Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on Sunday repeatedly confronted Trump senior campaign adviser Steve Cortes over President Donald Trump’s assertion that he intentionally downplayed coronavirus because he didn’t want to “panic” the public, noting that the president “plays the panic card all the time” on a handful of other issues.
At the top of their interview on Fox News Sunday, Cortes insisted that corporate media had pushed out a “myth” that the president had mishandled the pandemic, which has currently resulted in nearly 200,000 American deaths.
“When I look at these revelations from [Bob] Woodward, if you look at them in the context of the totality of the actions taken by this president, it actually reveals an exemplary record of crisis management,” Cortes said, adding that Trump acted decisively during the “fog of biological war.”
After Cortes pointed to the president’s partial travel restriction on China as proof of Trump’s “superb management” of the crisis—a favorite talking point of Team Trump—Wallace brought up Trump admitting to Woodward that the virus was deadly and airborne in early February.
“The president was saying something very different and much more alarming to Bob Woodward in private than what he was telling the public,” Wallace stated, adding: “Why not level with the American people, Steve?”
Cortes reiterated that this had occurred during the “fog of war,” prompting the Fox moderator to cut off the Trump flack.
“I’m going to interrupt you right there,” he interjected. “It wasn’t the fog of war. On January 28, the president got his presidential daily brief, the top intelligence in the Oval Office. And at that point, his national security adviser, Robert O’Brien said that this is the biggest challenge you’re going to face in your entire presidency.”
“So there was no fog of war there,” the Fox News host continued. “The word that he was getting from his top intelligence and national security people was that this was a deadly pandemic. There was no fog here.”
Cortes objected, yelling that “there was tremendous fog” at the time the president was purposely misleading the American public.
Wallace, meanwhile, noted that Cortes’ insistence that the president was struggling with shifting facts and lack of information flies in the face of the president’s own explanation, which is that he lied to the public because he wanted to exude calmness and avoid panic.
“Steve, your explanation is somewhat different from the president, because you are saying, well, the president didn’t really know, it was the fog of war, but when he has described it, he said he didn’t want to panic the country, he didn’t want to jump up and down and panic the country,” the Fox anchor noted. “One of the reasons that there’s a question about that is because of the fact that the president plays the panic card all the time, especially when he’s talking about Joe Biden.”
After playing a montage of Trump warning supporters that if Biden wins the presidency “rioters and arsonists” will take over the country, Wallace asked Cortes: “Is that a president who is trying to keep the country calm?”
Cortes claimed that the “key difference” was that there is a “legitimate fear” of what will happen to America if Biden becomes president while it is “not helpful” to tell the public that the virus is dangerous because it would spark “hoarding” of supplies.
“The president’s job in a time of crisis is partly to be reassuring to the American people, to convince them that we can and will persevere through this epidemiological Pearl Harbor, and that’s what he did,” the Trump adviser added.
“Steve, I got your point. The argument would be that it’s a false choice you’re making,” Wallace shot back. “He either plays the rosy scenario or he sets his hair on fire. There was something in the middle, which is just being honest with the American people and there’s a question, Steve, as to whether or not the president is still being honest with the American people.”