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‘Larry, It’s Not Safe!’: CNN’s Poppy Harlow Blasts Kudlow for Pushing Return to Work During Pandemic in Heated Clash

CNN’s Poppy Harlow got into a heated debate with National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow over the administration’s push for Americans to return to work in potentially unsafe conditions.

During Friday morning’s edition of CNN Newsroom, Harlow grilled Kudlow over his claim that the recently-expired $600 per week Federal unemployment benefit — which is currently being negotiated between the administration and Congress — gives people less motivation to return to their jobs.

“Why do you think that’s a disincentive for people to go back to work?” Harlow said. “What evidence do you have?”

“What evidence?” Kudlow replied, incredulous. “The University of Chicago said two-thirds of the people now have higher unemployment benefits than their wage.”

“But Larry,” Harlow said, interjecting. “The University of Chicago study … it doesn’t conclude what you’re arguing.”

“Poppy, I would love to finish my sentence,” Kudlow said. He then argued, “We’ve never had a situation where unemployment benefits exceeded wages by a significant amount. Now, mind you, the states will continue their unemployment benefits. That’s a good thing. We think we can create a much better balance to provide incentives to come back to work, and most of all we want to reward people.”

Harlow said that she’d spoken with one of the authors of the study Kudlow cited, who said that Kudlow is misinterpreting the study’s findings.

“It’s a mistake to draw the conclusion, as you have been and the White House has been, that right now it’s a disincentive to go back to work,” she said.

The CNN anchor then invoked an email she’d received from a friend’s mother, who’d written that she wanted to return to work, but could not do so because it is unsafe for her.

“‘Work is fulfilling,'” Harlow said, quoting from the email. “‘It gives me purpose. It’s what I love and what I’ve known for 40-plus years. I don’t want a handout. I want to go back to work.'”

“We’re the ones offering payments, benefits, rewards for going back to work,” Kudlow responded. “So I agree with that point of view.”

“Larry, it’s not safe!” Harlow shot back. “It’s not safe for a number of people to go back to work! That’s what I’m saying!”

Kudlow defended the administration’s safety protocols.

“We have emphasized guidelines time and time again,” he said. “Distancing and masking, testing where applicable, and good hygiene, washing your hands. This has to be part of anything.”

“So wouldn’t a federal mask mandate make a lot of sense?” Harlow asked.

“We think that people should act responsibly as individuals.” Kudlow replied.

Harlow went on to call out Kudlow for a series of incorrect statements he made about the outbreak.

“I’m wondering why you have consistently downplayed the severity of the pandemic,” Harlow said. “Back on Feb. 25, you said ‘it’s pretty close to air tight.’ Feb. 28, ‘It’s not going to sink the American economy.’ March 6, ‘Let’s not overreact. America should stay at work.’ And then just on June 12, ‘There is no emergency, there is no second wave.’ But since June 12, 45,978 Americans have died from Covid.”

Kudlow argued that Harlow was “nitpicking” — claiming that health experts backed him up at the time on two of those claims.

“I kind of resent your nitpicking here,” Kudlow said. “Because I don’t know what that has to do with today’s job numbers.”

“I’m not nitpicking, Larry,” Harlow replied. “I think people listen to you and the president … when you say things about the pandemic and the economy.”

Watch above, via CNN.

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Joe DePaolo is a Senior Editor at Mediaite. Email him here: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @joe_depaolo