Carolyn Goodman is the mayor of Las Vegas, Nevada whose staunch support for reopening the city during the COVID-19 pandemic is causing controversy online.
An interview Goodman gave CNN’s Anderson Cooper has gone viral. She is pushing for a reopening of even the Las Vegas casinos. “Let them, and visitors, gather and gamble, smoke in confined spaces, touch slot machines all day — and let the chips, and apparently the infections, fall where they may,” wrote The Washington Post, describing her position. Some of the social media reaction was brutal.
Goodman, who has been mayor of the Nevada city since 2011, is part of a marital political dynasty in Vegas, where her husband also once served as the city’s mayor. She identifies as a political independent.
In another interview, she said the virus reminded her of 1964. “I can drive anywhere quickly. It’s wonderful. There’s no traffic jams.” But she said the other side of the virus was “tragic.” Watch that interview:
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Goodman’s Interviews With Cooper & MSNBC Are Provoking Controversy Online
At one point, Anderson Cooper took off his glasses and rubbed his face as Goodman spoke on his show, in a video that has gone viral. He asked her what steps she was taking to get COVID-19 tests for city residents before businesses are reopened, and she said, “It’s not my job, it’s the hospitals and health system’s job. And it’s people’s responsibility to know when they are sick.”
She added: “Anybody who’s in or come into the office that needs an appointment or has an issue they all are with their masks on or we enforce social distancing.”
According to the Post, she told Cooper she offered Vegas as a “control group” but was turned down, saying, “We offered to be a control group. It was offered, it was turned down.” When he showed her a graphic indicating how COVID-19 could spread in a restaurant in China, she responded, “This isn’t China. This is Las Vegas, Nevada.”
Cooper retorted, “Wow, that’s really ignorant.” On MSNBC, she said, “We’ve survived the West Nile and SARS, bird flu, E. coli, swine flu, the Zika virus.”
Goodman told Cooper she felt people would come to Las Vegas in part because “we have major league sports here,” to which Cooper asked, “So you want stadiums open?” Goodman responded, “I’d love everything open. We’ve had viruses for years.”
Celebrities weighed in. “Dear Las @Vegas. It would appear that your @mayoroflasvegas Carolyn Goodman is dangerously misguided. I am not easily shocked anymore, but the interview she is doing with @andersoncooper @cnn right now is bonkers,” Jimmy Kimmel wrote on Twitter.
Goodman also provoked controversy with the interview on MSNBC, in which she said, “Assume everybody is a carrier. And then you start from an even slate. And tell the people what to do. And let the businesses open and competition will destroy that business if, in fact, they become evident that they have disease, they’re closed down. It’s that simple.”
MSNBC recounted that interview this way:
Mayor Goodman, pushing to reopen Las Vegas, says the city has survived diseases such as E. coli and bird flu.
@KatyTurNBC: “Those were not as contagious.”
Goodman: “We’ll find out the facts afterwards.”
Tur: “Those are the facts; we have a death toll that proves it.”
Goodman called the shut down “total insanity.”
2. Her City Biography Says Goodman Won her Third Term With a Whopping 83 Percent of the Vote
Goodman’s most recent re-election as Las Vegas’s mayor wasn’t a close one.
“With 83 percent of the vote, Carolyn G. Goodman won her third term as mayor of the city of Las Vegas on April 2, 2019.”
Among her priorities, her city bio says, Mayor Goodman “has championed downtown development, improvement in inner-city schools, expansion of homeless resources, coordination among non-profit service providers, adoption of the Nevada film tax credit, and creation of the medical district and UNLV medical school.”
She represents the city “on numerous boards and organizations, advocating for Las Vegas’ $44.9 billion tourism industry on the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, the Southern Nevada Sports Committee and Transportation Safety Commission,” says the bio.
“Additionally, she holds national leadership roles as a member of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), serving on its Advisory Board and as vice-chair of its Task Force on Education Reform, and as Chair of the Mayors’ Business Council. In June of 2013, she hosted the 81st annual gathering of the National Conference of Mayors in Las Vegas. The USCM honored her with the Mayors’ 2014 Large City Climate Protection Award.”
However, her positions have been controversial before, such as the city’s efforts to crack down on homeless people. “Las Vegas recently began cracking down on people living outdoors. In November, the city council approved a law that made sitting, resting or ‘lodging’ on sidewalks a misdemeanor punishable with up to six months in jail or fines of up to $1,000 in most neighborhoods,” the Guardian reported in February 2020.
The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that Goodman was “leading a charge to make sleeping on the sidewalks downtown a jail-worthy crime.”
3. Goodman’s Husband Served as the Mayor Too
According to her city bio, Goodman “was first elected on July 6, 2011, and her husband of 50 years and 12-year, term-limited mayor, Oscar B. Goodman, administered the oath of office. It is the only known instance of a spouse succeeding a spouse as mayor in the United States. Mayor Carolyn Goodman was also handily re-elected in 2015.”
The city bio explains that the Goodmans “moved to Las Vegas from Philadelphia in 1964 as relative newlyweds arriving in August with only $87 between them. Initially, Oscar (a member of the Pennsylvania Bar) worked for the District Attorney’s office while Carolyn began work in the hotel industry. Prior to that, she worked as a vocational counselor in West Las Vegas for the Department of Labor training and building employment opportunities for African Americans in a then-segregated city.”
Her husband practiced criminal law, and Carolyn raised four children “while simultaneously earning a master’s degree in counseling at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas,” says the bio.
Oscar Goodman, a Democrat in office, was the mayor of Las Vegas from 1999 to 2011. A 2017 article in the Review-Journal newspaper alleged that “Las Vegas Convention Center security officers left their taxpayer-funded posts about 260 times since 2013 to drive former Mayor Oscar Goodman to events, speeches and meetings — sometimes with his trademark martini in tow.” He was the convention authority’s chief ambassador.
He was described by the newspaper as being “gin-loving.”
4. Goodman Founded a Non-Profit College Preparatory School & Has Four Kids
Goodman has a background in for-profit education.
“Carolyn is well known in the Las Vegas community for founding The Meadows School in 1984, Nevada’s first nonprofit, college preparatory school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grades,” her city bio says.
“Carolyn planned and oversaw the entire day-to-day operations for 26 years while also raising her four children. During this time, Carolyn never had ownership of the school as it was incorporated as a 501[c] entity. Furthermore, during her 26 years in leadership, Carolyn never took a salary. She retired in June 2010.”
Her daughter Cara Goodman told the Review-Journal, “I think that’s why she is so good as the mayor — she wants to take care of everybody. I know how much she did for all of us. I’m glad other people can share in that.” That 2017 article says that the Goodmans have four children, all adopted shortly after they were born. At that time, they were: Oscar Jr., 47; Ross, 47; Eric, 46 and Cara, 44.
Carolyn once said, “You cannot have four children, 38 months apart, and not be able to mediate.”
5. Goodman’s Politics Have Changed Over the Years
The New York Times reported that Goodman’s politics are complicated; she “has rotated from Republican to Democrat to nonpartisan.”
It also described how she and her husband once met with Donald Trump, before he was president, “to discuss redeveloping 61 acres of old rail yards.” She told The Times the meeting gave her a headache because “Two bigger egos there are not.” The Times article described her desk bearing photos of Joe Biden and Carrot Top.
She told the Times in that August 2016 article that she did not support Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump for president in 2016. According to KNPR, she did endorse others that election cycle: “notably Republican Joe Heck in his bid for Harry Reid’s seat in the Senate, and Democrat Ruben Kihuen’s bid for a seat in the U.S. House.”
In 2011, she said she told President Obama “the slate is brand new and clean.”