicans are rapists, Black women are dogs, Haiti is full of AIDS, & African nations are sh*tholes.
Biden: Mask removal during a deadly pandemic is Neanderthal thinking.
•Rubio: APOLOGIZE NOW!
— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@QasimRashid) March 4, 2021
It’s also, well, kind of a silly thing to get mad about, scientifically. And in video that was shared again this week, Rubio was more than willing to promote conspiracies and questions about Biden’s mental health during the election. Things that, in the eyes of many, were far worse than a comment using the word “Neanderthal.”
Marco Rubio is helping Hannity push conspiracy theories about Joe Biden's health pic.twitter.com/nlbMrJxJ4j
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 3, 2021
The battle of words doesn’t undo anything Texas is doing with its health mandates, but it will be another entry into the culture war that’s already seen children’s books and toys represent the demise of America rather than what’s actually threatening it: the increasingly bad health of its citizens.