A former Obama administration official is slamming Donald Trump for what he called a “stunningly pathetic” dig at a reporter who asked about the president’s decision to disband the pandemic preparedness office in 2018.
In remarks to reports after he announced a national state of emergency over the fast-spreading coronavirus, the president was asked about why he dismantled the pandemic office during a reorganization of the National Security Council close to two years ago. PBS NewsHour reporter Yamiche Alcindor asked whether Trump would take responsibility for the decision, prompting the president to lash out at her.
Though the office was closed during Trump’s time as president, he did not immediately respond to the particulars of the question, calling the inquiry “nasty.”
“Well, I just think it’s a nasty question because what we’ve done, and Tony [Fauci] had said numerous times that we saved thousands of lives because of the quick closing,” Trump replied, via AZCentral.com. “And when you say me, I didn’t do it. We have a group of people … I could have perhaps ask Tony about that because I don’t know anything about it. I mean you say we did that, I don’t know anything about it. It’s the administration, perhaps, they do that. You know people let people go.”
The president’s response drew widespread criticism. Tommy Vietor, a former NSC spokesperson during Barack Obama’s time in office and host of the podcast Pod Save the World, slammed the answer as “stunningly pathetic.”
“Trump’s response to @Yamiche was one of the most stunningly pathetic things I have ever seen,” he wrote on Twitter.
While Trump may have been perceived as dodging responsibility for the closure — also saying that his administration has been strong in its fight against the coronavirus — the former leader of the pandemic office wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that the closure cost valuable time and leadership when the outbreak started.
The Trump administration has been criticized for its slow response in conducting coronavirus testing on suspected patients. The president has also been accused of making a number of inaccurate statements and contradicting his administration’s medical experts.
Alcindor later defended her question, taking to Twitter to say that it was relevant and fair to ask Trump whether closing the office had an effect on the response to the coronavirus.
Trump has clashed with Alcindor in the past, with critics saying that Trump is unusually harsh on her and other black women in the White House press corps.