Arnold Schwarzenegger responds to 'selfish and angry' COVID-19 anti-vaxxer backlash

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

Arnold Schwarzenegger has admitted saying "screw your freedom" to people refusing COVID-19 health advice might have been too blunt, but stands behind the sentiment of his comments. 

What's more, the actor and former Republican Governor of California says the backlash from people including COVID-19 anti-vaxxers has him seriously worried about the future of the US.

Schwarzenegger spoke out strongly against Americans refusing to get a coronavirus vaccine or wear masks in an interview with CNN.

"There is a virus here. It kills people and the only way we prevent it is to get vaccinated, wear masks, do social distancing, washing your hands all the time," he told CNN.

"Don't just to think about, 'well my freedom is being kind of disturbed here.' No, screw your freedom.

"You have the freedom to wear no mask. But you know something? You're a schmuck for not wearing a mask. Because you are supposed to protect your fellow Americans."

Shortly before the interview, a social media post from the Total Recall star went viral again as an impassioned plea to people to listen to experts. 

Originally posted in January, the post was recirculated over the past week as the Delta variant causes another COVID-19 surge in the US.

"I always say you should know your strengths and listen to the experts," the message reads.

"If you want to learn about building biceps, listen to me, because I've spent my life studying how to get the perfect peak and I have been called the greatest bodybuilder of all time.

"Dr Fauci and all of the virologists and epidemiologists and doctors have studied diseases and vaccines for their entire lives, so I listen to them and I urge you to do the same.

"If your house is on fire, you don't go on YouTube, you call the damn fire department. If you have a heart attack, you don't check your Facebook group, you call an ambulance."

In a new interview, Schwarzenegger has expanded on the message and reflected on the comments he made with CNN.

"I'll admit, calling people schmucks and saying 'screw your freedom' was a little much, even if I stand by the sentiment," he told The Atlantic.

"But there is nothing that I'm more passionate about than keeping America great, and it's the only subject that can make me lose my temper.

"I anticipated being called a Nazi and a Communist. But I've got thick skin stretched over my metal endoskeleton, so I knew I could take it. But some of the responses really worried me."

Schwarzenegger is concerned too many Americans care only about themselves.  

"Our country became great because every generation before us knew that liberty and duty go hand-in-hand," he says.

"I am worried that many of my fellow Americans have now lost sight of that.

"When I look at the response to this pandemic, I really worry about the future of our country. 

"We have lost more than 600,000 Americans to COVID-19, are we really this selfish and angry? Are we this partisan?

"When we wear a mask or get a vaccine, we are serving our country and our fellow citizens."

The US rollout of the vaccine has been strong with about 60 percent of Americans over the age of 12 fully vaccinated and 70 percent having received at least one dose.

But the country's hospitals, particularly in the less vaccinated southern states, are struggling to cope with a flood of unvaccinated patients.

The US is now averaging 126,000 new infections per day, up from 25,000 a month ago, due to the more infectious Delta variant.

On Friday (local time), the country recorded 155,297 new cases and 769 new deaths.