‘That’s Not True!’; Trump, CDC Director Spar with Karl Over ‘Fake News,’ WashPost Quote

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Wednesday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing saw fireworks after Tuesday’s episode was a welcome change with a calm, civil, and sober tone among the cast of reporters. But on Wednesday, CDC Director Robert Redfield was in the spotlight to clarify comments that sent the wildly (and eagerly) apocalyptic media into a tizzy. Of course, Redfield’s appearance didn’t satisfy reporters.

And later, ABC’s chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl found himself in a shouting match with President Trump about whether the media would ever praise him on testing and their coverage on the increased production of ventilators.

 

 

Trump called up Redfield at the start of the briefing to explain how his quotes weren’t “bad” but “the headline” from his Washington Post interview was “totally inaccurate” and ridiculous which is as I say, that's fake news and CNN is fake news like crazy and they had just totally the wrong story, which they knew.”

The liberal media had spent the previous 24 hours running rampant over Redfield’s warning about what the fall could look like with the coronavirus and flu hitting at the same time, so here is his full clarification (click “expand”):

I really do think it's important to clarify this as we build the confidence of the American people. When I commented yesterday that there was a possibility of the fall-winter, next fall-winter, could be more difficult, more complicated, if we have two respiratory illnesses circulating at the same time, influenza and the coronavirus 19 but I think it's really important to emphasize what I didn't say. I didn't say that this was going to be worse. I said it was going to be more complic --- or more difficult and potentially complicated because we'll have flu and coronavirus circulating at the same time. I want to emphasize that we will continue to build the nation's public health infrastructure to ensure we have the capacity to stay in containment mode. Those of you who heard me talk before, I told you that, in January and February up to February 27th, 28th, this nation had 14 cases. We were in containment mode and then unfortunately the virus overwhelmed, we got into extreme mitigation. We are building that capacity now to make sure that we stay in containment mode for the upcoming fall and winter season, so we will not need to resort to the kind of mitigation we had to this spring.

I have confidence that our public health response of early case recognition that we talked about, isolation and contact tracing combined with our plans for increased surveillance, particularly for the most vulnerable, will be on effective public health strategy, so our nation will be able to maintain itself in containment mode. Again, that will be supported by the American public's continued cooperation, obviously in the areas of personal hygiene and the types of social distancing strategies that may be appropriate. The key to my comments and the reason that I really wanted to stress them was to appeal to the American public to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence. One of the greatest tools we have as we go through the fall-winter season that we’re into is to get the American public to embrace the influenza vaccine and thereby minimize the impact of flu to be the co-respiratory disease we confront.

To the reporters gathered, it wasn’t clear how he argued while things could become “difficult,” but life wouldn’t descend into chaos if the public health infrastructure was continually built through the summer and Americans continued to socially distance and get the flu vaccine.

Karl then read some of Redfield’s quotes as a way of asking him to respond and, again, the CDC director didn’t move and ruled that he trusted the American people. The ABC reporter continued to go back-and-forth, but Redfield asserted that while he was quoted accurately, the headline was “inappropriate.”

CBS’s Weijia Jiang wanted to know why then did Redfield retweet a Post article about his interview, but she didn’t get an answer as Trump snapped: “You weren’t called.”

Less than ten minutes later, Trump drew Karl’s ire with a litany of “that’s not true” and “it isn’t true” when he insisted in a hypothetical that even if every American were to be tested ten times for the virus, the press would ridicule him for not giving Americans an 11th test.

While perhaps imperfect, the President’s analogy works out when considering how, even when he does something the press might have lobbied for, they insist it wasn’t enough.

Trump’s response? He jabbed Karl for being “one of the leaders of the bad reporting.”

Trump pivoted to the issue of ventilators and suggested that, after that being a topic de jure of the press, they’re now quiet as the administration successfully lobbied private companies (and through the Defense Production Act) to produce them.

Alluding to the liberal media’s earlier skepticism, Trump declared that “nobody thought this could be done” and “the fake news was very unhappy that it was done, but you guys don't ask me about ventilators anymore.”

That led reporters to groan and shout, with Karl being the lone reporter picked up by microphones: “Who’s unhappy? Who’s unhappy that ventilators are being made, Mr. President?”

While not citing anyone specifically, Trump replied (click “expand”):

Everybody cause you never mention it, you never mention it. There's no stories --- what a great job you've done with ventilators, we are now supplying ventilators all over the world because no other country could have done what we did. And you should say that's a great story, instead you say Trump was slow --- or slow? We were so fast plus we put the ban on so much earlier when Nancy Pelosi, as an example, you don’t say this when she's having her rally in San Francisco in Chinatown --- in San Francisco. Nobody wants to say that.

Dr. Fauci said this, if we can enclose our country to China, we would've been so infected, like nobody’s ever seen. When you saw the chart and we were at the top of the list in terms of success, nobody wrote it, I said where --- is anybody going to use that chart? Nobody wrote it. In terms of mortality, you saw that. Nobody wrote it. Germany and our country, the most successful in terms of mortality, nobody wrote it. It would be great if you wrote the truth, but let's get on with it.

To see the relevant transcript from April 22’s briefing, click “expand.”

White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing
April 22, 2020
6:11 p.m. Eastern

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I do want to mention a man who's done a very good job for us, Dr. Robert Redfield was totally misquoted in the media on a statement about the fall season and the virus. Totally misquoted, I spoke to him, he said it was ridiculous. He was talking about the flu and corona coming together at the same time. And corona could just be some little flareups we will take care of, we’ll knock it out fast, but that's what he was referring to, coming together at the same time. I think rather than waiting, I would ask Dr. Redfield to come up and say a couple of words just to straighten it out because he didn't say it was a big, big explosion, the headline in The Washington Post was totally inaccurate. The statement wasn't bad in The Post but the headline was ridiculous which is as I say, that's fake news and CNN is fake news like crazy and they had just totally the wrong story, which they knew. They were asked to change it and they wouldn't do that and it was false, I'll Dr. Redfield who is a, you know, professional to come up and explain, please. Thank you, doctor.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD: Thank you, Mr. President. I really do think it's important to clarify this as we build the confidence of the American people. When I commented yesterday that there was a possibility of the fall-winter, next fall-winter, could be more difficult, more complicated, if we have two respiratory illnesses circulating at the same time, influenza and the coronavirus 19 but I think it's really important to emphasize what I didn't say. I didn't say that this was going to be worse. I said it was going to be more complic --- or more difficult and potentially complicated because we'll have flu and coronavirus circulating at the same time. I want to emphasize that we will continue to build the nation's public health infrastructure to ensure we have the capacity to stay in containment mode. Those of you who heard me talk before, I told you that, in January and February up to February 27th, 28th, this nation had 14 cases. We were in containment mode and then unfortunately the virus overwhelmed, we got into extreme mitigation. We are building that capacity now to make sure that we stay in containment mode for the upcoming fall and winter season, so we will not need to resort to the kind of mitigation we had to this spring. I have confidence that our public health response of early case recognition that we talked about, isolation and contact tracing combined with our plans for increased surveillance, particularly for the most vulnerable, will be on effective public health strategy, so our nation will be able to maintain itself in containment mode. Again, that will be supported by the American public's continued cooperation, obviously in the areas of personal hygiene and the types of social distancing strategies that may be appropriate. The key to my comments and the reason that I really wanted to stress them was to appeal to the American public to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence. One of the greatest tools we have as we go through the fall-winter season that we’re into is to get the American public to embrace the influenza vaccine and thereby minimize the impact of flu to be the co-respiratory disease we confront.

JONATHAN KARL: Can I just ask a quick follow-up, if I may, Dr. Redfield?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE: Could you just be clear, sir? Just important to clarify something?

TRUMP: I don’t know what there is to follow up. He was misquoted --- totally misquoted, he said they could come together, they didn't talk about that and his whole purpose in making the statement was to get a flu shot so that next fall, we don't have such a big season of flu and we possibly won't. But as you said this, it's possible, if Corona even comes back and he doesn't know that it's going to and neither do I. We spoke at great length and I think the doctor will speak if you’d like to continue, but we may have some embers and we’re going to put them out of corona, but we may have a big flu season. But that’s different. Flu is very different from corona.

JONATHAN KARL: Can I just ask him a follow up question?

TRUMP: Yeah, go ahead.

KARL: Okay, so, Dr. Redfield, The Washington Post which, you did the interview with them, they quoted you as saying there's a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation will be even more difficult than the one we just went through and when I’ve said this to others, they’ve kind of put their head back. They don't understand what I mean --- we’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time, is that what you said to The Washington Post?

REDFIELD: Yeah, that's what I was trying to say to you just a minute ago that the issue I was talking about being more difficult is that we're going to have two viruses circulating at the same time. This spring that we just went through, this February, we had a benefit of having the flu season ending so we could use all of our flu surveillance systems to say whoops, this is coronavirus, we need to focus. Next fall and --- and winter, we are going to have two viruses circulating and we’re going to have to distinguish between which is flu and which is the coronavirus and so the comment that I made is more difficult. It doesn't mean it's impossible, it doesn't mean it's going to be more --- as some people have said --- worse, it's just going to be more difficult because we have to distinguish between the two and what I was wanting to do and I want to do again here is appeal to the American public to recognize they can really help like they did with mitigation, which they really helped, I need them to help now to best prepare us by getting the flu vaccine and taking flu out of the picture.

KARL: But that quote --- that quote that --- by the way, but --- but --- sir? Excuse me --- excuse me ---

[REPORTERS SHOUTING]

TRUMP: We may not even have corona coming back, just so you understand. Doctor, would you like to come up?

KARL: No, but --- but --- I’m sorry, but that quote that I just read was accurate was right, sir? That’s the quote from The Washington Post, you were accurately quoted. Correct?

REDFIELD: I'm accurately quoted in The Washington Post as --- [REPORTERS SHOUTING] --- as difficult, but the headline was inappropriate.

TRUMP: What does the headline say? What does the headline say?

KARL: Well ---

TRUMP: Read the headline.

KARL: The headline says “CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating.” And isn’t that correct?

TRUMP: That's not what he said. That’s not what he said.

KARL: But --- but if you have the two things ---

TRUMP: No, the headline doesn’t [INAUDIBLE]

REDFIELD: No, I actually think it's actually going to be --- I think the American public is going to heed the request to relook at their vaccine hesitancy, to vaccine with confidence for flu and I'm confident the public health infrastructure that we’re putting together now across this country so we can early case diagnose, isolate, and contact trace, as I say, block and tackle, block and tackle, that system is going to be there and we are going to be able to contain this virus.

TRUMP: Doctor, please come up.

WEIJIA JIANG: Dr. Redfield, why did you retweet the article if it’s inaccurate? Doctor, why did you retweet it?

TRUMP: You weren't called.

JIANG: Why, I just ---

DR. DEBORAH BIRX: We asked about this yesterday when you asked me this question and I think someone used the word devastating and I want to emphasize to the American public that when we first interacted with this virus for the first time in February and March time frame, we didn't have an understanding of its transmissibility, all of its symptoms, we do now. And I think what we are building together when we talk about the public health infrastructure, it is very much working on the surveillance piece, but I think we also know the strength of the American people and their ability to immediately understand how to protect themselves with not touching their face, making sure that they’re washing their hands but the other piece I wanted to talk about and we mentioned yesterday also that we have this summer, while we have flu surveillance we can utilize and syndromic management that we can utilize, we have all of that time to prepare clearly the testing algorithm that you would need in a flu, potentially if COVID came back. Potentially and so we are preparing for that potential right now and I think we spoke to you all about that and talked about how we’re not only preparing for today and tomorrow but we're preparing for six months from now, three months from now and making sure all of these pieces are in place. I think what Dr. Redfield clearly was asking for, just like we ask for every American to follow the guidelines, he's saying please add to that guidelines getting a flu shot.

(….)

6:25 p.m. Eastern

TRUMP: You people aren’t satisfied. So, let's say we had 350 million people in the United States, alright? Let's say and if we gave every one of those people a test, ten times, so we gave 350 people a test, ten times, the fake news media would say where’s the 11th time? He didn't do his job. Trump didn’t do his job because you have a lot of bad reporting out there, it's very sad.

KARL: Mr. President, it isn’t true.

TRUMP: And it’s so bad.

KARL: That’s not true. That’s --- that’s ---

TRUMP: You’re one of the leaders of the bad reporting.

KARL: No, but that’s not true, Mr. President.

PETTYPIECE: Mr. President, can I follow up on this real quick?

TRUMP: Alright, let's get onto another subject, I wanted that to be --- I wanted that to be cleared up. If you want, we can get it on to it later but I want the vice president to speak. But you ought to get the news accurately, you ought to write it --- if you take a look at what you wrote about the ventilators and when we became the king of ventilators, we’re making different factories all over, ventilators --- by the thousands --- in fact, Mike got back from Wisconsin, the first thing he did he called up, I said how’s it going. He said you're not going to believe, he just saw plant, a factory, where they’re making ventilators. I think I can say the words were unbelievable. It said it was unbelievable.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Yeah.

TRUMP: He saw the quality of the equipment, the --- the professionalism, a tremendous number ---how many workers would you say there were?

PENCE: Over --- over 550. They doubled production and are about to triple production.

TRUMP: Nobody thought this could be done, the fake news was very unhappy that it was done. But you guys don't ask me about ventilators anymore.

KARL: Who’s unhappy? Who’s unhappy that ventilators are being made, Mr. President?

[INAUDIBLE REPROTERS SHOUTING]

TRUMP: Everybody cause you never mention it, you never mention it. There's no stories --- what a great job you've done with ventilators, we are now supplying ventilators all over the world because no other country could have done what we did. And you should say that's a great story, instead you say Trump was slow --- or slow? We were so fast plus we put the ban on so much earlier when Nancy Pelosi, as an example, you don’t say this when she's having her rally in San Francisco in Chinatown --- in San Francisco. Nobody wants to say that. Dr. Fauci said this, if we can enclose our country to China, we would've been so infected, like nobody’s ever seen. When you saw the chart and we were at the top of the list in terms of success, nobody wrote it, I said where --- is anybody going to use that chart? Nobody wrote it. In terms of mortality, you saw that. Nobody wrote it. Germany and our country, the most successful in terms of mortality, nobody wrote it. It would be great if you wrote the truth, but let's get on with it.

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