President Donald Trump and his allies have repeatedly contradicted advice from health officials and warned against basic precautions to curb the virus that's killed nearly 200 thousand Americans in a matter of months.
In what critics say has been an effort to preserve the Obama era economy as a case for his reelection, the President has frequently bashed local officials like Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) for issuing temporary stay-at-home orders that have been proven to slow the spread.
With the President once again calling for states to reopen, Attorney General William Barr—one of the most infamous faces of the Trump administration—is throwing his support behind the effort, even comparing the orders to slavery in recent comments.
Attorney General Bill Barr says, other than slavery, coronavirus stay-at-home orders are the "greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history." https://t.co/63Cj4yD4HZ pic.twitter.com/zCfvxEKgMp
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 17, 2020
At the conservative Hillsdale College's annual Constitution Day Celebration, Attorney General Barr said:
"Putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history."
People were startled by Barr's comments not only because he compared lifesaving policies to slavery, but House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) was particularly disgusted.
JUST NOW: "I think that statement by Mr. Barr was the most ridiculous, tone deaf, God awful things I have ever heard. It is incredible the chief law enforcement officer would equate human bondage to expert advice to save lives."@WhipClyburn on @NewDaypic.twitter.com/OlStWakIq8
— John Berman (@JohnBerman) September 17, 2020
Clyburn said in an interview on CNN:
"I think that statement by Mr. Barr was the most ridiculous, tone deaf, God awful things I have ever heard. It is incredible the chief law enforcement officer would equate human bondage to expert advice to save lives."
People were also disturbed because Barr's comments demonstrated a potential lack of understanding of American legal history.
They were quick to remind Barr of previous intrusions on civil liberties that dwarf lockdown orders made by governors. Most notably, Twitter users noted that Barr appeared to forget or gloss over the period during World War II, in which Japanese Americans were forced to move to internment camps.
Some noted the racist laws of the Jim Crow era South, which systematically robbed Black southerners of any agency, potential for economic growth, and right to life guaranteed them by the Constitution, in addition to plaguing them with white violence.
They didn't hold back in their rebuttals.
*japanese-american internment camps have entered the chat* https://t.co/kNW6uT84Hj
— Imani 'Pumpkin Spice' Gandy 🌽🍂🍁 (@AngryBlackLady) September 17, 2020
How dumb is Bill Barr? His stupid ass acts as if Jim Crow never existed. Japanese internment camps during World War II never existed. He can go to hell. https://t.co/e7TvyRXybR
— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) September 17, 2020
Um, no. Jim Crow. Internment camps. I can go on. Mr Barr is badly mistaken on this point. https://t.co/ef4mdccM3j
— David Cassidy (@dpcassidyC3) September 17, 2020
So Bill Barr can think of no other U.S. civil rights violations that might tuck in between slavery and “let's stop a pandemic"?
Not Japanese internment camps
Trail of Tears
Stop and frisk
Jim Crow laws
Prison for profit
— Levi Weaver (non sports version) (@leviweaver) September 17, 2020
2. Restaurants were closed for a while
3. Jim Crow for a couple of generations
4. Internment camps during World War II
5. When they shut down Google Reader https://t.co/1TeozL595a
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) September 17, 2020
Japanese Internment Camps, American Eugenics Program, Jim Crow Laws, women being denied the right to vote etc etc etc. Good god. Bill Barr's statement is a bald-faced lie. We are in a pandemic. What is happening in this country? This is totally nuts. https://t.co/Oqpo7pfgO8
— Mendi Tackett (@mentack) September 17, 2020
People continued to roast Barr on Twitter.
On one hand you have slavery. On the other you have to do Curbside Pickup at Applebee's. They're basically the same, according to Bill Barr. https://t.co/R4513ACKfy
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 17, 2020
No one has the right to infect others. Arrogance and Ignorance in full swing.
— Wanderer (@renee3147) September 17, 2020
If my eyes roll back anymore I'm gonna pass out 🙄
— Chi (@ammaschi) September 17, 2020