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John Rich, one half of top country music act “Big and Rich,” blasted Democratic Nashville Mayor John Cooper and threatened a lawsuit over lost jobs and businesses.
During an appearance on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” Thursday evening, Rich — who owns restaurants in Nashville — addressed reports earlier in the day that leaked emails appear to indicate Cooper’s administration purposely hid low coronavirus numbers stemming from bars and restaurants while ordering them to largely shut down during the pandemic, costing thousands of jobs and untold tens of millions in revenue.
Noting that bars and restaurants are “critical” to Nashville’s economy and culture, Ingraham asked Rich what kind of shape they are in now following months after COVID-related mandatory business closures and restrictions.
“It is a disaster, it is gutted,” Rich began, using measured words. “Mayor John Cooper has betrayed our town. He has betrayed Music City. He is a Judas to this town.
“He is now the de Blasio of the South,” Rich continued, a reference to controversial New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, another Democrat leader who has been accused of overly stringent coronavirus lockdown measures that continue to wreak havoc on the Big Apple’s economy.
Reports Thursday noted that emails exchanged between Cooper’s office and the Metro Health Department indicate that COVID-19 infection numbers were so low that a decision was made to keep them hidden, WZTV reported.
“Emails between the mayor’s senior advisor and the health department reveal only a partial picture. But what they reveal is disturbing,” the Fox affiliate reported. “The discussion involves the low number of coronavirus cases emerging from bars and restaurants and how to handle that. And most disturbingly, how to keep it from the public.”
The emails indicate that health officials knew on June 30 through contact tracing that the vast majority of virus cases were being generated with the construction and nursing home industries, with more than 1,000 each. But bars and restaurants had generated only 22 cases.
“This isn’t going to be publicly released, right? Just info for Mayor’s Office?” Leslie Waller from the health department inquired.
“Correct, not for public consumption,” responded senior advisor Benjamin Eagles.
A month later, while cases throughout Davidson County numbered around 20,000, reports that only about 80 of them could be traced to bars and restaurants prompted an inquiry from Tennessee Lookout reporter Nate Rau to city health officials.
“If there have been over 20,000 positive cases of COVID-19 in Davidson and only 80 or so are traced to restaurants and bars, doesn’t that mean restaurants and bars aren’t a very big problem?” Rau inquired.
“Please advise how you recommend I respond,” health official Brian Todd asked five other department officials.
“My two cents. We have certainly refused to give counts per bar because those numbers are low per site,” responded one official who was not identified by name.
“We could still release the total though, and then a response to the over 80 could be because that number is increasing all the time and we don’t want to say a specific number,” the official continued.
The disclosures have infuriated Nashville restaurant and bar owners, Rich says.
After Ingraham played a clip of another Nashville bar owner who derisively thanked Cooper for lifting a few restrictions, she noted that many bar owners forced to shutter due to Cooper’s coronavirus orders have “closed for good.”
“You know, it’s like the mayor wants us to say, ‘Thank you, sir, can I have another?’ Now that we’ve uncovered what’s actually going on I’ll give him this — he’s created unity in a town there’s been a lot of division in,” Rich said.
Calling the mayor a “pariah” in the city, Rich went on to say that his name “might become the new favorite cuss word in Nashville. Next time I hit myself in the thumb with a hammer, I’m gonna go, ‘John Cooper, that hurt!’”
The Big and Rich star said Cooper should apologize immediately and resign. He also threatened Cooper with a class-action lawsuit.
Rich owns the bar “Redneck Riviera,” and does not require patrons to wear masks, though his staff does. They also receive temperature checks.
“That’s another thing, we followed every single rule that the mayor laid out to a ’T,’” he continued, noting that patrons are offered masks and that social distancing is utilized to keep them apart.
He went on to say that at the beginning of the pandemic, “when the mayor was giving us these outrageous numbers, it scared everybody to death and we’re like, ‘Hey mayor, we’re team players, we don’t want to be a part of the problem, of course, we’ll do what you’re asking us to do.’ And we did it and we did it until he completely gutted what drives this town, which is live music and Broadway downtown.
“And now we find out that the entire thing was built on a lie that he perpetrated,” adding that many Nashville business owners now “have no sympathy” for Cooper.
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