CNN anchor Brianna Keilar on Wednesday clashed with a Republican state lawmaker who is suing over mask mandates, eventually pointing out that he is not a “public health expert” while noting he’s already had one case tossed out.
With coronavirus cases and hospitalizations spiking in Florida as the nation deals with a prolonged surge, Florida State Rep. Anthony Sabatini has attempted to challenge county ordinances in the state requiring face masks in businesses, claiming the mandates are constitutional violations.
Appearing on CNN Newsroom, Sabatini immediately justified his lawsuits, claiming the ordinances are “unconstitutional” and that mask mandates violate the privacy of citizens. Keilar, meanwhile, wondered aloud if the GOP lawmaker believed that seat belts are therefore also unconstitutional.
After he claimed the major difference is that seatbelt laws are only focused on “very highly regulated areas of public domain,” Sabatini went on to dispute that Florida was actually struggling with the virus, insisting that reporters have been too focused on rising cases.
“The media’s almost exclusively focused on one number versus the two most important numbers, obviously: hospitalizations and fatalities,” he declared. “Where in most parts of the state, flat lines are going down, especially in mine. So if you focus on the two more relative metrics, Florida’s doing just fine.”
Keilar, meanwhile, was struck by Sabatini’s assertion that Florida was doing fine, prompting the state representative to say that as long as she was just “counting cases” then she would “scare people.”
“OK, deaths: 4,521,” she quickly retorted. “Hospitalizations increasing 19,344. 54 hospital ICUs have reached capacity in Florida. Another 40 hospitals show ICUs at 10 percent or less availability. And you say you're doing just fine?!”
He continued to argue that Florida was dealing with a dire situation as the virus rapidly spreads, claiming the deaths weren’t that bad when weighed against the number of overall cases while insisting that the state’s economy should be “100 percent open.”
The CNN anchor wondered why Sabatini was pushing against mask mandates if he wanted everything open, noting that mask-wearing in public spaces would help to stem the spread of the virus and allow many businesses to remain open.
Sabatini said that he only opposed mandates and felt local and state governments should merely recommend voluntary mask-wearing. At the same time, he admitted that he doesn’t wear a face covering whenever he goes to the grocery store, claiming it’s unnecessary because he always “maintains social distance.”
Towards the end of the lengthy and at-times contentious conversation, Keilar confronted Sabatini for claiming the media is “grossly exaggerating” the effectiveness of face coverings.
“The media is repeating what public health experts are saying,” she shot back. “Just to be clear, you are not a doctor and you’re not a public-health expert. Right?”
After the GOP legislator attempted to dismiss health experts’ recommendations on masks, Keilar interjected: “You’re not. I’ll just answer it for you.”
Wrapping up the segment, and after Sabatini said citizens should merely take the CDC’s recommendations “with interest,” Keilar reminded her audience of Sabatini’s credentials.
“OK, just to point out, we’re monitoring one loss at this point of a county that disagrees,” she plainly stated. “And you’re not a doctor. You’re not a scientist.”