Critics of President Donald Trump have long claimed that he downplayed the threat posed by the novel coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak. But as the pandemic picks up the pace in the U.S., the president’s staunchest defenders have confirmed that they aren’t letting those criticisms go unanswered.
Vice President Mike Pence, who is in charge of the president’s coronavirus task force, let loose on journalist Wolf Blitzer in an interview Wednesday, Fox News reported, after the CNN host suggested that Trump had been “belittling the enormity” of the COVID-19 crisis.
Not on the same page
“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, according to Mediaite, before going on to ask the vice president whether a “national lockdown” is warranted in response to the outbreak.
“Right now the whole country isn’t on the same page, as you well know,” Blitzer continued. “Why not, Mr. Vice President, issue a national stay-at-home order right now?”
But Pence wasn’t letting the “belittling” remark from the CNN host slide by.
“Well, Wolf, respectfully, I take issue with two things that you just said,” the vice president began, according to Fox. “I don’t believe the president has ever belittled the threat of the coronavirus.”
Pence went on: “I think he’s expressed confidence that America will meet this moment. I think he’s expressed gratitude and confidence in health care workers in this country. And the American people can be assured President Trump is going to continue to be confident that we will meet this moment.”
“We will get through this”
Blitzer, for his part, pushed back, saying Trump had likened the coronavirus disease to “the regular flu” and “seemed to be suggesting” that the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. would “get down to zero very quickly.”
But Pence, according to Fox, told Blitzer that Trump is simply “an optimistic person.”
“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,” the vice president said, according to Fox.
He went on: “What the American people can see in this president every day is a leader who knows that we will get through this.”
Take a look at a clip of Pence’s conversation below:
Vice President Mike Pence responds to a question about President Trump previously downplaying the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) April 1, 2020