A reporter Friday challenged Vice President Mike Pence on the hypocrisy of Donald Trump’s re-election campaign ignoring COVID-19 safety precautions that have been recommended to the public by the White House’s own health experts.
Paula Reid of CBS News asked Pence at the White House coronavirus press conference how the Trump campaign is not “part of the problem” when no one wears masks or practices safe social distancing to help curb the spread of COVID-19 — nor apparently cares if its supporters follow suit.
“It really sounds as if you’re saying, ‘Do as we say, not as we do,’” Reid said. “You’re telling people to listen to local officials, but in Tulsa, you defied local officials to have an event” that resulted in “dozens of Secret Service agents, dozens of campaign staffers now quarantined because of positive results.”
She also pointed out that Trump “packed” a church in Arizona, “one of the hardest-hit states,” with young people who were not wearing masks. “How can you say the campaign is not part of the problem?”
Pence responded: “I want to remind you again that free speech and the right to peacefully assemble is enshrined in the Constitution” — even though wearing a mask and following social distancing guidelines do not prohibit free speech. “Even in a health crisis, the American people don’t forfeit our constitutional rights.”
The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said at the briefing just minutes earlier that Americans have a “societal responsibility” to help stem the spread of COVID-19. He said people can “be either part of the solution or part of a problem.”
In congressional testimony Tuesday, Fauci called masks, hand-washing and social distancing the most “powerful weapons” against the spread of the coronavirus.
Pence cut questions short after he was challenged on other points, including his insistence that the U.S. has “flattened the curve” in COVID-19 cases. He made the claim even as the nation chalked up a record number of new cases — 40,000 — in a single day, with Florida and Texas leading the way with their own records. Globally, nearly 10 million people have been confirmed infected with the coronavirus. In the U.S., there have been nearly 2.5 million cases so far and about 125,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
As the task force officials filed out Friday, someone asked Fauci if he thought these “massive rallies are OK.” He didn’t have an opportunity to answer.
But Fauci said in an interview earlier this month that he would not attend the June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, because of the risk of contracting COVID-19. He also reportedly warned White House officials that large gatherings like campaign rallies posed a danger.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the number of people who are confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide. It is nearly 10 million, not nearly 1 million.
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