FIRST ON FOX: Rep. Alex Mooney, RW.Va., a candidate for the U.S. Senate in his state, welcomed Gov. Jim Justice to the primary race Thursday with a new ad blasting the newcomer for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic .
Justice, who earlier in the day officially launched his bid to win the seat currently held by Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., was first elected governor in 2016 and has led West Virginia through the pandemic years with largely mixed reviews fellow republicans.
One West Virginia Republican who praised Justice throughout his efforts to fight the coronavirus was Mooney himself. However, in an ad published after Justice’s campaign launched, the four-year-old congressman reversed his previous views on the governor’s job performance flipped over and beat him for what he called his “liberal record”.
“Jim Justice is trying to hide his liberal record. As governor, Justice destroyed businesses and lives when he placed our state on lockdown. And Big Jim pushed the largest tax hike in West Virginia history, supported Joe Biden’s trillion-dollar spending bill, and tried to discourage adults from buying sporting guns,” the ad said.
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“Well, the great Jim wants to be your senator, but he can’t hide the truth. Liberal Jim Justice just can’t be trusted,” he added.
Contrary to the ad, Mooney previously praised Justice for his handling of COVID-19, including his appearance alongside the latter at a news conference updating the state’s response to the pandemic in August 2020.
“Thank you, Governor, and your team for your leadership at this important time,” Mooney said during the news conference, before praising the business loan funding to keep it going during the pandemic and the option for parents to broadcast their children back to face-to-face classes at school.
Mooney again praised Justice on another occasion in August 2020 in a press conference with then-Vice President Mike Pence for fighting the pandemic.
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“Our governor created a system that works for West Virginia. It may be different for different states. Honestly, it’s different for different regions within our state. You know, southern West Virginia has different problems than the northern Panhandle. So we need flexibility. I appreciate the flexibility. I appreciate having a governor that we can talk to about our congressional districts and what is needed. So thanks for that. Thank you both for what you are doing there,” Mooney said.
After the outbreak of the pandemic, Mooney also signed a letter to then-President Donald Trump from the entire West Virginia congressional delegation in support of Justice’s disaster declaration in response.
However, a spokesman for Mooney’s campaign dismissed any notion that the congressman fully supports Justice’s pandemic measures when asked by Fox News Digital about the apparent differences in attitudes from then to now.
“In Washington, Alex Mooney has consistently co-sponsored and voted for legislation to end the COVID-19 national emergency and lift vaccination and mask mandates,” said campaign manager John Findlay. “Mooney only supported COVID measures in the very first weeks of the pandemic. He was one of the earliest and most consistent voices against hard lockdowns and draconian COVID mandates.”
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“Meanwhile, Gov. Jim Justice has supported trillions in lavish spending on COVID-19, enacted strict lockdowns and made West Virginia one of the last states to end the COVID-19 state of emergency,” he added. “The judiciary has been actively exploring ways to continue the COVID-19 state of emergency in West Virginia while Mooney worked to help West Virginians return to normal life – quite a contrast.”
Justice, who left the Democratic Party and became a Republican in 2017, took a less aggressive stance than other Republicans across the country in ending his state’s COVID-19 control measures, including vaccines and masks.
In March 2021, the judiciary defended West Virginia’s mask mandate and pushed back calls for the restriction to be lifted. “I don’t know what the big rush is to get rid of the masks. These masks save lives,” he told CNN. “We’re going to do the smart thing in West Virginia. We will not do what is politically correct.”
He echoed that sentiment in another interview this month, asking West Virginians to “be more careful” a little longer.
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While urging West Virginians to take the COVID-19 vaccine in July 2021, he told those who weren’t yet vaccinated that they were “part of the problem,” and later pushed back on President Biden’s September 2022 claim that the pandemic is “over.”
“I don’t think the pandemic is over,” Justice told media representatives in West Virginia, according to MetroNews. “I think we can live with this pandemic, but the more people we can get across the finish line and get vaccinated, the better we can live with this pandemic. It’s not over. It’s absolutely not over yet.”
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Fox News Digital has reached out to Justice’s campaign for comment but has received no response.
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