During a press briefing on March 19, Donald Trump inexplicably told reporters (and the world) how surprised he was by this deadly pandemic. Despite having access to and briefings by the world’s foremost experts on pandemics, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, Donald Trump stood behind the podium with the presidential seal and said, “I would view it as something that just surprised the whole world.” He added, “Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion.”
That, of course, was a lie. On April 11, The New York Times published an absolutely stunning takedown of that statement. Not only did many, many scientists and doctors around the world warn of this kind of deadly pandemic—many in Trump’s own administration were warning him as well. From the Department of Veterans Affairs to the National Security Council, Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. military, and so on and so forth. They all repeatedly warned Donald Trump going all the way back to November. Instead of heeding those warnings and preparing the nation, he continued golfing and continued his pursuit of MAGA adulation from his angry, adoring rally crowds. Me, me, me.
Now Trump is working to gaslight the country by pretending he knew all along that this would be bad … or that the devastation we are seeing was unavoidable, depending on which day of the week it is. After Trump’s attacks blaming Barack Obama and China fell short, he and his advisers have pivoted to another one of their favorite foes: the media. Because apparently it is up to NBC News to make sure our health care professionals have all the personal protective gear, like masks and gloves, that they need in a deadly pandemic. Why didn’t CNN think to have more ventilators made? When will Anderson Cooper get his act together to protect us?
Enter White House trade adviser Peter Navarro. He was dispatched to defend Donald Trump’s piss poor management of this crisis on 60 Minutes, even though The New York Times recently reported that Navarro himself “starkly warned” White House officials of the threat of COVID-19 in late January, saying it could “imperil the lives of millions.”
Like his boss, Navarro attacked the media, trying to defend their actions—or in this case, complete inaction. When pressed, Navarro scolded 60 Minutes host Bill Whitaker, saying, “I challenge you. Show me the 60 Minutes episode a year ago, two years ago, or during the Obama administration, during the Bush administration that said, ‘Hey, global pandemic’s coming, you gotta do X, Y and Z, and, by the way, we gotta shut down the economy to fight it. Show me that episode. Then you’ll have some credence in terms of attacking the Trump administration for not being prepared.’”
Whitaker’s response? “I guarantee we did.” And did they ever. CBS rolled out all the receipts of their coverage, including their interviews with Dr. Anthony Fauci in 2005, who warned of precisely this kind of deadly damage, both economically and in terms of human lives.
Once again, this only goes to show that this pandemic is something scientists and doctors have long been warning us about and we chose not to be prepared. Our leaders chose not to prepare us. One popular meme making the rounds on social media says: “Every disaster movie starts with someone ignoring a scientist.” When we get through this pandemic, we need to pivot to tackling the other global emergency they have been warning us about: climate change.