Cortes called the Chinese Communist Party — “not Donald Trump, not the Democrats, no American,” he said — the “ultimate culprit” for lying to the world about the virus early on and failing to contain it to Wuhan, where it originated in China. And he said the president’s constant fear-mongering about the dangers of a Joe Biden administration is “legitimate.”
“What is not helpful is to tell the American people that this virus is out of control,” he argued. “The president’s job in a time of crisis is partly to be reassuring to the American people, to convince them that we can and will persevere through this epidemiological Pearl Harbor, and that’s what he did. He was reassuring to the American people at the same time he was taking decisive action. He didn’t just offer flowery phrases and then sit back.”
Facing questions about their own candidate’s response to the virus, Biden advisers insisted their candidate wasn’t privy to the same information the president was.
“In January and February, Joe Biden was not being briefed by national security experts who warned him how deadly the virus was,” Biden campaign senior adviser Symone Sanders told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.” “In January and February, Joe Biden did not have the knowledge that President Trump did.”
“But I will tell you that if Joe Biden were president in January or February, he would have taken proper precautions,” she continued. “He would have warned the American people. He would have told folks to social distance. He would model good behavior and wear a mask.”
Jake Sullivan, a Biden campaign senior policy adviser, echoed that message on “Fox News Sunday,” contending that Biden continued to hold large rallies until March “because he wasn’t the president, and he didn’t get the information from government experts telling him this was deadly and airborne the way President Trump did.”
“He wasn’t being told by his national security adviser the way that Donald Trump was that this was going to be the worst crisis of his presidency,” Sullivan added. “He didn’t have access to the kind of information that Donald Trump had, and Donald Trump got all that information … and then lied to the American people and did nothing about it. That is the difference in the record between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in this regard.”
Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also cited a general lack of information as being a big problem in the early months of pandemic, saying it afflicted all levels of government.
“The public messaging wasn’t clear and consistent in the outset and could have been better at all levels of government,” he said on CBS‘ “Face the Nation. “I think if you look back in February, and I think when history looks back, the biggest failing over that month was that we were — we were situationally blind. We had no idea where this virus was and wasn’’t spreading.“
Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller said on “This Week” that Trump is “not at all” still downplaying the virus, and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told host Jake Tapper in a contentious interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump was right to play it calm and that he was straightforward with the American people.
Tapper repeatedly told Navarro he wasn’t answering his question, while Navarro accused him of cherry-picking facts.
“In February, nobody knew,” Navarro falsely claimed. “No, nobody knew. Not the president, not you, not [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi, not [New York Mayor] Bill de Blasio.”
“He knew it was deadlier than the flu, and he was lying to the American public two weeks later,” Tapper said of the president. “He was not honest with the American people. You’re not answering the question.”
“You’re wrong,” Navarro shot back. “You’re not honest with the American people. CNN is not honest with the American people.”
The network cut Navarro’s feed from outside the White House shortly after as Tapper closed that segment.
“I would just like to remind the American people watching that the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, and the United States has more than 20 percent of the world’s coronavirus deaths,” Tapper said. “That is a fact. It does not matter how many times he insults CNN.”
Trump himself weighed in later Sunday morning with his own coronavirus facts.
“Deaths and hospitalizations way down, and even cases down despite far more Testing than any other country in the World, by far,” he tweeted.