TYLER, Texas (KETK) — Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday in Tyler he is disappointed that President Joe Biden has chosen to criticize him for ending state mandate to wear masks.
The president has said that Abbott’s choice to relax COVID-19 regulations was “Neanderthal thinking.”
“It is the kind of language that you expect a president not to use,” Abbott said. “You would expect him to be a little bit above that.”
The president does not know the achievements of Texas in slowing the spread of COVID-19, Abbott said.
He also criticized the president for a policy that will bring illegal immigrants into Texas who are COVID-19 positive. Allowing this “is extremely dangerous,” the governor said.
SOCIAL MEDIA LEGISLATION
Abbott was in Tyler to support legislation filed by state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, to curtail the ability of social media platforms to remove opinions from their platforms.
He also spoke on other topics, including the fallout from the loss of power for, in some cases, days at a time during the extended cold period last month.
Hughes is the author of Senate Bill 12 which would prohibit interactive platforms such as Facebook and Twitter from being able to “censor a user, a user’s expression, or a user’s ability to receive the expression of another person.”
Hughes, who joined the governor at the news conference, said the companies are restricting free speech.
Hughes said social media operators want to “shut you up” when you have a viewpoint that is different than theirs.
Owners of social media companies cannot be the “gatekeeper of free speech,” Hughes said. “But that is what they want to be and that is not right and that is not how we are going to do it.”
Hughes’ bill will give Texans the right to get back on line “when they are mistreated in this way,” Hughes said.
“We believe this is going to lead the nation in restoring free speech,” he said.
Hughes said although there should be some limitations, such as on the use of lewd language, of what can be posted, sharing one’s views is “a fundamental right.”
Abbott praised Hughes for “fighting for freedom” so that “conservative speech will not be canceled in the state of Texas.”
The First Amendment is “under assault” by social media companies “and that is not going to be tolerated in Texas,” Abbott said.
He said there is a “dangerous movement spreading across the country to try to silence conservative ideas, religious beliefs.”
Hughes’ bill would protect Texans from “being wrongfully censored on social media,” Abbott said.
He said that Twitter and Facebook have evolved into the “modern day public square” where people go to talk about their political ideas. The companies are “controlling the flow of information” and sometimes “denying the flow of information.”
“Texas is taking a stand against big tech political censorship,” the governor said. ‘We are not going to allow it in the Lone Star State.”
The bill, the governor said, will allow those who have been censored to file a lawsuit against the big tech companies.
The goal, said the governor, is to ensure that social media platforms are a place where all can have a “robust conservation” about political views.
“Big Tech’s efforts to silence conservative viewpoints is un-American, un-Texan and it is unacceptable and pretty soon it is going to be against the law in the state of Texas,” the governor continued.
The governor also touched on other topics during the news conference in taking questions from news representatives.
TEXAS POWER OUTAGES
Abbott was asked about ongoing efforts to make ERCOT and energy providers in Texas accountable for extended power outages last month in Texas, during one of the longest and coldest periods in state history.
“So let’s be clear about something,” he said. “First, what happened in Texas is completely unacceptable. People pay their power bills, they expect to get power. For that power to be shut down is reprehensible. We have already identified some of the root causes of this but more importantly we have identified solutions to this.”
The governor promised: “We are not going to end this legislative session without ensuring that the power never goes down in Texas again and people in East Texas and anyplace in Texas will never have to experience this episode ever again.”
LIFTING COVID RESTRICTIONS
On his decision to lift a mask mandate as the pandemic continues, Abbott said the state is in a better position now than it was a year ago, when COVID-19 cases began to spike.
Abbott said there are now better ways to treat those who get COVID-19 and more people every day are getting vaccinated.
“The most important thing I can tell you is that we have focused on the population that is most likely to either lose a life or be hospitalized because of exposure to COVID-19 and that is people age 65 and older,” the governor said.
He said that by about early May, “any Texans who wants a vaccine shot should be able to get a vaccine shot.”
The number of hospitalizations in Texas of COVID-19 patients continues to drop in Texas, he said.
“We are in a situation in which it is safe to open up 100%,” he said of his decision to allow bars, restaurants and other businesses to operate at 100% capacity.”
Abbott encouraged people to continue to wear a face mask and take other precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The governor said to expect an announcement soon that vaccinations will become available to more groups of people. It currently is limited to the elderly, healthcare workers, first responders and educators.
“You will see by next Wednesday announcements about additional openings of additional groups able to receive shots,” Abbott said in concluding the news conference.
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