Following the recent revelations from journalist Bob Woodward’s latest book that President Donald Trump had downplayed the threat of the coronavirus early on, Republican National Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel supported the president’s response to the pandemic while accusing Democrats of politicizing it.
In an interview on NBC News’ Meet the Press Sunday, McDaniel responded to the reports by citing his approach as “calm and steady and methodical.” She referenced examples of the president’s response at the time, such as the cancellation of travel from China in January and the creation of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in February.
“These are things that you want from a president. Think of what would’ve happened if he’d have gone out and said, ‘This is awful. We should all be afraid. We don’t have a plan.’ It would’ve been a run on the banks, it would’ve been a run on the hospitals, it would’ve been a run on the grocery stores. The president was calm and steady in a time of unrest and uncertainty. I think history will look back on him well as how he handled this pandemic.”
According to an excerpt in Woodward’s book Rage, Trump knew of the virus’s ability to travel through air and that it was “more deadly” than the flu going back to early February. He also stated in an interview with Woodward: “It goes through air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch. The touch, you don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air, and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one.”
McDaniel also dismissed Meet the Press host Chuck Todd’s suggestion that Trump did not state the seriousness of the coronavirus threat earlier, over concerns of what it would might do to him politically—despite the president being frequently very vocal when it comes to other issues such as immigration and violence in the cities.
“I disagree that the president took political calculations into a global pandemic like we’ve never seen before that has decimated not just our country but countries across the world,” McDaniel said.
Todd also brought up that Trump fought against to a mask mandate and suggested that more lives would’ve been saved if the president had encouraged mask wearing sooner. In response, McDaniel answered: “I think 20/20 vision in hindsight is always perfect, right? But as a new pandemic hit our shores, we were all being told by Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, by the scientists, ‘You shouldn’t wear masks.’ We were all being told that. And then the science came out and said ‘Yes, we should be wearing masks’…because it’s a new virus like we’ve never seen before. To say that he should’ve known then what we know now seven months later isn’t really fair.”
The Republican National Committee chairwoman also said that “we are seeing the mortality rates go down” and testing has gone over 100 million.
“I feel like we’re in the right space and moving forward with this vaccine. And of course we all need to remember, this is a virus that we’ve never seen before, and the president has led us through uncertain times, with a Democrat Party who is politicizing a time of crisis when usually people come together.”
She further took aim at Trump’s political opponents: “If Democrats were in charge, if Joe Biden had his way, go look at his statements in January when he said the president was being xenophobic and hysterical for closing the borders to China”—which prompted Todd to interrupt: “He’s not the president.”
“He was running for president,” McDaniel said of Biden, “and he had the same data. And while Democrats were trying to impeach this president, this president was taking decisive action. So I think it’s disgusting to take a crisis in our country and try to lay it at the feet of the president…This is a president who took decisive action early on that was derided by Democrats. So he saved lives with the actions he has taken.”
In response to a story by Politico that said Health and Human Services communications aides interfered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly reports about the pandemic—over concern that the CDC reports would undermine the president’s message—McDaniel said during her Sunday interview: “I don’t know anything about that. But I do know Nancy Pelosi has called it the Trump virus. How is that not politicization? I mean, how is that not a disgusting thing, to say that people are being killed by the Trump virus? That’s disgusting. This is something that’s affecting every American, Republican, Democrat.”
“Usually in crisis we come together. Let’s show the best of America,” she continued. “The president’s willing to work with everyone. Why aren’t Democrats passing a fourth stimulus bill? Why aren’t they helping small businesses? Why aren’t they working with this president?”
Newsweek reached out to the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee for comment.