While appearing at the New York Times’ virtual conference, “DealBook Online Summit,” Matthew McConaughey once again teased his interest in running for governor of Texas. And perhaps coincidentally, the actor also went to great lengths to carve out some kind of perceived middle ground in the COVID-19 culture war.
Specifically, while McConaughey made clear more than once that he is vaccinated, he repeatedly emphasized that this was a choice he made, and also said that he wouldn’t mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for children “just yet.”
McConaughey, wearing sunglasses throughout the video chat, was there to discuss his upcoming book, “Greenlights: Your Journal, Your Journey,” with NY Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin. But the wide ranging discussion naturally gave him ample opportunity to at least suggest his ideological bona fides.
“People don’t want to be told what to do, don’t want to be legislated on what to do,” McConaughey said early on. “I think what some people get from my book is say, hey, it’s a choice. We got choices. It’s not an obligation.”
The conversation continued along those lines for several minutes, until Sorkin brought up the matter of McConaughey’s political aspirations.
McConaughey has of course been teasing for months that he might be interested in running the state of Texas, and he even polled neck and neck with the current Governor last Summer. But as Sorkin noted, plenty of famous people express thoughts like this. Then, Sorkin asked if the actor was just teasing a political future.
“If I’m teasing it, before I’m teasing y’all I’m teasing myself, because trust me, I’m spending a good amount of time deliberating. And really working my mind hard and spirit on the questions and asking myself the hard, hard, hard questions,” McConaughey said.
“Trust me,” he continued, “is it fun to do this? Not always. It’s a very conscientious headspace for me to be in. It’s a very earnest headspace for me to be in. It’s a privileged position, it’s has a sacredity [sic] to it that needs to be shined and needs and needs to have reverence to it. For damn good reason.
“And that’s part of my question. Do we have the reverence for it? Is there a people and a place of those positions giving us a reason to have reverence for it, as much as they should be?” he added.
McConaughey did acknowledge that he currently exists in sort of an apolitical space in terms of his public image, in part because he hasn’t firmly declared any real ideological positions. “If and once I do that, there’s gonna be an obvious split.”
He did add that he thinks “our country, state, needs to be aggressively centric now. It’s a daring place to go, it’s a radical move right now.”
Then the conversation turned to the issue that, perhaps by pure coincidence, happens to be big in Texas — vaccines.
First, McConaughey said he supported mask mandates, calling them “a small inconvenience for possible long-term freedom.”
But then he turned to vaccine mandates. He complained that “everything got politicized, both sides, you could feel them, both starting to exaggerate,” with the left, he suggested, overstating the threat of COVID and the right ignoring it.
He then said he previously worried that the return of big sporting events, like college football in the United States or Premiere League soccer in England, would create outbreaks.
“So far, 12 weeks later, those don’t seem to be superspreader events,” he said. “So now the question does not even seem as much ‘are you vaccinated?’ because I think we’re living in a pandemic world for the rest of time now.”
McConaughey then mistakenly stated that “a vaccinated person can spread it just as well as an unvaccinated person,” which isn’t true. Though he did correctly note that “if you’re vaccinated and if you get COVID, your symptoms won’t be as harsh.”
Then he and Sorkin got to the topic of vaccinating kids.
“I wanna trust in the science. Do I think that there’s any kind of scam or conspiracy theory? Hell no I don’t. No, I don’t think there’s any kind of — we all gotta get off that narrative, there’s not a conspiracy theory on the vaccine. These are scientists trying to do the right thing,” McConaughey said.
But, he added, though he and his wife and 90-year-old mother are vaccinated, when it comes to his children, “right now I’m not vaccinating mine, I’ll tell you that.”
The reason? “We go slow on vaccinations, even before COVID.”
McConaughey said he and his family have “quarantined harder than any of our friends have, and still are two years later,” and he acknowledged that he has enormous privilege to be able to do that.
But, he continued, “I couldn’t mandate having to vaccinate the younger kids. I still want to find out more information… We’re over here just trying to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible. But I couldn’t mandate it for kids just yet, no.”
Watch the whole interview at the top of the page.