Watch CBS News

Republican Congressman Trey Hollingsworth says Americans should return to work despite coronavirus risk, calling it "the lesser of these two evils"

Trump looks toward reopening economy
U.S. retail sales hit record low as Trump looks ahead to reopening economy 13:03

Indiana Republican Congressman Trey Hollingsworth said Tuesday that Americans need to get back to work — despite the risk of dying from coronavirus. In a radio interview, Hollingsworth prioritized the reopening of the economy and called it the "lesser of these two evils."

While discussing the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, Hollingsworth said there is no "zero-harm choice" between sending people back to work or letting the economy continue to falter.

"Both of these decisions will lead to harm for individuals, whether that's dramatic economic harm or or whether that's the loss of life," he said. "But it is always the American government's position to say, in the choice between the loss of our way of life as Americans and the loss of life of American lives, we have to always choose the latter."

Despite potentially risking people's lives to the virus, Hollingsworth said in his view it's still "the lesser of these two evils" compared to the economic shutdown.

"It is policymakers' decision to put on our big boy and big girl pants and say, 'This is the lesser of these two evils,'" he said. "And it is not zero evil, but it is the lesser of these evils, and we intend to move forward in that direction. That is our responsibility and to abdicate that is to insult the Americans that voted us into office."

Election 2018 Trump
Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Indiana), at left, with President Trump in 2018. Andrew Harnik / AP

However, a day later, Hollingsworth clarified his comments in a statement to CBS News.

"It's hyperbolic to say that the only choices before us are the two corner solutions: no economy or widespread casualties. We can use the best of biology and economics to enable as much of the economy to operate as possible while we work to minimize disease transmission."

Hollingsworth's remark echoed comments from Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who said last month that he'd be willing to die to revive the American economy for the next generation, and felt other grandparents would agree.

In a briefing on Tuesday, President Trump said plans to reopen the nation are close to being finalized. He said he will soon speak with all 50 governors and authorize each governor to implement such a plan in the weeks and months ahead, as local conditions allow.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.