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House lawmaker says Barr comparing lockdowns to slavery is ‘God-awful’



  • House Majority Whip James Clyburn on Thursday condemned Attorney General William Barr for comparing to coronavirus-related lockdowns to slavery.
  • The statement “was the most ridiculous, tone-deaf, God-awful thing I’ve ever heard,” Clyburn said on CNN.
  • Barr had said that stay-at-home orders, imposed to curb virus transmission, are “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history” since slavery.
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House Majority Whip James Clyburn on Thursday decried Attorney General William Barr’s likening of coronavirus lockdown measures to slavery.

“That statement by Mr. Barr was the most ridiculous, tone-deaf, God-awful thing I’ve ever heard,” Clyburn, the highest ranking Black member in the House, said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day.”

“It is incredible that [the] chief law enforcement officer in this country would equate human bondage to expert advice to save lives,” he added. “Slavery was not about saving lives, it was about devaluing lives.”

Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, was reacting to Barr’s remarks during a Constitution Day celebration at Hillsdale College in Michigan on Wednesday.

“You know, putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders, is like house arrest, Barr said. “Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.”

President Donald Trump chose not to impose a nationwide stay-at-home order, even though leading health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that the US “really should be” on a federally mandated lockdown. In fact, Trump in April called on governors to “liberate” Americans and reopen their economies.

“It would have been great if we had a national lockdown, so that people’s lives would be saved, and our children will be going on with their lives today, as they should be,” Clyburn said.

“But that is just what we’re up against here: two people in charge of running the law enforcement of this country are absolutely tone-deaf to what it takes to be great leaders,” he added, referring to Trump and Barr.

Given the brutal and violent history of slavery, Barr’s comparison drew sharp criticism online and Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, tried to distance himself from the comments when talking to reporters. 

“I’m not familiar with the quote, obviously we’ve had a number of times where civil liberties have been trampled on, and certainly, when we start to look down at forced confinement, those are tough,” Meadows said on Thursday. “To compare them … I certainly wouldn’t.” 

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