(CNN) — A Democratic congressman from Massachusetts said “we certainly have this perception in the Northeast that all the red states are getting what was coming to them because they refused to follow these mandates, and they’re playing politics” with Covid-19, as cases continue to surge in conservative-leaning states like Texas and Florida.
Rep. Seth Moulton’s comments came in a conversation on Monday with Amy McGrath, a Democrat who is running for the US Senate in Kentucky, hosted by the 92nd Street Y. A spokeswoman for McGrath’s opponent in the race, Sen. Mitch McConnell, then tweeted a clip Moulton’s comment calling him out for his comments and for McGrath’s response in which she “smiles and nods.”
“We certainly have this perception in the Northeast that all the red states are getting what was coming to them because they refused to follow these mandates and they’re playing politics with this rather than listening to the science,” Moulton said Monday.
Moulton tweeted Friday that he does not “believe that personally, but it is true that some people in blue states have that perception. If it gets under some people’s skin enough that they start wearing masks, it will literally save lives,” with a link to a story by the Boston Herald, which earlier reported on his comments.
McGrath responded to Moulton’s comments in real time during the conversation saying, “the unfortunate thing, particularly with states in the south, is that as you said Seth, this has become politicized.”
“No matter whether you’re red or blue, people do want to mitigate this coronavirus,” she continued.
Moulton’s comments come as the United States has no unified strategy on slowing the virus’ spread and sharp partisan divides exist over containment strategies. The virus earlier ravaged the northeast and has now debilitated other parts of the country, killing over 150,000 Americans.
Following their conversation, McConell’s press secretary tweeted the clip of Moulton saying red states had it “coming to them,” calling Moulton a “Liberal Dem.”
Michaela Johnson, Moulton’s press secretary, told CNN in statement that McConnell’s team was taking “cheap shots” with the tweet.
“This is a great example of why we need Amy McGrath in the Senate. McConnell and his office would do well to spend more time working to pass the relief legislation Americans so desperately need, and less time taking cheap shots on Twitter.”
Terry Sebastian, a spokesperson for the McGrath campaign, told CNN in a statement Friday that Americans want to tackle the coronavirus “whether you’re red or blue.”
“[McConnell] has failed every step of the way and Amy McGrath will continue to stand up for hard-working Kentuckians and call him out on putting politics ahead of what’s doing right for Kentucky and the country,” Sebastian said.
The conversation between Moulton and McGrath, both of whom formerly served as Marines, focused largely on leadership, and comes as many Republican governors were slow to implement lockdowns and quicker to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic, following President Donald Trump’s lead on the virus response.
Florida in particular has become a global ground zero for Covid-19 cases. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close political ally of the President, has largely mirrored Trump’s language on the pandemic and continues to push to fully reopen schools as Florida has surpassed the total number of cases in New York, which was once the US epicenter of the pandemic, and hospitalizations in the state continue to rise.
Texas, too, has passed New York’s total count of cases. Texas was one of the first states to reopen in May, but Gov. Greg Abbott announced a pause to any further reopening in June when cases surged. Texas has now implemented a mask requirement.
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