This past week, President Donald Trump was questioned over whether he took any responsibility — any at all — for his administration’s slow response in handling the outbreak of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, across the country.
Kristen Welker of NBC News asked the president whether the buck stopped with him when it came to early miscues.
“I don’t take responsibility at all,” Trump replied.
In a follow-up question, PBS NewsHour reporter Yamiche Alcindor asked about Trump firing the White House pandemic response team, an action he (or someone in his administration) took in 2018.
Trump uses the term “nasty” when a smart, strong woman confronts him w/ hard facts & questions he can’t handle. Yes, the Trump administration fired the U.S. pandemic response team 2 years before the coronavirus crisis. #TrumpPressConference pic.twitter.com/hgTo7Pdgt6
— Stephanie Kennedy (@WordswithSteph) March 13, 2020
“You said that you don’t take responsibility, but you did disband the White House pandemic office, and the officials that were working in that office left this administration abruptly. So what responsibility do you take to that?” Alcindor asked.
Trump was indignant in his response. “Well, I just think it’s a nasty question,” he said on Friday. “And when you say me — I didn’t do it…I don’t know anything about it.”
On Monday, video emerged of Trump not only acknowledging in 2018 that he fired the pandemic response team, but also bragging about doing so as a cost-saving measure.
1/2 — Here’s Trump on cutting the pandemic response budget in 2018: “I’m a businessman. I don’t like having 1000’s of people around when you don’t need them”.pic.twitter.com/OwkytzX3qk
— Cleay Perham (@cleay) March 14, 2020
“Some of the people we’ve cut, they haven’t been used for many, many years and if we ever need them we can get them very quickly and rather then spending the money,” Trump said at the time.
He further rationalized the cut of the team:
“I’m a business person, I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them.”
Dr. Beth Cameron, who had run the pandemic team before Trump shut the program down, said his doing so directly corresponded to the slow reaction time the administration had in dealing with the present crisis.
“It is clear that eliminating the office has contributed to the federal government’s sluggish domestic response,” Cameron wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
Chris Walker is a freelance journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin, who focuses on news, politics, and analysis of world events. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, since 2005 Chris has reported on workers’ rights protests in Wisconsin, opined on four separate presidential elections and written on a number of other political subjects for a variety of national online publications.