The following is a transcript of an interview with West Virginia Governor Jim Justice that aired Sunday, March 7, 2021, on “Face the Nation.”
.MARGARET BRENNNAN: We turn now to West Virginia, one of the states lifting restrictions and opening businesses at full capacity. Governor Jim Justice joins us from Charleston. Good morning, Governor.
GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: Good morning, MARGARET. How are you doing?
MARGARET BRENNNA: I’m- I’m doing well, and I know you must be pleased, since you are one of the very few Republican governors who supported this $2 trillion COVID relief package that the Senate just signed off on. How do you justify to your fellow Republican governors and to the country why this is worth $2 trillion of taxpayer money?
GOV. JUSTICE: Well, MARGARET, I’ve got to just say just one thing, and it’s just this. You know, from the standpoint of signing on to pay off big pension debts and everything, I’ve never been in favor of that at all. Now, I’ve not seen all the particulars about the bill. What I’m signing on to is just one thing. You’ve still- you’ve still got a lot of people in America that are really, really hurting, a lot of people that are struggling, trying to pay the rent, and a lot of states and counties that are hurting as well. Now in that, when we tighten down- and I’m a business guy, I’m not a politician. When you tighten down things and everything and you just try to skinny it down and just do “X” number of dollars, we have proven that we have missed the boat. What we need to do is we need to go big or don’t go, in my opinion. And so I’m pleased with the- with the fact that we’re going big and we’re going to absolutely try to really right ourselves and get our economy get back and going.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You mentioned pension funds, which is one of the criticisms from Republicans that these funds are- are used in ways they’re not intended to be by Democratic governors. But you’ve been criticized yourself by your home state senator, Joe Manchin, for sitting on past federal COVID relief funds and then using it for unrelated projects like potholes. Joe Manchin said, “I don’t know of a pothole that’s had the COVID virus.” How do you respond to that?
GOV. JUSTICE: Listen, Joe Manchin is a professional politician, and I’m not going to get in a food fight with Joe Manchin. I mean, absolutely. You know, MARGARET, we have handled the CARES’ dollars here perfectly, and absolutely this state is being managed very well. Now along the way, you know, if Joe wants to continue with all of his political rhetoric and everything, I can’t do anything about that. Like I said, I’m not a politician. I think his statements are ridiculous.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you would stand by the, what, $100 million on roads?
GOV. JUSTICE: We spent $50 million dollars of our CARES, $1.25 billion on medical access roads to be able to help people in West Virginia to be able to get to a medical facility. Our roads had gotten in such terrible shape and part of it on Joe Manchin’s watch. And absolutely, we spent $50 million of a billion, 250 million on our road repairs. Yes, we did.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about your state and its response to COVID. As we introduced you, you have loosened business restrictions, but you have kept in place a mask mandate. And in fact, this week you said the decision to lift it by some of your fellow governors was just kind of a “macho thing.” How do you respond to those in your party who say masks violate their rights?
GOV. JUSTICE: I think that’s ridiculous, you know. You know, I don’t like the mask either, but when it really, really boils right down to it, you know, MARGARET, I have a saying, you know, one, robin doesn’t make spring. And, you know, when the first robins start coming back, if you just react and run out, oh, you know, it’s wonderful, it’s spring, it’s spring, you’re about to get hit by a winter storm and absolutely get your butt handed to you. You know, in this situation, we need to be a little more cautious. Nobody likes a mask. But for crying out loud, if we could be a little more prudent for 30 more days or 45 more days or whatever it took for us to get on rock-solid ground, that’s the approach West Virginia is going to take, and that’s the approach that I think it should take.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You have been lauded for success in getting vaccination out to your people. It’s about 18% of the state, I believe, that’s been vaccinated. But I want to ask you how you’re doing that, because what we see in polling, particularly from, for example, the Kaiser Family Foundation, they say that nearly four in 10 Republicans, three in 10 rural residents are vaccine hesitant. You’re running a ruby red state here, sir, so this sounds like a lot of people who would live in West Virginia. How do you convince them to take the vaccine?
GOV. JUSTICE: MARGARET, you’ve got to be truthful and you’ve got to be transparent and you’ve got to earn their trust and keep them with you. You know, for- I mean, every single day, you know, or every other day I’m talking to them. I tell them everything. The right and the left hand in my administration know what each other’s doing. All of our health experts that are unbelievable. Absolutely, the great Clay Marsh or the great, you know, Dr. Am- Dr. Amjad or General Hoyer and all the different people that are my medical experts. They’re doing an amazing job and everything. And absolutely, when we tell our people over and over and over, I tell them, I tell them just this- I tell them this almost every day, for crying out loud, do you really think you’re going to take the vaccine and grow antlers? I mean, come on, just look at all the–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
GOV. JUSTICE: –medical knowledge that’s around you and everything. You’ve got to be taken the vaccines and they are.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Quickly, before I let you go. Same question I put to Governor Murphy. Should the governor of New York resign in the wake of the slew of allegations against him?
GOV. JUSTICE: Well, I don’t know every single thing, but I know this, that the states, whether it be New Jersey or New York, I mean, they’ve got it all wrong. You know, we got it right in West Virginia, little old West Virginia. That it’s, you know, a lot of people perceive maybe not in a good way.
MARGARET BRENNAN: These allegations of personal behavior, though?
GOV. JUSTICE:. I think it’s terrible and I- I truly believe, you know, that he has a dog’s mess on his hands, and with all this, you know, where it stands, it’s not going to do anything except get worse.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.
GOV. JUSTICE: And I- and I would say he needs to resign.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor JUSTICE, thank you for your time. More FACE THE NATION in a moment.