Fact Check: Diving Into Dan Patrick’s Claim About Vaccination Rates Among Black Americans

Our weekly check-in with the Texas Truth-O-Meter.

By Brandon Mulder, PolitiFact/Austin American-Statesman; radio story produced by Alexandra HartSeptember 1, 2021 1:58 pm,

From PolitFact Texas:

No, COVID surge can’t be pinned on the Black population

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, asked last week to defend the Texas response to surging coronavirus cases, blamed Democrats for the present COVID-19 wave, specifically African Americans, who he said are reliable Democratic voters.

“The COVID is spreading, particularly, most of the numbers are with the unvaccinated, and the Democrats like to blame Republicans on that,” Patrick told Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “Well the biggest group in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated. The last time I checked over 90% of them vote for Democrats.”

Backlash came from both sides of the aisle. Patrick’s liberal critics called his comments racist. Allen West, a Black Republican gubernatorial candidate and former head of Texas GOP, called the remark “unconscionable, utterly disturbing, and highly insulting,” then acknowledged that he had not been vaccinated.A day later, Patrick revised his statement by saying on Facebook that he was referring to vaccination rates, not the overall number of unvaccinated Black people.

“Not surprisingly, Democrat social media trolls were up late misstating the facts and fanning the flames of their lies,” Patrick’s statement read. “Federal and State data clearly indicate that Black vaccination rates are significantly lower than White or Hispanic rates.”

And in a statement to PolitiFact, Patrick’s spokesperson said that the lieutenant governor was “clearly discussing vaccination rates.”

“Obviously, he knows that African Americans do not make up a majority of the population in Texas,” spokesperson Steve Aranyi said. “According to CDC data and several other sources, when comparing vaccination rates in Texas and several other states, the African American community has the lowest rate of vaccination when compared to Latinos, whites, and Asians. The Texas and nationwide data is crystal clear.”

When asked if Patrick might have misspoken, Aranyi said, “The lieutenant governor understands that some people might have heard it that way, but he believes his words were very clear. He was referring to vaccination rates.”

There’s a clear difference between what Patrick said on Fox News, that African Americans are the “biggest group” of unvaccinated people, and what he said in response to backlash, that Black populations have the lowest rates of vaccination. And the two statements land on opposite sides of the true-false spectrum.

Regardless of whether or not he was referring to vaccination rates, he did not seek to change his main point, that Black populations are playing a major role in fueling the present COVID-19 surge. But there’s no evidence to support that.

It’s also not the first time Patrick has targeted Texas’ Black population. In April, during debates over a provision of a Texas voting bill that eliminated drive-thru voting centers, Patrick argued that most people of color don’t own cars. PolitiFact rated that False

Read the full story and see how Patrick’s claim rated at PolitiFact Texas, and hear an interview with PolitFact’s Brandon Mulder in the audio player above.

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