President Donald Trump snapped at critics of his response to the coronavirus outbreak while he was holding a White House briefing, where he reeled off a list of objections about press coverage and airing a reel of cable news footage that portrayed his actions in a positive light.
The president sought to use a briefing ostensibly intended to inform the American public about the latest developments in the battle against the virus to frame his handling of the pandemic as a success. He bristled at any criticism and picking a fight with journalists in the room before experts delivered any update on the disease that has killed more than 22,000 people in the U.S, The Hill reported.
“We really have done this right. The problem is the press doesn’t cover it the way it should be,” Trump said.
The president’s opening remarks appeared to be an extension of his weekend Twitter storm in which he stewed over a New York Times story that said he was warned repeatedly about the threat of a potential pandemic in January and February. The White House first imposed social distancing guidelines in mid-March.
Trump has been particularly sensitive to criticism that he was slow to respond to the virus and has blamed the press, governors and the World Health Organization, among others, for the rising number of cases and lack of preparedness.
But Monday’s press briefing marked a striking extension of his defense, using the briefing room to air a campaign-style clip and complaining repeatedly that he has not received a fair amount of praise in news stories.
“The press has not treated these incredible people who have done such a great job — they haven’t treated them fairly. They’re way off. We were way ahead of schedule,” Trump said. “Everything we did I was criticized because I was too early.”
Defensive and combative, Trump repeatedly highlighted his decision to restrict travel from China in late January before there were any virus-related deaths confirmed in the U.S., arguing he did so sooner than many experts and lawmakers suggested was necessary. He returned to the travel restrictions several times as reporters sought to ask about what steps his administration took between that order and instituting social distancing guidelines more than a month later, a period during which the number of cases grew.
Trump then aired roughly three minutes of footage that resembled a campaign ad on screens set up behind the podium. The video featured clips of cable news doctors saying in January that the coronavirus did not represent an imminent threat to the U.S., Trump announcing measures such as expanded telehealth options and a national emergency, and Democratic governors thanking the president for offering federal assistance to states responding to the virus.
Asked where the video came from, Trump said it was produced in the White House in the hours before the briefing