Gov. Tate Reeves delivers the State of the State address on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 26, 2021. Credit: Vickie D. King /Mississippi Today

Gov. Tate Reeves likes to proclaim, “I’m a numbers guy.”

He did so on social media on Nov. 19 and on multiple other occasions. He’s also been known to remind reporters at his news conferences.

The former financial portfolio manager does like to eschew the numbers and engage in political and social commentary. He also does that a lot on social media and in his news conferences.

Reeves offered some of that commentary recently when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.

But the self-proclaimed “numbers guy” ignored some significant numbers when he accused Biden of being “a tyrant” for attempting to impose a coronavirus-vaccine mandate on certain large companies, on entities with contracts with the federal government and on medical providers that accept federal funds.

“It’s a tyrannical move,” the governor proclaimed on social media last year when the president announced the mandate. “If you can’t comprehend that, you’re in the wrong job or the wrong country.”

There were some numbers behind Biden’s proposed vaccine mandate. Those numbers are literally thousands of Americans dying each day from COVID-19. The president said his vaccine mandate was an effort to stop those deaths.

Granted, reasonable minds could and did disagree about whether Biden had the authority to impose such a mandate.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled 6-3 (not unanimously) that the president did not have the authority to impose the mandate on companies that employ 100 or more. The same court ruled he could impose the mandate on health care providers, and still pending before the courts is whether he can require entities that have contracts with the federal government to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for their employees.

Reeves called the Supreme Court ruling blocking the mandate “a major loss for politicians who think they are above the law and can wield power with a total disregard for the long-term consequences to the bedrock of our treasured democracy.”

The numbers behind Biden’s vaccine mandate include Mississippi, which has lagged the nation in terms of vaccinations while having the country’s highest death rate from COVID-19. Mississippi has 3,587 deaths per 1,000,000 from the coronavirus, while Arizona is second at 3,422 and Alabama is third. Of Mississippi’s contiguous states, all are in the top 10 except Tennessee, which is 11th.

This past summer, when the Biden administration sent in health care providers to help a Mississippi health care system that was being overwhelmed by the COVID-19 delta variant, Reeves said Mississippi’s days leading the nation in the virus death rate would not last. As the variant spread, other states would surpass Mississippi’s death rate, he predicted.

As of mid-January, that has not occurred, according to the numbers.

In the midst of that deadly summer of COVID-19 deaths, Reeves said of the Biden’s proposed mandate, “Every tyrant in history has said what they are trying to do is in the best interest of the people. Where does it stop? … This is not called a representative form of government. That’s not called a true democracy. That is tyranny.”

Reeves never saw as tyrannical efforts of former President Donald Trump and his allies to end “our treasured democracy” by trying to throw out literally millions of votes in an attempt to block the will of the people. He also did not criticize efforts by Trump supporters, urged on by the president, to try to physically stop the certification of the election by Congress.

When asked if the vaccine mandate was more tyrannical than the former president’s efforts, Reeves responded, “That seems to be a false choice … I really can’t comment on it.”

After it became clear that Trump had lost, Reeves constantly tried to cast doubts on the 2020 election results. He criticized states for having early voting, though many had early voting for years without any complaints when the states were won by candidates liked by Reeves.

In December, Reeves voiced support for Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s participation in a lawsuit that, if successful, would have thrown out more than 20 million votes.

Now that is a number.

The U.S. Supreme Court — the same court that ruled against Biden’s vaccine mandate for big companies — dismissed the case without any dissenting votes.

And as far as numbers go, the lawsuit supported by Fitch and Reeves said Biden “had less than one in a quadrillion to the fourth power” chance of winning the election in four key swing states.

“One in a quadrillion to the fourth power” equates to “less than one million million million million billion billion billions chance,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Even for a numbers guy like Reeves, those are some big numbers.


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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.