Meet the Press anchor Chuck Todd pressed Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday to “name some names” after the veep groused that there was “irresponsible rhetoric” from Democrats on the coronavirus, with Todd further telling Pence that it feels like Team Trump is “gaslighting” the public.
Pence, who was recently tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis, made the rounds on the Sunday news shows to promote the administration’s efforts. After reassuring viewers during his Meet the Press appearance that the risk of contagion “remains low” for Americans, Pence was then questioned on complaints by the president and his allies that Democrats are rooting for the virus.
Noting that Pence has gone out of his way to call on everyone to not politicize the outbreak, Todd went on to play a series of clips from conservatives claiming Democrats are weaponizing the virus to seek political gain. The montage also included the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. insisting that Dems want “millions of people” killed in order to stop Trump’s “streak of winning.”
“None of this seems to match the facts,” Todd said. “What facts are there that Democrats are doing this? … Seems like people are asking questions, and they're concerned about the virus. This, this implies some sort of political motivation, which is kind of gross.”
Pence, meanwhile, claimed that there was a “lot of irresponsible rhetoric” on the left, prompting Todd to demand that the vice president “name some names.”
“Because this is just—it just feels like gaslighting,” the NBC News anchor continued. “Please name some names. I’m—we're all big—we're all big people here. Name some names.”
Eventually, Pence cited a column by New York Times opinion writer Gail Collins in which she said the disease should be renamed “Trumpvirus,” calling Collins a “prominent liberal journalist” who was looking to blame the president.
“Does that apply, does that apply to all people,” Todd wondered aloud, adding: “This doesn't help. This does not help us, no?”
“This is decisive action to protect the American people,” Pence responded. “And when you see voices on our side pushing back on outrageous and irresponsible rhetoric on the other side, I think that's important, and I think it's justified.”
Todd wanted to know how this keeps the country united and focused on fighting the virus, specifically pointing to Trump Jr.’s remarks and asking Pence how those are helpful.
After Pence brushed off the presidential scion’s over-the-top comments while focusing again on Collins’ column, Todd questioned whether Pence believed that the entire Democratic Party was doing this.
“Do you think there've been irresponsible voices on your side?” Todd further asked. “Do you think Rush Limbaugh saying weaponization of this? What evidence is there?”
“Well, look. I have great respect for Rush Limbaugh, and he's a strong conservative commentator,” Pence replied.
“He also told people that this wasn't anything to worry about,” Todd shot back. “Was he wrong about that?”
Pence immediately deflected, fuming that Democrats have become “reflexively critical” of Trump while claiming that all Trump wants when it comes to the response to the disease is for Americans to know “we’re all in this together.”
“So attacking Democrats is a way to do that?” Todd declared.
Pence remained undeterred, however, and insisted that there was no issue with the rhetoric coming from the right.
“I never begrudge people responding to unwarranted, unjustified attacks,” he concluded. “But I promise you, we're going to continue to focus on the mission the president's given this taskforce and given this government.”