House Majority Whip James Clyburn Thursday called Attorney General William Barr's comparison of coronavirus lockdowns to slavery the "most ridiculous, tone-deaf, God-awful thing I've ever heard."
"It is incredible that (the) chief law enforcement officer in this country would equate human bondage to expert advice to save lives," the South Carolina Democrat told CNN's "New Day."
"Slavery was not about saving lives, it was about devaluing lives," added Clyburn, the highest-ranked Black member of the House. "This pandemic is a threat to human life. I mean, experts, the medical experts, the scientists are telling us what it takes to respond successfully to this pandemic."
The attorney general's comparison of lockdowns to slavery came during an event Wednesday at Hillsdale College, where a participant asked him to explain what constitutional hurdles there are for "forbidding a church from meeting during COVID-19."
"A national lockdown, stay at home orders, is like house arrest," Barr replied. "Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history."
Clyburn said both Barr and President Donald Trump are "absolutely tone-deaf to what it takes to be great leaders. They are driving this country into a direction that no one ever thought they would see in our lifetime."
Further, Clyburn said that if Trump's administration was doing what was necessary to protect the United States when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, "we would be beyond" it by now.
"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," said Clyburn. "That is just what we're up against here."
Clyburn heads a House committee investigating the response to the coronavirus pandemic. It is also launching an investigation into Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Michael Caputo and whether he was using pressure to alter scientific reports.
HHS officials Wednesday said Caputo is on a leave of absence "to focus on his health and the well-being of his family" after he bashed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists and discussed conspiracy theories during a video rant.
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