In the wee hours of the morning on March 19, NPR released a secret recording of Winston-Salem native and the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, who is heard telling a “small group of well-connected constituents” at an expensive luncheon that the coronavirus (COVID-19) “is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in history.” And this apparently happened on Feb. 27.
Previously, Burr penned a Fox News op-ed with Sen. Lamar Alexander on Feb. 7, assuring the public that the United States “is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus, in large part due to the work of the Senate Health Committee, Congress, and the Trump Administration.”
And just to add insult to injury, according to a report by ProPublica, Burr dumped between $628,000 and $1.72 million in stock one week before the market plummeted. Now, every single restaurant dining room in our state is closed; our bars are shut down, and other small businesses will soon follow suit on Wednesday. There are now thousands without jobs in the Triad community, and unsurprisingly, the people that we elect are dragging their feet on getting much-needed economic relief to the struggling population, most of whom already live paycheck-to-paycheck. It seems as though Burr and those who paid as much as $10,000 for a seat at that luncheon were the ones who were “better prepared than ever,” for something as economically devastating as this. Sen. Burr should resign because I believe he misled the public that he was elected to serve. And I am not the only one who thinks so, several of the restaurants and bars in Burr’s hometown have taken to social media to publicly shame him.
“He is never going to get served in this town again,” said Danielle Bull, owner of Bull’s Tavern in downtown Winston-Salem. “Had I known, I wouldn’t be sitting on $25,000 worth of inventory right now. If I had known Feb. 27, when he was telling his rich donors that this was coming down the pipe, I would have sold out of everything I had.”
Bull said she had ordered six kegs of Guinness for the St. Patrick’s Day that never came. She said she was finally paying off overdue bills from all the business she lost during the Interstate 40 closure. She is terrified, and she doesn’t know what the future holds for Bull’s Tavern or its displaced employees.
“Richard Burr is from this community,” Bull said. “He swore an oath to the Constitution—which allows us to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our liberty has been taken away. And had we known, I think businesses would have made different decisions; I think the public would have made different decisions...The public had a right to know, and everything that is wrong with this country was illustrated perfectly by Sen. Burr’s actions. He notified the wealthy and the elite—he didn’t notify anyone else. None of us had the opportunity to cash in our stocks, even if I had stocks. With my situation and the highway, every bit of cushion got gone.”
Peyton Smith, the owner/chef of Winston-Salem’s Mission Pizza Napoletana, expressed a similar sentiment.
“Whether he should resign or not, I don’t really know,” Smith said. “He certainly committed a felony by any stretch of the imagination.”
Smith not only participated in the “public shame game,” and the “collective groan and sigh,” he offered a more than fitting solution if Burr doesn’t resign or doesn’t face legal repercussions to his highly questionable actions.
“Well, you got all of this cash that you didn’t lose, while everyone else around you that presumably, you are a steward of, is losing their ass,” he said. “So, why don’t you just transfer it to the people that need it?”
Sen. Burr, you took an oath to serve all of your constituents, not just the wealthy ones. Your actions have shown that you failed to do your job. Do a noble thing, for once, and resign.