On Wednesday, Joe Biden tapped former Obama administration official Ron Klain, a longtime political operative, to be his chief of staff. The move sparked immediate backlash as critics said that Klain had downplayed the coronavirus pandemic early on.
“Klain was most recently a Senior Advisor to the Biden for President campaign and has previously served the president-elect in a number of roles including as his Chief of Staff when he became Vice President,” a press release from the Biden campaign said. “Klain is also known for his role as the White House Ebola Response Coordinator at the height of that public health crisis.”
Klain has been extremely critical of President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, ranging from Trump saying nice things about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s handling of the pandemic to not acting faster to ban travel from China.
However, Klain himself praised China for being “transparent” and “candid” over their handling of the pandemic. Klain also said that he opposed cutting off travel from China in late January, calling it “premature.”
On February 11, Klain said, “A serious epidemic – now, the coronavirus may be that, it may not be that. The evidence suggests it’s probably not that.”
Two days later, Klain tweeted, “We don’t have a COVID-19 epidemic in the US but we are starting to see a fear epidemic.” Klain then praised New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for going out and eating at restaurants in an attempt to push back on pandemic fears.
— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) February 13, 2020
During a podcast in late February, Klain said, “Here’s one more thing everyone should do. They should, tonight, go down to Chinatown in their city and buy dinner or go shopping there. What we see inevitably, what we’re seeing already, is … people staying away out of needless fears about coronavirus.”
Also in February, Klain went on to a leftist podcast and said that while there was “reason to be concerned” and “reason to be prepared,” there was “no reason yet to be fearful, no reason really panic or anything like that.”
In February 2020, Klain went on Pod Save America and downplayed the coronavirus.
“No reason to yet to be fearful, no reason really panic or anything like that”
Ron Klain would be a disaster for America.pic.twitter.com/NfxG1ktcn8
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) November 12, 2020
Despite his own apparent downplaying of the coronavirus early on, Klain did write in an op-ed in The Atlantic in which he said that he believed the Trump administration needed to do more to prepare for the pandemic. A report late last year from the prestigious Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health indicated that the United States was by far the most prepared nation on earth to deal with a pandemic.
Biden’s decision to tap Klain to be his chief of staff comes after he sparked controversy when he announced the members of his coronavirus task force.
One of the members, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, has indicated that if the United States develops a vaccine first, it should make it available to the rest of the world before all Americans have a chance to be vaccinated. In 2014, Emanuel wrote an article in The Atlantic in which he said that life was not worth living past the age of 75.
“To review: Joe Biden’s coronavirus adviser does not think life is worth living at 75, does not see the death of someone 75 or over to be tragic, and does not think that people that age should be accepting flu shots or even antibiotics,” Daily Wire podcast host and columnist Matt Walsh wrote in response to Emanuel’s 2014 article. “This is concerning, to say the least, because the virus has especially decimated the 75+ age demographic. You might argue that there’s a serious conflict of interest in a man advising the president on how to deal with a disease that mostly kills the elderly, while personally believing that the elderly should just die anyway and it’s no great tragedy when they do.”
Another official tapped by Biden to be on the task force was Rick Bright, someone the Trump administration reportedly removed for “incompetence and insubordination.”