In an interview with WSMV’s Nancy Amons on Thursday, Nashville Mayor John Cooper failed to provide any evidence to support his claim that reports he “deliberately overstated the number of COVID cases tied to Nashville bars when he shut them down July 2nd” was “fake news,” but he did insult the city’s bar and restaurant owners, saying they are “a group of people that have been playing with matches in a barn. You know, complaining about taking their matches away.”
You can read a partial transcript of the interview here:
WSMV Host: Mayor John Cooper today saying it’s fake news that Nashville is hiding information about its COVID clusters in bars. He spoke at length one on one with our News 4’s Nancy Amons who’s working for you tonight with the tough questions, you want to know.
Nancy Amons: Did Nashville’s mayor deliberately overstate the number of COVID cases tied to Nashville bars when he shut them down July 2nd?
John Cooper: Not true and fake news. It’s interesting how we kind of got in this time of divisiveness propelled into a national story that nobody locally believes is at all true.
Amons: As we told you last night, Mayor John Cooper ordered bars closed for 14 days on the eve of the 4th of July weekend. Even though these internal emails show the city had traced only 19 COVID cases to bars. Cooper defended his decision to close the bars. A decision that angered Broadway bar owners.
Cooper: It is, you know, just a single group of people that have been playing with matches in a barn. You know, complaining about taking their matches away.
Amons: Internal emails raised questions about how information was going to be released. This is an exchange between a health department employee and the mayor’s Senior Advisor Ben Eagles. Eagles on June 29th asking the health department, how many cases have spread at bars?
The health department responds with a chart showing 19 cases, but asks, this isn’t going to be publicly released, right? Just info for the mayor’s office? Eagles answers correct, not for public consumption to help understand and guide policy formulation. Eagles telling me Thursday the information was to form a policy to curb what had become a runaway spike in COVID cases.
Eagles: So to address the specific point that the government was somehow hiding the number of cases it’s flatly untrue.
Cooper: We were pretty tough, pretty firm pretty early, that’s why we’re successful today.
Amons: At the time in early July, the city disclosed the outbreak was tied to 10 bars. News 4 filed an open records request for the names of the bars and details. The health department wrote to us that there were no records available. Will you reconsider releasing that information?
Cooper: Sure, I mean I’m going to sit down with the lawyers in public health, anything that is more transparent we’re going to do.
Host: Adding that the city has to be careful not to damage the reputation of a small business by saying there was a COVID outbreak there especially if there’s no proof.