Vice President Mike Pence schooled Wolf Blitzer Wednesday when the CNN host slammed President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
After Pence praised the response from all levels of government in America to deal with the crisis, Blitzer went on the attack.
“It would have been good if the president wouldn’t have been belittling the enormity of this crisis, the coronavirus pandemic, as he was. Now he’s finally on board,” Blitzer said.
The host noted that current estimates of 100,000 deaths from the virus assume there is a national lockdown in place, saying not all of the nation was “on the same page” regarding restrictions and asking why the administration would not impose a nationwide order to stay at home.
“Well, Wolf, respectfully I take issue with two things that you just said,” Pence replied. “I don’t believe the president has ever belittled the threat of the coronavirus.”
As Blitzer tried to talk over his guest, Pence continued.
“I think he’s expressed confidence that America will meet this moment,” Pence continued. “I think he’s expressed gratitude and confidence in health care workers in this country, and the American people can be assured that President Trump is going to continue to be confident that we will meet this moment.”
Blitzer cited as evidence comments made by Trump during the weeks when the extent of the impact of the virus on the nation was unclear, even among experts.
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Pence responded that cherry-picking quotes ignores the fundamental truth of the early days when the nation knew the virus existed.
“I will be very candid with you and say that in mid-January the CDC was still assessing that the risk of the coronavirus to the American people was low. The very first case, which was someone who had been in China, I believe took place in late January around the 20th day of January,” Pence said.
In an oblique reference to the impeachment trial that dominated Washington during January, the vice president added that “while a lot of other things were going on in Washington, D.C., before January was out, the president stood up the White house coronavirus task force, assembled a whole-of-government response, and then did what no other president had ever done in American history: He suspended all travel into the United States from China.”
“At that point, other than cases that had been people who had been in China, we had virtually no cases in this country but the president took that unprecedented action on the recommendation of his coronavirus task force, and every step of the way, as the president did again this weekend, we’ve been taking bold and decisive steps at the president’s direction to put the health of America first,” Pence said.
When Blitzer pressed the vice president about an alleged “late start,” Pence noted that the world did not know then what it knows now.
“Well, the reality is that we could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming,” he said.
“The reality is that China’s been more transparent with regard to the coronavirus than certainly they were for other infectious diseases over the last 15 years,” he said. “But what appears evident now is that long before the world learned in December that China was dealing with this, maybe as much as a month earlier than that.”
Pence also told Blitzer that Trump “is an optimistic person.”
“We’ve been from the very beginning, when the president suspended all travel from China and stood up the White House coronavirus task force in January, we have been hoping for the best but planning for the worst, and that’s been being worked out every single day. And what the American people can see in this president every day is a leader who knows that we will get through this,” he said.
Pence urged Americans across the nation to follow federal, state and local guidelines, but noted that “there are tough days ahead.”
— HHS.gov (@HHSGov) April 1, 2020
He said that if all Americans do their part, “by some time in early June, we could well have the coronavirus largely behind us as a nation.”
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