Journalist Geraldo Rivera made a rather searing prognosis on the current N95 mask nightmare Americans are experiencing with the company 3M, arguing that it highlights the country’s addiction to China.
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic kicked into overdrive in recent weeks, America has been experiencing an N95 mask shortage, which puts our medical personnel at further risk of contracting the disease. On Thursday, amid accusations that 3M was selling these much-needed masks to foreign countries, President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, which will force the company to prioritize respirator orders from FEMA.
“We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their Masks. ‘P Act’ all the way. Big surprise to many in government as to what they were doing – will have a big price to pay!” Trump tweeted Thursday.
“Hopefully they’ll be able to do what they are supposed to do,” he also said at Thursday’s daily coronavirus briefing.
We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their Masks. “P Act” all the way. Big surprise to many in government as to what they were doing – will have a big price to pay!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2020
Speaking on “Fox & Friends,” Geraldo Rivera pointed out that one of 3M’s largest plants for manufacturing the surgical masks is located in Shanghai, China, and that China essentially told the company they wanted to keep the masks for themselves.
“China says to 3M: ‘You make them here; they stay here. We want them. You cannot export them,'” Rivera said. “So, 3M is caught between a rock and a hard place — between President Trump and President Xi. Xi is saying ‘no exports.’ Trump is saying: ‘You’re an American company, you know, sell your goods to America.'”
“This is a classic example of why we’ve become addicted to Chinese politics, Chinese manufacture,” continued Rivera. “They are holding us hostage. Even an American company can’t export its masks from their Chinese plants to the United States. I think they have to be bused. They’ve got to be squeezed. The president has got to take the CEO of 3M and shake them up and say, ‘You’ve got to make a stand here. You’ve got to insist. Your Chinese landlords let you sell these masks back to your own country.'”
Rivera further insisted that President Trump talk tough with the Chinese government and tell them to stop holding masks hostage.
“I think it’s outrageous. I think it’s a scandal. But, I also think that the president has got to go to the Chinese president and say, ‘Listen, you’re holding our masks hostage,'” Rivera added.
As reported by The New York Times, the Chinese government has done more than just keep mask production to themselves but also started buying up masks in bulk while they kept the virus under wraps.
China did not just stop selling masks — it also bought up much of the rest of the world’s supply. According to official data, China imported 56 million respirators and masks in the first week after the January lockdown of the city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus emerged.
On Jan. 30, the last day for which data is available, China managed to import 20 million respirators and surgical masks in just 24 hours. Through February, civic-minded entrepreneurs and aid groups visited pharmacies in affluent countries and emerging markets alike, buying masks in bulk to send to China.
“Not only that — just to add to the outrage — in early January when the Chinese figured out what the hell was going on with this virus, they bought up masks that were outside China and brought them into China,” Rivera said. “So, not only are they not letting our masks leave China, they’ve taken, you know, from the world marketplace…all the masks that are available for sale and brought them into China.”
In response to the president invoking the Defense Production Act, 3M said in a statement that they will be stepping up production for U.S. medical workers.
“We look forward to working closely with the Administration to implement yesterday’s DPA order. We will continue to maximize the amount of respirators we can produce on behalf of U.S. healthcare workers, as we have every single day since this crisis began,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.
On Friday, 3M CEO Mike Roman told CNBC that the accusations against his company are “absurd.”
“The idea that 3M is not doing all it can to fight price gouging and unauthorized reselling is absurd,” said Roman. “The idea that we’re not doing everything we can to maximize deliveries of respirators in our home country – nothing is further from the truth.”