This is a rush transcript of “Fox News Sunday” on January 16, 2022. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Hostages in a synagogue in Texas. We have the breaking details.
And President Biden prepares to face reporters after a bruising week, as the newest star in the Republican Party takes office.
GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA: I, Glenn Youngkin, do solemnly swear —
ROBERTS (voice-over): Political newcomer Glenn Youngkin sworn in as Virginia governor, a state President Biden decisively won just a year ago.
YOUNGKIN: No matter who you voted for, I pledge to be your advocate.
ROBERTS: We’ll ask about his plans for day one as conservatives watch to see if his path to the governor’s mansion could be a road map for the midterms. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, in his first interview since taking office, only on “FOX News Sunday.”
And then, cutting through the confusion on COVID when it comes to masks, testing and mandates. We’ll ask Dr. Ashish Jha, one of the nation’s top public health experts, all the pressing questions.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): President Biden’s story is that democracy is on death’s door.
ROBERTS: A potential breaking point in Mr. Biden’s presidency as his agenda stalls and his approval numbers sink to new lows. We’ll ask our Sunday panel about the political pressure points on the right and the left.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have a very slim majority in the Senate and in the House. That makes things more challenging.
ROBERTS: All, right now, on “FOX News Sunday.”
ROBERTS (on camera): Hello again from FOX News in Washington.
We start with breaking developments out of Texas as law enforcement rescue a rabbi and three other hostages from a tense hours’ long standoff at a synagogue in the Dallas-Fort worth area. The FBI dispatching an elite hostage rescue team from Quantico, Virginia, to help with the situation.
Let’s now turn to Lucas Tomlinson who’s traveling in Wilmington, Delaware, where President Biden was monitoring the situation.
Lucas ahs the latest for us.
LUCAS TOMLINSON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: John, good news out of Texas this morning. All four hostages are alive, the suspect is dead.
MICHAEL MILLER, COLLEYVILLE CHIEF OF POLICE: Colleyville is one of the safest cities in Texas and these are something — this is something you don’t ever expect to have in your own city. The rabbi is a personal friend of mine.
TOMLINSON (voice-over): The standoff at the synagogue lasting nearly 11 hours. It began during a morning service, a congregation at Beth Israel. It ended at 9:00 p.m., when members of the FBI’s elite hostage team stormed the synagogue. The daring raid launched four hours after one hostage released and debriefed.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeting, prayers answered. President Biden saying in a statement, quote: There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker. But let me be clear to anyone who spreads hate, be will stand against anti-Semitism and against the rise of extremism in this country.”
Across the country, security stepped up at synagogues in a Jewish Sabbath. The Texas hostage crisis felt as far away as Israel. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett closely monitored the situation.
The British government says the hostage taker was British. He demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist educated at MIT and known in counterterrorism circles as Lady al-Qaeda, currently serving an 86-year sentence in nearby Fort Worth for attempting to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan in 2008.
MATTHEW DESARNO, FBI DALLAS SPECIAL AGENT: We will continue to investigate the hostage taker. We’ll continue to investigate his contacts. Our investigation will have global reach.
TOMLINSON (on camera): About a decade ago, the Taliban and ISIS made separate proposals to free American hostages in exchange for Siddiqui. Both offers were rejected by the U.S. government — John.
ROBERTS: Lucas Tomlinson for us this morning from Wilmington, Delaware — Lucas, thank you.
Now to the week in Washington, President Biden facing a stalled agenda and dropping poll numbers will, this week, face reporters in a rare formal news conference, just the tenth of his presidency, and coming on the eve of his first year in office.
Heading into the midterms, Republicans hope to seize the moment and borrow from the playbook laid out by Glenn Youngkin, sworn in Saturday as the 74th governor of the state of Virginia, flipping political control of a state that Joe Biden won by ten points little more than a year ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA: I come to this moment and to this office knowing that we must bind the wounds of division, restore trust, find common cause for the common good, and strengthen the spirit of Virginia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin joins us now exclusively from Richmond in his first television interview since taking office.
Governor, welcome to “FOX News Sunday.”
I wanted to start you off with reaction to the events yesterday in Texas. By virtue of the fact that you signed an executive order combating anti- Semitism as one of your first orders of business and we still do not know the full background of these events. But the gunman did attack a synagogue and the woman he wanted to have released from custody is an avowed anti- Semite.
There’s also the Virginia connection of the FBI hostage and rescue team from Quantico being down there to help resolve this.
So, if we could start off, Governor Youngkin, with your thoughts on what happened yesterday.
YOUNGKIN: Well, good morning, John. And I’m coming to you from the great Commonwealth of Virginia.
And yes, one of the first things we did yesterday was sign an executive order to press forward with Virginia being a leader in combating the anti – – combating with ant-Semitism commission and laws to make sure Virginia is, in fact, the safest place for everyone to live and work and raise a family.
We’ve seen — we’ve seen animosity and hatred towards the Jewish community on the rise, and we’re just not going to stand for it. In Virginia or in this country, there is no place for it. And Virginia will be a leader when it comes to standing up for religious freedom and combating hatred.
ROBERTS: And your first day on the job, Governor, you signed 11 executive actions. Nine of those were executive orders, two executive directives. You kicked off your inauguration at the Reconciliation Statue there in Richmond, reconciliation also a theme of your inaugural address. We’ve played a little bit of it earlier when you said, no matter who you voted for, I pledge to be your advocate, your voice, your governor.
But there’s a large slice of Virginia voters who backed Terry McAuliffe, Governor, who see you as an acolyte of President Biden, who they very strongly disagreed with.
What would you do to ensure that those voters know that you will be an advocate for them?
YOUNGKIN: Well, what we heard from voters on November 2nd, from all voters, not Republicans versus Democrats, but from Virginians, was that they are ready for a new way forward. We won the independent vote. We had droves of Democrats come across the aisle.
We, in fact, saw Virginians come who have never been in the same room together, forever Trumpers and never Trumpers. We won — we won the Hispanic vote, the Asian vote. We had a greater percentage of the black vote than Republicans gotten in recent memory.
What this demonstrates to me is that Virginians are ready for a new direction. We’re going to stand up for low taxes and to reestablish our high expectations in our schools and get politics out and those critical, critical math, science and reading skills that we need for our children to be college-ready or career-ready. We’re going to get crime down by comprehensively investing in law enforcement. We get this economy moving so we create opportunity for all Virginians. And we’re going to stand up for the rights under our Constitution that we hold dear.
It’s a new day in Virginia and Virginians spoke loudly. They want a new direction and this is what we delivered yesterday on day one.
ROBERTS: You know, it’s no surprise that you are at a school there, Governor, because part of the credit for your victory there in Virginia went to your stance on schools. In fact, one of your first two executive orders was to, quote, end the use of divisive concepts in public education, including critical race theory and to give parents the choice of whether their kid wears a mask in school.
I want to get to the critical race theory in a moment, but first the issue of masks. There are some concern that if parents start to tell their children to take off the masks or at school districts say masking is optional, that it will run afoul of a law that was passed by the Virginia legislature, which dictates that schools have to follow closely CDC guidance.
Can you give comfort to parents at home and to school boards who might opt out that if they do, you’ll have their back?
YOUNGKIN: Well, we said all along that we were going to stand up for parents because let’s just be clear, what’s happened over the last few years is that bureaucrats and politicians have absolutely stopped listening to parents. And in Virginia, it is clear under law that parents have a fundamental right to make decisions for their children’s upbringing, their education and their care.
And so, we are providing parents an opt-out. We’re providing them the ability to make the right decision for their child with regards to their child’s well-being. We’re going to use all the authority that — that I have to consider all options to protect that right, and I think this is exactly what Virginians voted for in November and we delivered yesterday.
ROBERTS: Let me move on to critical race theory, because this was a huge flash point in the November election, again, part of the reason that you’re credited with the victory there in the commonwealth, and likely a big issue in the midterms as well.
Critics of your opposition — and you signed an executive order again that would, quote, end the use of divisive concepts in schools, which is an allusion to critical race theory, critics of your position, including former President Obama, say, look, critical race theory is not being taught in schools and that this was merely a trumped up phony culture war.
What do you say to that? And what does your executive order actually do in terms of critical race theory?
YOUNGKIN: Well, anyone who thinks that the concepts that actually underpin critical race theory are not in our schools has not been in the schools and, oh, by the way, I think the school systems in Virginia, and particularly Loudon County, have been doing everything they can to try to – – try to obfuscate the fact that the curriculum has moved in a very, very opaque way that has hidden a lot of this from parents.
And so, we, in fact, are going to increase transparency, so that parents can actually see what’s being taught in schools, and we’ve instructed our board of education, I’ve instructed our secretary of education, our state superintendent of public schools, to review the curriculum and get racially divisive and other divisive teaching concepts out of the school system.
We’re not going to teach the children to view everything through a lens of race. Yes, we will teach all history, the good and the bad, because we can’t know where we’re going unless we know where we have come from. But to actually teach our children that one group is advantaged and the other disadvantaged simply because of the color of their skin cuts across everything we know to be true.
And the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King ringing in our ears that we must judge one another by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. This is what will be the founding principle of our executive order and what we’re going to do in Virginia schools.
ROBERTS: But, Governor, just so I got it straight here — is it your contention that critical race theory is being taught in Virginia public schools?
YOUNGKIN: There’s not a course called critical race theory. All of the principles of critical race theory, the fundamental building blocks of actually accusing one group of being oppressors and another of being oppressed, of actually burdening children today for sins of the past, for teaching our children to judge one another —
YOUNGKIN: — based on the color of their skin, yes, that does exist in Virginia schools today and that’s why we have passed — I signed the executive order yesterday to make sure that we get it out of our schools.
ROBERTS: So, I ask the question about the courses in critical race theory. But, again, that’s a contention of critics that there are no courses on critical race theory that are being taught in Virginia public schools. And Scott Maino, who’s a member of Parents Against Critical Race Theory, has this message for you, Governor.
He says: Promising to ban CRT is empty unless he, the governor, is willing to publicly state that he will also ban the tenets of CRT, as CRT is only a framework.
So, will you ban the tenets of CRT and how do you ensure as you just said, that we will teach all of our history, the good and the bad, in a fair way?
YOUNGKIN: Well, first of all, that’s exactly what we did yesterday was we actually went at the tenets of CRT. We went at the tenets of racially divisive concepts, because that’s exactly where the underpinnings of CRT is embedded in — embedded in our schools in Virginia.
We absolutely have to recognize what the left liberals do here is try to obfuscate this issue by saying there’s no course called critical race theory. Well, of course there’s not in elementary school. But, in fact, there are absolutely the tenets of CRT present in the schools and that’s what our executive order went at yesterday.
ROBERTS: And let me ask you about this rape in Loudon County, which is actually a couple of rapes. Your fourth executive order that you put out yesterday, you promised to investigate wrongdoing in Loudon County. I expect that’s allusion to the rape that occurred late in the school year before the summer break last year. The boy that was accused of raping Scott Smith’s daughter and one other young woman was sentenced to supervised probation last week.
Here’s what Scott Smith, father of the daughter, said, very recently. Listen here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT SMITH, LOUDON COUNTY PARENT: I suggest you listen to me loud and clear, pay attention to what’s happened here in Loudon because it’s coming to your community next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: What, in fact, will this investigation be looking into?
YOUNGKIN: Well, we’re going to be looking into the entire circumstances around the decisions that were made to actually move this young man from one school to another to not inform parents, to not inform the community, and oh, by the way, clearly to put other students in — at risk for their safety. There’s one fundamental tenet between government and those we serve, to keep them safe.
And when it comes to our children, it is paramount that our school systems live up to that value. And what we see here is, that there’s a strong, strong, strong evidence that, in fact, it was not only, not taken seriously in Loudon, it was hidden.
YOUNGKIN: And so, we’ve asked Attorney General Miyares to go to work. We’re going to get full transparency and we’re going to make sure that we hold the school board accountable for the decisions that were made.
ROBERTS: In terms of holding them accountable, do you think that people need to be fired?
YOUNGKIN: I think people should have — I think people should have already resigned and my clear sense is that once that full scope of what happened here is well-understood, there will be resignations, and I do believe that there’s been dereliction of duty. And so, all actions in order to hold this school board accountable should be taken.
ROBERTS: Let me ask you about the vaccine mandate for coronavirus, because this was the subject of a landmark Supreme Court ruling last week. You have said that you will challenge the vaccine mandate for health workers in facilities that receive federal funding. But the majority of the Supreme Court justices, which included some conservative-leaning justices, said that such a mandate, quote, fits neatly within the power given to HHS by Congress.
Are you still going to challenge the mandate? Is that your plan and how will you get around the SCOTUS’s ruling?
YOUNGKIN: Well, let me start with the fact that I was very pleased by their ruling on the OSHA mandates, and I think it fully reflects the fact we should not, should not be penalizing people by forcing employers to fire folks who don’t get the vaccine.
To be clear, I am a strong advocate for the vaccine. I’ve gotten the vaccine, I’ve gotten the booster. My wife has gotten the vaccine. She’s gotten the booster. We think it’s the best way to keep your family safe.
But we also believe that it’s an individual decision that should be left to people to make with regards to their own health. And the circumstances with Virginia’s hospital system, we’re in a crisis. There’s an executive order that’s currently in effect to allow hospitals to in fact have much more flexibility with regards to their staffing protocols and how they’re handling patients. We need to do this because there’s a surge going on in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
YOUNGKIN: I’m disappointed, disappointed in the ruling from the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has ruled, and so we’re going to have to go to work to make sure we don’t have a further depletion of the resources that are in our hospital system because right now, one of the most important things we can do is try to expand capacity in Virginia’s hospitals so those people who need care can get it.
ROBERTS: Sure, sure, I understand. But is it still your plan to challenge the mandate?
YOUNGKIN: Well, I think at this point, the Supreme Court has ruled.
YOUNGKIN: And so, we, in fact, are going to go to work to make sure that every power that I have as governor is being brought to bear to give the hospitals the flexibility they have to make sure that we have the staffing we need, to make sure that we have the intensive care facilities available in our hospitals to treat Virginians. This is a big moment for us in Virginia, because we are seeing a surge in certain parts of Virginia. We have to make sure the hospitals are prepared.
ROBERTS: Sure. You know, one of the aspects of this, too, is that there’s a lot of schools that are going back to remote learning, just over 53 percent of the schools in Virginia are open for full-time learning. And you have said in the past that school closures have caused too many setbacks for Virginia’s children and shameful politicians in Richmond continue to bow to special interest instead of what’s best for children.
Hugh Hewitt thinks that you should go out there and write a new emergency declaration that says you’ve got to be back in school. Are you prepared to do that?
YOUNGKIN: Well, we have — there’s legislation moving through our general assembly that in fact says absolutely that, that schools must be open five days a week, that, in fact, virtual learning is a tool of last resort, and right now, we need to get our kids back in school.
I also think there is a tremendous opportunity for us to revise the protocols that we are using when a child is exposed but showing no symptoms in school. And Test to Stay is an incredibly important tool for us but the challenge we have, of course, is we don’t have enough testing kits. And here we are in January dealing with a surge, and we don’t have enough testing kits?
And so, we’re doing everything we can within our Department of Health and Human Resources to expand testing availability to our schools, but also to those areas where we have those Virginians that in fact are most vulnerable, and particularly elderly.
YOUNGKIN: We should not see a testing deficiency in Virginia. It’s one of my big frustrations as we head into the administration.
ROBERTS: Yeah, not just a problem in the commonwealth but across the country as well.
Let me ask you quickly about politics in the time that we have left. You really walked a shrewd line here. You embraced President Trump’s policies, former President Trump to a degree but at the same time kept him at arm’s length enough that you didn’t alienate moderate voters and many Democrats that you needed to win.
Is this a road map do you believe for other Republicans in the November election?
YOUNGKIN: Well, what we did in Virginia over the last year was give everyone a great big bear hug.
YOUNGKIN: We, in fact, embraced all Virginians, and I’ve said before that I so deeply appreciated President Trump’s support. We brought together a coalition of folks that had never been in the room together, forever Trumpers and never Trumper, moderates, Democrats.
YOUNGKIN: We campaigned in places that Republicans have historically not campaigned and that resulted in record vote, vote levels in all minority communities. What we demonstrated is that this is about bringing people together and yes, there are many things that people disagree about, but there’s so much more that we agree upon. And when it comes to getting taxes down —
YOUNGKIN: — getting our schools refocused on excellence and getting politics out of the school and investing in law enforcement and standing up to fight crime and making sure we have a great economy and we’re protecting the rights that are guaranteed under our Constitution, these are — these aren’t — these aren’t values that are shared only by a political party, these are universal values shared by Virginians.
ROBERTS: Well —
YOUNGKIN: So, that bear hug I think is the path forward that we as Republicans can build a bigger tent and we can embrace all Virginians, because the opportunity in Virginia is for all.
ROBERTS: Yeah, definitely is a road map for many other candidates.
One last question if I could about the weather. You’ve got a big storm about to dump on Virginia there. Ralph Northam on his way out of the door signed an emergency declaration that gives you the power to do almost anything you want to do within reason to address the situation.
How are you going to make sure that Senator Tim Kaine and thousands of other people don’t spend 24 hours on I-95 when the storm hits?
YOUNGKIN: Well, we’re well-prepared. The National Guard has been deployed, and our Virginia Department of Transportation has relocated assets from the eastern part of the state to the western part of the state, where we see the biggest challenges. We’ve been out pre-treating all the roads.
And I think we’ve done a great job communicating with Virginians to not travel today, stay home, and let’s this storm come and go, and we’re going to be ready and take great care of Virginians.
ROBERTS: All right. Well, my wife and son and Jennifer Griffin and her son are coming back from a lacrosse tournament in Virginia Beach. So, hopefully, they’ll able to make it or spend an extra night in Virginia Beach. We’ll see.
Governor Youngkin, it’s been an important weekend for you. We appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.
YOUNGKIN: Great. Thank you for having me. And I hope your son’s team wins in Virginia Beach. If they stay an extra day, Virginia is a great place to have to spend an extra day.
ROBERTS: All right. I appreciate it. And just for the record, I am a constituent as well.
Governor Youngkin, thank you.
Up next, the omicron surge and a series of changing CDC guidelines leaves Americans with more questions than answers. We’ll ask a top public health official, Dr. Ashish Jha, how to make sense of it all. And that’s coming up next.
ROBERTS: In just a few days we expect the White House to launch a long- touted website where Americans can order their own free rapid COVID tests. It’s a high stakes gamble on technology and test supply in hopes of getting a handle on omicron spread as Americans try to sort out some kind of new normal.
Joining us now is Dr. Ashish Jha. He’s the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
Doctor, welcome back to “FOX News Sunday”. Appreciate having you with us.
DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Good morning. Thanks for having me back.
ROBERTS: You tweeted out earlier this week that we’re likely to see the peak of new COVID cases fueled by the omicron variant sometime in the next couple or three weeks. South Africa and the U.K. have really kind of pointed the way for what’s expected here. It was a sharp spike up and now it’s on the way back down.
But in your estimation, how bad will it get in the days and couple of weeks ahead in terms of hospitalizations and deaths before it gets better?
JHA: Yes, great question, John.
As you know, hospitalizations and deaths always lag. So we have seen a spike that has peaked in New York, New Jersey, I think in New England, probably Florida. And what I expect is hospitalizations to peak in the next week to ten days in those places.
The rest of the country still has some ways to go. So I think the next three, four weeks are just going to be hard for all of — all of America.
ROBERTS: Right. And how bad do you think it will get again in terms of hospitalizations and deaths?
JHA: I think it’s going to get much worse. So, right now, we have about 150,000 people in the hospital with COVID. That’s more than we’ve ever had. I expect those numbers to get substantially higher.
The problem is we’re running out of healthcare workforce.
JHA: And we just don’t have the staffing. So that is going to be a challenge for many weeks ahead.
ROBERTS: Yes, and we heard the Virginia governor talking about that just a moment ago, which is one of the reason why he opposes this vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in federally funded facilities.
As — as far as the president goes, I mean he ripped President Trump for not doing a good job in responding to COVID. But despite all of that rhetoric, President Biden seems to be falling flat, particularly on the issue of testing. He’s now — they’re saying that he’s going to send a billion at-home test kits out to Americans, but it’s likely that those won’t be seen in American households until the end of this month or maybe even the beginning of next month.
Doc, is that — is that too little too late, particularly given this idea that you think that omicron’s going to peak maybe within the next ten days or so?
JHA: Well, first of all, I think we all agree that we needed more tests during this surge and I’m sorry we didn’t have it.
JHA: I think — I think it really did hamper our ability as a country to manage this.
I don’t believe that omicron is going to be the last wave we see. Having widespread testing available is going to make an enormous difference as we get beyond this surge and before we face the next one.
So, I’m thrilled to see more tests coming. I think we’re going to need them and we’re going to want to use them. Obviously, we wish we had had more tests going in.
ROBERTS: I want to ask you about the messaging that’s coming from the government and — and what you make of it. I mean it seems to be about as clear as — as mud. And it was really highlighted at that Senate hearing last week. And we — we want to put up a side-by-side picture here.
You had the head of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky, double masked while she was speaking, giving her testimony before the Senate, and then we had Anthony Fauci take his mask off when he was giving testimony.
So, do you leave the mask on? Do you take the mask off? What kind of mask should you wear? Apparently cloth masks aren’t very good now in dealing with omicron. The CDC just came out with that information on Friday. We don’t know where to get tests. We’re not sure what tests to get. We’re not sure how long to isolate, when to come out of isolation, what to do after we come out of isolation. Can you make head or tail of what the government is talking about?
JHA: Yes, so we have different agencies that have not been on the same page, John. And I think that part has been a real problem.
What we know right now is that people should be masking indoors, especially when you’re in large, crowded spaces. That makes a lot of sense.
We are switching, I think, from using those PCR tests on a regular basis, using those rapid antigen tests more commonly. I think that’s what’s going to become more common.
And, so the science here is changing. I think the messages has not kept up.
ROBERTS: So, what’s the problem? I mean during the Trump administration you might not have liked what you heard, but as we were talking before we came on, you had one message that was going out. Now you’ve got multiple messages. There’s multiple messages that are often contradictory with each other.
JHA: Yes, I think what happened under the Trump administration was you had, as you said, one messenger, President Trump, and he often said things that were wrong, but at least there was one, single message. Right now you have CDC, you have the White House, you have FDA, you have NIH.
I think the White House needs to get its messaging discipline together, needs to make sure that people are speaking from the same page. My sense is that that has not been happening consistently. And it would be enormously helpful to the American people if that messaging was more consistent.
ROBERTS: So, all of this muddled messaging, is it creating problems?
JHA: Well, it’s certainly making it harder for people to know what to do. And in a public health crisis, likes the one we have, getting the public to understand the moment we’re in, what are the key things they need to be doing to keep themself and their families safe is enormously important. And if we don’t get that messaging right, it will absolutely hamper our response.
ROBERTS: Yes, with omicron — with omicron’s virulence vastly attenuated from — from previous strains of coronavirus, there’s talk as to whether or not we need to change the whole paradigm and how we approach this.
Bill Gates, during a Twitter Q&A earlier this — or last week said, once omicron goes through a country, Covid can be treated more like the seasonal flu.
Is it — is it time, Dr. Jha, for us to say, you know what, this thing is here to stay. We can’t continue with the lockdowns, the isolation, the quarantine. We need to accept that people are going to get sick. It’s going to be a mild illness. It will probably be like a cold, maybe even a mild flu, and let’s all just get back to normal?
JHA: Well, no doubt. In my mind we are switching from this kind of acute phase of the pandemic emergency, two years, into a more endemic phase.
The challenge is, for unvaccinated people, John, it’s still pretty deadly. I just finished two weeks of attending in the hospital. A lot of very, very sick people with omicron who are not vaccinated. So we still have a challenge ahead. We have to make a lot of systemic changes. But no question in my mind, we have to begin to treat this virus differently than the way we have in the last two years.
ROBERTS: And you mention people who are unvaccinated. President Biden continues to say that this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. But listen to what Dr. Fauci said about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Virtually everybody is going to wind up getting exposed and likely get infected. But if you’re vaccinated, and if you’re boosted, the chances of your getting sick are very, very low.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Listening to what Fauci said, it doesn’t sound like this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, it sounds like if you’re vaccinated it will be milder disease. But certainly it’s not just limited to the unvaccinated.
JHA: No. With omicron, because of its immune evasiveness, we are seeing vaccinated people get infected.
The big difference is, as Dr. Fauci alluded to, that unvaccinated people or unboosted, high risk people are the ones ending up in the hospital. So for — when it comes to severe illness, it is absolutely targeting those groups. But I do think that there’s a high risk that, you know, as the pandemic continues, all of us will end up getting exposed, and many of us will end up getting infected.
ROBERTS: Right. There’s new questions about when we’re testing for omicron, what is the best test. And you — and here’s some more confusion because everybody’s been doing the nasal swabs, maybe on occasion you might get the deep nose — nasopharyngeal swab. But now there’s a move to, well, this infects mostly the throat, so it would be better to either do a throat swab or even a saliva test.
To — to your knowledge, Dr. Jha, what is the best way to test for omicron and what sort of test should people be looking for when they go out to find one?
JHA: Yes, I think the best kind of test we should be using kind of on a regular basis are these rapid antigen tests that available or soon hopefully will be available in greater quantity that you can use at home. You should use it based on the directions. The directions all still ask people to put it up their nose.
JHA: There’s a lot of random talk about throat swabbing and spitting. My take is, stop, just focus on the — on the directions. Use it up your nose. That’s what works best. That’s what’s been tested. And that’s what we should be using on a regular basis. Your doctor may use a different test if or she needs to. But for — for regular people at home, that’s what I use.
ROBERTS: All right, because it — because there are spit tests as well. And I was using those last year in — in the springtime, and they seemed to be pretty accurate as well but they don’t seem to be readily available.
Dr. Jha, it’s always good to talk to you. Thank you so much for joining us at FOX NEWS SUNDAY. Appreciate it.
JHA: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Coming up next, we’re going to bring in our Sunday group to discuss the Youngkin effect on November’s midterm, and what about that interview that Kamala Harris did last week?
ROBERTS: It’s time now for our Sunday group.
Senator Mitch McConnell’s former chief of staff and co-host of the “Ruthless” podcast, Josh Holmes joins us, along with Fox News congressional correspondent Chad Pergram and former State Department spokesperson Marie Harf.
Let’s start off with you, Josh, and I want to get your thoughts about Glenn Youngkin, who we had on earlier on the program. He has promised, like all politicians do, to be a governor for all of Virginians. But — but given the — the tone and the tenor of politics and the divisions in this country and the fact that President Trump is a big part of the reason why he won, can he be a governor for all Virginians?
JOSH HOLMES, CO-HOST, “RUTHLESS” PODCAST AND FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: Yes, I think he can, John, and I thought your interview was exceptional, getting into the — the nitty gritty of the executive orders that he signed on day one. I think — I think it showed that not only was he ready, he put a lot of thought into what it was that he wanted to do in response to an electorate that elected him as — as was stated in an interview one year removed from a ten-point Joe Biden victory.
Obviously, a lot of things need to happen there. And I think what Glenn Youngkin showed is that the ties that bind this electorate together, from right to left and in the center, in a lot of people who showed up to vote for him, are amongst the issues, right?
HOLMES: Things like Covid response, things like critical race theories, keeping schools open. He mended all of those fences that, you know, had been frayed, frankly, over the years and I — I think made a lot of progress in showing Republicans a good way to do it going forward.
ROBERTS: Yes, Maria, do you believe that he can govern across party lines here?
MARIE HARF, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON AND FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I hope he can. As a recent convert to being a Virginia resident.
But, look, I think that Glenn Youngkin, and — and Virginia in general, statewide races are a little bit of unicorns, right? He’s a unicorn in the Republican Party.
HARF: If we look at the congressional races, on the House and the Senate side, right, Republicans aren’t trying to keep Donald Trump at arm’s length as Glenn Youngkin kind of did in this race, they’re rushing to embracing him, to, you know, one-up each other, to see who can embrace him the most.
And you see other congressional Republicans, like Glenn Youngkin, people like John Katko and other Republicans in the House choosing not to run again.
So, look, I think that Glenn Youngkin did a really impressive thing in his victory in Virginia. He was a Republican who spoke to the base but kept Trump at arm’s length. I’m not sure Republicans can or want to replicate that anywhere else in any of these midterm races.
ROBERTS: Well, certainly one place where they don’t seem to want to replicate it is the state of Arizona. Kari Lake is a candidate for governor there. There’s a good chance, according to folks who are familiar with Arizona politics, that she could win. And yesterday she figured very prominently in President Trump’s address in Arizona.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Kari Lake, I’ll tell you, she is incredible.
KARI LAKE: We love you. We’re so thankful that you’re here in Arizona. And when I’m elected, we will finish your big, beautiful wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So, Chad Pergram, as we mentioned, Glenn Youngkin won by embracing President Trump’s policies, by embracing his — his base, but then, at the same time, holding him at arm’s length. Wrapping yourself around President Trump, will that potentially be a strategy for victory in Arizona?
CHAD PERGRAM, FOX NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is the dichotomy that is facing the Republican Party right now. You know, the president went out there last night, it’s kind of like going to a rock concert where he plays all the greatest hits, the drum solo, the guitar solo, you know where it’s come — coming, and — and talked about Michael Byrd, talked about Ashli Babbitt, talked about, you know, Mitch McConnell, his problems there. You know, Republicans have to make a choice which direction they want to go.
But sometimes, you know, when you look at the situation with Glenn Youngkin, you know, his first challenge is, how does he deal with this storm that’s coming here in the next couple of days compared to what happened a couple of weeks ago here in Virginia. Virginia continues to be a purple state. He is, you know, undoing the mask mandate. The city of Richmond, the school system there, has already said that they’re not going to comply.
This comes as omicron is spiking. And if all this happens, it could backfire on him. If, you know, he says, I’m going to fix the schools right away, we’re not going to have the masks, omicron spikes, and there’s still issues with the schools. That’s a real problem for him.
And this is the balancing act that all Republicans have to walk.
ROBERTS: I mean —
PERGRAM: How much do they embrace President Trump —
PERGRAM: And how much do they go the other direction.
ROBERTS: You know, it could be said that this really is the first big test for — for Governor Youngkin, this winter storm that’s coming in, because just ask John Lindsay, the ex-mayor of New York, what responses to storms mean politically.
PERGRAM: And Tim Kaine.
ROBERTS: Yes. Tim Kaine definitely knows what it’s like to get stuck in traffic.
So, President Trump, obviously, is going to remain a force in the Republican Party.
And, Josh, I want to ask you about this because of — of your ties to the Senate minority leader. Lindsey Graham came out last week and said, he’s not going to vote for Mitch McConnell again as Senate leader unless he develops a relationship with President Trump.
Listen to what Lindsey Graham said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): But here’s the question, can Senator McConnell effectively work with a leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump? I’m not going to vote for anybody that can’t have a working relationship with President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Lindsey Graham went on to say in an interview that we did with him on “AMERICA REPORTS” that he doesn’t know if the relationship can be repaired.
I’m wondering, Josh, does McConnell even want to repair it?
HOLMES: Well, look, I think this is exactly the kind of thing that Republicans are going to need to avoid over the next year if they’re going to have success in the midterm and beyond. This is — this is bait, right, as we say on “Ruthless.”
HOLMES: This is the bait that Republicans, unfortunately, too often take. And I think what you see demonstrated on the Democratic side of the aisle now is the very real danger that you have when you get into these inter- nesting fights with each other and you’re not sort of responsive to the issues that are driving the American public.
You know, you’ve seen Democrats in a bad place arguing over the BBB bill, when, in fact, you have Covid, you have inflation, you have all kinds of economic concerns that are really driving what the public is concerned about.
Republicans cannot fall into that same problem over the next year.
ROBERTS: Yes, you know, Republicans, Marie, for the most part have been pretty content to stand back and watch the Biden administration shoot itself in the foot. But — but if you have the beginnings of this, as Josh put it, inter nesting warfare in the Republican Party, does that diminish their chances in November because they are no longer unified?
HARF: Possibly, right. And Democrats hope that they will continue to fight amongst themselves and that there will be this debate about how closely to embrace Donald Trump, a former president who is quite unpopular. When his name is on the ballot or when he weighs in, in races, he doesn’t always win. And so they’re very acutely aware of that.
HARF: But the challenge, John, for Democrats, is that they have to show to voters that them having power, having complete control, has actually benefitted them.
You know, there are some good statistics. The — the best year in American history for job creation, for example, lowest unemployment rate, you know, biggest drop in unemployment rate in American history, those are good statistics. But the American people still feel uneasy. And so Democrats have to go out, put the political noise aside, and make the case directly to voters, here’s what we did and here’s why you should keep us in power. You know, that’s a — that’s a hard case to make when we have inflation, when the pandemic’s still raging. It’s a challenging political environment.
ROBERTS: And, Chad, one other quick, political topic, and give me a quick answer on this because we’re running out of time here in our first segment.
The RNC wants a pledge from all of its presidential candidates that if they become the nominee they will not participate in debates that are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates because they don’t believe that they’re fair. The CPD came back and said, the CPD’s plans for 2024 will be based on fairness, neutrality and a firm commitment to help the American public learn about the candidates and the issues.
Mitt Romney says opting out of these debates is just nuts.
PERGRAM: Well, you know, this is not written in stone that you have to have these debates and run by this commission. Only been around for 34 years. This is yet another way by Republicans, the RNC, to take on the Washington establishment and really try to enforce some sort of orthodoxy inside the party.
ROBERTS: Right. OK, we’ve got to take a quick break here.
Chad, thank you.
Up next, President Biden has one of the toughest weeks of his presidency. We’ll discuss the disappointments and the plan of attack for key agenda items when our panel returns, coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There’s a lot of talk about disappointments in things we haven’t gotten done. We’re going to get a lot of them done, I might add.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: President Biden, on Friday, on his administration’s record one year in.
And we are back now with the panel.
Marie, start us off on this because Joe Biden, this week, is going to try to recover from his version of Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.
When he sums up a year of accomplishments in the preamble to his press conference on Wednesday, is he going to have much to point to because it — it seems that the one big accomplishment of his administration was a bipartisan effort on infrastructure, and that all of the partisan things that he’s tried to get done have failed.
HARF: Well, John, I think this press conference is important to start. I think it will be an important day for reporters to ask him questions. But there’s good, economic news in many ways. I mentioned the low, you know, the biggest year for job creation in American history, these unemployment rates. Inflation actually now starting to tick down a little bit. And he’s also going to talk about — without taking a victory lap, right, some of the Covid success. So many shots in arms. The fact that so many more people now are vaccinated and boosted and therefore surviving Covid, right? This is a long fight against Covid. But he has to also lay out a proactive agenda for the future. He has to say — and we’ll hear that again in the State of the Union, but he has to say, here’s how we’re going to keep fighting omicron, here’s how we’re going to get this, you know, the economy growing even more, get this inflation under control, and here’s how I’m going to work with Congress to do that.
So he has a lot of agenda items he needs to address in this press conference.
ROBERTS: Josh, you want to respond to that? I mean particularly on the issue of Covid, with all respect to Marie, I mean it’s a mess.
HOLMES: Yes, I think there’s a cold, hard wind of reality that’s blowing in the face of this administration when it comes to trying to sell just about anything that we — that we just heard.
I mean, look, I think the reality is that everybody knows that Joe Biden was elected president, in large part because he convinced the American people that you could fix Covid if you changed the occupant of the Oval Office.
HOLMES: That has not happened. By any statistical measurement, we are in a worst place, made worse, I think, by this administration seeming to not focus on it at all, right? I mean this is a week where he traveled to Atlanta to make a, quote/unquote, voting rights speech, while you’ve got empty shelves, rising inflation, Covid everywhere, all of these problems that are uniquely affecting the American people, he seems radically out of touch and I think his poll numbers reflect that.
ROBERTS: Yes, he made — made that stride (ph) in voting rights speech only to come back to Washington, D.C., and having Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin say, not going to happen.
Chad, give us your learned analysis here because we want to put up this Quinnipiac poll, which is really dismal, from last week. President Biden’s overall approval rating, 33 percent, the economy, 34 percent, foreign policy, 35 percent, coronavirus, which was his strong suit, 39 percent. He — he’s, so far under water he’s got to be breathing nitrous.
PERGRAM: They are really victims here, the White House is and the president is, of overpromising and underdelivering. You want to always do the opposite in politics. And that’s not what happened. That’s not what happened with the voting rights bill and the filibuster this past week.
It kind of reminds me, when you get into Build Back Better, of what the Republicans did for years, 2010, 2012, we’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare, repeal and replace Obamacare. They never quite got there. This is the problem for Democrats when they said we’re going to pass Build Back Better and change the filibuster and make D.C. and Puerto Rico states.
PERGRAM: None of those things have happened. And this is why you have the left wing of their base very upset.
PERGRAM: There was a real head scratcher last week, Marie, when Kamala Harris sat down with Craig Melvin of the “Today” show for an interview, and she seemed to fold up like a cheap suit at — at even the most mildest challenge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG MELVIN, NBC’S “TODAY”: Six former administration officials last week wrote that open letter urging the administration to change course, to change strategy. Is it time?
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is time for us to do what we have been doing, and that time is every day. Every day it is time for us to agree that there are things and tools that are available to us to slow this thing down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Marie, what did you make of that and what does it portend for the future?
HARF: Yes, administration’s never like to admit that they need to change course, even though some of them often do. And that’s not an indictment of — of — of everyone who’s working or all the things that they’ve tried to achieve. And so I do think that this White House will look at this next year, year two, and hopefully will say OK, maybe we don’t need to change everything, but we need to double down on making the case of the American people about what we’ve achieved and how it’s impacted their actual lives.
I think they’re a little bit scared of their left and the right flanks, quite frankly. I think they know what they want to accomplish but sometimes they — they are — they talking point it too much. They — they don’t want to cause waves, they just want to go down the middle. And you know what, when you’re in a pandemic and you have these crisis, sometimes you have to make waves. And so I hope they do that more.
ROBERTS: Josh, how did — how did you view that? Was that just an administration official who didn’t want to admit that they need to make a change, or was that someone who appeared to be wholly unprepared for an interview. She — she didn’t have statistic, she didn’t have figures, she didn’t have timelines.
HOLMES: Yes, I think — I think it’s the latter, John. And this is basically the problem that we’ve seen from Vice President Harris since the very beginning of this administration. When she does these interviews, it’s — there’s not a message that she’s pushing. There’s not a strategy that she’s trying to articulate. She’s basically trying to survive the interview.
And so it begs the question, if the vice president of the United States has no idea what the strategy of this administration is when it comes to things like Covid, who does, right?
HOLMES: I mean I haven’t heard much out of the president either. And — and so I think they’ve got a more fundamental problem than switching tactics or — or anything like that. I think they don’t have any clue what they’re doing at this point.
ROBERTS: Chad, give us a quick read on — on the week ahead. We’ve got the press conference on Wednesday. Chuck Schumer is also going to try to go back to the well on filibuster reform. What are we looking at in the next few days?
PERGRAM: Well, they’re going to try to move this voting rights bill. That’s not going to happen. They need 60 votes there. This will tee up a perspective vote to change the filibuster. That’s not going to happen.
Now, whether or not Chuck Schumer goes all the way through with that failed procedural vote, a nuclear option, as we would call it, kind of what happened in 2013 and 2017, remains to be seen because what he’s essentially doing here, John, is he is weaponizing that vote against members of his own party, Sinema and Manchin. Usually you set up these votes to hit the other side. It’s rare to do that so that you are applying pressure on them. And heretofore they don’t look like they’re willing to move.
ROBERTS: Yes. I mean based on what Sinema and Manchin said last week, it doesn’t look like they’re willing to say, oh, you know what, we were wrong, let’s blow up the filibuster for voting rights.
Panel, it’s great to have spent time with you this morning. Josh, Chad, Marie, we’ll see you again very soon. Appreciate it.
Coming up next, a final word on the week ahead.
ROBERTS: And that’s it for today. I’m John Roberts. As Chad Pergram was suggesting, it’s going to be a big week full of news. And you can join Sandra Smith and me for coverage on all of it on “AMERICA REPORTS,” tomorrow, Fox News Channel, 1:00 Eastern. Have a great week and we will see you next FOX NEWS SUNDAY.
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‘Fox News Sunday’ on January 16, 2022