Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham dismantled Attorney General William Barr’s claim that coronavirus lockdowns are “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties” in U.S. history other than slavery.
“You know, putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders, is like house arrest,” Barr said at a Constitution Day celebration hosted by the conservative Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan, on Wednesday. “Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” he added.
On Wednesday’s broadcast of “CNN Tonight,” Meacham described Barr’s comments as “incendiary hyperbole.”
They were “designed to feed a sense of paranoia and fear on behalf of an administration that is relying not on a message or an agenda of hope, grounded in traditional American understandings of liberty, and is instead is betting on finding just the right number of Americans in the right number of states who will say ‘yeah, we’re scared, we’re mad, we want a tough guy,’” he added.
“If you think that this is akin to slavery, you obviously 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,” Meacham explained.
The historian reeled off a long list of other intrusions on civil liberties in U.S. history — far worse than the lockdowns aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19 ― from the Alien and Sedition Acts to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
“We’re talking about scientifically uncontroversial public health measures,” Meacham reminded host Don Lemon. It is “not some ideologically driven plot” to change American lives, he noted, but instead a plan to save them.
Check out Meacham’s comments here:
- What should you still be disinfecting to prevent COVID-19?
- Is it possible you had coronavirus earlier this year?
- How can you manage your anxiety as coronavirus restrictions lift?
- Here’s the latest on how long COVID-19 antibodies last.
- How will COVID-19 change your office?
- Laid off and lost your health insurance? You have options.
- Everything you need to know about face masks right now.
- Find all our coronavirus coverage here.