Governor Phil Murphy this afternoon at his War Memorial press briefing responded to President Donald Trump’s rubber bullet and tear gas dispersal of peaceful protesters near the White House and subsequent walk through Lafayette Park to pose with a state Bible yesterday amid outrage countrywide about police brutality and the president’s divisive example.
“We have found a lot of common ground [on COVID-19 combat equipment, including PPE]… we’re grateful for that,” said the governor, in reference to his work with the White House through the teeth of a pandemic that to date resulted in the deaths of over 11,000 New Jerseyans.
But, he added, noting that Trump doesn’t pull punches and neither does he, “The notion of using tear gas or smoke devices or rubber bullets on peaceful protesters in exchange for a photo-op is disgraceful.”
Murphy made the observation in response to a reporter’s question in marked contrast to his past public efforts to make nice with the White House through the scourge of COVID-19.
At the end of April, Trump sat in the White House Oval Office with Murphy, where the New Jersey governor listened diplomatically as the president bragged about his government’s response to COVID-19 and complimented Murphy for reopening parks but did not commit to more federal funding for New Jersey.
“The federal government has done a spectacular job to the point where we’re helping other countries,” said Trump, with Murphy unmasked in the room but observing social distancing.
“In our hour of need, a big part of our ability to reopen is to wrap up the expanded testing, and you all are helping us in a big way,” Murphy told the president. “We’ll be able to at least double our testing abilities.”
Trump prodded Murphy for more praise, asking Murphy who provided ventilators to New Jersey.
“We got them,” said the governor. “I’m told we were the number one recipient of ventilators.”
But there was no hard commit from the president – at least in the press briefing – to Murphy’s ask for more funding for the Garden State.
A little over a month later, Murphy is still among those Democratic governors grappling with the coronavirus in hard-hit states. He has consistently tried to shelve presidential politics, snarky sniping and outright outrage. Another crisis governor is Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who told CNN she censors herself when speaking publicly about Trump in order to ensure continued federal assistance to her state amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the president’s response, changed the game, to hear Murphy’s piercing words this afternoon; while yesterday on a conference call prior to Trump’s Bible wave at the nation, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker asked the president to cool the tough-guy talk in the aftermath of the police killing in Minneapolis, Minnesota of George Floyd.
The New Jersey governor made his terse comment today about Trump a day after cops in Asbury Park clashed with protesters and arrested an Asbury Park Press reporter.