In a CNN town hall event on Thursday night, Democratic nominee Joe Biden blamed President Donald Trump for the coronavirus lockdowns, claiming that Americans lost their freedom “because he failed to act.” He did not explain exactly what action Trump supposedly could have taken to prevent the spread of the virus in the U.S., nor did he acknowledge that he himself condemned one of Trump’s early actions to slow the spread as “hysterical xenophobia.”
CNN host Anderson Cooper had asked Biden about Attorney General Bill Barr’s remarks condemning the abuses of coronavirus lockdown restrictions as “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history… other than slavery.”
Biden condemned Barr’s remarks as “sick.”
“Quite frankly, they’re sick. Did you ever, ever think, any of you, [that] you’d hear an attorney general say that following the recommendations of the scientific community to save your and other people’s lives is equivalent to slavery, people being put in chains?” Biden asked. Then he blamed Trump for the lockdowns.
“You lost your freedom because he didn’t act. The freedom to go to that ball game, the freedom of your kid to go to school, the freedom to see your mom or dad in the hospital, the freedom just to walk around your neighborhood, because of failure to act responsibly,” Biden charged.
He condemned Trump for running “such a thoroughly, totally irresponsible administration,” citing a Pew Foundation poll to claim that “Russia’s Putin, China’s Xi Jinping are trusted by more of the people in the world than the president of the United States of America, and one of the reasons they cite is COVID.”
“This is not only causing us lives lost here, it’s causing us to lose our influence in ways that are profound,” Biden claimed.
Joe Biden blasts Attorney General William Barr's comments likening Covid-19 lockdowns to slavery: "Frankly, they are sick … I never, ever thought I would see such a thoroughly, totally irresponsible administration" https://t.co/Qj1Jf8uQ0C #BidenTownHall pic.twitter.com/uW8mWc80lg
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) September 18, 2020
The Democrat made many dubious claims and delivered outright lies in this answer.
Barr: COVID Lockdowns Are ‘Greatest Intrusion on Civil Liberties in American History’ Besides Slavery
As for Barr’s comments, the attorney general did not compare the coronavirus lockdowns to slavery.
“A person in a white coat is not the grand seer to make a decision for society. A free people makes its own decision through its elected representatives,” Barr said in a question-and-answer session at a Hillsdale College event.
“You know, 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,” Barr declared. “Most of the governors do what bureaucrats always do, which is they … defy common sense. They treat free citizens as babies that can’t take responsibility for themselves and others.”
Barr arguably engaged in some hyperbole, but he did not compare the coronavirus lockdowns to slavery. He merely acknowledged that slavery was a greater intrusion on civil liberties than the abuses of the lockdowns.
As for the lockdown abuses, Barr has threatened legal action against states that take lockdown orders too far. California has banned in-person religious services while Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) appears to be cracking down on bar owners who mock him. Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-N.Y.C.) has threatened to “permanently” close churches and synagogues if they violate lockdown. This week, a federal judge struck down Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D-Pa.) coronavirus restrictions — which required people to stay at home and ordered “non-life-sustaining” businesses to shut down — as unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got a hairdo at a salon even as coronavirus lockdowns mandated the closure of that salon. Democrats have routinely abused their power, violating lockdown orders or allowing favored groups (like Black Lives Matter protesters) to violate them with abandon while cracking down on Christians going to church or Jewish families out of playgrounds. While members of Congress were exempted from Washington, D.C.’s lockdown rules to attend Rep. John Lewis’s (D-Ga.) funeral, thousands of Americans could not even have funerals for their deceased loved ones or had to limit attendance. These disgusting double standards make the crackdown on American freedoms even worse.
Blaming Trump for the lockdowns
As for blaming Trump for the lockdowns, it remains unclear exactly what Biden would have wanted Trump to do.
“You lost your freedom because he didn’t act,” the Democrat charged. But when Trump slapped travel restrictions on China — the source of the global pandemic — in January, Biden opposed it.
Biden took to USA Today, decrying “reactionary travel bans” just a few days before the China travel ban was implemented. Biden advisor Ron Klain said the idea of a travel ban was “premature.” After Trump implemented the ban, Biden criticized it during a campaign rally. “In moments like this, this is where the credibility of a president is most needed, as he explains what we should and should not do,” he said. “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia, hysterical xenophobia, to uh, and fearmongering.”
In April, Biden attempted to rewrite history. Kate Bedingfield, his deputy campaign manager, told CNN, “Joe Biden supports travel bans that are guided by medical experts, advocated by public health officials, and backed by a full strategy. Science supported this ban, therefore he did too.”
During the town hall, Biden cited a Columbia University study claiming that if the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier, about 36,000 fewer people would have died. The study also claimed that if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contract on March 1, two weeks earlier than most people started staying home, the vast majority of the nation’s deaths — 83 percent — would have been avoided.
According to Joe Biden’s own timeline demonstrating his “leadership” on the virus, the Democrat did not release a plan on the pandemic until March 12, at which point he merely said he would “instruct the CDC to provide clear, stepwise guidance and resources about both containment and mitigation,” to move “toward social distancing measures.”
The CDC had already released “social distancing” guidance as early as March 9. By March 18, Trump broadcast that message, encouraging social distancing measures for “15 days to slow the spread.”
This followed months of Trump’s coordination with the CDC, HHS, and foreign leaders to study the virus, develop test kits, issue more travel restrictions, and more.
While the president arguably should have encouraged social distancing sooner, Americans only became extremely concerned about the virus after it overwhelmed Italian hospitals in mid-March. Even if Biden would have gotten social distancing guidelines out a few days earlier than Trump did, Biden’s opposition to travel bans would arguably have made the U.S. more vulnerable to the virus overall.
Ironically, it seems the very action Biden wanted Trump to take — social distancing measures and perhaps even instituting lockdowns — involves the very limitation on freedom Biden says he could have prevented. “You lost your freedom because he didn’t act,” isn’t exactly the kind of charge Biden should make, considering that Biden recently promised he would issue a nationwide lockdown if he became president.
Trump made the wise decision not to issue lockdown orders through the federal government. Even the legal justification for states issuing lockdowns may be dubious — as illustrated by judges striking down statewide restrictions. Trump was already demonized for shutting down travel to and from China. How much more so would Trump have been considered a tyrant for restricting Americans’ freedom of movement within the U.S.?
Research has suggested that the coronavirus strains most prevalent across the U.S. came from a European variety that spread via New York City. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) did not issue a state-wide lockdown until March 22. Even worse, Cuomo and other Democratic governors required nursing homes admit patients who tested positive for the coronavirus, potentially spreading the virus in the most vulnerable communities.
The media coverage
President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has not been perfect, but it remains unclear exactly how Biden’s policies would have been any different. In March, Biden attacked Trump’s coronavirus response while plagiarizing the Trump administration’s actions. Biden called for the same actions Trump had already taken, presenting them as his own plan and attacking Trump for supposedly not taking action.
Time after time, left-leaning legacy media outlets condemned Trump’s coronavirus response, twisting the facts to make it seem as though the president had botched it. My PJ Media colleague Matt Margolis wrote the book on the subject, Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trump.
Media outlets condemned Trump for downplaying the coronavirus pandemic — when those very same media outlets claimed COVID-19 was no worse than the common flu early in the pandemic. Many media outlets seemed to launch a crusade against a potential treatment for COVID-19, hydroxychloroquine with zinc. In some circumstances, hydroxychloroquine has helped drive down mortality rates, yet the anti-hydroxychloroquine reports scared people away from the drug, potentially costing lives.
Biden seems to think he can blame Trump for the lockdowns because the left-leaning media narrative blames Trump for the pandemic’s spread. If people across the world do not trust Trump as much as they trust Putin or Xi, the media narrative has a good deal to do with it.
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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.