OAKLAND — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday called President Donald Trump’s photo op at a historic church near the White House this week “shameful,” ramping up his criticism of the president for the second straight day after refraining throughout the pandemic from rebuking his once-favorite political target.
“It was shameful political theater at a time when all of us are feeling shame about our nation and are very fearful that politics is trumping good politics and decency,” Newsom said in a media briefing in Stockton, where he met with Mayor Michael Tubbs and business and youth leaders to discuss racism and systemic injustice. Federal officials on Monday forcibly cleared protesters from the area with smoke canisters and rubber bullets before Trump walked to the church to have his photo taken and a video made.
Newsom notably refused to criticize Trump during the Covid-19 crisis and even praised the Republican leader he previously denounced on a regular basis.
While visiting Stockton, the Democratic governor also acknowledged the likelihood of increased spread of the disease due to the recent protests. He expressed particular concern for African Americans, who have been disproportionately affected by the disease.
“If you’re not [concerned], you’re not paying attention to the epidemiology, to the virulence of this disease, its spread. And I’m particularly concerned, as everyone should be, about spread within our diverse communities,” he said. African American residents, who make up 6 percent of California’s population, account for 10 percent of the state’s Covid-19 deaths.
Newsom noted the state’s positivity rate has held steady at around 4.5 percent, but said the state should prepare for a potential surge.
“I imagine as we reopen and through the process of the mixing that’s come from the protests, we’ll start to see that case rate begin to increase and we need to begin to prepare for that,” Newsom said. He said such preparation involves making sure there are enough hospital beds and alternative care sites, protective equipment, testing and follow-up contact tracing.