Dan Patrick had no problem trusting medical expertise when he was a Houston talk radio host seeking a ratings boost by undergoing a vasectomy live on his show.
“The ratings skyrocketed,” Patrick reported after the 1991 stunt.
But now that Patrick has parlayed his radio fame into becoming Texas lieutenant governor, he says he will not even listen to the nation’s leading infectious disease expert in the face of a raging pandemic.
“Wrong on every issue,” Patrick says of Dr. Anthony Fauci, whose simple social-distancing measures, if followed, would almost certainly have prevented many of the COVID-19 infections that are now spiking to record levels in Texas and other states.
Fauci has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. While he was rising to global prominence combating HIV/AIDS and other contagions, Patrick was making a name for himself in broadcasting—starting with changing his name from Dannie Scott Goeb of Baltimore to Dan Goeb Patrick of Houston. He was also known by another name—the Silver-Tongued Devil—for his ability to expound persuasively on seemingly any subject.
He left broadcasting for a time to start a string of Houston sports bars. They went bust, but he managed to hold onto one from which he ran a radio show. His silvery tongue initially had its limits and his audience started out so small that he had to urge the bar’s patrons to call in from the pay phone.
Then came the vasectomy and other stunts. He painted himself Houston Oiler blue and broadcast while wearing a gigantic cowboy hat. He also garnered considerable attention when he described Connie Chung’s TV show Eye to Eye as “Slanted Eye to Eye.”
Patrick did not fail to note the example set by Rush Limbaugh, who demonstrates that day-to-day pandering and gaslighting and rabble rousing can generate a bigger audience than even a live snip of your vas deferens tubes.
And he made himself all the more appealing to a particular audience after he became an evangelical. He later wrote that he was attending a TV and radio convention in Las Vegas when he was “saved” at the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer across from the Tropicana casino. He was subsequently baptized in the Jordan River.
His silver tongue and experience in audience-building and adherence to the Tea Party line served him well when he entered Texas politics. He was elected to the state Senate 2006 and won a second term in 2010. He then made a successful run for lieutenant governor in 2014.
In 2016, Patrick served as Texas chairman of the Trump campaign and demonstrated his own ability to spark a furor-by-tweet that year with a bit of scripture he posted in the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Galatians 6:7.”
Some people felt the Patrick was suggesting the club had been inviting the attack by being gay-friendly. Patrick insisted the tweet and a similar Facebook post were “pre-planned” and unrelated to the massacre. He proved anew how he earned his nickname when he issued a statement explaining why he took the messages down.
"I didn’t pull down the FB post & tweet because God’s word is wrong. His word is never wrong... I took it down to stop the hateful comments and the misinformation being spread of God’s message to all of us—straight or gay."
Patrick was re-elected in 2018 and caused another ruckus in April 2019, when he called Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke of Texas “light in the loafers.”
That October, Patrick addressed a Trump rally. He declared to the 20,000 attendees that liberals are not just “opponents.”
“They are our enemy,” he said.
One might have hoped that Patrick would set aside such divisive demagoguery when the whole nation was suddenly faced with a true and deadly enemy. But the problem for Patrick has been that there is no way to garner attention for yourself by going along with the reasoned scientific advice of the experts.
There is no individual glory in joining your fellow citizens in what we all need to do to get through the pandemic.
And how in the Lord’s name are you going to be high-profile if you cover your face with a mask?
On March 23, Patrick found a way to stand out during an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson. He is now 70 and therefore in a high-risk category for COVID, but he declared himself prepared to face death rather than see the economy shut down.
“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’” he said. “And if that's the exchange, I’m all in.”
He repeated his position during a Carlson reprise in April.
“There are more important things than living,” Patrick said. “And that’s saving this country for my children, and my grandchildren and saving this country for all of us. And I don’t want to die, nobody wants to die, but man, we got to take some risks and get back in the game, and get this country back up and running.”
Patrick had moved to form a task force to reopen Texas just days into a shutdown that even Trump grudgingly allowed was necessary.
Meanwhile, Patrick denounced a Harris County mask mandate.
“The ultimate government overreach,” he said.
In May, Patrick paid a $7,000 fine that had been levied against a Dallas woman, along with a seven-day jail term, for opening her salon in defiance of the shutdown ordered by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Abbott soon after proceeded to reopen the state, faster than was recommended by Fauci and other scientific experts, but still not soon enough for Patrick. The accompanying rise in COVID-19 infections did not keep Patrick from declaring that he had been right all along.
The reopening of Texas was finally put on pause last week. Fauci testified at a congressional hearing that states such as Texas had been “skipping over” the guidelines. Fauci repeated simple advice that could still change everything: Wash your hands, observe social distancing, and wear a mask.
“I think we need to emphasize the responsibility that we have both as individuals and as part of a societal effort to end the epidemic that we all have to play a part in that,” Fauci said. "We've got to get that message out that we're all in this together, and if we're going to contain this, we've got to contain it together.”
Nobody gets attention by answering a call for unity, no matter how vital. And so Patrick responded by declaring on Wednesday that Fauci had been “wrong on every issue.”
“Fauci said today he’s concerned about states like Texas that ‘skipped over’ certain things,” Patrick said on Fox News. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. We haven’t skipped over anything. The only thing I’m skipping over is listening to him.”
Patrick was declaring that he would be paying no heed to the world-renowned expert who had been working tirelessly to gain knowledge for more years than the former Dannie Scott Goeb had been self-promoting.
Meanwhile, the virus continues to rage. Dr. David Mobley, who performed that long ago vasectomy, did not respond to a request for comment on Patrick’s denigration of a fellow doctor. He may have been too busy, since he works at Houston West Methodist Hospital, which like all the city’s medical facilities is swamped with COVID-19 cases.