‘Mask obsession is about politics and control—not science': Is Sen. Tom Cotton right?

Andrew Harnik

Fact Box

  • On Fox News Digital, Senator Tom Cotton critiqued the shift on mask mandates, asserting that “the Democrats’ mask obsession is about politics and control – not science [...] Getting rid of masks just in time for the State of the Union and putting the fences back up are decisions made based on politics, not safety.” 
  • Two days ahead of Biden's first official State of the Union address on March 1, 2022, the US Capitol physician Brian Monahan lifted mask mandates for those inside the House chamber, stating, “Individuals may choose to mask at any time, but it is no longer a requirement.” 
  • As of February 15, 2022, seven states had active mask restrictions along with Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, but some plan to lift them by early March. 
  • A February 2022 CBS News - YouGov poll found that 56% of Americans believe states should have mask mandates while 44% disagree. Of supportive poll takers, 85% were Democrats and 25% were Republicans.  
  • The CDC reported a decrease of 37.7% in the weekly moving average for daily COVID cases on February 23, 2022, which was 75,208 in comparison to the previous week’s 120,761 average.

Andrew (No)

The view held by Senator Cotton and his Republican colleagues that masking is about the government controlling the populace isn't rooted in fact. The pandemic has been ongoing for about two years, and if there really were some government plot to control people by forcing them to wear masks, there would have been leaks by now. Some whistleblowers would have spoken up, and there would have been investigations. Further, to what end would the government even try to control people in this way? Accusations of government plots to control people stink of conspiracy theories clearly meant to whip up distrust and dissatisfaction with Cotton's political opponents. Finally, if masking really is about control, surely the Biden Administration and Democratic-lead states around the country wouldn't be dropping their mandates.

With the Republican argument that masking is about control making little sense, they have turned to accusing Democrats of changing their minds on masking as a political ploy. The reality is that about 215 million Americans are fully vaccinated, and many more have some level of natural immunity through previous infections. The Omicron surge has largely retreated, and levels of infection are fairly low in many places. It simply makes sense to drop the mandates. As further proof that this isn't about politics, most local leaders have removed mandates with the caveat that they could come back if infections spike and masks are needed again. The only political ploy happening here is from Senator Cotton and his Republican colleagues, who have politicized masking from the pandemic's beginning. 

Curtice (Yes)

If there is one trait that Democratic leaders have exhibited throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it is hypocrisy. Senator Tom Cotton's comments about Democrats' mask obsession centering around politics and controlnot science—hits the proverbial nail on the head.

Lately, Democratic mayors and governors have been rushing to end mask and other COVID mandates. The CDC loosened its masks recommendations just in time for President Biden's State of the Union address. Nancy Pelosi did the same for the House of Representatives. Coincidence? Not likely. Convenient? Of course.

Polling on maintaining COVID mandates now show that Americans' opinion has shifted sharply against them. Democrats claim to follow the science, but they really follow the polls. As has been demonstrated in various studies, and as health experts have also confirmed, regular cloth masks provide little to no protection for the person wearing the mask or others in proximity. This has always been about control and submission, especially when Democrat governors, mayors, and leaders throughout the pandemic in their tightly-restricted blue states have regularly and repeatedly been caught flouting the very masks requirements when it suits them. 

It is not about following 'the science' and never has been, but about giving the perception of 'doing something' for public 'health and safety' and demanding compliance of citizens to enforce upon them control from above. Public health officials and the media have overstated the risk for those not elderly or those who have multiple comorbidities. At particularly low risk are children, yet mask requirements in many schools continue today.

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