New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was left flailing on Sunday morning when CNN anchor Jake Tapper repeatedly pressed him on his delayed response to the coronavirus pandemic and whether the mayor’s assurances to New Yorkers that their lives would go on normally led to a more rapid spread of the virus.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, de Blasio was first asked about his calls to the Trump administration to provide more ventilators and other life-saving medical supplies to his city, which has become the epicenter of the pandemic. After the mayor sounded the alarm on the “sharp escalation” of cases the city may see in the days ahead, Tapper brought up de Blasio’s previous downplaying of the pandemic.
Playing a series of video clips of the Democratic mayor telling city residents to “go about your lives” over the past couple of months, Tapper noted that de Blasio delivered that message to the city as recent as March 13.
“In retrospect, is that message, at least in part, to blame for how rapidly the virus has spread across the city?” Tapper wondered aloud.
“Jake, we should not be focusing, in my view, on anything looking back on any level of government right now,” de Blasio deflected. “This is just about how we save lives going forward.”
The mayor went on to say that it was a “very different world just a short time ago” and that “none of us have time to look backwards,” prompting Tapper to remind de Blasio that he has been critical of others over their lack of preparedness.
“Mr. Mayor, you say you don’t think you should look backwards, but you’ve criticized President Trump for ‘actions that are far, far behind the curve,’” the State of the Union host pressed. “I mean, Mr. Mayor, weren’t your actions in this outbreak also far, far behind the curve?”
De Blasio, however, was still unwilling to take any personal responsibility for his own actions, saying that he had criticized the lack of COVID-19 testing early on and that it could be a “very different reality” if the country had more robust testing from the beginning.
“But there’s no time to go back over that,” he added. “There’s only time to focus on getting through the next week and the week after that.”
At the same time, de Blasio acknowledged that Tapper’s questions were “fair” but told the CNN anchor that those questions were best left for “after this war is over” because New York City is currently in a “wartime environment.”