US Attorney General William Barr
US Attorney General William Barr
PIC: AFP

Attorney General William Barr drew sharp condemnation Thursday for comparing lockdown orders during the coronavirus pandemic to slavery.

In remarks Wednesday night at an event hosted by Hillsdale College, Barr had called the lockdown orders the "greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history" since slavery.

During a CNN drive-in town hall in Pennsylvania on Thursday night, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden joined the criticism of Barr's slavery comment.

"Did you ever, ever think, any of you," Biden said, that the attorney general would say "that following the recommendations of the scientific community to save your and other peoples' lives is equivalent to slavery, people being put in chains." He added: "I never, ever, ever thought I would see such a thoroughly, totally irresponsible administration."

Rep James Clyburn, D-S.C., the No. 3 House Democratic leader, told CNN that Barr's remarks were "the most ridiculous, tone-deaf, God-awful things I've ever heard" because they wrongly equated human bondage with a measure aimed at saving lives.

"Slavery was not about saving lives. It was about devaluing lives," Clyburn said.

"This pandemic is a threat to human life." It's not the first time Barr has condemned stay-at-home orders.

He has previously said that some orders were " disturbingly close to house arrest," and the Justice Department sent letters to several states warning that some of their virus-related restrictions might be unlawful.

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