Editor's Note: FOX 17 News has since retracted its original report on the story below.
Rich, who owns the Redneck Riviera bar on Broadway and has been outspoken against Mayor Cooper's decision to close and limit bar and restaurant service amid the COVID-19 pandemic, acknowledged FOX 17 News' report that a series of leaked emails appear to show that Metro Government suppressed COVID-19 contact tracing information from the public.
"Mayor John Cooper has betrayed our town," Rich said during an appearance on "The Ingraham Angle." "He has betrayed Music City. He is the Judas to this town. He is now the '[New York City Mayor Bill] de Blasio of the South.'"
Rich added that if Mayor Cooper "had any dignity or any love for this town [Nashville] he would apologize to Music City and resign before midnight tonight."
Rich mentioned several Nashville bars and restaurants that have been forced to permanently close due to lost wages following Nashville's COVID-19 restrictions. The city is currently limited bar and restaurant service to 50% capacity and an 11:00 p.m. closing time in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus through social distancing.
FOX 17 News' Dennis Ferrier reports emails between Mayor John Cooper's senior advisor and the Nashville Health Department seem to discuss the low number of coronavirus cases coming from bars and restaurants and the department's refusal to report the information to local media outlets.
Coronavirus clusters of more than 1,000 cases were shown to be caused by both construction and nursing homes on June 30, but bars and restaurants, which have been forced to shutdown and have limited capacity throughout the pandemic, only reported 22 cases.
In the email chain, Health Department official Leslie Waller asks, "This isn't going to be publicly released, right? Just info for Mayor's Office?"
Senior advisor Benjamin Eagles responds, "Correct, not for public consumption."
One month later, Tennessee Lookout reporter Nate Rau reportedly asks the Health Department why it gave a figure of "more than 80," and poses the question,"If there have been over 20,000 positive cases of COVID-19 in Davidson and only 80 or so are traced to restaurants and bars, doesn't that mean restaurants and bars aren't a very big problem?"
According to Ferrier, Health Department official Brian Todd then reached out to five other department officials, asking, "Please advise how you recommend I respond."
FOX 17 News reports the name at the top of the response is redacted, but includes the following:
“My two cents. We have certainly refused to give counts per bar because those numbers are low per site.
We could still release the total though, and then a response to the over 80 could be because that number is increasing all the time and we don’t want to say a specific number."
FOX 17 News said it reached out to the Nashville Health Department and mayor's office to confirm the authenticity of the emails but received no response. However, Rep. Steve Glover said he was able to get verification from the mayor's office and Health Department, telling Ferrier he believes Metro Nashville is orchestrating a "cover up."
"They are fabricating information," Glover told FOX 17 News. "They’ve blown their entire credibility, Dennis. It's gone, I don’t trust a thing they say going forward...nothing."
The Nashville Health Department releases daily COVID-19 totals accessible to the local media both via email and on its Twitter account.
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