On Wednesday, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on Fox News with host Martha MacCallum to discuss the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
During the segment, Conway brought up New York and the city’s Democratic mayor, Bill de Blasio.
I do have to say because we’re all talking about New York as being the epicenter, that’s the New York metropolitan area at this point – many more cases and deaths than, say, the suburbs of New Jersey and Long Island and the like, and you had Mayor de Blasio on last night and just, he said – he lied to America. He said that he’s been on top of this from the beginning.
On March 2, he said because “I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with their lives and get out on the town despite coronavirus,” and then he told everybody what show to go see. That was on March 2. On March 16th, he went to a gym. On March 5, he’s taking the subway, telling people – it’s totally irresponsible, and it is the epicenter now, and I think it shows you the contrast in leadership when you have feckless leaders, or you have a president who’s publicly-facing every single day giving people information engagement they need. That’s why the president is at 60% approval on the coronavirus.
MacCallum pushed back on Conway’s contrast between the early response of Mayor de Blasio versus the early response of President Trump.
“I think that’s absolutely true, and I think that last night he demonstrated that he is not giving people a very positive message in terms of, you know, how he’s going to guide the city through all of this,” MacCallum said. “And I think that that … stood out, I think, to a lot of people last night in our discussion. But in terms of the things that you’re mentioning, you could probably match up some of those early-March statements from him with also similarly optimistic statements from President Trump, although they’ve handled it very differently since then.”
Conway hit back. “There’s no comparison between the two leaders. There’s no comparison.”
The host pressed further: “In terms of get out, and live your life, and go ahead and do what you’re doing, back in early March?”
Conway continued, stating why she wouldn’t compare Trump to de Blasio:
Well, I will tell you, in this White House, my very chief of staff started doing meetings on this on January 12. There have been groups meeting on this all along, and in fact, today is the one-month anniversary of, I think, the task force being announced … so, we’ve been on top of this, and I will not compare Mayor de Blasio to President Trump, and neither do Americans … he has high marks because he’s handling a health crisis that came out of nowhere and people appreciate the fact that every single day they’re hearing from the task force.
MacCallum cleared the air, noting that she wasn’t making an overall comparison, but one in the early stages of the outbreak: “Let me just be clear that I’m referring to sort of early statements about, you know, get out there, keep living your life … not the handling of the crisis overall by any means of imagination.”
As documented by Conway, Mayor de Blasio’s actions and statements, including his March 2 tweet about New Yorkers getting on with their lives, have been the subject of much scrutiny.
President Trump has been under intense scrutiny by the press as well, with reporters and media outlets criticizing the president for his demeanor during the coronavirus task force briefings, as well as his tendency to compare COVID-19 with the seasonal flu.
During a March 2 Coronavirus Task Force meeting, the president stated:
The White House Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, has been meeting daily and coordinating closely with the state and local governments. Mike had a call today with 53 governors, and I heard it was a very good call, and everybody is very well coordinated. And the governors and the states – all of them, I can’t think of an exception – they’ve been really working closely with us. It’s been a very good relationship. We will confront this challenge together, and we will continue to do exactly what we’re doing. And we’re going to be very successful. A lot of things are happening. A lot of very exciting things are happening, and they’re happening very rapidly.
The president also spoke about the flu, and noted that coronavirus had infected far fewer people than the flu at that time. However, the president added that he hoped the illness would stay “small,” but that the task force was “prepared for anything.”
You know, interestingly, we were discussing – and a question I get asked a lot by people is, on average, you lose from 26,000 to 70,000 or so and even some cases more from the flu. We lose – we have deaths of that per year. Worldwide, it’s hundreds of thousands of deaths from the common flu. And they ask, you know, what’s the difference and how does this differ, and I guess there are things that are similar and things that are different. Every one of them is different.
It might not be a bad question to ask. Because I get that all the time. So, so far we have six here. You have, in other countries, very – I mean, China, obviously, got hit the hardest. I noticed that South Korea is hit very hard. Italy is being hit very hard.
…from around 26-, 27,000, up to 60- or 70,000 deaths per year. That’s a lot of deaths. And here we’re talking about a much smaller range. Now, hopefully, it stays at a much smaller range. And, again, we’re prepared for anything.
During a press briefing on March 10, the president once again brought up the flu and compared the deaths from COVID-19 to those from the flu, but stressed that the administration was “taking this unbelievably seriously.”
Look, right now, I guess we’re at 26 deaths, and if you look at the flu – the flu, for this year – we’re looking at 8,000 deaths. And, you know, hundreds of thousands of cases, but we have 8,000 deaths. So you have 8,000 versus 26 deaths, at this time.
With all of that being said, we’re taking this unbelievably seriously, and I think we’re doing a really good job. And, again, the task force, headed up by the Vice President, has been fantastic.
When asked by a reporter about potential economic damage, the president replied in part:
Well, this was unexpected. This was something that came out of China, and it hit us and many other countries. You look at the numbers; I see the numbers with just by watching you folks. I see it – it’s over 100 different countries. And it hit the world.
And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.
We want to protect our shipping industry, our cruise industry, cruise ships. We want to protect our airline industry – very important. But everybody has to be vigilant and has to be careful. But be calm. It’s really working out. And a lot of good things are going to happen. The consumer is ready, and the consumer is so powerful in our country with what we’ve done with tax cuts and regulation cuts and all of those things. The consumer has never been in a better position than they are right now.
The day before on March 9, President Trump tweeted:
So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2020
On Tuesday, during a virtual town hall with Fox News, President Trump again brought up the seasonal flu when asked about when to reopen the economy, saying in part: “We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu. We don’t turn the country off. I mean, every year. When I heard the number, you know, we average 37,000 people a year. Can you believe that? … we lose thousands of people a year to the flu. We never turn the country off. We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We didn’t call up the automobile companies and say, ‘Stop making cars, we don’t want any cars anymore.’ We have to get back to work. Now, with all of that being said, it’s incredible what the American people have done.”