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Whitmer calls Barr comments comparing lockdowns to slavery an 'unhinged distraction'

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called comments from U.S. Attorney General William Barr "unhinged" and accused the Trump administration of stoking "dangerous instincts" during an interview with Showtime's "The Circus," which aired Sunday.

Barr took criticism this week after he called the COVID-19 lockdown orders the "greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American History" since slavery, which was a "different kind of restraint." His comments were made at an event hosted by Hillsdale College in Virginia.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appears on Showtime's "The Circus" during an episode aired Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020.

In an episode focused on the politicization of the coronavirus, Whitmer criticized Barr's comments while sitting for an interview with Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.

"This is another unhinged distraction, and it's deeply disturbing that our chief law enforcement officer is propagating it," Whitmer said from the backyard of the governor's residence in Lansing. 

U.S. Attorney General William Barr called the lockdown orders during the pandemic the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history” since slavery.

Whitmer noted that statements like Barr's were made in swing states on the premise that "the road to the White House goes through the state of Michigan.”

"I guess that they’re not above using any tactic to try to either scare people, suppress the vote or inspire maybe some dangerous instincts that they’ve been stoking," she said. 

The show focused in large part on protests that sprang up in opposition to Whitmer's orders in Michigan, showing scenes from Operation Gridlock on April 15 and the American Patriot Rally on April 30 in which armed individuals entered the Capitol. 

Hosts also focused on Trump's "Liberate Michigan!" tweet ahead of the April 30 rally and showed clips of Thursday's Second Amendment March in Lansing.

Trump's past threat to Michigan funding "doesn't sit well" with the state that elected him in 2016, she said, in apparent reference to Trump's threat to withhold COVID-19 funding over the mailing of absentee ballot applications to Michigan voters.

"No one can take Michigan for granted," she said.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

Associated Press contributed