ATLANTA, Georgia — Vice President Mike Pence defended Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp against establishment media and leftist critics who just weeks ago inaccurately predicted widescale doom as Georgia moved to aggressively reopen its economy ahead of schedule.
“Let’s be clear: Gov. Brian Kemp has proven them wrong every day,” Pence said when Breitbart News asked him and Kemp during a press gaggle to respond to critics throughout the media and left who ripped Kemp at the outset of the reopening process. “The people of Georgia have proven them wrong every day.”
The vice president’s praise of Kemp’s handling of the coronavirus crisis comes just weeks after Georgia in late April moved to aggressively reopen its economy—and the state faced a bevy of criticism from establishment media outlets and leftists.
“Georgia’s Experiment in Human Sacrifice,” was a headline, for instance, in the Atlantic for a piece by Amanda Mull.
Others in media and on the left were similarly vicious to Kemp. Now, though, the data demonstrates that Kemp was right and they were wrong. A month into Georgia’s reopening process, the first and most aggressive anywhere in America, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all on the decline. Georgia continues its reopening process, and providing hope to other states across the country following its lead.
While Pence was much more direct in noting that the establishment critics of Kemp were wrong, Kemp brushed them off and said to Breitbart News that he is not interested in battling with media critics—he is more focused on winning the war with the coronavirus and energizing his state’s economy.
“I’ll just say the way I’ve been dealing with that is I’m not criticizing anybody,” Kemp said. “There’s no playbook on this. We’ve all been in this together. Everybody has had to make tough decisions, whether it’s at the federal level or local level or certainly at the state level. I think everybody has the lives of their citizens and constituents [in mind], and they’re concerned about them when they make those decisions. I haven’t been too worried about criticizing the press too much either. I just want to keep driving our numbers down and keep making sure we give people an opportunity to get back to work and save this great economy that we have.”
Pence’s trip to Georgia began with a lunch visit the Star Cafe in Atlanta with Gov. Kemp and Georgia’s first lady Marty Kemp. Later in the day, he visited Waffle House corporate headquarters in Norcross for a roundtable with Kemp and Waffle House’s CEO. The vice president’s trip comes during a broader effort by the White House to reopen America, one that President Donald Trump and Pence have been cheerleading across the country. Trump was in Michigan on Thursday to pressure Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to move faster, and Pence was in Florida on Wednesday to cheer on GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis and enjoy a burger with him.
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) May 22, 2020
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) May 22, 2020
Later, during the Waffle House roundtable, Pence noted that case numbers and hospitalizations continue dropping in Georgia even as testing increases–a remarkable feat, he said, since one would think that increasing testing would lead to a spike in cases.
In the press gaggle inside Star Cafe, Pence told Breitbart News that all 50 states are reopening now. Pence also said that America does not face a choice between the economy or the public health—he said it is a choice between “health and health.”
“I was just in Florida a few short days ago where I heard tell of the level of criticism that had been waged there against the efforts of Florida to safely and responsibly reopen,” Pence said. “I’ve been working with governors in both political parties every day since the president tapped me to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force. There is not a governor in a state or territory in this country that hasn’t done everything in their power to put the health and well-being of their people first. What governors recognize and what President Trump and I recognize is this is not a choice between health and a growing economy. This is a choice between health and health. There are very serious health consequences to having our economy continue to be closed. I think the American people understand that.”
“We asked people during the most difficult days of the coronavirus pandemic to avoid elective surgery, but the better part of a month ago we saw hospitalizations dropping around the country, so we encouraged states to open up elective surgery again.” Pence continued. “I want to take this time to tell everyone in Georgia: Now is the time to go back to your local hospital and have that procedure and have that routine checkup to support your health and to support your local healthcare community. The truth is when people forgo routine checkups, there are health risks with that. When people go a long time without work, there are profound emotional and physical impacts of that. That’s what Gov. Kemp has recognized and the people of Georgia have recognized and other governors around the country like the governor of Florida are doing.”
“All 50 states today are now in some measure of reopening their economies, ” he said. “They’re demonstrating we can do it safely and responsibly. But what some of the critics have to recognize is it’s not a choice between health and a strong economy. It’s between health and health, and the president and I and the governor here are determined to move forward and safely and responsibly reopen. That’s because that is the best way for a safe and strong America.”
Kemp, during his comments in response to Breitbart News during the press gaggle, said that he has been focused on making scientifically sound decisions—and his push to reopen, which has happened as the coronavirus has receded here, proves that.
“If you think back a few months ago, it’s the best economy we’ve ever seen. I’ve been a small business guy for 30 years,” Kemp said. “I’ve been through ups and downs and I’ve had weeks where I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make payroll. Marty and I were scratching every penny we could get to get our people paid. We were at that point in Georgia and I knew that—and the president and the vice president said to us that we can’t let the ill effects of the virus be worse than the virus itself. We’re fighting two battles—the COVID battle but also the battle to get this economy back to where it was when we started. That’s what I’ve been focused on—I’m not too worried about critics that are out there. I’m making decisions based on science and public health advice—every decision I’ve made with [Georgia Health Commissioner] Dr. [Kathleen] Toomey has been in conjunction with that and I just appreciate the support and the help of the administration, as we’ve been on this battle for months now.”