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Clyburn blasts Barr for comparing shutdowns to slavery: Most 'tone-deaf, God-awful thing I've ever heard'

"Slavery was not about saving lives, it was about devaluing lives," Clyburn told CNN's "New Day" on Thursday.
Image: Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Testifies At House Hearing On Coronavirus
House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee Chairman James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., speaks at hearing in which U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified on the federal response to the coronavirus crisis on Capitol Hill on Sept. 1, 2020.Graeme Jennings / Pool via Getty Images file

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., on Thursday blasted Attorney General William Barr for comparing pandemic shutdowns to slavery, calling the remarks "the most ridiculous, tone-deaf, God-awful thing I've ever heard."

In an interview on CNN's "New Day," Clyburn was asked about Barr's comments Wednesday to the conservative Hillsdale College, in Michigan, where he said, "putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders, is like house arrest," adding, "other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history."

"You know, I think that that statement by Mr. Barr was the most ridiculous, tone-deaf, God-awful thing I've ever heard," Clyburn said, calling it "incredible" that the "chief law enforcement officer in this country would equate human bondage to expert advice to save lives."

"Slavery was not about saving lives, it was about devaluing lives," Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black member of the House, continued.

The U.S. has had no national lockdown; rather, varying levels of shutdowns across the U.S. were imposed by individual states and their governors.

Hitting President Donald Trump and his administration for their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed the lives of nearly 200,000 Americans, according to an NBC News tracker, Clyburn claimed that if the administration was "going about the business of doing what is necessary to protect the people of this great country, we would be beyond this pandemic 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," he continued. "But that is just what we're up against here."

Barr has previously ripped stay-at-home orders and earlier this year directed federal prosecutors to watch for coronavirus restrictions that might violate constitutional rights.