Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders got blunt about the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, and slammed Gov. Rick Snyder for causing one of the worst public health crisis in modern US history.
Transcript via MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show:
MADDOW: Senator, you called a few days ago for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to resign over the lead poisoning of Flint. He gave his State of the State speech tonight in Michigan, talked about Flint at length. He was emotional at times.
He’s clearly taking, you know, significant responsibility for that. He said tonight he won’t stop working on this mess until it is fixed.
Do you still stand by your call for him to resign? Do you think he is not the man to fix this problem?
SANDERS: But, Rachel, you know, I don’t go around every other day calling for governors to resign. I don’t think I ever have. And I heard Governor Snyder in your report talk about his prayers for the people of Flint and that’s fine.
But the truth is, this is one of the worst public health crises in modern American history. We don’t know the full extent of the crisis. We know that thousands of children and others have been poisoned. We don’t know how many will end up with brain damage.
But clearly, this is a horrific, horrific public health crisis. And I think that in terms of the governor’s office, there has been a real dereliction of duty. I think it’s not good enough to be talking about prayers. It’s important to say, listen, we certainly didn’t mean to do that, but we screwed up terribly and people will be paying the price for this for their entire lives, how many we don’t know, and the right thing in my view to do is to resign.
If Gov. Snyder was serious about this crisis, he would release all of the emails relating to the Flint water contamination to the public. Snyder has offered prayers while pointing a finger at Hillary Clinton, but he has not voluntarily released the relevant information about what his administration knew about the lead contamination of Flint’s water, and when they knew it.
Sanders was correct that what has happened in Flint is one of the worst public health crisis in modern American history. There is no way for Gov. Snyder to spin responsibility away from his administration. It was an appointee from the governor who made the decision to city’s water source. It was the governor’s administration that decided not to add chemicals to the water to make it safe for consumption, and it was the governor’s administration that did not notify the public after high lead levels had been detected in the blood of the city’s children.
There is so much more that needs to be done. The Democratic congressional delegation in Michigan is pushing for the establishment of a future fund that would be used to offset the monetary costs of the side effects of the lead exposure as they are revealed. So far, the Michigan legislature has approved $28 million for immediate action, but this is a long-term crisis that is going to require a major funding commitment.
Gov. Snyder’s resignation would not be enough. Jail might not be enough. The people of Flint need committed resources to deal with the consequences of Snyder has done. What happened in Flint is a textbook example of Republican priorities in action. On Tuesday night, President Obama vetoed a Republican bill that would have repealed EPA clean water rules.
What happened in Flint wasn’t an isolated episode, it’s the Republican way.