William Barr Not Sure Which Is Worse: Slavery or Covid-19 Stay-At-Home Orders

Illustration for article titled William Barr Not Sure Which Is Worse: Slavery or Covid-19 Stay-At-Home Orders
Image: Kamil Krzaczynnski/AFP (Getty Images)

Attorney General William Barr has some interesting, i.e., very bad, thoughts about civil liberties, such as suggesting that protestors be charged with plotting to overthrow the government. Here’s another illuminating example: On Wednesday evening, during a speech at the conservative Hillsdale College, Barr likened slavery to the stay-at-home measures instituted by states in response to the covid-19 pandemic. In his mind, it’s a toss-up as to which was worse!


“You know, putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders, is like house arrest,” Barr said during the Q&A portion of his speech. “It’s—you know, other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint—this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.”

“A different kind of restraint” is one way to put it, Bill!

It’s not surprising that Barr would describe public health measures meant to keep people safe and alive as “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties” in our country’s history, given how his Justice Department has often weighed in on the side of those who would like to continue to “exercise their freedom” to get drunk at a bar. He has often likened stay-at-home orders to house arrest, which is certainly an odd comparison, given that the former does not involve being forcibly confined to one’s home. Based on my personal experience during the worst of the pandemic in New York, we were certainly free to leave our houses, just not engage in dumb behavior that would spread the virus. I went to Target, Bill, twice! Does that sound like house arrest?

As the Washington Post reported, Barr also used his time on Wednesday evening to defend his meddling in cases against Donald Trump’s buddies, like Roger Stone, arguing that “all prosecutorial power is invested in the attorney general” and describing other DOJ attorneys whose will he has overruled as preschoolers: “Letting the most junior members set the agenda might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it is no way to run a federal agency,” Barr said.

And because he’s William Barr, a man who doesn’t believe that systemic racism exists in policing and our criminal justice system, he also made sure to get in his digs at the Black Lives Matter movement. Via the Washington Post:

Barr also attacked the Black Lives Matter movement, saying that while he agreed Black lives matter, “They’re not interested in Black lives. They’re interested in props, a small number of Blacks who are killed by police during conflicts with police—usually less than a dozen a year—who they can use as props to achieve a much broader political agenda.”

It may surprise Barr to learn that many more than a dozen “Blacks,” as he put it, are shot and killed by the police each year.

But when it comes to the question of protecting people’s civil liberties, it’s clear that Barr is only a fan when it benefits his law and order agenda, which is to say, he’s not a fan at all.

Senior reporter, Jezebel



Thousands of Japanese-Americans forcibly sent to internment camps beg to differ. As do American Indians forced to leave their homes because white people wanted more land. Or asylum seekers caged for fleeing violence at home, including little babies. Yeah, being asked to stay at home except for essential trips doesn’t seem that awful.