MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has said several times in re-election campaign ads that businesses in the state weren’t forced to close down during the pandemic, even though he ordered non-essential businesses closed in April 2020.
“And they tried to close businesses and churches during COVID. Not here,” McMaster says in an ad posted to YouTube on Sept. 19.
In a Facebook post Oct. 12, McMaster posted a similar sentiment.
“At the height of the COVID pandemic, politicians wanted to shut businesses and churches down. Not under my watch!” the post reads. That same message has also appeared as a Facebook ad.
McMaster has also run at least three ads on Facebook claiming that businesses were never shut down, according to the Facebook Ad Library, which shows a list of ads currently running on the platform.
“DC politicians spend money that doesn’t exist, work to defund our police, and tried to close businesses and churches during COVID. We don’t do that in South Carolina, and it won’t happen with me as your governor,” reads an ad that began running on the platform on Oct. 7.
“At the height of the COVID pandemic, politicians wanted to shut businesses and churches down. Not under my watch!” reads another Oct. 7 ad with the same message as the Oct. 12 Facebook post.
Despite saying he never shut down businesses, on March 31, 2020, McMaster signed an executive order that closed “non-essential” businesses, including:
- Night clubs
- Bowling alleys
- Concert venues
- Theaters, auditoriums and performing arts centers
- Tourist attractions (Museums, aquariums, planetariums)
- Indoor play areas, excluding day cares
- Adult entertainment venues
- Bingo halls
- Venues operated by social clubs
- Spas and pools
- Spectator sports
- Sports that involve close interaction
- Activities requiring shared equipment
- Activities on commercial or public playground equipment
- Barber shops
- Hair salons
- Nail salons
- Tattoo shops
- Tanning salons
- Massage therapy businesses
Two days later, McMaster expanded the list of businesses to include:
- Furniture stores
- Home furnishing stores
- Clothing stores
- Shoe and clothing accessory stores
- Jewelry stores
- Luggage and leather goods stores
- Department stores
- Sporting goods stores
- Book stores
- Craft stores
- Music stores
McMaster also closed short-term rentals to anyone traveling to the state from a CDC-designated hot spot.
In late March 2020, he also signed an executive order that closed public beach accesses along with boat landings and ramps on the state’s lakes, rivers and waterways.
The businesses ordered to close gradually began reopening a few weeks later.
News13 reached out to McMaster’s campaign for comment on the ads and was sent the following statement by campaign spokesman Brandon Charochak:
“When the so-called experts in Washington wanted to close all of our business and churches, South Carolina, under the leadership of Henry McMaster, chose a better way. Thanks to the work of the governor — and leaders he worked with, such as Fred Carter, on accelerate SC — the state took a measured approach, and it recovered more quickly than others. Had Joe Cunningham been governor, there is no question, the state’s response would have been weak, businesses and schools would have faced prolonged closures, and families would still be suffering those consequences.”
McMaster is running for reelection against Democratic candidate Joe Cunningham.
Early voting began on Monday in South Carolina and thousands have already cast their ballots.
Election Day is Nov. 8.