Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday excoriated President Donald Trump’s “bitterness, combativeness and self-interest” as nationwide protests have intensified over the death of George Floyd.
The Republican governor made the comments at a press conference when asked about Trump’s video teleconference call, in which the President urged state leaders to aggressively target violent protesters. The call came after nearly a week of protests across the country that at times have turned violent over the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who died at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis.
“I heard what the President said today about dominating and fighting. I know I should be surprised when I hear incendiary words like this from him, but I’m not,” Baker told reporters. “At so many times during these past several weeks when the country needed compassion and leadership the most, it was simply nowhere to be found.”
Instead, he continued, “we got bitterness, combativeness and self-interest. That’s not what we need in Boston, it’s not what we need right now in Massachusetts and it’s definitely not what we need across this great country of ours either.”
The President’s hardline message to governors comes as he and his advisers continue to debate the wisdom of a national address following the protests, one of which took place outside the White House and led him and his family to retreat to an underground bunker on Friday night.
“You have to dominate or you’ll look like a bunch of jerks, you have to arrest and try people,” the President told the governors in a call from the basement White House Situation Room, according to an audio recording of the call obtained by CNN.
Baker, a frequent critic of the President, struck a different tone earlier Monday in a statement praising “the powerful statement” that peaceful protestors made in Boston.
“The murder of George Floyd at the hands of police was a horrible tragedy – one of countless tragedies to befall people of color across the United States. The vast majority of protesters today did so peacefully, toward a common goal of promoting justice and equality,” he said.
“I am deeply thankful for their voices and their positive, forceful message. I also want to express my gratitude to all the police officers and other first responders working to protect the people of Boston from the individuals whose violent actions, looting and property destruction was criminal and cowardly – and distracted from the powerful statement made today by thousands of Massachusetts residents.”
CNN’s Jennifer Henderson, Kevin Liptak, Ryan Nobles and Sarah Westwood contributed to this report.