Illinois Democrat Governor, J.B. Pritzker, lost his cool in a press conference Thursday afternoon after a reporter from a local news outlet dared to ask why he allowed his family to travel to Florida to wait out the coronavirus pandemic at their $12 million dollar “horse estate” while most “non-essential” travel for Illinois residents is barred.
The multi-billionaire governor, whose family owns the Hyatt hotel chain, has extended Illinois “shelter in place” order until at least May 28, leaving most Illinois unable to work or even leave their homes for “non-essential” tasks. Pritzker has made it clear that he feels the lockdown is a matter of life and death and that travel, including travel out of state, is a major risk factor for spreading the virus, even if that travel isn’t specifically barred by the order.
But on Thursday, a reporter for Illinois Patch — a conglomerate of local news outlets covering cities statewide — got an earful when he dared to ask why the governor allowed his wife and children to leave the state during the first few weeks of the pandemic to “shelter in place” in Florida — a state which began lifting its own stay-at-home orders on Friday.
“Where is the first lady? Is she accompanied by a state security detail? Has she engaged in nonessential travel? What is your response to people who say the stay-at-home order and nonessential travel bans aren’t being abided by your family?” the reporter queried.
In response, Pritzker lashed out, calling the question “reprehensible.”
“Well, first of all, I want to say that in, in politics, it used to be that we kept our families out of it. My official duties have nothing to do with my family,” he said. “So, I’m just not going to answer that question. It’s inappropriate, and I find it reprehensible, honestly that, that that reporter wrote a story about it.”
The story, published Monday, focused on the missing First Lady.
“Specifically, the first lady has been spending time at their $12-million equestrian estate in Wellington, just down the horse trail from Bruce Springsteen, Bill Gates and Billy Joel, the family purchased shortly after J.B. was elected governor last year,” the reporter wrote, pointing out that First Ladies and close family of other governors have “stepped up” to lead necessary commissions, helping their respective state residents with food and medical care and, in the case of Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, even providing essential negotiating services with foreign governments.
The reporter points out that there’s technically nothing wrong with Mrs. Pritzker’s decision to quarantine elsewhere, but the family does seem to be operating on a different set of standards than required for Illinois more modest residents, especially given how important Pritzker feels the shelter-in-place order is.
During his announcement last week, extending the lockdown, Pritzker was clear: “The projections are clear: If we lifted the stay-at-home order tomorrow, we would see our deaths per day shoot into the thousands by the end of May, and that would last well into the summer. Our hospitals would be full, and very sick people would have nowhere to go.”
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