During an interview Thursday evening, Governor Phil Murphy spoke with David Cruz of NJTV about developments in the state with respect to the coronavirus and new guidance from Trenton. During the course of the interview, the governor took questions. He was asked about the executive authority he has used, particularly in the form of executive orders, being told that “Some people are getting a little antsy about all the executive powers that you are asserting.” He was asked why the public should not be concerned that he might seem to be ruling “by decree under the cover of a state of emergency” and that that state of emergency was one that only he could declare?
The governor responded point blank. “Some of the constructive criticisms that we get that are responsible we take very seriously. I want folks to know that. We don’t have all the answers, Tony Fauci [Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases] doesn’t have all the answers, there’s no expert—health or otherwise—who has all the answers, and that certainly includes yours truly. If it’s constructive, responsible—even if it’s angry input—we’ve reacted at every step with a spirit of trying to find the right answer.”
Murphy counter fired at his critics and accusations volleyed against him, drawing a line where he determines the difference between “responsible” criticism, and that which is not. “Some of it’s ludicrous,” Murphy said, “like people claiming that power’s gone to my head, that I find some joy in making everyone put a face covering on is ludicrous. It’s also—and that’s why I wanted to call that one out—it’s irresponsible.”
The governor asserted what he has said in briefings and interviews countless times, drumming the basics he has said from the start of the pandemic. “There are certain things that we absolutely do know about this virus. Social distancing matters, face coverings matter, washing your hands with soap and water matters. We know if you’ve got symptoms that you should stay home and away from everyone else. That matters. Outdoors is less lethal than indoors. Those are facts.”
While any politician, especially in New Jersey, needs a hide like a rhinoceros, Murphy himself took a tough line. In a slight departure from his typically affable and easy-going image, he fired back that, “Folks who tee off for some political point are irresponsible and they’re putting people’s lives at stake. Let’s cut that crap out and let’s stick to the basics and the facts and we’ll be a lot better for it.”
When asked if he felt that calls for limitations on his powers and the time his executive orders can be in effect were necessary or appropriate considerations, Murphy defended himself. “I literally don’t pay any attention to them. The only time I’ve called them out is when they’re irresponsible and they’re putting public health at risk. If it’s constructive, legitimate—usually private, by the way—not scoring points, but saying, ‘Hey, Governor, have you thought about X or Y?’ Our track record on that front, I think, has been impeccable. We’ve been open to any and all suggestions, but scoring political points? I have zero interest in; I don’t pay any attention to it.”
A YouTube commentator asked the Governor why he would not “man up” and require masks be worn all the time, rather than with exceptions, as presently exist, where masks need not be worn outside when people can socially distance themselves. The governor responded. “We are requiring it everywhere indoors, that’s where the virus is most lethal. If you’re out walking your dog by yourself, and you’re not near anybody, could we mandate it? Yes. I don’t know how we’d enforce that, by the way, but you’re not at risk and you’re not putting anyone else at risk. If you’re on a crowded boardwalk as I’m on frequently in the summer season, and you’ve got people in very close circumstances, and they’re not their own family. They’re people from different they call them ‘bubbles’ coming together—that’s where they need it, that’s where you need a face cover. It’s a reality here of what the science says and what you can reasonably enforce. That’s where we are. If you’re indoors in our state, if you’re in a retail establishment, motor vehicle commission, drug store, you name it, if you’re worshiping, you’ve got to wear a face cover. Period.”