Donald Trump is ignoring pleas from friends and advisers to encourage his supporters to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The twice-impeached one-term president has said he'd "recommend" the vaccines, while also saying that he respected followers' "freedoms" to avoid the shots, but four sources who have spoken to Trump say he's shown little interest in boosting the rate of vaccination among hesitant conservatives, reported The Daily Beast.
"I think he would be well-advised to make a public statement and a speech [devoted to] really encouraging people to get vaccinated," said Stephen Moore, who advised the former president on the economy and the pandemic. "I think it would influence people…It would be in his own political interest, as well as the nation's interest."
Moore published an op-ed in The Hill late last month urging Trump to give a national primetime address with President Joe Biden encouraging his supporters to get the shots as the delta variant rips through less-vaccinated areas, and even made sure to send the piece to the ex-president.
"I know from a friend who works with Trump that they gave it to him," Moore said, "[and that it] got to his desk."
The former president has occasionally referred to polls and television segments showing his supporters resist vaccination, and one source who's spoken to him about the issue believes Trump doesn't want to push them because he doesn't want to "piss off his base."
Trump has also said he doesn't want to do any "favors" for Biden, who he believes is "destroying" the country, but the former president has been aware that vaccine hesitancy is a problem among conservatives since at least September of last year -- well before the shots were available.
"It was a glancing conversation in the Oval Office in September, in between meetings, and I mentioned how vaccine hesitancy was likely going to be a big problem, especially among Republicans and Trump supporters," said former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo, who later served as the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services , "and he said, 'Yes, I understand, and it's a problem.'"
HHS officials became increasingly suspicious of the anti-vaccine movement on the right before the Trump administration ended, and he's spoken to Trump privately about the issue at Mar-A-Lago after his term ended.
"We were talking amongst ourselves in HHS in August, saying that it was ironic that the most vaccine-hesitant among us were our friends, our allies," he said, "and we still face that question."
But the ex-president's campaign operation has been stoking hesitancy in its fundraising efforts, such as hawking "freedom passport" T-shirts pushing back against mandates requiring proof of vaccination.
"FREEDOM PASSPORTS > VACCINE PASSPORTS," reads a social media link directing supporters to the WinRed fundraising platform, which is offering $45 T-shirts printed with an American flag and the words, ""THIS IS MY FREEDOM PASSPORT."