The White House was viciously mocked over the weekend after pushing the message that unvaccinated Americans would experience a winter of "severe illness and death" due to the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
President Biden, as well as White House COVID response coordinator Jeff Zients, each pushed the messaging last week, with the former issuing the stark and gloomy warning to Americans following a Thursday White House briefing on the pandemic.
"I want to send a direct message to the American people: Due to the steps we've taken, omicron has not yet spread as fast as it would have otherwise done," Biden said.
"But it's here now, and it's spreading, and it's going to increase ... We are looking at a winter of severe illness and death for the unvaccinated – for themselves, their families and the hospitals they'll soon overwhelm," he added. "But there's good news: If you're vaccinated, and you have your booster shot, you're protected from severe illness and death."
Zients repeated the warning the following day while giving an update from the COVID response team.
"We are intent on not letting omicron disrupt work and school for the vaccinated. You’ve done the right thing, and we will get through this," he said. "For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm."
Critics took to social media to mock the White House's message of death, with some referring to Biden as the "Grim Reaper" and others declaring that Biden saying he was going to "shut down the virus" sounded a lot different than "illness and death."
"We are all in this together unless you are in the outgroup in which case you gonna die," wrote Fox News contributor Ben Domenech, while former communications director for the 2020 Trump campaign Tim Murtaugh suggested the messaging wouldn't help Democrats going into 2022.
"President Biden’s warning of a ‘winter of severe illness and death’ makes President Jimmy Carter’s ‘malaise’ speech urging Americans to lower expectations seem a cheerful upper by contrast. How do Democrats run as the party of 'severe illness and death'? This is madness," wrote former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Other critics echoed his Jimmy Carter comparison.
Concerns over the omicron variant of the coronavirus have grown as it is set to become the dominant variant in the U.S. due to its high rate of transmission. Despite it reportedly not being as a serious as the delta variant, a number of universities, schools and businesses have decided to close or return to virtual learning.
Biden is set to address Americans again on Tuesday to provide an update on the omicron variant, as well as additional measures the administration plans to take.