Protests and Mount Rushmore July 4 Celebration Not the Same — Would Be ‘Madness’ to Mandate Masks at Protests

On Tuesday’s broadcast of CNN’s “Cuomo Primetime,” host Chris Cuomo argued that the planned early July 4 celebration at Mount Rushmore is not an “apples to apples” comparison to police brutality protests. Because the protests weren’t organized by official government entities and trying to enforce a mandatory mask rule during the protests, “would have been madness.”

Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) stated that the event will be “7,500 folks, in an outdoor venue, with health screening available, everybody’s going to be given a mask. And you know what, I recommend they wear them. I thought your last segment was very insightful. I think that’s important. One more thing I want to mention, South Dakota, the landscape in South Dakota is unique. We only have 62 COVID patients hospitalized across the entire state. Our number of cases are going down. This is not Texas. This is not California. This is not Florida. And, frankly, we know that we can do this in South Dakota. Because in the wake of the death of George Floyd, we had protests. We had large numbers of people together in close proximity. They were wearing masks. They were outside. We did not see a spike in infections, and I think celebrating our country is every bit as important as protesting it.”

Cuomo then asked why the Mount Rushmore event wouldn’t have social distancing.

Johnson responded that masks can cut the transmission rate of coronavirus by over 90%, and encouraged people to wear them.

Cuomo then asked why mask-wearing wouldn’t be mandatory at the event.

Johnson said that the people at the National Park Service who are running the event know what they’re doing.

Cuomo pushed back that politicians, not the NPS, are making the decision on mask-wearing mandates.

Johnson replied that South Dakota has different circumstances than other states.

Cuomo then stated that not enough people, “especially at a Trump rally,” will wear masks if they aren’t mandated.

Johnson argued that people should wear masks, and that it’s better in the long run to not have government mandates.

After Cuomo asked again about why there wasn’t a mask mandate for the event, and remarked that not social distancing at the event is “dumb.” Johnson pushed back by stating, “So, Chris, where was all of this love of mandatory, big government regulations when we had people rightfully exercising their First Amendment rights, in hundreds of communities across the country? Many of them were wearing masks. They should have been. Good for them. But it seems to me that the love of big government only rears its head –.”

Cuomo responded that the issue “isn’t about big government.”

Johnson countered, “OK, set aside big government, why would the standard be different for tens of thousands of people out protesting their government, which they have an absolute, First Amendment, right to do, as long as they do it peacefully. Why would you have the rules be different for them, than you would for people celebrating their country?”

Cuomo answered, “A protest is not organized by official entities. And you have all these sensitivities about how we wanted to keep the police and the protesters from clashing. Imagine what we would have done if we were enforcing mask policies. And, as you did point out, a lot of the protesters did wear masks. Maybe they will at this event as well. But it’s not apples to apples. And again, I see a political convenience being played in a situation that should be about public health, Dusty.”

Johnson responded, “Political convenience is saying, oh, as long as there’s not one organizer, then we don’t need to have a rule or a regulation that binds the crowds.”

Cuomo responded that the Mount Rushmore event is being organized by the government, while the protests weren’t.

Johnson responded that the protests can still be subject to “rules and regulations.”

Cuomo then asked, “For a protest?”

Johnson replied, “Absolutely. You can say, listen, everybody, these are the rules. You’ve got to follow the rules. But conveniently, CNN and your show weren’t calling for those kinds of regulations.”

Cuomo responded, “I was talking about super-spreaders with the protests. We had multiple segments about how it’s going to be wrong. But you cannot believe that this is apples to apples. You are organizing this by choice. Those are protests of people who, in many cases, are angry and outraged, and we’re trying to keep the temperature down. We, forget about me, I cover it. You are trying to keep it down. You make the decisions about how the police deal with protesters, on a large scale, and to have them enforce a no-mask policy when they’re already hitting the streets because of police intervention in their lives would have been madness. It’s not apples to apples, unless you’re only looking at this through a partisan lens, the left liked the protests, why don’t they like our fireworks display? I think that’s unfair and counterproductive.”

Johnson countered, “Political convenience is wanting to have an entirely different set of rules for people protesting their country, than for those who are celebrating it. The bottom line is, people should be wearing the masks. And I think a lot of them will be.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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