Barr: Virus lockdowns ‘greatest intrusion on civil liberties’ since slavery

Barr was responding to a request to explain the 'constitutional hurdles for forbidding a church from meeting during COVID-19.'

Loading the player...

William Barr, the attorney general of the United States, declared stay-at-home orders related to the coronavirus pandemic “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties” since slavery.

Barr was speaking following remarks at Hillsdale College, a conservative university in Michigan, where he also equated the lockdown governors ordered, shuttering businesses to curb coronavirus’ spread, to “house arrest.”

U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” he said, which was followed by a round of applause.

Barr was responding to a question that asked the attorney general to explain the “constitutional hurdles for forbidding a church from meeting during COVID-19.”

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 197,000 Americans to date.

Read More: Barr instructed federal prosecutors to charge protesters with ‘sedition’: report

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading voice in the pandemic, has stated that statewide lockdowns saved millions of lives.

“If you look at the data, now that papers have come out literally two days ago, the fact that we shut down when we did and the rest of the world did has saved hundreds of millions of infections and millions of lives,” he said on a Department of Health and Human Services podcast.

South Carolina’s longtime Rep. James Clyburn, the third-ranked House Democratic leader, told CNN that Barr’s remarks were “the most ridiculous, tone-deaf, God-awful things I’ve ever heard” because they wrongly equated human bondage with a measure aimed at preventing death.

Read More: 2 HBCU presidents join COVID-19 vaccine trial, want students to follow

“It is incredible that (the) chief law enforcement officer in this country would equate human bondage to expert advice to save lives,” Clyburn said. “Slavery was not about saving lives; it was about devaluing lives.”

Barr said Wednesday that governors treated their citizens like “babies” who could not “take responsibility for themselves and others.”

Pulitzer-prize winning historian Jon Meacham refuted Barr’s statement, saying, “If you think (national lockdown) is akin to slavery, you never suffered under the burden of slavery in real-time or in its longtime system of segregation and the denial of the suffrage and voting rights that grew out of it.”

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s “Dear Culture” podcast? Download our newest episodes now!

Loading the player...

Share