Barr: COVID Lockdowns Are 'Greatest Intrusion on Civil Liberties in American History' Besides Slavery

Matt McClain/The Washington Post via AP, Pool

On Wednesday night, Attorney General Bill Barr condemned the coronavirus lockdown restrictions in various states as the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history” besides slavery. He also warned against turning over complex political decisions to doctors who cannot weigh all the variables.


“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 after delivering a powerful speech on the importance of prudence and restraint among federal prosecutors.

“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.”

“We have to give business people an opportunity, tell them what the rules are, you know, the masks… and then let them try to adapt their business to that and you’ll have ingenuity and people will at least have the freedom to try to earn a living,” the attorney general insisted.

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.

Sainted doctors like Anthony Fauci — an important and reliable expert on allergies and infectious diseases but not an expert on balancing political interests — said, “There’s no inconsistency” in allowing mass protests while preventing people from going to work, going to school, or going to church.

While it may be hyperbolic to call coronavirus lockdown abuses the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history” (Japanese internment lasted far longer, for instance), the situation is certainly comparable to many of America’s darkest moments. During his speech, Barr quoted C.S. Lewis, who warned that “omnipotent moral busybodies” could be worse tyrants than “robber barons.”


“The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth,” Lewis wrote.

The attorney general also upheld the rule of law and condemned the rioters who loot, vandalize, and destroy property in the name of Black Lives Matter.

“The rule of law is the foundation of civilization, including prosperity. And that’s why these so-called black lives matter people… they’re not interested in black lives, they’re interested in props, a small number of blacks who are killed during conflicts by police… to achieve a much broader political agenda,” he argued.

Barr said his job running the Department of Justice is “not only keeping people alive but also having prosperity and flourishing in their communities.” He argued that Democratic solutions to poverty in black communities “depend on having peaceful streets at the end of the day.”

Coronavirus Double Standards and the New American Privilege

Countering CNN’s attack

CNN’s Katelyn Polantz and Christina Carrega attacked Barr’s remarks, twisting the text of his speech to make it seem like the attorney general had compared prosecutors working beneath him to preschoolers. The attorney general had insisted that political appointees are rightly put in charge of career prosecutors.


“The Justice Department is not a praetorian guard that watches over society impervious to the ebbs and flows of politics,” Barr insisted. “It is an agency within the Executive Branch of a democratic republic — a form of government where the power of the state is ultimately reposed in the people acting through their elected president and elected representatives.”

Polantz and Carrega quoted another section of Barr’s speech out of context.

Wednesday, he upped the ante and equated [prosecutors] to preschoolers.

“Name one successful organization or institution where the lowest level employees’ decisions are deemed sacrosanct, there aren’t. There aren’t any letting the most junior members set the agenda,” Barr said during his speech.

“It might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it is no way to run a federal agency,” the attorney general added.

Even in that isolated quote, which the CNN writers claim was proof Barr had “equated them to preschoolers,” the attorney general was clearly drawing a contrast between preschoolers and prosecutors who report to political supervisors like Barr. The full text of the speech further reveals Polantz and Carrega’s bald-faced lie in this article.

Barr may have used hyperbole in condemning the coronavirus lockdown abuses as the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history” besides slavery, but he was drawing attention to an extremely important issue. Petty local and state governments have restricted Americans’ freedom to work, their freedom to go to church, their freedom to go to school, and more.


Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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