Selective Amnesia Unbecoming for AG Shapiro

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From time to time, we all forget things. Forgetfulness to some degree is normal.

But spending the better part of two years fighting in court to defend some of the most draconian government COVID mandates in the country? That’s something you don’t forget.

Unless you’re Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and you’re running for governor.

Shapiro recently claimed that he opposed some of Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID mandates, such as school and business shutdowns as well as mask mandates. Shapiro even says that he spoke of the need to “educate and empower” Pennsylvanians to protect themselves.

I’m all astonishment.

While my Republican (and a few Democratic) colleagues in the Pennsylvania state House and I spent two years fighting to rein in Gov. Wolf’s unchecked emergency powers, Shapiro spent those same two years defending Wolf’s mandates and shutdowns in court.

Court documents illustrate where Shapiro really stood on the mandates that crushed businesses, harmed children, and led Pennsylvania voters to pass two constitutional amendments ending a governor’s ability to rule unilaterally—and indefinitely—in emergencies.

In a March 26, 2020 court filing, Shapiro argued that Wolf “had legal authority” to shut down Pennsylvania businesses and said that Wolf’s order was “necessary to attempt to protect the lives of millions of at-risk Pennsylvanians.” Shapiro went on to insult those objecting to Wolf’s order, claiming that their petition “constructs a fantasy-world in which there is no pandemic, and their private pecuniary interests are paramount.”

This is hardly congruent with Shapiro’s claim that Pennsylvanians should be educated and empowered to protect themselves.

Later that year, in response to a lawsuit challenging the Wolf administration’s continued school closures, Shapiro argued that public schools were legally open, even though students were barred from attending in the physical locations at which they had enrolled.

And who can forget Wolf’s school mask mandate? In August of 2021, just weeks after his acting secretary of health said that there was no plan to mandate masks in schools, Gov. Wolf imposed a school mask mandate.

When the mask mandate was challenged, Shapiro went to court, arguing that if the mandate were lifted, “children will unnecessarily become sick,” and it “will result in the hospitalization of more children.” Shapiro also claimed that an earlier lower-court order lifting the mandate “disregarded the effect such an order would have on the health of school children.”

These arguments sure don’t sound like someone who opposed Wolf’s Covid mandates. Shapiro is nevertheless trying to sidestep his true positions, saying that as attorney general, his office is required to defend the commonwealth in court.

That may be, but just a few weeks before Wolf’s COVID orders, Shapiro refused to defend the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency against accusations of deceptive lending practices. “I just don’t simply feel like in good conscience I can [represent PHEAA],” he said.

Where was this “good conscience” when Shapiro defended mandates that he supposedly opposed—mandates that devastated livelihoods and damaged children’s mental health and academic achievement?

And even were we to concede that Shapiro defended the mandates only out of duty, he was in no way dutybound to take to Twitter on May 29, 2020, to encourage Pennsylvanians to report friends and neighbors who violated Wolf’s orders to the government.

I get momentary forgetfulness. It happens to the best of us. But it takes a true suspension of disbelief to buy Shapiro’s narrative that he did anything other than wholeheartedly support business shutdowns, school closures, and mask mandates.

I’m sure his selective amnesia has nothing to do with the fact that he’s now running for Pennsylvania governor. Here’s hoping Pennsylvanians’ memory is better than Josh Shapiro’s seems to be.

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