Defiant NJ gym owners to CNN’s Cuomo: ‘We’re being villainized’

Two New Jersey gym owners who have defied a coronavirus shutdown order got into a heated exchange with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Tuesday night, with one of them calling Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D-N.J.) orders to stay closed “oppressive” and “unacceptable.”

“They have violated everyone’s constitutional rights,” Atilis Gym co-owner Frank Trumbetti said of New Jersey officials. “We all have the right to make a living. We all have the right to actually do what we want to do as Americans. We are promised liberty. And they have actually put such oppressive restrictions on us that it’s just unacceptable to us.”

The conversation later dissolved into a debate over coronavirus death rates in New Jersey, which has suffered more deaths as a state than any other in the country outside of New York, where the CNN anchor’s older brother, Andrew Cuomo, serves as governor.

“We’re being villainized as small businesses in general, that we’re responsible for the spread,” co-owner Ian Smith said. “But over 50 percent of the deaths are coming from places that are supposed to be under a governor’s control.”

“What you’re saying about long-term care facilities, I’m not questioning it,” Cuomo said. “We did the wrong job by the most vulnerable people. Even though the oldest and the most fragile will die the most in a situation like this, it doesn’t mean you did it the right way.”

“But you’re knocking [President] Trump because of the total numbers,” Trumbetti said. “[When] 53.3 percent of the deaths come from 0.6 percent of the population. Bottom line, that’s a f—ing stat that nobody’s talking about.”

“Watch your mouth, we’re on television,” Cuomo cautioned.

“Sorry, sir, sorry,” Trumbetti replied.

“Don’t worry about it, I get the passion,” Cuomo said. “One, death isn’t the only metric. I’m not blaming the president for the pandemic, I’m not blaming the president when people die, except there’s a lot more they could be doing.”

“You’re also allowing yourselves to be a little politicized on this,” the anchor later opined.

“I am the least political person you’ve ever met in your life,” Trumbetti shot back.

“You brought it up in this interview when it had no place in it,” Cuomo shot back. “That isn’t on me, that’s on you, Frank. I’m just saying be careful. If you get seen as a political actor, then you’re going to get treated as a political combatant. And I don’t know that you want that.”

“I couldn’t give two craps about politics,” Trumbetti underscored.

The back-and-forth comes as New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D) has recommended a daily $10,000 fine to Trumbetti and Smith, while local officials in Bellmawr, N.J., are threatening to revoke their license.

Over the weekend, Trumbetti and Smith knocked down the plywood boards covering the gym while allowing dozens of clients into the building for workouts.

They were arrested last week for defying a coronavirus shutdown order.

In June, the owners were also held in contempt of court by a Camden, N.J., judge after reopening their facility.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Atilis Gym Chris Cuomo CNN Coronavirus COVID-19 Frank Trumbetti Ian Smith shutdown orders

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