Dr. Deborah Birx, a White House coronavirus task force official, said that the protests last week in the Michigan state legislature were “devastatingly worrisome to me personally.”
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Birx expressed her concern about protestors bringing the virus to elderly family members and if there was an “unfortunate outcome” those people would feel guilty for the rest of their lives.
Birx’s comments come after protesters at the Michigan Capitol on Thursday jammed inside the building where the lawmakers were meeting, demanding an end to the state’s state of emergency.
Some carried signs about the governor’s stay-at-home order, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued in March after a state of emergency was declared. Other demonstrators waved flags.
The state of emergency was to expire at the end of Thursday. On Friday, Whitmer signed executive orders that terminated the old state of emergency and put in place a new one through May 28. Whitmer had previously extended the separate stay-at-home order through May 15.
President Donald Trump again sided with protesters Friday and tweeted for Whitmer to “see them, talk to them, make a deal.”
Whitmer told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” Sunday some of the “outrageousness” of the protests showed “some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country.”
“The Confederate flags and nooses, the swastikas, the, you know, behavior that you’ve seen in all of the clips, is not representative of who we are in Michigan. And the fact of the matter is, I mean, we’re in a global pandemic,” she said. “We need to listen to the expertise and our institutions of higher learning and our health system and make decisions that are going to protect the lives of everyone.”
Whitmer continued, saying she was working to protect lives in her state. “Whether you agree with me or not, I’m working to protect your life if you live in the state of Michigan,” she said.
“I’m going to continue to do my job regardless of what tweets come out or what polls come out or what people think that makes sense,” Whitmer told Tapper. “We’re going to listen to facts and science because we’ve got to get this right.”
When asked on the same program about the protesters, Justin Amash, a Republican-turned independent congressman from Michigan, said he felt that Whitmer “overreached in a lot of ways” but condemned the use of Nazi symbols by some of the protesters.
“Everyone has the right to protest. And I think the governor overreached in a lot of ways. And that upset a lot of people in the state of Michigan,” Amash said. “But when we protest, we have to do it in a way that is appropriate. I totally denounce and condemn Nazi symbols that were used in some of the protests. I think it’s a terrible idea to come into the capitol with weapons, bearing weapons, knowing that it might be perceived as some form of intimidation toward legislators. So, I denounce those things. But everyone has the right to protest.”
Amash, who announced last week that he is launching an exploratory committee for long-shot presidential bid as a Libertarian, explained Sunday on “State of the Union” that Michigan is “a state that cares about our rights, cares about our freedoms, and we’re – we should work together with the governor.”
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Steve Almasy and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.