President Donald Trump repeatedly badgered and vilified members of the news media during Monday’s White House briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, calling one “horrid” and another a “third-rate reporter.”
McClatchy reporter Francesca Chambers asked Trump a question about the federal government’s new Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, saying it had gotten off to a “confusing start.”
“I wish you’d ask the question differently,” Trump said, apparently instructing Chambers on how to do her job. “Why don’t you say it’s gotten out to a tremendous start, but there are some little glitches, which by the way, have been worked out? It would be so much nicer if you do that. But you’re just incapable of asking a question in a positive way.”
After repeatedly interrupting the reporter as she tried to clarify her question, Trump said, “I wish we had a fair media in this country, and we really don’t.” The president then moved on to the next question, also from a female reporter, by saying: “Speaking of unfair, go ahead.”
At Monday’s briefing, he pointedly asked reporter Youyou Wang, who is Asian, if she was working for the Chinese government.
“Who are you working for, China? You work for China, or are you with a newspaper?” Trump asked, to which the reporter noted she works for Phoenix TV in Hong Kong. (Phoenix and its founder have received some criticism for reported ties to the Chinese government, though the company maintains it is independent.)
At another point in the briefing, after Fox News correspondent Kristin Fisher noted that testing has “been a big issue” in the U.S. and asked when hospitals can expect a “quick turnaround” on test results, Trump gave a long sigh and started his response with: “Are you ready? Are you ready?”
“Hospitals can do their own testing. States can do their own testing. … Do you understand that?” Trump responded. “We’re the federal government. We’re not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing. They go to doctors, they go to hospitals, they go to the state. The state is a more localized form of government. And we have 50 of them,” he said, implying the reporter didn’t know what a state was.
“You should say congratulations, great job, instead of being so horrid in the way you ask a question,” he added.
The United States continues to lead countries worldwide in confirmed coronavirus cases — more than 360,000 as of late Monday. Governors have repeatedly criticized a lack of key medical equipment, such as ventilators, and hospitals and health workers report a shortage of the personal protective equipment they need to stay safe while treating patients with the virus.
Trump insisted Monday his administration was doing a great job with its coronavirus response.
“Nobody’s ever seen anything like what we’ve done,” he said, adding that governors are “very happy.” “They may see [the media] and say, ‘Oh, oh we’re not happy.’ But they’re very happy on the phone.”
At one point, a reporter asked Trump about a recent Health and Human Services inspector general’s report that found hospitals face severe shortages of medical supplies to treat the coronavirus. Trump grilled the reporter about the name of the inspector general (she didn’t know) and later grilled another reporter about when the inspector general had been appointed.
When Trump later asked how long the inspector general had been in government, ABC News’ Jon Karl answered that Christi Grimm, the principal deputy inspector general who signed the report, had also served in the previous administration. She has worked in the Office of the Inspector General since 1999, according to the HHS website.
“Oh, you didn’t tell me that,” Trump quipped. (Karl had earlier, correctly, told Trump that the inspector general had been appointed to her current role in January.) “You mean the Obama administration, thank you for telling me that. See there’s a typical fake news deal.”
“You’re a third-rate reporter, and what you just said is a disgrace,” Trump went on, later adding: “You will never make it.”
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