Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
“Returning the Favor” host Mike Rowe questioned the widespread use of the term "essential worker" on "The Daily Briefing" Tuesday, arguing that many industries deemed unessential during the coronavirus pandemic are in fact the backbone of the U.S. economy.
"Times change, and we are awash in data and information but with little context and very little perspective," Rowe said. "When I was doing 'Dirty Jobs,' things were flush and very few people were paying ... attention to these anonymous, unsung workers who are making civilized life possible for the rest of us.
"Well, we are in a different world right now, people got the memo," he added. "So as we attempt to define essentiality, if that’s a word, we need to think differently about the world we are in."
Rowe was referring to an exchange last month between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a reporter during which Cuomo claimed that state residents should take a job as an "essential worker" if they were so eager to get back to work.
"Thirty-three, 34 million people are out of work right now," Rowe said. "By definition, those people are out of work because, according to the governor, they are "nonessential.'
"Look at the impact of removing those workers from our economy, our macroeconomy, you can see they are absolutely essential," he added. "Language always matters. We talked about it before. This is one of those instances where the headlines have caught up to our vernacular, and if we don't make some tweaks to our lexicon, we will wind up sounding really ... stupid."
On Monday, "The Five" co-host Greg Gutfeld said the country is "trapped in a prison of two ideas -- the idea that releasing the lockdown is somehow going to be irresponsible, and [the idea that] extending the quarantine is going to be cowardly."
"Gutfeld put it pretty well," Rowe said. "These are bad choices, but it's what happens when we dispense cookie-cutter advice," he added.
Rowe also expressed frustration with Cuomo's earlier statement that "no measure, no matter how drastic or draconian, should be unjustified if it saves a single life."
"We have to get away from the cookie-cutter platitudes and bromides and start dealing with one zip code at a time."
"That really snapped my neck," Rowe said. " ... Obviously, safety is very, very important -- but the notion that nothing in the country is more important than staying safe, that's not something commonsensical people embrace," he added.
"That's something you hear from people trying to sell you something, or politicians who are trying to get reelected. We have to get away from the cookie-cutter platitudes and bromides and start dealing with one zip code at a time."