Gov. Phil Murphy and GOP U.S. Senate candidate Rik Mehta are trading barbs over protocols that are to be followed for attendees of President Donald Trump’s fundraiser in Bedminster Oct. 1.
When Murphy was questioned at a recent press briefing on Mehta’s statement that there was no need for him to quarantine after attending Trump’s event, Murphy said “I think that statement should disqualify him from seeking public office.”
“I don’t even know who Rik Mehta is,” Murphy continued. “I think literally—and I don’t think this is the first statement that he’s made that I would say this, but certainly this one qualifies—I think that statement should disqualify him from seeking public office.”
Murphy and state health officials have asked all attendees to self-quarantine for 14 days, especially those who were in close contact with either the President or a member of his staff. Additionally, attendees were urged to get tested no earlier than five to seven days after the event, which would mean a testing window from Oct. 6 through Oct. 8.
Immediately following the governor’s comments, Mehta tweeted that “the only one who should be disqualified from holding public office is you @GovMurphy for killing thousands of our elderly and veterans with your disastrous nursing home policy….BTW @GovMurphy, your Department of Health Director is unfit to do her job, the mass amounts of death would have never happened on my watch.”
Mehta, posted a video the next day in which he called for Murphy to stop the “melodramatics” and “fear-mongering” when it comes to the coronavirus.
“We are not quaretning and we are not backing down, said Mehta, who said on his Facebook page Oct. 7 that he has tested negative. “My campaign will continue.”
Characterizing Murphy as a “political puppet” for Joe Biden, Mehta argued Murphy has no problem holding fundraisers but that President Trump does it “after following all safety precautions, all of sudden it becomes a political hotbed ticket because he tested positive even though there were safety precautions in place.”
The Morris County resident said the state is “dramatizing” the use of contact tracers, noting he received a call from the Somerset Health Department suggesting he and his wife follow the state’s guidelines.
Fit for Office
In its contact tracing efforts, the New Jersey Department of Health received a list of 206 attendees, with only 22 left to contact, according to state officials. The Republican National Committee, who was the organizer of the event, provided the state with only emails of those who attended the event. The staff of 19 workers have been contacted by local officials.
Mehta said Murphy’s statements that he was from “outer space” were more a deflection from the governor’s actions during the pandemic.
“I have four degrees, one of them as a health profession, and I ran a health administration as well,” said Mehta. “The real issue is why did we have so many deaths in our nursing homes. And we have gotten no answers.”
“Gov. Murphy, you are not fit for government office and you should resign.”
With saving small business a major theme of his campaign, Metha believes Murphy should be focusing on way to reopen New Jersey without the “melodramatic behavior of this governor. The focus on Bedminster just means he loves the political attention he is getting.”
The outbreak in the White House began when one of President Trump’s top advisors, Hope Hicks, tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing symptoms on Oct. 1, the same day the President held a fundraiser in Bedminster. The President was transported to Walter Reed Medical Center on Oct. 2. At least 14 members of the President’s White House staff have tested positive for the coronavirus since attending a Rose Garden for the nomination announcement of Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Sept. 26 have tested positive for the coronavirus, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Murphy said Trump and his staff “acted recklessly in coming to New Jersey in the first place, knowing that they had been exposed to someone with a confirmed positive test….this is not the first time we’ve seen that absence of leadership, or the only time.”
The first-term Democratic governor said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal will investigate to see if he event complied with New Jersey current rules to control the spread of the virus, including violation of indoor capacity limits and food being offered buffet style.
“This is (the President’s) latest chapter in a long series of chapters over the past seven months with things like developing and engendering a political debate over masks, as an example, when there should be none associated with it,” said Murphy. “This is based on science, data and the facts. It has nothing to do with politics, and yet that has been allowed to take hold.”