During a Q&A following a speech in Virginia, Attorney General William Barr recently drew parallels between COVID-19 lockdowns and slavery.
“You know, putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders, is like house arrest. It’s — you know, other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” he said in answer to a question at the Sept. 16 event.
His comments sparked fresh criticism from some politicians. Democratic Majority Whip James Clyburn sharply rebuked the attorney general words the following day. “I think that that statement by Mr. Barr was the most ridiculous, tone-deaf, godawful thing I’ve ever heard,” he told CNN. “It is incredible, as chief law enforcement officer in this country, to equate human bondage to expert advice to save lives. Slavery was not about saving lives. It was about devaluing lives.”
MSNBC’s Joy Reid also slammed Barr’s comments during Thursday’s airing of “The Reid Out”: “Let’s just be clear: 245 years of forced labor, rape, and the breeding, selling, and violent subjugation of human beings is slavery. And nothing, certainly not being asked to cover sneezes in Walmart, comes anywhere close to that,” she said.
During the same event, Barr also suggested that politicians lead the way as the nation navigates pandemic, rather than doctors and scientists.
“The person in the white coat is not the ‘grand seer’ who can come up with a right decision for society. A free people makes its decision through its elected representative,” he said.
For months, health officials like National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci and World Health Organization head Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus have warned that the virus should not be politicized.
Barr has recently been accused of politicizing the Justice Department, and his comments made during an interview with the “Chicago Way” podcast published Monday, Sept. 14, further fueled those concerns. “I think we were getting into position where we were going to find ourselves irrevocably committed to the socialist path,” Barr said. “I think if Trump loses this election that that will be the case.”
Amid his controversial comments, Barr maintained that he is “not supposed to get into politics,” during the Monday interview.