By Jim Hagerty
CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker minced no words Friday when asked about President Donald Trump’s tweets regarding the death of George Floyd and rioting that’s erupted in Minneapolis.
“From the very moment I announced my decision to run for governor three plus years ago, I said that this president is a racist, a misogynist, a homophobe, a xenophobe,” Pritzker said. “I was right then, and I am right now.”
Pritzker was responding to tweets in which Trump accused Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey of being a weak leader and referred to rioters as “thugs.” The president also used the phrase, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which some took as a threat to unleash the military on the people of Minnesota. The phrase was once used by former Miami Police Chief Walter Headley in a 1967 speech outlining his department’s efforts to “combat young hoodlums who have taken advantage of the civil rights campaign.”
The president said he wasn’t using the phrase in the same context, saying Friday he meant that, “Looting leads to shooting.” So far, he’s been right. One person has been fatally shot in Minneapolis during the rioting, while seven people were struck by gunfire during George Floyd protests in Louisville Thursday.
It is not the first time Pritzker, who is Jewish, has voiced his criticism of the president. The governor called Trump a disgrace last year when the president said Jewish people who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
The leaders have also been at odds during the pandemic. Pritzker accused Trump of failing to act on early warnings that coronavirus could spread in the United States. The president attacked Pritzker’s response to the outbreak.
“Pritzker. He’s always complaining,” the president said in April, referring to the governor’s requests for PPE, ventilators and COVID-19 testing supplies, many of which Pritzker said went unanswered or were only partially fulfilled.
Pritzker said Friday that Trump’s recent tweets about the situation in Minneapolis are part-and-parcel of how the president deals with a crisis.
“His tweets, his reaction, his failure to address the racism that exists in America, his stoking the flames in sometimes subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle ways is completely unacceptable. It’s reprehensible,” Pritzker said. “I am outraged by what he does in response to these situations.”
Pritzker also described a tale of two Americas–a land of equal opportunity and equal treatment under the law for whites and something else for people of color.
“I cannot imagine the rage that must be felt by a black American watching what happened to George Floyd– the threat that comes to every black American under color of law that they see in a video like that,” Pritzker said. “We are lucky that a video like that was even taken because that is happening around America probably every day. And, unfortunately, time and time again, even when so many of us have the feeling it’s time for a major change and we work toward that change, somehow, for black America, it never really comes.”
Change, and possibly progress, he said, likely won’t come either–not without getting at what’s at the center of a much bigger problem.
“So, we have so much we need to accomplish in they country,” he said. “But, especially, we need to address the underlying racism that clearly exists, and I will be a bulwark of change–someone who believes we must change. And want to send my condolences to the family of George Floyd and also to every African American in this country.”