Scroll down for a full transcript of Hannity’s Fox New interview with Reynolds Monday
Facing scrutiny from the state and national press for lifting all that remained of Iowa’s already minimal COVID-19 mitigation measures just before the Super Bowl — and just after the state reached the grim milestone of 5,000 dead from the coronavirus — Governor Kim Reynolds on Monday booked a softball Fox News interview with Sean Hannity as she avoided questions about why she hadn’t consulted the Iowa Department of Public Health before announcing her latest proclamation Friday.
The five-minute segment began with a two-minute monologue from Hannity, who pivoted from praising Reynolds’ “bold, decisive leadership” to reciting a collection of talking points bashing Democratic governors and the Biden administration that had little to do with her actual decision. But it provided the governor with a national platform on which to position herself as an unapologetic opponent of the public health expert-guided pandemic strategies of President Biden, whose chief of staff Ron Klain on Twitter urged her to reconsider her mask mandate reversal. (Reynolds took aim at the Biden administration again on Tuesday as she indirectly boasted about her efforts to force public schools to provide an exclusively in-person option.)
It was also another example of how Iowa Republicans have increasingly shunned the state’s news media in favor of friendlier right-wing outlets known for spreading false and misleading information. On Wednesday, The New York Times published an analysis of conservative talk radio’s promotion of conspiracy theories claiming that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. It found that The Sean Hannity Show — the Fox News host’s radio program — aired lies about election fraud on 35 of 45 episodes between November 22 and January 5, the day before the deadly pro-Trump riot at the US Capitol.
On Monday, Hannity repeatedly suggested that Reynolds’ most recent proclamation would allow more Iowans to “get back to work,” contrasting it with the “crippling lockdown policies” implemented by her Democratic counterparts. But Reynolds had already rescinded the last of her orders restricting businesses from staying open in December, when she ended a 10 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants implemented the month prior. Her latest announcement lifted a partial statewide mask mandate and social-distancing requirements for businesses, neither of which was seriously enforced in the first place.
“Governor, you’re not dismissing the need for masks, or social distancing, you’re not telling people to be irresponsible, just the opposite,” Hannity said. “But you’re putting faith in the people of Iowa that are very well informed, as is the rest of the country, to do it the right, safe way.”
Reynolds eagerly agreed, before going on to brag about the state’s economic performance during the pandemic: “We actually finished our last fiscal year with our budget balanced, cash reserves full, and we actually have a surplus.” (Left unmentioned: The governor’s office only managed to balance its own budget by covering a shortfall with the questionable use of federal coronavirus relief aid, as Bleeding Heartland reported that same day, and Reynolds has been criticized for resisting calls to use the state’s surplus for pandemic aid.)
In fact, Reynolds’ latest proclamation avoided even mentioning mask use on numerous occasions. “I strongly encourage that all businesses or other employers remaining open with in-person operations take reasonable measures under the circumstances of each establishment to ensure the health of employees, patrons, and members of the public,” read a typical suggestion, “including social distancing practices, increased hygiene practices, and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 consistent with guidance issued by the Iowa Department of Public Health.”
Although Reynolds didn’t consult the IDPH before lifting the state’s remaining pandemic mitigation measures, the department faced criticism on Tuesday for releasing a public service announcement about vaccines that encouraged Iowans to “continue to use the mitigation efforts we know work” but excluded masks from a list of examples. An updated version of the announcement was later released that encouraged people to wear masks.
The following is a full transcript of the governor’s interview with Hannity on Fox News Monday.
Sean Hannity: Now also tonight, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is taking bold, decisive leadership, allowing Iowans to get back to work, easing virus restrictions while implementing practical precautions to keep residents in her state safe and secure. Of course, the governor’s decision to stand up for working people who are dying to get back to work [and] have been disproportionately impacted by crippling lockdown policies, draconian in some cases, is prompting strong outrage from the left including this angry editorial from the Des Moines Register claiming the move was, quote, inexplicable and irresponsible.
And meanwhile, the Biden administration continues to focus on mask mandates and keeping Americans as locked down as possible instead of Operation Warp Speed and maybe pushing some of the Democratic governor allies into a vaccine deployment program to reopen their cities and states. For example, the [White House] chief of staff, Ron Klain, he’d like to send every American a mask, even though pretty much every American already has at least one. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg saying he’s discussing with the CDC about requiring a negative COVID test to even get on an airplane.
But here’s the thing: We’re a year into this. Americans now understand the risk, they understand how to be responsible, and now is not the time to inflict more pain and economic hardship on the American public by imposing more draconian restrictions. Because the long-term impacts could cause irreparable harm to those working families who have already suffered enough.
Here to react to all of this, Iowa governor Kim Reynolds. Governor, you’re not dismissing the need for masks, or social distancing, you’re not telling people to be irresponsible, just the opposite. But you’re putting faith in the people of Iowa that are very well informed, as is the rest of the country, to do it the right, safe way.
Kim Reynolds: [Nodding] Well, absolutely. And Sean, thank you for giving me the opportunity to be on with you tonight. If one thing, I have been very consistent in the way that we’ve managed COVID-19, and I think that’s been really important for Iowans. My number one priority from the beginning has been to protect the lives and livelihood of Iowans, especially those most vulnerable, and to make sure that we were managing and preserving our health care resources.
I didn’t pursue aggressive lockdown strategies. Instead, I put my faith in Iowans and Iowa businesses. We kept over 80 percent of our economy open. We’ve had our kids back in school since August. We were able to play sports this [sic] summer. And in November, when we hit a brief statewide spike, I spoke directly to Iowans and I said, I need you to work with me. We’re going to implement some mitigation strategies to bring down the hospitalization numbers. And if you do this, we’ll dial up the mitigation efforts now, but when we bring those numbers back down, we’re going to roll ’em back.
And that’s exactly what I did. Our COVID hospitalization numbers are down 80 percent from where they were at their peak. Our positivity rate is down. And Iowans know how to be safe and responsible. Our businesses know how to responsibly take care of their customers. And because we remained open and had our economy working, we’re really coming out of COVID in a very strong position. Our unemployment rate has dropped from 11 percent to 3.1 percent. We actually finished our last fiscal year with our budget balanced, cash reserves full, and we actually have a surplus.
So, instead of talking about raising taxes or asking for a bailout from Washington DC, we’re investing in education and broadband, and we’re talking about cutting taxes. And so that’s what you do when you have a balanced, targeted approach and you trust the people that you serve. It’s been a year, they know what they’re doing, and we’re going to continue to open up in a safe and responsible manner.
Hannity: Hey governor, I’m looking at this chart [displays sheet of paper with chart of COVID cases in Iowa]. And you guys were struggling, like a lot of states in December. That would be the peak, over here [points at chart].
Reynolds: Correct. Correct, yeah.
Hannity: Okay, now, if you look at — hang on, I’ll get it on TV somehow [holds up paper] — if you look at the downward trajectory, you have dropped precipitously —
Hannity: — in terms of cases. That would mean that —
Hannity: — okay, it is now time — you’ve stopped the major spread and you’ve slowed the curve, and now people can get back to work and you’re telling them to do it safely, correct?
Reynolds: Exactly. Exactly. They did what they needed to do, and I told them we’d dial up and dial down accordingly. We’re dialing down, we’re opening up, and we’re going to continue to do everything we can to come back stronger and better than ever.
Hannity: All right, governor, good for you, we love our friends in Iowa. We hope this is over for everybody soon. [The video clip embedded in this article cuts off as Hannity returns to bashing Democratic governors.]