Rep. Johnson, Cuomo clash over face masks at Mount Rushmore

Local News

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KELO) — The upcoming fireworks show at Mount Rushmore generated some verbal pyrotechnics of its own during a nationally-televised interview featuring U.S. Congressman Dusty Johnson.

The South Dakota Republican appeared on Chris Cuomo’s CNN show Tuesday night defending the decision to not require social distancing or the wearing of masks at Friday’s event.

The spirited back-and-forth started with CNN host Chris Cuomo raising concerns about the size of the crowd expected for the Mount Rushmore fireworks show.

Chris Cuomo: Are you happy that your state will have the distinction of having the most people crowded into a place during the pandemic?

Rep. Dusty Johnson, (R) South Dakota: Well, let’s be clear, Chris, we’re not talking about 30-thousand, we’re talking about a limited number of tickets, 7,500 folks in an outdoor venue, with health screening available.

Johnson added that everyone attending the event will be given a face mask. But Cuomo asked why everyone attending the fireworks show won’t be required to wear a mask.

Cuomo: Isn’t it a no-brainer to say to people, look, we’re not doing the social distancing, which is dumb, but let’s wear a mask so we give ourselves a chance, period. How does mandatory help?

Johnson: So Chris, where was all this love of mandatory big government when we had people rightfully exercising their First Amendment rights in hundreds of communities across the country? Many of them were wearing masks, they should have been good for them.

Johnson said South Dakota is seeing fewer coronavirus cases, in part, because people in the state have been making wise choices on their own, including wearing masks and social distancing, without the government ordering them to do so.

Johnson: And I think the data has proven that you don’t have to shut down an economy to try to keep people safe.

Cuomo: Congressman. Congressman. We both know that a huge reason that South Dakota has been spared to this point is because it doesn’t have density of population the way other states does. The idea that staying open helps you avoid coronavirus is absurd!

Johnson said everyone attending the Mount Rushmore fireworks show should wear a mask. But he said ultimately, it’s up to individuals and communities to make such decisions.

“I think we’re going to get better compliance, long-term, Chris, if we work together to get things done than having some sort of edict from Washington, DC,” Johnson said.

Cuomo said because many people attending the Mount Rushmore event will be supporters of President Trump, he doubted they will be willing to wear a mask, thinking it’s a sign of weakness. Johnson said wearing a mask is not showing weakness, adding that he wears one in the Capitol and whenever he’s out in public.

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