On Monday night, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and his Democratic opponent Cal Cunnigham faced off in an hour-long debate. Though a wide variety of issues were discussed, the possibility that a Wuhan Coronavirus vaccine would be approved and made available before the election took center stage.

In a bizarre exchange with Tillis and moderator David Crabtree, Cunningham tried to lend credence to conspiracy theories floated by the Biden-Harris presidential ticket and other Democrats. They have suggested without evidence that President Trump has been deliberately putting pressure on scientists to skip safety protocols and approve a vaccine before Election Day.

Cunningham repeatedly insinuated in his remarks that he believed the FDA had been corrupted by “political and financial influences” that he claims “are leading to distorted decision-making in Washington”:

Historically and traditionally, I would support and have confidence in the Food and Drug Administration and the processes that they go through in order to approve a drug, but we have seen an extraordinary corruption in Washington. … I would have a lot of questions of the FDA. I think the American people have questions about the government of this country, the governance of this country right now. The senator for North Carolina would be asking questions, not only about this vaccine, but also about the underlying political and financial influences that are leading to distorted decision-making in Washington.”

When Crabtree pressed him to clarify his response, Cunningham appeared to trip over his words for a moment, stating:

“Yes, I would be hesitant, but I’m going to ask a lot of questions. I think that is incumbent on all of us right now, in this environment, with the way we’ve seen politics intervening in Washington.”

Tillis blasted back, noting that the FDA would not approve a vaccine that is not safe and effective:

“We just heard a candidate for the U.S. Senate look into the camera and tell 10 million North Carolinians he would be hesitant to take a vaccine. I think that that’s irresponsible. … We are not going to release a vaccine that does not have the effectiveness and safety that the gold standard of the FDA requires,” Tillis added.

Watch Cunningham answer Crabtree’s question on whether or not he’d take the vaccine – and Tillis calling him out on his “irresponsible” answer – in the two clips below:

Even Washington Post White House reporter Seung Min Kim seemed taken aback by Cunningham’s answer:

The condemnations on Twitter to Cunningham promoting politically-motivated and unfounded anti-vax conspiracy theories were swift:

Cunningham’s comments about the vaccine generated such an uproar that he was already trying to walk them back in a post-debate interview:

As I’ve said before, what Democrats like Cunningham are doing is feeding a dangerous Democrat-led anti-vaxxer movement not based on science, but the basis of their hatred for President Trump.

The left fears that a vaccine delivered before November would move more voters to pull the lever for Trump. Because of this, it appears that they would actually be willing to either delay the release of an FDA-approved Wuhan Coronavirus vaccine or downplay its potential to help millions of people – all for nakedly partisan reasons.

It remains to be seen as to whether this will ultimately be a persuasive argument for Democrats in other races. But Cunningham found out Monday night in short order that that kind of answer is not going to fly well here in North Carolina at all.

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —


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