President Donald Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Friday morning said that media coverage of the coronavirus is aimed at attacking the White House and not informing the American public about the illness spreading across the U.S. and the world.
Mulvaney made the remarks to a crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Fort Washington, Maryland.
“The reason you’re seeing so much attention paid to it today is that they think this is what brings down the president,” said Mulvaney. “This is what it’s all about.”
Mulvaney then recounted an exchange he allegedly had with a reporter.
“I got a note today from a reporter saying, ‘What are you going to do today to calm the markets,'” said Mulvaney. “I’m like, ‘Really what I might do today to calm the markets is tell people to turn their televisions off for 24 hours.'”
Here's Mike Mulvaney at CPAC characterizing coronavirus coverage as "an attempt to bring down the president" and blaming the media for the stock market stump pic.twitter.com/a747Inf2ky— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 28, 2020
Mulvaney also downplayed the risk of the virus, telling the CPAC crowd “this is not Ebola.”
“As Mulvaney spews this disinformation for political reasons, he highlights the grave danger of politicizing the response to an emergency for the benefit of a corrupt president at the expense of American families,” tweeted attorney Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics.
The president’s chief of staff was not the only right-wing luminary to comment on the virus. Donald Trump, Jr., the president’s son, suggested on Fox News morning show “Fox and Friends” Friday that Democratic lawmakers were salivating at the prospect of coronavirus killing Americans.
“For them to try to take a pandemic and seemingly hope that it comes here and kills millions of people so that they can end Donald Trump’s streak of winning is a new level of sickness,” said Trump Jr.
Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), whose northern California district is where the country’s first known coronavirus outbreak occurred this week, said in response to those comments on MSNBC that the president’s son should not say something like that in front of him.
Democratic Rep. John Garamendi just threatened to beat Donald Trump Jr’s ass. pic.twitter.com/8mCQJEQPqR— Sam Sacks (@SamSacks) February 28, 2020
Despite his comments at CPAC downplaying the threat of the virus, Mulvaney acknowledged that the spread of the virus will likely impact day-to-day life for Americans.
“Are you going to see some schools shut down? Probably,” said Mulvaney. “May you see impacts on public transportation? Sure.”
As Bloomberg News reported, the comments came just before markets opened with an immediate loss:
Mulvaney’s remarks indicate that the administration is planning for potentially bigger disruptions. He spoke a day after stock markets plunged the most since 2011 over concerns that the coronavirus outbreak would continue to spread and drag down the global economy. There are now more than 83,000 cases of the virus worldwide, with infections spreading in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
“What an inspired course of action for public confidence as we face a mounting pandemic,” tweeted Montana-based progressive activist Reilly Neil. “How about the truth and a solid plan instead?”
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