Trump Defends His Coronavirus Record With Anger, and a Video
President Donald Trump declared “everything we did was right” and angrily denounced media reports suggesting his administration had failed to adequately ramp up coronavirus testing or the production of medical supplies in a testy press conference Monday at the White House.
Trump, who said he was frustrated by the reports questioning his administration’s response to the crisis that has left more than 20,000 Americans dead and millions unemployed, played a campaign-style video defending his record and highlighting instances where media and medical analysts downplayed the threat posed by the coronavirus.
The president went on to complain that governors hadn’t done more to prepare their states for the pandemic, and called for former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats to apologize to him for initial criticism of his decision to ban most travel between the U.S. and China.
The combative display in the White House briefing room prompted at least two cable networks – CNN and MSNBC – to cut away from the president’s remarks.
Questioned about his decision to devote the opening of his briefing to the defensive display, the president said it was justified “because we’re getting fake news and I want to correct it.” Trump said the video was produced by White House employees, including social-media director Dan Scavino. The project, he added, “took less than two hours.”
“Everything we did was right,” Trump added, calling the federal response “a great military and beyond operation.”
In a subsequent exchange with CBS White House correspondent Paula Reid, Trump angrily dismissed questions about what actions his administration took between announcing the China travel ban in January and his March decision to recommend stringent social distancing.
“It’s so disgraceful the way you say that,” Trump said, calling the reporter “a fake.”
The opening of the president’s press conference also saw Anthony Fauci – the government’s top infectious disease expert – seek to clean up comments he made in a CNN interview Sunday, in which he said more lives would have been saved if mitigation steps had been implemented earlier and that he had received “a lot of pushback” early during the outbreak.
Trump later Sunday retweeted a post calling for Fauci’s firing, though a White House spokesman on Monday denied that the president was considering removing the longtime public health official.
Fauci said that on Sunday he had mischaracterized ordinary debate within the administration about social-distancing programs, and credited Trump for following his recommendations to implement a mitigation program and extend it to the end of April. He also said Trump didn’t order him to clarify his remarks, saying, “Everything I do is voluntary.”
“The president listened to the recommendation and went to the mitigation,” Fauci said.
Trump said he was aware that he had retweeted someone calling for Fauci’s removal, but denied that his elevation of the post should be read as an endorsement of the idea.
“That’s somebody’s opinion. All that is is an opinion,” Trump said.
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