Public affairs expert on fallout from Gov. Abbott’s positive COVID-19 test

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After testing positive for COVID-19, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott quickly posted a video message to social media, addressing his diagnosis and ensuring the public he was doing alright. He also noted he would still be working, while in quarantine, from the governor’s mansion.

KXAN’s Avery Travis caught up with a long-time public affairs expert and political strategist, Ray Sullivan, on how important transparency and timing is for leaders dealing with situations such as this.

Sullivan has worked under two Texas governors and on dozens of political campaigns in Austin and nationally. He served as the national spokesman on the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign and as deputy communications director for former Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Sullivan said he felt the video message has become a good way for leaders to “show” rather than “tell” the public what they want them to know.

“I think it was important for folks who often only see COVID discussed with people in hospital beds and such. He looks great, he feels great, he has no symptoms. He’s still on the job and is reiterating the health care, vaccine and antibody message for folks who may still be on the fence about vaccinations,” he said. “I thought it was very smart that the governor first and foremost was showing people he was not ill, that he was still on the job.”

Sullivan also explained there is a chain of command for acting-governor, often implemented when the elected governor leaves the state. The Texas Constitution gives the lieutenant governor, then the state Senate’s president pro tempore, temporary power if the leader ahead of them is unable to serve. Given Abbott’s condition, Sullivan said it’s unlikely any power will be changing hands in this case, but he believes Abbott’s team wanted to ensure Texans of this.

Sullivan also emphasized the importance of the governor mentioning his COVID-19 vaccine status as a possible reason he hasn’t experienced any fever, pain or other symptoms.

“One of the things about COVID that’s different from other health emergencies in the past is how incredibly political it’s gotten. It was inevitable that people would try and use this possible political benefit,” he said.

Still, Sullivan believes the wording of the message was intentionally crafted, as the science around breakthrough cases is still being researched.

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