Politics

Governors blast Trump: President's rhetoric on George Floyd protests is 'dangerous' and 'making it worse'

Key Points
  • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker told President Donald Trump during a conference call that his "inflammatory" rhetoric about violent George Floyd protests "is making it worse."
  • Another Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, said the call with Trump was "deeply disturbing."
  • Trump dismissed Pritzker's criticism by suggesting that the Illinois governor failed to respond effectively to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Trump during the conference call with the nation's governors castigated many of them for what he called their "weak" response to the protests that have occurred since Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Brian Cassella | Chicago Tribune | Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Two Democratic governors fired back at President Donald Trump on Monday, accusing the president of "inflammatory" and "dangerous" rhetoric about protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

Illinois Gov. Jay "J.B." Pritzker directly challenged Trump during a conference call Monday morning with the nation's governors, in which the president castigated many of them for what he called their "weak" response to the protests that have occurred since Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police.

"I've been extraordinarily concerned about the rhetoric that's been used by you," Pritzker told Trump, according to a transcript of their exchange tweeted by New York Times reporter Katie Rogers.

VIDEO2:0602:06
Trump tells governors they 'have to dominate' and crack down on violence

"It's been inflammatory, and it's not okay for that officer to choke George Floyd to death," Pritzker said.

Trump during the call had said: "You have to dominate, if you don't dominate you're wasting your time. They're going to run over you, you're going to look like a bunch of jerks,"

"You've got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you'll never see this stuff again,"  the president said.

Pritzker noted that he had called out the Illinois National Guard and state police to deal with civil disturbances during protests over Floyd's death.

"But the rhetoric that's coming out of the White House is making it worse," Pritzker said.

"And I need to say that people are feeling real pain out there and we've got to have national leadership in calling for calm and making sure that we're addressing the concerns of legitimate peaceful protestors," Pritzker said during Monday's call.

"That will help us to bring order."

Trump dismissed Pritzker's criticism by suggesting that the governor had failed to respond effectively to the coronavirus outbreak in Illinois.

"OK, well thank you very much, J.B.," Trump replied. "I don't like your rhetoric much either because I watched it with respect to the coronavirus I don't like your rhetoric much either."

"I think you could've done a much better job, frankly," the president said. "But that's okay. And you know, we don't agree with each other."

VIDEO7:4707:47
Five African-American CEOs on how to address inequities on a corporate level in the U.S.

Another Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, said in a statement after the call that Trump's remarks during it were "deeply disturbing."

"Instead of offering support or leadership to bring down the temperature at protests, President Trump told governors to 'put it down' or we would be 'overridden,'" she said. 

"He said governors should 'dominate' protesters, 'or you'll look like a bunch of jerks,'" Whitmer said.

"The president repeatedly and viciously attacked governors, who are doing everything they can to keep the peace while fighting a once-in-a-generation global pandemic."

"The president's dangerous comments should be gravely concerning to all Americans, because they send a clear signal that this administration is determined to sow the seeds of hatred and division, which I fear will only lead to more violence and destruction," Whitmer said. "We must reject this way of thinking. This is a moment that calls for empathy, humanity, and unity."

"I don't know why Gov. Whitmer would be dismayed at the president telling governors to do their job" Kayleigh McEnany, White House spokeswoman, said when asked about Whitmer's comments at Monday's press briefing. "It is their responsibility to police their streets. they have the police power ... they have quite clearly, many of them, failed to do their job."

Pritzker last week had called Trump a "racist, misognyist, homophobe" after the president had tweeted "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" in response to the Floyd protests.

"His tweets, his reaction, his failure to address the racism in America is stoking the flames in subtle and not so subtle ways," Pritzker said Friday.

VIDEO2:0602:06
Trump tells governors they 'have to dominate' and crack down on violence