White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday described state-level guidance intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus at Thanksgiving as “Orwellian,” contradicting local authorities and arguing that such proposals were un-American.
The remarks from President Donald Trump’s top spokesperson came in an interview on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” after McEnany was asked by co-host Steve Doocy specifically about “suggestions and guidelines” from some governors that residents not gather in large groups when celebrating next Thursday.
“I think a lot of the guidelines you’re seeing are Orwellian,” McEnany said, instead referring to Thanksgiving guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The American people know how to protect their health. We’ve dealt with Covid for many months,” she continued. “But it’s Orwellian in a place like Oregon to say, ‘If you gather in numbers more than six, we might come to your house and arrest you, and you get 30 days of jail time.’ That’s not the American way. We don’t lose our freedom in this country. We make responsible health decisions as individuals.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced last Friday that the state would enter a two-week “freeze,” suspending in-person dining, shuttering certain businesses such as gyms, and limiting social gatherings to six people. Violations of the order could result in a citation, fine or arrest.
Oregon is one of several states to impose new coronavirus restrictions as the disease has surged across all parts of the country, repeatedly shattering records for new infections and deaths. Public health experts have warned that the colder fall and winter months could be the darkest days of the pandemic, as Americans spread the virus indoors while the country’s health system also grapples with the annual flu season.
The president, for his part, has appeared unfocused on combating the U.S. outbreak in the aftermath of his election defeat two weeks ago, and has made only a handful of public appearances.
At the outset of the outbreak earlier this year, the Trump administration largely delegated the pandemic response to states and localities — a point Doocy pressed McEnany on as she criticized governors’ guidance. “Ultimately, didn’t the White House say, ‘Do what you want to do?’” Doocy asked.
“Yeah, of course. It’s up to every state to do what they want to do, but there are consequences for those states,” McEnany replied. The American people, she added, “are a freedom-loving people. We can make good decisions. We can wash our hands, wear masks, socially distance. But we can also decide in our own personal domicile, our own home, whether we can have our family members present at any given time. That is the American way. That is freedom.”
The United States surpassed 11 million total coronavirus cases last weekend, and more than 248,000 Americans have died from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.