House Majority Whip James Clyburn, the highest ranking black lawmaker in Congress, slammed Attorney General William Barr for comparing coronavirus lockdowns to slavery during a Thursday appearance on CNN.
“You know, I think that that statement by Mr. Barr was the most ridiculous, tone-deaf, God-awful thing I’ve ever heard,” Clyburn told CNN host John Berman. “It is incredible that [the] chief law enforcement officer in this country would equate human bondage to expert advice to save lives. Slavery was not about saving lives, it was about devaluing lives.”
Barr made the comparison Wednesday during an event at Hillsdale College. He likened stay at home orders to “house arrest” and called coronavirus lockdowns the greatest encroachment on civil liberties in history “other than slavery.”
Clyburn, a Democrat who represents South Carolina, railed against President Donald Trump as well and said the president and the attorney general were both “absolutely tone-deaf to what it takes to be great leaders.” He also claimed that the administration was “driving this country into a direction that no one ever thought they would see in our lifetime.”
The U.S. did not have a national lockdown although state and local governments have ordered similar measures amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to the deaths of at least 197,000 Americans according to current data. (RELATED: Study Finds That Full Lockdowns Did Not Reduce Coronavirus Mortality Rate)
Clyburn said a national lockdown “would have been great” and claimed that the U.S. would have been “beyond this pandemic by now” were it not for the Trump administration.
Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn told CNN they wouldn’t have used the same analogy but did not disagree with Barr’s assessment that the coronavirus lockdowns presented concerns about civil liberties.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said he had no issue with Barr’s comments and added that coronavirus lockdowns have “no precedent in modern times,” according to CNN. “Washington Democrats have advocated massive and draconian shutdowns for political reasons not driven by medical science but their partisan desire to defeat the President in November,” he said.