Several governors criticized President Trump on Sunday for tweets encouraging protests against states’ coronavirus lockdown measures.
“I don't think it’s helpful to encourage demonstrations and encourage people to go against the president's own policy,” said Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland.
Hogan’s comments came in response to a question from CNN host Jake Tapper about Trump’s decision on Friday to blast out a series of all-caps “LIBERATE” tweets about three states that have enacted stringent lockdowns: Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia. The three states, considered swing states in the November election, have Democratic governors.
“I understand the frustration among the people that want to get things open right away,” said Hogan, who issued a stay-at-home order for his state in March. “I’m frustrated also. I mean, I wish I had someone to protest to. But, look, we’re doing everything we possibly can to reopen in a safe manner.”
He continued: “For example, I mentioned earlier, the president's policy says you can’t start to reopen under his plan until you have declining numbers for 14 days, which those states and my state do not have. So, then to encourage people to go protest the plan that you just made recommendations on, on Thursday, it just doesn’t make any sense. We’re sending completely conflicting messages out to the governors and to the people, as if we should ignore federal policy and federal recommendations.”
While the protests against coronavirus lockdowns garnered headlines, polls have found that a majority of Americans are supportive of social distancing guidelines. A Pew Research poll released last week found that 66 percent of Americans were worried that restrictions would lift too quickly, results that were echoed by an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey published Sunday.
"We have an order from governors — both Republicans and Democrats — that basically are designed to protect people's health, literally their lives," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said in an ABC News interview. "To have a president of the United States basically encourage insubordination, to encourage illegal activity — these orders actually are the law of these states."
"To have an American president encourage people to violate the law — I can't remember any time during my time in America where we have seen such a thing,” continued Inslee, adding, "It is dangerous because it can inspire people to ignore things that actually can save their lives. And I don't know that there's another way to characterize it."
Some commentators and business leaders have pushed Trump to reopen the country despite medical experts saying there’s a danger of increased COVID-19 deaths by doing so. Because governors and mayors ordered the shutdown — and not the federal government — questions remain over what, exactly, Trump could do to spur the reopening.
There have been over 735,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States and more than 39,000 deaths, according to tracking data from the Johns Hopkins University on Sunday.
During interviews on the Sunday talk shows, a bipartisan slate of governors were also critical of the push to end lockdown measures.
“This is not the time for protests, this is not the time for divisiveness,” Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia said on CNN. “This is time for leadership that will stand up and provide empathy. It’s the time for truth.”
“The hard part of public health is when you’re doing a good job, you’re saving lives, and it’s hard to quantify precisely what that looks like,” said Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. “But we know that this curve was steep at the trajectory we were headed and now it looks as though it’s starting to flatten,” she continued. “These efforts are making a difference in saving lives. We’ve got to continue doing that.”
“The only thing that I’ve asked our protesters to do is to observe social distancing. We’re all big believers in the First Amendment. They were protesting against me yesterday, and that’s just fine,” said GOP Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. “They have every right to do that. We are going to do what we think is right, what I think is right. And that is try to open this economy, but do it very, very carefully so we don’t get a lot of people killed.”
During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence was asked about Trump’s “LIBERATE” tweets but declined to directly defend them.
“But Mr. Vice President, in a number of these cases, these protesters — who are not social distancing — are saying they don’t want to wait,” pressed host Chris Wallace. “In many cases, they’re protesting your own guidelines to stop the spread.”
“Liberate Minnesota, liberate Michigan and liberate Virginia,” Wallace said, quoting the president’s tweets. “So, what does the president mean, because you’ve got guidelines that are calling for social distancing and staying at home? Even your guidelines to reopen the country are very phased and gradual. What does the president mean when he says liberate these states?”
“The American people know that no one in this country wants to reopen this country more than President Donald Trump,” replied Pence. “And in the president’s tweets and public statements, I can assure you he’s going to continue to encourage governors to find ways to safely and responsibly let America go back to work.”
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