WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WISH) — West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis apologized on Thursday after expressing frustration about COVID-19 conspiracy theories during a Tippecanoe County Health Department briefing, saying those still unvaccinated believe the virus is fabricated and does not have any impact on their life.
“I lost my temper at a council meeting and I reference them as unvaccinated a******s and unfortunately that is sometimes accurate. That’s true. We all bear responsibility for the transmission of this virus,” Dennis said.
In a one-on-one interview, Mayor Dennis told News 8 that his words came from a place of deep frustration. He said the last thing he wants is to have to shut down his community again. Dennis said the local economy simply can’t handle it; additionally, he said the delta variant of the coronavirus is proving to be more deadly.
That’s why while he’s sorry for the words he used to express his emotion, but he still stands by his actions.
“The individual who says I’m going to stand up against any kind of vaccination process is basically acknowledging that it isn’t the collective he’s thinking about, it’s the individual, and I found that to be just unfortunate and reacted accordingly,” the mayor said.
In a recent interview, Dr. Jerome Adams, the News 8 medical expert and former U.S. surgeon general, addressed that topic. News 8 didn’t ask him about the West Lafayette situation, but here’s what he had to say: “First of all, I want to say it’s ok to feel frustrated, it’s ok to feel tired and quite frankly we all, public health leaders and the community wanted this to be over, hoped that it would be over but we have to face the facts that we are going to be living with this virus for a while and so we have to be honest with people and I think there’s nothing people can’t handle if you’re honest with them.”
The West Lafayette mayor said his actions are not without consequence and that he’s received several threats following his comments.
“I have been told that I would never be re-elected to public office again. I have been told by many people that they hope that I get the virus and get extremely sick and possibly expire from it. I’ve been told that I’m a dictator. You name it and I’ve been called it in the past couple of days,” Dennis said.
The Republican said he is willing to take the criticism, especially for an issue, in his words, that is not political but just plain human.
“You know, as I did last year, I put a mask mandate, which was extremely unpopular. I did that with the understanding it was in the best interest of our community and now standing by the need to get people vaccinated, to the point of losing my temper in public, I stand by that too because it’s that important to me. It’s that important to this community and it’s that important to the state of Indiana,” Dennis said.
In a statement, the Republican mayor said he stood by his actions, “but with rightful regret for my words”:
“I feel deeply for all citizens of WL. We believe in science to know the weather tomorrow. We believe in the vaccines that ended polio. We are a global leader of science and technology because we follow the tenants of science. Our politics have divided us. I may have said some harsh words, but the citizens of West Lafayette are tired. Our partner in Purdue University worked tirelessly to protect the Purdue Pledge. We masked, we distanced, we closed our businesses to keep our citizens safe. We will welcome thousands of new and returning residents in a matter of days. How can I ask our citizens who have sacrificed, with our entire nation, to put themselves at greater risk. I stand by my actions, but with rightful regret for my words. I am vaccinated. My family is vaccinated. My grandson cannot be vaccinated. I ensure the health of my family and my community by encouraging you to do your part. Wear your mask and protect the people you love who cannot take the shot.”Mayor John Dennis -R, West Lafayette
According to the Indiana State Department of Health, 62% of West Lafayette’s 47906 ZIP code is fully vaccinated.