As Trump says news about COVID should be illegal, WH chief of staff says goal is to 'defeat' virus, not 'control' it

While President Trump’s chief of staff on Monday attempted to clarify the assertion that the United States is “not going to control” the coronavirus crisis, the president himself complained that the media is too focused on a pandemic that has killed more than 225,000 Americans and infected more than 8.6 million.

Trump said news coverage of COVID-19, which he has described as an attempt to hurt his campaign, should be “an election law violation.”

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, sought to defend the administration’s response to the virus on a weekend in which the United States saw its highest ever number of new COVID-19 cases in a two-day span.

“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Meadows said. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”  

“Why aren’t we going to get control of the pandemic?” Tapper asked.

“Because it is a contagious virus,” Meadows replied.

Later Sunday, the Biden campaign released a statement seizing on the interview.

“This wasn’t a slip by Meadows,” the campaign said. “It was a candid acknowledgement of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away.”

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, left, has said the goal of U.S. President Donald Trump is to "defeat" the coronavirus, not "control" it. (REUTERS/Al Drago)
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has said President Trump’s goal is to “defeat” the coronavirus, not “control” it. (Al Drago/Reuters)

Speaking to reporters outside the White House on Monday, Meadows elaborated on his comments. “We’re going to defeat the virus; we’re not going to control it,” he said. “We will try to contain it as best we can, but if you look at the full context of what I was talking about, we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines, we may need to make sure that when people get sick that, that they have the kind of therapies that the president of the United States had. Then we can provide those emergency using authorizations. Hopefully they’ll be coming in very short order.”

When asked whether his remarks amounted to the White House waving a “white flag” in its coronavirus fight, Meadows said, “The only person waving a white flag, along with his white mask, is Joe Biden,” who unlike Trump appears in public with his nose and mouth covered.

Trump, meanwhile, appeared focused on the media’s coverage of the coronavirus, claiming the press is using the pandemic to damage his reelection chances.

“We have made tremendous progress with the China Virus, but the Fake News refuses to talk about it this close to the Election,” the president tweeted. “COVID, COVID, COVID is being used by them, in total coordination, in order to change our great early election numbers. Should be an election law violation!”

“The Fake News Media is riding COVID, COVID, COVID, all the way to the Election,” he added. “Losers!”

Then, after arriving in Pennsylvania for the first of three rallies, Trump said it was asked to respond Biden’s “white flag” statement.

“He’s waved the white flag on life,” Trump said. “He doesn’t leave his basement.”

“He’s a pathetic candidate,” the president added. “We’re absolutely rounding the corner.”


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