Recent comments by former Republican President Donald Trump touting COVID-19 vaccines as safe and a major achievement of his presidency have shocked anti-vaccine extremes, which include many of his staunch supporters.

After months of a low profile on vaccines and no photos of himself getting the shot, Trump told former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on December 19 at an event in Dallas that he had received the reminder – eliciting a few boos from the audience.

In an interview with right-wing expert Candace Owens published two days later, Trump hit back when Owens suggested the shots were unsafe.

“Oh no, the vaccine is working,” interrupted Trump Owens, who said she was not vaccinated. “Those who get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones who don’t take the vaccine. “

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While in both cases Trump has emphasized that he is against Democratic President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates, his comments have drawn rare criticism from anti-vaccine activists and some supporters.

The controversy highlights the balance Trump could face in a possible 2024 presidential election: he will need to energize his base, for many, opposition to vaccines has become a rallying cry, without however fend off moderate commuters.

Conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones told his talk show that by touting the vaccine, Trump was either “completely ignorant” or “one of the most evil men who ever lived.” He said it was time to ‘move on’ Trump and also threatened to ‘throw all the dirt’ on the former president.

Radio host Wayne Allyn Root, a staunch supporter of Trump, said the former president had “the right to everything” except vaccines, and needed “intervention.” In a statement to Reuters, Root stressed that he would still be a Trump supporter and that by “intervention” he simply meant a chance to convince Trump to “change” his message.

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Trump says he recommends his supporters get the COVID-19 vaccine

Trump Says He Recommends His Supporters Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19 – March 16, 2021

A spokesperson told Reuters that Trump supports his administration’s “enormous contributions to ending this pandemic.” There was no immediate response to requests for comment from representatives of Jones or Owens.

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On right-wing social media groups, some Trump voters have argued that he is acting strategically to keep hostile media at bay. Others, however, professed dismay.

“I can’t stand it anymore,” said Daniel McLean, 42, who works in the Oregon cannabis industry, in an interview.

McLean said he was increasingly disappointed with what he saw as Trump’s membership in the political establishment. The pro-vaccine comments were a tipping point, added McLean, who said he had not been vaccinated and repeated debunked theories about thousands of people dying from gunfire.

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Republicans and Republican-leaning independents now make up 60 percent of unvaccinated American adults, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

That makes Trump’s comments all the more surprising, said Republican Martin Hyde, who is running as challenger to Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan in the 2022 election. “I don’t think that’s a message that will resonate with the base, ”Hyde told Reuters.

Growl and moan?

Trump continues to have an almost iron grip on Republican voters.

Candidates in the 2022 midterm elections are vying for his approvals; he is clearly the big favorite in the 2024 presidential race; and he’s gearing up to launch a social media site that reportedly made deals to raise around $ 1 billion.

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“I’m with Trump all the way,” wrote a user by the name Crockett in a Telegram app chat of Trump’s comments on the vaccine. “Trump knows things we don’t know.”

There is no poll yet to determine whether Trump’s comments on the vaccine have damaged his reputation with the grassroots.

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COVID-19: Breakthrough infections will occur as Omicron variant spreads, says Fauci

COVID-19: Breakthrough infections will occur as Omicron variant spreads, says Fauci – December 19, 2021

Nicholas Valentino, a professor of political psychology at the University of Michigan, said he’s unlikely to create a serious breakup.

“The most extreme faction in this group has nowhere to go politically,” Valentino said. McLean in Oregon, for example, said he still preferred Trump over Biden.

Georgian MK Marjorie Taylor Greene, a key Trump ally, appeared to try to iron out the problem on Monday, urging her supporters to focus on COVID-19 originating in China. “We should hold those who blamed the virus, not fight ourselves,” she said on Twitter.

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Yet Ron Filipkowski, a former federal prosecutor and Trump critic who oversees the far right, said Trump had done everything possible to tout the vaccines had sent “shock waves” through his base.

“A year ago you would never have heard any dissent among them,” Filipkowski said. “Now you at least hear the growls and moans. And it’s definitely new.

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Dan Grebler and Daniel Wallis)

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