On a nationwide stage on Fox News Tuesday, incoming Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith doubled down on statements that she would defy Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s statewide coronavirus restrictions by hosting a large Thanksgiving gathering — and inviting “as many family and friends” as possible.
“This is a travesty that’s happening in our state,” Smith told conservative commentator Tucker Carlson. “How dare Governor Brown think she’s going to come out, going to send the police into people’s homes and arrest them and fine them for having a Thanksgiving meal with their family, while at same time she lets rioters and anarchists destroy downtown Portland. That’s hypocrisy.”
While having previously stressed her preference for voluntary compliance over enforcement, Brown did signal last week that she is now calling on police to “encourage compliance,” including issuing fines of up to $1,250 and even possible jail time for violators.
“In terms of individuals, I am not asking you,” the governor said in a press conference Friday. “I am telling you to stop your social gatherings, your informal social gatherings, and your house parties and to limit your social interactions to six and under — not more than one household — and I’m asking that immediately.”
She added that she had already directed the Oregon State Police to begin working with local law enforcement to “legally enforce” her restrictions on informal social gatherings — which public health officials have blamed for large spikes in new cases of Covid-19.
“She seeks total control and domination over our population,” Smith said of the governor. “She’s issued this edict statewide in all 36 counties, regardless of the count, regardless of the infection rate, regardless of the testing. … She obviously does not trust the elected officials in each of our counties in Oregon.”
On Tucker Carlson Tonight, Smith reiterated her previous statements that she, her family and friends, and her constituents in Clackamas County are well-versed in the health guidelines intended to keep people safe amid the pandemic — and should be trusted to follow them.
“People understand what they need to do to be healthy,” she said. “We have been brow-beaten over the head with wearing masks in public — which I do, by the way. … I think our people have the intelligence, the education and the independence to make their own decisions. We are adults. We do not need to be treated as second-rate slaves in our own homes.”
At one point, Carlson agreed with Smith that family holidays such as Thanksgiving are “sacred” and should not be the dominion of executive orders or government policies.
“The isolation is killing us,” Smith said. “She’s not addressing the isolation and the fallout from it, that comes in the form of child abuse, suicide rate is increasing and domestic violence, and that really needs to be addressed. She has no solutions for that. Her main edict is to shut down and keep people separate. We, as human beings, have that right to be together.”
Smith’s comments, originally posted to her Facebook and Twitter accounts this weekend, have gone (in her words) “totally viral,” drawing thousands of responses online — both supportive and critical — and being covered in media across the globe.
Some of her future colleagues on the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners have also chimed in this week, mainly urging residents to listen to the advice of the county and state’s medical experts when they say to limit the size and frequency of social gatherings.
Commissioner Ken Humberston — who, ironically, defeated Smith in her reelection bid in 2016, only to have his own hopes for a second term be dashed this month by conservative challenger Mark Shull — said he believes that elected officials have an obligation to follow the law.
“For an elected official to blatantly and deliberately ignore it and take defiant action as the chair-elect is doing is patently irresponsible and utterly inconsiderate of the health and welfare of the citizens of this county,” Humberston said. “I’m appalled that somebody would behave that way.”
On Tuesday, Brown issued an executive order buttressing her earlier announcement of the “two-week freeze,” which was to take effect Wednesday. The governor said the order makes the freeze measures “enforceable by law upon both individuals and businesses,” and are necessary to “give Oregon a fighting chance to flatten the curve and save lives.”
“I expect local law enforcement to continue to use an education first approach, but Oregonians need to understand that these rules are enforceable under law,” she said in a statement. “A large majority of Oregonians continue to do the right thing to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors.
“However, when Oregonians don’t take COVID-19 seriously, and don’t take steps to reduce the spread of the disease, they put all of us at risk. We need all Oregonians to use common sense, make smart choices, and take seriously their individual responsibilities during a public health emergency.”
Officials with Governor Brown’s office have thus far declined to comment on Smith’s remarks. Clackamas County Chair-elect Smith will take office in January.