Speaking on MSNBC, O’Rourke, a Texas Democrat, was asked to comment on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott both recently calling for schools to reopen for the fall semester, despite the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
The former lawmaker quickly pivoted from talking about the virus to talking about gun violence.
“These are the same people who want us to accept that more people, including children, will die of gun violence this year in America than in any other developed country, bar none,” O’Rourke said, referring to Republican leaders. “It’s just the price of quote-unquote freedom in this country.
“And in some ways, they’ve almost won that fight,” O’Rourke continued. “If you look at the gun laws that are on the books — and the gun laws that should be on the books and aren’t in this country — in some ways we have tacitly accepted this historic, tragic level of gun violence in America that continues to rise. We saw that just over the weekend in many American cities.
“It’s that same kind of death cult mentality that asks us to accept one quarter, 25 percent, of the world’s COVID cases — one quarter, 25 percent, of the world’s COVID deaths — though we represent only 4 percent of the globe’s population.”
But critics have noted that many of the cities seeing recent spikes in shootings – such as New York City, Baltimore and Chicago – have Democratic Party leadership. Others also note that of the top 10 states for coronavirus deaths, eight of them have Democrats as governors.
O’Rourke noted during his MSNBC interview that he recently called on Abbott to resign – even though Texas ranks 14th in coronavirus deaths despite being the No. 2 most populous state.
As of late Wednesday, Texas – with a population of nearly 28 million people — had recorded fewer than 2,900 deaths since the pandemic began, compared to New York, which had more than 32,000 deaths for a population of 19.5 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, speaks in Detroit, July 24, 2019. (Associated Press)
On Tuesday, Abbott defended the Lone Star State from criticism by Eric Holder, who served as U.S. attorney general under former President Barack Obama.
Holder had accused Abbott and fellow Republican governors Doug Ducey of Arizona and Ron DeSantis of Florida of “idiocy & political gutlessness” in their coronavirus responses.
“Eric—why is Texas tied for the lowest death rate of the 27 most affected states?” Abbott asked in response.
“Why have more Texans recovered from COVID than any other state & twice the number of New Yorkers?
“Why is CA spiking more than TX even though it shut down harder and longer than TX?”
O’Rourke previously took aim at Abbott in May, calling the governor’s plan to reopen the Texas economy, “Dangerous, dumb and weak.”
He received quick responses from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Houston-area congressman.
“Is this the new Dem slogan?” Cruz wrote.
Crenshaw, meanwhile, derided O’Rourke’s post as “a condescending reaction.”
“The guy who wanted to be Texas’s Senator truly believes Texans can’t make decisions for themselves and that they are ‘dumb and weak’ for living their lives and trying to feed their families,” Crenshaw wrote.
“And yes, he’s talking to all Texans, not just our governor,” Crenshaw added. “Governor Abbott can’t force anyone to go back to work. Texans are choosing to do that, despite what people like Beto scream from their ivory towers.”
O’Rourke, 47, from El Paso, ran unsuccessful bids for a U.S. Senate seat in 2018 and for the Democratic presidential nomination before dropping out last November.