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Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice speaks at a news briefing on Nov. 9.

The coronavirus pandemic in West Virginia is as bad as it’s ever been. Gov. Jim Justice wants the people to know that he’s a leader, answerable to them, and is working hard to lead the nation in vaccinations. Then, out of the other side of his mouth, he attacks the media for not giving him enough credit.

He talks about national media attention covering how well West Virginia is doing in its response and says he doesn’t know why he bothers answering questions from local media about the turmoil in Washington, D.C., or local teachers’ concerns about returning to school.

Gov. Justice tries to spin the issue as positive media coverage helping the state, but what he’s really doing, purposefully or not, is making it about him.

On Wednesday, Gov. Justice again aired all of these grievances, as well as reviving, for the first time in a while, the misdeeds of Gazette-Mail reporter Phil Kabler — some of which are true, and others false. He wants to exude leadership but drags a state and national concern into the muck of petty squabbles because he is not exalted as a glorious leader.

The news media have questions and concerns because West Virginians have questions and concerns. It’s worth noting that West Virginia surpassed 100,000 cumulative COVID-19 cases over the weekend, and could hit 110,000 by the end of this week. All but about 10,000 of those cases have occurred within the past four months. Deaths have surpassed 1,600 and are near 1,700. Hospitalizations and active cases remain high.

So, yes, teachers who are told they’re going back to in-person classes by Jan. 19 have concerns. Parents and students have questions.

This is an incredibly difficult time in West Virginia and beyond. The pandemic continues to rage and President Donald Trump has been impeached a second time. Governors have to show up and answer to the media and the people during tough times. It’s what they signed up for. If that rubs Gov. Justice the wrong way, so be it. But Justice is undercutting himself when he whines about it publicly. Great leaders don’t grouse about bad press. They get the job done, and let that do the talking.