In an interview with CNN that was broadcast on Thursday, House Majority Whip James Clyburn slammed Attorney General William Barr for likening coronavirus lockdowns and stay-at-home orders to slavery, The Hill reported.
During a Constitution Day celebration hosted by Hillsdale College on Wednesday, Barr said that state executive orders that have been imposed to contain COVID-19 are “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties” since slavery.
Clyburn blasted Barr for the supposedly inappropriate comparison.
“It is incredible that the chief law enforcement officer in this country would equate human bondage to expert advice to save lives,” Clyburn said on New Day.
“Slavery was not about saving lives, it was about devaluing the lives. This pandemic is a threat to human life and the experts — the medical experts, the scientists, are telling us what it takes to respond successfully to this pandemic.”
Clyburn took aim at President Donald Trump’s administration, accusing the commander-in-chief and his allies of mishandling the federal government’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
The South Carolina Democrat said that the United States would have contained the pandemic by now had “this God-awful duo of Trump and Barr” taken action on time.
He added that the “two people in charge of running the law enforcement of this country are absolutely tone-deaf to what it takes to be great leaders.”
Per data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has the highest number of coronavirus fatalities and cases in the world.
As The Hill noted, the Trump administration did not impose federal restrictions to contain the virus. Instead, the decisions were left up to governors and state governments.
Still, Trump has repeatedly urged states to end stay-at-home orders and reopen their economies.
In his remarks on Wednesday, Barr echoed Trump, saying that certain governors treat the American people “as babies,” arguing that businesses need to be granted more freedom.
Research suggests that stay-at-home directives have been effective. For instance, a University of Minnesota study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that they resulted in a 58 percent decline in community infection rate.
As Politico reported, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the fifth-highest ranking House Democrat, echoed Clyburn, slamming Barr for making the unseemly comparison.
Even some Republicans took issue with the attorney general’s comments.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he would not use such an analogy. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said the same, noting that he shares some of Barr’s concerns with regard to civil liberties.