Illinois governor clashes with Trump on call over ‘inflammatory’ rhetoric following George Floyd’s death

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) clashed with President Trump during a conference call with other governors over what he described as “inflammatory” rhetoric from the president following the recent death of George Floyd. 

In the call on Monday, Pritzker told the president at one point, “I wanted to take this moment — and I can’t let it pass — to speak up and say that I’ve been extraordinarily concerned about the rhetoric that’s been used by you.”

“It’s been inflammatory,” he continued on the call.

He went on to denounce the actions of local police in Minneapolis that preceded the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died last week after an officer knelt on his neck during an arrest, but said leaders must “call for calm” as protests, some of which have involved looting and arson, continue in states across the nation.

“We have to call for calm. We have to have police reform called for. We’ve called out our national guard and our state police, but the rhetoric that’s coming out of the White House is making it worse,” he continued. “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 the legitimate peaceful protesters. That will help us to bring order.”

In response to Pritzker’s comments, however, Trump took aim the governor’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Illinois. State health data shows the pandemic has led to more than 121,000 confirmed cases of the virus in recent months in Illinois in addition to more than 5,400 deaths.

“OK, well, thank you very much. I don’t like your rhetoric much either,” Trump said before taking aim at the governor’s handling of the pandemic.

“I think you could’ve done a much better job, frankly. But that’s OK. And you know, we don’t agree with each other,” Trump added.

Trump drew criticism last week after he tweeted that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” amid protests in the nation. He later took to Twitter to push back on claims that he was inciting violence with the controversial phrase, which many pointed out was said by former Miami Police Chief Walter Headley during the civil rights movement.

Trump later said on Twitter that he was not aware of the history of the phrase and said he referred to it as “a fact, not as a statement.” 

“Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night – or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot. I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means,” Trump said Friday.

“It’s very simple, nobody should have any problem with this other than the haters, and those looking to cause trouble on social media,” he continued. “Honor the memory of George Floyd!”

In remarks over the weekend, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) was one of many prominent Democrats who condemned the president’s rhetoric in the aftermath of Floyd’s death and the nationwide protests that have followed.

“He should just stop talking. This is like Charlottesville all over again,” she said Sunday, referring to the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in 2017. After the white nationalist rally, where attendees and counterprotesters clashed, Trump famously said there were “very fine people” on both sides.

“He speaks, and he makes it worse,” Bottoms, whose city has also been the site of looting during protests in recent days, said on Sunday. “There are times when you should just be quiet, and I wish that he would just be quiet.” 

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