In a radio interview over the weekend, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) drew a comparison between the Republican Party’s support for the abolition of slavery during the 19th century and current opposition to mask mandates.
“I want people to understand that the Republican Party was a party that was born out of the abolition movement, and we are still a party that is doing our very best to fight for freedom for everyone,” Buck, who’s also the chair of the Colorado Republican Party, told KNUS radio host Randy Corporon on Saturday. “And when you have a governor that orders people in a county to wear a mask under penalty of prosecution and jail in a county that has never had a single case of COVID, that’s the kind of action that takes freedom away from people, and people need to see the stark contrast between how Republicans would govern this state and are governing the country and what the Democrats would do.”
Colorado has just one county without a single reported case of coronavirus–Kiowa County in the Eastern Plains region, which has a population of just 1,383.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis implemented a statewide mask mandate earlier this month after the state began seeing an uptick in coronavirus cases and as a growing body of medical research confirmed that mask-wearing is a highly effective shield against transmission of the virus.
Buck’s communication’s director Lindsey Curnutte did not return an email requesting further comment and seeking to know whether Buck acknowledges data showing that people of color are more likely to become infected and die from coronavirus–and whether he would acknowledge mask-wearing as a racial justice issue given this information.
Data shows that Black people in the U.S. are over three and a half times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people, and Latino people are nearly twice as likely to die of the virus as white people.
Racial disparities in coronavirus cases and deaths can be attributed to a variety of factors, researchers argue, including less access to health care, greater prevalence of pre-existing conditions, and the fact that people of color are more likely to be a part of the COVID-19 “essential” workforce.
Buck has been difficult to track when it comes to his stance on mask-wearing. In early April, as coronavirus cases were soaring nationwide, Buck said he had “no plans” to wear a mask on an upcoming airplane trip to D.C., but later posted a photo from the trip in which we was wearing a mask.
It’s not the first time Republicans in Colorado have linked their opposition to mask mandates to freedom struggles in the U.S. and abroad.
During the same interview, Buck criticized “cancel culture” and the recent removal of monuments and renaming of buildings, football teams, and more that have roots in white supremacy.
“In order to get to the socialist, godless society that the antifa and other socialists want to get to, they have to get past our constitution, they have to get past our founding principles, they have to destroy our history, and piece by piece they’re tearing down a statue here, they’re changing the name of a building here, or of a school, a football team,” Buck said. “It’s all related to how they can ignore the constitution or rewrite the constitution to fit their needs.”