Pence said Trump never 'belittled' the threat of coronavirus, but the president spent weeks downplaying it

Al Drago/ReutersVice President Mike Pence speaks during a news conference next to President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, March 29, 2020.
  • Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday rejected the assessment that President Donald Trump “belittled” the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • “I don’t believe the president has ever belittled the threat of the coronavirus,” Pence said on CNN.
  • Trump spent weeks downplaying the threat, telling Americans everything was under control even as the number of confirmed cases and deaths were on the rise.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday said that President Donald Trump never “belittled” the threat of coronavirus, despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary.

This came in response to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer stating the US would have been “better off” in responding to the coronavirus had Trump not belittled the “enormity of this crisis.”

“Well, Wolf, respectfully I take issue with two things that you just said,” Pence said. “I don’t believe the president has ever belittled the threat of the coronavirus.”

“I think he’s expressed confidence that America will meet this moment,” Pence added. “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.”

But Blitzer pushed back, highlighting recent examples of Trump downplaying the crisis – including the president misleadingly comparing coronavirus to the flu.

Pence replied by stating that Trump is an “optimistic person.”

The exchange came less than a day after Trump publicly acknowledged he downplayed the threat of coronavirus, stating he did so because he’s a “cheerleader” for the US and wanted to give people “hope.”

“I knew everything. I knew it could be horrible, I knew it could be maybe good,” Trump said. “I don’t want to be a negative person.”

Trump downplayed the threat of coronavirus for weeks, and ignored multiple warnings to prepare the US for a pandemic.

Here’s a timeline of Trump’s statements and efforts to downplay the coronavirus, which arrived in the US in late January:

  • January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”
  • January 24: “It will all work out well.”
  • February 2: “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.”
  • February 19: “I think it’s going to work out fine. I think when we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of a virus. So let’s see what happens, but I think it’s going to work out fine.”
  • February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA…Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
  • February 26: “Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low…When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
  • February 28: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
  • March 7: “It came out of China, and we heard about it. And made a good move: We closed it down; we stopped it. Otherwise – the head of CDC said last night that you would have thousands of more problems if we didn’t shut it down very early. That was a very early shutdown, which is something we got right.”
  • March 9: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”
  • March 10: “It hit the world. And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”
  • March 12: “It’s going to go away. … The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point … when you look at the kind of numbers that you’re seeing coming out of other countries, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it.”
  • March 23: “America will again and soon be open for business…Parts of our country are very lightly affected.”
  • March 26: “They have to go back to work; our country has to go back. Our country is based on that, and I think it’s going to happen pretty quickly.”
  • March 29: “So you’re talking about 2.2. million deaths – 2.2 million people from this. And so, if we can hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000 – that’s a horrible number – maybe even less, but to 100,000; so we have between 100- and 200,000 – we all, together, have done a very good job. But 2.2, up to 2.2 million deaths and maybe even beyond that. I’m feeling very good about what we did last week.”
  • March 30: “New York is really in trouble, but I think it’s going to end up being fine. We’re loading it up, we’re stocking it up…And then by a little short of June, maybe June 1, we think the – you know, it’s a terrible thing to say, but – we think the deaths will be at a very low number. It will be brought down to a very low number from right now, from where it’s getting to reach its peak.”

As of Wednesday, there were nearly 190,000 reported cases of coronavirus in the US, and over 3,900 people have died.

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